Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cosmetic Tattoo Art

We asked Tattoo Temple in Hong Kong for an insight into the other uses of tattoos. Although traditionally more popular in Asian countries such as South Korea, instances of cosmetic tattooing in Hong Kong are on the rise. Cosmetic tattooing is particularly popular amongst women and, although not yet a traditional and culturally mainstream practice here in China, it can be viewed as a burgeoning and empowered choice. Irrespective of one’s personal inclination towards or against such ‘inking’ there are numerous technical and safety issues not often considered.

Cosmetic tattoo art can be broadly divided into three types: permanent makeup, skin coloration and tattooing over scars. Permanent makeup tattoos are when the client requests color pigmentation or even tattooed dots representing beauty marks to be placed on their face or body thus replacing conventional cosmetics. These permanent markings range from tattooed eyebrows, eyeliner, blush to even lip-stick. Thinner highly precise tattoo needles are used for many of the cosmetic tattoo procedures. The second type of cosmetic tattooing is known as ‘skin coloration’. This is performed when, for a variety of reasons including the repercussions of surgery and burns, a small section of a persons’ skin color no longer matches the rest or most of their body. Tattoo Temple told us of one extremely brave client who came in for this procedure. The aspect that separates this client from all the rest was that the area to be re-colored was a portion of his testicles. And yes, he made it through the entire session.

The first two types of cosmetic tattoos require not only a steady hand but also an artist who is a color expert. Most anyone is able to select and match a type of tattoo ink from the many on the shelf however only the experienced artist can anticipate the end result. As a persons’ natural skin color will sit on top of the tattoo and as the tattoo is often intended to be readily visible, the visual mathematics of this practice is best left to only the experienced professional.
According to Tattoo Temple the third type is the most requested form of cosmetic tattooing, tattoos over scars. In most cases there exists the perception that a tattoo piece could be placed over a larger area somehow incorporating the scar into the design and therefore hiding the scar. As a very general and broad rule, this can often be the case. Yet each scar, medical history, healing capability and design has to be individually reviewed by the tattoo artist.

Very simply, scars differ according to the amount of collagen the body produces. Hypertrophic and keloid scars are where excess collagen has been deposited over the area; these are the raised or bumpy’ types of scars. Atrophic scarring is an indentation of the skin. Atrophic scarring is most commonly from acne, chickenpox, accidents or surgery.
Tattoos are permanent because they sit beneath the layer of skin that is constantly sloughing or shedding. Most types of mild scars will be able to retain the color of a tattoo. Scarred areas more often than not form stable canvases (from the tattoo artists viewpoint) however it is still tricky territory when bearing in mind the intricacies and complexity of many tattoo designs.  When considering tattooing over a scar the key point to keep in mind is that tattoos are simply changes in coloration whereas scars are physical alterations. No matter the style or type of tattoo design, the skin onto which it is applied will not be physically altered except for the underlying coloration. The raised or indented areas of skin (i.e. the scar) can at best be expertly crafted into the design so as to minimize any untoward attention.


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