Here's what's really happening to your skin when you get a tattoo
Luckily for them, tattoo machines have come a long way from the tools used in the past.
Smarter Every Day grabbed their slow-motion cameras and headed into to a tattoo parlor to find out how tattoos work.
Here's what they discovered.
In order for a tattoo to be permanent, ink has to get into the dermis, the tissue just underneath the outer layer of your skin, called the epidermis.
This is done by making thousands of tiny pricks in the skin. To do that, a tattoo artist uses a handheld machine that has a needle affixed to it.
The artist dips the needle in the ink, turns on the motor that moves the needle, and applies the moving needle to the skin.
The sharp needle pricks the skin quickly and repeatedly, dragging the ink clinging to it down into the dermis.
A needle can have three ends or as many as 25. Each type of needle can achieve different effects. Needles with fewer ends are used for outlining, while needles with more ends can be used for shading or coloring.
The coil machine uses a direct electrical current to move the needle. The tattoo artists steps on a foot pedal, which shoots a current into the coil, turning it an electromagnet.
The now magnetized coil pulls down the metal arm that's attached to the needle, which pushes the needle out. But as the metal arm touches the coil, another thin piece of metal loses contact with a circuit screw, breaking the current and causing the coil to lose its electromagnetic force.
The return spring pulls the metal arm back to its original place, pulling the thin piece of metal back into contact with the circuit screw and reconnecting the current that magnetizes the coil. This process happens over and over again as the tattoo artist holds the foot pedal down.
It wouldn't do much good to distribute the ink just on the epidermis because these outer skin cells are continually dying and sloughing off. The tattoo would disappear in just a few weeks. For tattoos to last a whole person's life, the machines have to pack enough punch to get the ink down into the dermis, the tissue just below the outer epidermis.
This dermis is "composed of collagen fibers, nerves, glands, blood vessels, and more," according to the video.
Once a macrophage consume an ink particle, it goes back through the lymphatic highway and brings the consumed particles to the liver for excretion. But other macrophages don't make it back to the lymph nodes. Instead, these blood cells stay in the dermis, and the ink particles they've eaten continue to remain visible.
Destin from Smarter Every Day tries out the needle to see how much it hurts. Check out the rest of the video, uploaded to YouTube.
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