Pros & Cons of Tattoos

Woman Showing Her Star Tattoo
star tattoo on woman's neck (Image: Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images)

Once the province of sailors, prisoners and rebellious, artistic types, tattoos have become a part of mainstream America. Like most things in life, tattoo ownership has its pros and cons. While the disadvantages are pretty concrete, the advantages are more varied. Tattoos mean different things to different people; what’s good about tattoos for one person may not even be a consideration for others. However, a few pros seem to apply to a majority of tattoo owners.

They Allow Self-Expression

Marking and altering your body is the ultimate form of self-expression, and tattoos are a relatively cheap and creative way to tell the world who you are and what you believe. Many view tattoos as a way to express individuality or show solidarity with another person, group or idea. Others see them merely as a way to beautify themselves, using their bodies as a blank canvas.

The Good and Bad of Permanence

Tattoos are ideal for commemorating important events because they stay on the skin forever. The downside is when you regret the event or person you honored in ink. Basically, you are stuck with that reminder until you die, tattoo over it, or endure a painful and expensive removal. When getting a commemorative tattoo, choose carefully so that you won’t later have to change “Winona Forever” to “Wino Forever.”

Health Risks

Some tattoo inks have been known to cause allergic reactions. In most states, reputable tattoo parlors are regulated and must follow standards of cleanliness for needles and equipment. However, there are still risks of infection and illness from tattoos. Even in regulated states, an unlicensed artist can set up a back-alley shop; visiting one can increase your risk of infection from improperly sterilized needles. These infections can range from bacterial infections to hepatitis and HIV. There are also risks of infection when you don't properly care for a new tattoo. Make sure to use a reputable, regulated tattoo facility.

Uncertain Quality

There are good tattoo artists and bad tattoo artists. It is important to find a good artist because she only gets one chance to get that ink down right. Some tattoo facilities require that all aspiring artists apprentice themselves to a more established artist and that they assist on a certain number of tattoos before flying solo. However, there is nothing to stop someone from opening her own shop, even if her work is less than stellar. Talk to people with body art that you admire and ask them where they got their tattoos. People who have a lot of tattoos are a great resource because they will have a lot of experience with tattoo artists and preferences. Shop around to avoid possible disappointment later.

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