Vancouver Sun

TIPS FOR TATS

Con­ver­sa­tions with teens im­por­tant be­fore they head to tat­too shop

- LYNN MOHR Health · Tattoos · Lifestyle · Health Care · Body Modifications · Beauty · Fashion & Beauty · Japan · Osaka · American Academy Of Pediatrics

The barista had at least six tat­toos rang­ing in size from a small rose on the in­side of his wrist to a half­sleeve de­pict­ing a land­scape scene.

He smiled and told me each one had a spe­cial mean­ing. He rolled up his sleeve to show a dis­fig­ured area of skin from an infection on one tat­too on his shoul­der.

His only re­gret was not talk­ing with some­one knowl­edge­able about the process.

Some­times com­pli­ca­tions from body mod­i­fi­ca­tions can be se­vere and per­ma­nent. In my health-care prac­tice, teens of­ten talk about body mod­i­fi­ca­tions but don’t ask ques­tions about health safety, preven­tion or main­te­nance. Be­lieve me, be­yond the art­ful ink are many sto­ries of work that went awry.

A 24-year-old Cana­dian woman posted graphic im­ages of pur­ple dye run­ning down her cheek af­ter a risky “sclera tat­too” made her partly blind. In Ja­pan, an Osaka district court ruled that a tat­tooist had bro­ken the law by prac­tis­ing with­out a med­i­cal li­cence.

In this cul­ture, tat­toos can serve as a sym­bol of a per­son’s re­li­gious be­lief or con­nec­tion to a loved one, com­mem­o­rate an achieve­ment, and may mark a per­son’s rite of pas­sage.

With the cul­tural ac­cep­tance of tat­toos be­com­ing younger, we need to have con­ver­sa­tions at home and in the com­mu­nity about health and safety to pre­vent com­pli­ca­tions.

Last year, the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics re­leased guide­lines for pro­vid­ing care to ado­les­cents and young adults seek­ing body mod­i­fi­ca­tions such as tat­too­ing, pierc­ing and scar­i­fi­ca­tion. You can adapt these tips for your own fam­ily.

As par­ents, care­givers and health-care providers, frank con­ver­sa­tions about tat­toos can pos­si­bly pre-empt prob­lems. Plan for a 30-minute con­ver­sa­tion fo­cus­ing on the topic of body mod­i­fi­ca­tions begin­ning with an open-ended ques­tion such as: What are your thoughts about tat­toos?

Ad­di­tion­ally, talk­ing with your fam­ily’s health-care provider is im­por­tant as he or she can be in­valu­able in iden­ti­fy­ing po­ten­tial health risks such as his­tory of keloid for­ma­tion, sen­si­tiv­i­ties to inks or in­creased risk of tooth break­age with tongue pierc­ings.

You can also dis­cuss main­te­nance and care for tat­toos and body mod­i­fi­ca­tions in­clud­ing clean­ing and pro­tec­tion dur­ing sports ac­tiv­i­ties. Be sure to have dis­cus­sions about the im­pli­ca­tions of job place­ment and the care and main­te­nance of tat­toos while at work.

These con­ver­sa­tions be­fore tat­too­ing, pierc­ing or scar­i­fi­ca­tion can all help de­crease the risk of skin com­pli­ca­tions, ink al­ler­gies and in­fec­tions. More broadly, you will want to have a talk about the con­tent of the tat­too. Is it a sym­bol, lan­guage or de­pic­tion that could be of­fen­sive to some and that may de­ter the teen from em­ploy­ment or other con­sid­er­a­tions? Are there re­li­gious be­lief con­sid­er­a­tions at play, or any cul­tural stig­mas that may im­pact the per­son’s life in a larger way?

Ask your teen to con­sider place­ment of the tat­too or body mod­i­fi­ca­tion and un­der­stand if it is in an area of the body that is sen­si­tive or sus­cep­ti­ble to infection or other health con­cerns. For ex­am­ple, tongue or mouth pierc­ings can make it dif­fi­cult to talk, chew or swal­low. These can dam­age the tongue, gums or fill­ings and make it hard for your den­tist to take tooth X-rays. The pierc­ings can also lead to gum dis­ease, un­con­trolled bleed­ing, long-term infection and even death if com­pli­ca­tions are not man­aged prop­erly.

If your teen is still set on a tat­too, find­ing safer ink­ing in­volves some in­ves­tiga­tive work. Find a tat­too par­lour that is li­censed and ask about the length of ex­pe­ri­ence of the tat­too artist. Check with your lo­cal health depart­ment if there have been any vi­o­la­tions.

Once at the stu­dio, whether you ac­com­pany the teen or not, ad­vise him or her to be sure the artist of­fers sin­gle use or “throw­away ” kits for in­di­vid­ual use. Watch the artist open the kit and re­move the new nee­dle and tub­ing while wear­ing gloves and us­ing dis­pos­able tow­els. Be sure the artist washes his or her hands.

No­tice if the tat­too room is clean. See if there are red “sharps con­tain­ers” vis­i­ble. If not, ask how the artist dis­poses of the nee­dle. Ask about the ink used and what it’s made of. Ask if the tat­too artist has used this ink per­son­ally and on oth­ers. It’s best if the ink is or­ganic, non-metal­lic and comes from a large, well-known man­u­fac­turer with a long busi­ness his­tory. A good sign is if the artist uses that ink on him­self or her­self.

Look at the tat­too artist’s port­fo­lio to see if there is a wide va­ri­ety of work: Colour, black and grey, tra­di­tional, re­al­ism or if it is small, com­mon pieces. Ob­serve what the skin looks like in the photo. Is it red or ir­ri­tated or does it ap­pears to have close at­ten­tion to de­tail?

And tell your teen to take 24 hours to be­fore de­cid­ing.

 ?? GETTY IM­AGES ?? Tat­toos and body mod­i­fi­ca­tions are pop­u­lar, but a hasty de­ci­sion can lead to re­gret.
GETTY IM­AGES Tat­toos and body mod­i­fi­ca­tions are pop­u­lar, but a hasty de­ci­sion can lead to re­gret.
 ?? JUSTIN TANG/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS ?? Catt Gallinger, who had a botched ink in­jec­tion in her eye­ball, shows the amount of swelling in her eye.
JUSTIN TANG/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS Catt Gallinger, who had a botched ink in­jec­tion in her eye­ball, shows the amount of swelling in her eye.

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