Human Identity Art: Tattoos, Aging and Removal by@melissaebrown

Human Identity Art: Tattoos, Aging and Removal

Tattoos have become a way of self-expression like no other, but what happens when our personalities and circumstances change? This article looks at the tattoo procedure and it's role as human identity art.
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Melissa Brown

I am a writer with a passion for health and wellbeing articles

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Tattoos have been around for centuries: nowadays, they are one of the centre-points of self-expression, varying in their style and technique. They have become a form of identity art, which enable a visual reflection of our personalities at that moment in time; however, as humans, we change over time, and so do our tattoos. This article looks at the tattoo procedure, its role in self-expression and the aging process.

The Tattoo Procedure

We often associate tattoos with the modern buzz of electronic tattoo machines, which pierce the skin with a needle at incredible speed. The ink within the needle is distributed beneath the top layer of skin (epidermis) and into the deeper vascular skin (dermis), where it sits permanently as a visual design. For those who wish for a unique, hand-mastered and gentler version, this process can be done manually, known as 'hand-poked', such as bamboo tattooing in Asia.


Other outdated tattoo methods aren't for the faint-hearted and are far more brutal, such as the forceful puncturing of the skin with an object at 90 degrees, and cutting the skin with a sharp material. Whilst rarely heard of, these were common practices in cultures such as the Maori of New Zealand and Monks in Burma. They were considerably more painful, time-consuming, and arguably required more skill than today's popular electronic tattoos.

Tattoos in Society

In the past, tattoos were far less common. Often associated with the military, sailors and criminals, the procedure was not the desirable aesthetically-pleasing procedure that it is today. Tattoos have boomed in popularity in the last 20 years and have evolved into a social statement.

In a global study conducted in 2018, 38% of people own up to having at least one tattoo [1]. As celebrities flaunt their latest inks on social media, it is no wonder it has become a must-have for many. Styles vary from delicate botanical pieces to bold aboriginal designs, yet there is usually a common feature -each design has meaning.


Human Identity Art

Tattoo designs are very personal and usually reflect an individual's personality, experience or loved ones. The permanent quality of the fashion statement tends to make people contemplate what they are willing to have on their body long-term.

The use of tattoo symbolism enables us to indicate certain messages through images: birds to indicate freedom, a lion to signify strength, etc. The way we perceive and express ourselves is displayed to the world with an artistic flair.


Many people who have their first tattoo go on to have many others. Whether the art is meaningful or just aesthetically pleasing, it becomes a timeline of our desires, our personalities and life events. Tattoos have become a way of self-expression like no other, but what happens when our personalities and circumstances change?

We've all heard of people having their partner's name lovingly tattooed onto their body -only for them to break up. Fortunately, tattoo removal has become an increasingly accessible treatment and choice of action. Despite the name indicating complete tattoo removal, the costly process that involves pulses of lasers only lightens tattoo artwork. Many individuals decide to have a cover-up tattoo, disguising the fainter original artwork.


As our lives continually change and our personalities adapt to what life throws at us, so does our skin and, consequently, our tattoos.

The Tattoo Aging Process

Initially, tattoos are fresh, bright and bold; however, the newly acquired identity art changes over time. The unfortunate reality is that tattoos fade with age -while some take a mere couple of years, others take decades, depending on the tattoo and how it's looked after. So what can we do to reduce our tattoo changing?

Shortly after the tattoo procedure, advice is given that aims to maximize healing and appearance, and lower chances of infection.

Recommendations differ from artist to artist -generally, the advice is as follows:

  1. Lightly clean the tattoo daily with anti-bac soap
  2. Avoid long showers/baths for a month
  3. Regular moisturization, e.g. Bepanthem cream, coconut oil or Vaseline
  4. Keep hydrated, which keeps the skin moisturized
  5. Most importantly, resist the urge to itch or pick!

Long-term, it is vital to preserve the tattoo via the following:

  1. Avoid sunlight when possible or use suncream, preferably SPF 30 or above
  2. Keep hydrated, this moisturizes the skin and preserves the tattoo appearance
  3. Avoiding excessive weight gain or loss which can easily distort tattoos

Final Thoughts

The tattoo process holds an air of significance in our society, reflecting individuals' personalities, experiences and life events. The popular trend has become a form of human identity art, expressing the inner self.

However, as our personalities and circumstances change over time, it is important to understand the permanence of such a luxury and the partial ability to remove it should you regret the procedure. Let's continue to express ourselves -just make sure it is definitely what you want!



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