What’s the difference between your skin at age 20 and your skin at age 60?
As you embark on your tattoo journey, bear in mind that your skin now is functionally different from your skin at age 20. As skin matures, its surface layer, the dermis, begins to thin. Moreover, aging skin is slower to heal. These two factors, lessened elasticity and slower healing, can potentially complicate the tattooing process. To help mitigate difficulties these may cause, try these tips.
Choose a simple design with minimal detail.
One major component of the success of a tattoo on mature skin is the design chosen. “Size and level of detail will have to be more carefully thought through,” offers Dan Hunter, founder of AuthorityTattoo, the first online resource for high-quality, dermatologist-vetted tattoo information. When choosing a design, shy away from designs that incorporate a lot of fine line detail, and instead opt for thicker lines. This has less to do with fashion than it does function. “Tattoos can’t be too small or too detailed due to the elasticity of the skin not being as great as it once was,” Hunter explains. Because mature skin is delicate and more prone to bruising and color bleeding, thicker lines will typically be the most forgiving for your skin and will likely allow it to heal the best. You may want to ask your artist to come up with a design that entails the least line work possible.
Choose a location with plenty of fat, and avoid areas with thin skin.
Although different people have different pain tolerances, those in the inked community generally agree that certain places hurt more than others. The key to choosing a comfy spot? Choose a place with more cushion, less bone and more fat or muscle. Examples of these places include the outer arm, outer thigh and calf muscle. Avoid areas that are seldom exposed and areas with thin skin, like your hands and feet, in order to help bypass any extra pain.
Check your medications, and avoid coffee and alcohol.
Because scarification entails creating a wound, you can usually expect to bleed a little bit during your tattoo procedure. For this reason, you should avoid taking anything that thins blood and could cause undue bruising. Common blood thinners include medications such as daily aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, according to the American Association of Family Physicians (AAFP). However, medications are not the only blood thinners to be aware of. Some beverages also have been shown to have a blood-thinning effect. For 48 hours prior to tattooing, make sure you avoid alcohol and caffeine. And always check with your doctor before skipping doses of a prescribed medication.
Try a product for reducing pain, bleeding and bruising.
If you are worried about tattoo pain, there are a number of products on the market aimed at making your experience more comfortable. Some common options include lidocaine, benzocaine, Emla®, Ametop® and epinephrine. Always consult your doctor before taking any new or different medication.
Try a cold compress.
As noted above, with aging our skin becomes more prone to bruising and color bleeding. To keep your tat intact, try this trick. After prepping your skin and right before tattooing, ask your artist to place a cold, damp paper towel or ice on the area. This may reduce bruising and color bleeding by reducing blood flow to the area by way of a reaction called vasoconstriction, wherein blood vessels constrict in response to cold. Once an area is complete, replace this cloth to help reduce swelling. The cold compress might also help to numb the area and reduce your perception of pain.
Keep the area being tattooed higher than your heart.
Thanks to biology, there is an all-natural way to reduce blood flow to a particular area, and neither medicine nor a tourniquet is required. To keep an area from bleeding and bruising as much, elevate the area so it is higher than your heart. For example, if you’re being tattooed on your arm, lie down and put your arm above your head. Once the area is elevated, gravity will naturally reduce the amount of blood headed that way.
Talk to your tattoo artist.
Now that we’ve listed a number of things you can do to help you get the best quality tattoo, here are a few recommendations for your tattoo artist. Talk to your artist about the kinds of needles and the depths of the needles that they may use on your skin. “Needle depth will play a part in how painful the tattoo will be for an older person,” says Dan Hunter. “The skin will be thinner, and it will be easier to delve a layer or two deeper into the dermis, which could cause a bit more pain.” Fortunately, there are some actions your artist may be able to take to help keep the needle from venturing too deeply into the dermis. “Inks and needle sizes generally don't have too much bearing on pain,” says Hunter, “but magnum needles can be easier on the skin and, in turn, cause less pain, as fewer passes are needed over the same area.”
Getting tattooed as a senior may be uncommon, but keeping these tips in mind may help improve the experience. Happy tattooing!
Disclaimers: Emla® is a registered trademark of Astra USA, Inc.
Ametop® is a registered trademark of Smith & Nephew Pharmaceuticals Ltd. Corp.
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