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The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian tatu, which means, "to mark." The first recorded history of tattooing is found in Egypt during the time of the building of the great pyramids. Mummies as old as seven thousand years have been found with tattoos.

Tattoo of a black leopard.
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A tattoo in the most common sense is a picture, figure or text drawn in ink (or other pigment) under the topmost layer of skin on an animal or human. In modern times the ink is introduced under the skin by a needle mounted in a tattoo gun, although some tribal cultures create them by cutting and then rubbing the wound with ink, ashes or other agents. This was probably the original method.

The purposes of tattoos are diverse. Identification, cosmetic, religious and magical uses are the most common. The most horrid use ever made of tattoos is probably the ka-tzetnik identification system for Jews in concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Tattooing is technically referred to as "micro-pigment implantation". Devices for implanting pigment are called "machines," and are manufactured by many small to mid-sized companies throughout the world. Typical tattoo machines are around $200 USD, though custom machines can run into the thousands.

Most tattoo machines can control needle depth to almost any degree and thanks to this control, tattooing has become a very precise art form, so precise that facial tattooing has become popular in the United States of America. The procedure is called, dermapigmentation[?] or "permanent cosmetics".

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Permanent Cosmetics

Permanent cosmetics are tattoos that mimic eyebrows, lip liner, lipstick, eye shadow, mascara, and even well-placed moles.

Tattoos are used with animals such as pets (ID marks, covering patches on noses to prevent sunburn) and farm livestock (ID marks). Veterinarian are always present during such procedures and the animal is typically sedated to ensure it's safety.

Henna/Temporary Tattoos

Temporary tattoos made with 'black henna' may cause allergic reactions. 'Black henna' is fabricated by adding PPD (p-Phenylenediamine) to natural henna, in order to achieve a black color rather than the orange through brown stain of natural henna. PPD is very unhealthy and has been known to cause burns[1] (http://www.hennapage.com/henna/warnings).

Tattoo of an eagle.
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Tattoo Health and Regulation

The tattoo industry has in the last twenty years become very conscious of the health problems associated with tattoing, particularly in the transmission of viruses by blood contact. This may occur if needles or tubes are reused without sterilizing.

In the United States of America tattooing is widely regulated by the individual states and municipalities. A good place to find regulations are state, Department of Health web sites and are typically controlled by Environmental Health or Consumer Protection divisions.

Pigment Allergies and Health Risks

Allergic reactions to tattoo pigments are rare but not unheard of. People who are sensitive or allergic to certain metals may react to pigments in the skin, causing damage to the epidermis.

People with allergies should consider carefully getting a tattoo because of the risk of anaphylaxis(hypersensitive reaction) and the shock that might occur, which can be life threatening. Tattoo artists can often give small tests, by marking a small amount of ink behind the ear to determine if that person has an allergic reaction.

Infection from tattooing in clean and modern tattoo studios is rare but can happen. Common infections include surface infections of the skin all the way to staph infections that can cause cardiological damage. People who are susceptible to infection should know the dangers of the abasing of the skin can have and would be advised to consult their regular physician before getting a tattoo.

Aids and Hepatitis C are rare in clean, modern tattooing.

Common sense in choosing a tattoo establishment is key to getting a clean, well executed, and good-looking tattoo. Visit several shops before choosing one. Look for things like latex gloves, red bio-hazard trash cans, and sharps containers for old needles. Also ask to see the autoclave and make sure the tattoo artist always opens a needle package in front of you. Use your head and you won't be in any real danger.

See also scar tattoo; military music tattoo[?] (such as the Edinburgh tattoo); body modification

Links:[2] (http://www.howstuffworks.com/tattoo.htm)


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