Why Are Tattoos Permanent If Skin Sheds?
If you know anything about tattoos, you will know that everyone warns you to be extremely confident that you won’t regret what you put on your body, as they are permanent. While this is true, have you ever wondered why tattoos are permanent? I mean, our skin regenerates, so why does a tattoo stay visible even after many years?
Tattoo guns use microneedles which pierce into the dermis layer of the skin. The dermis does not regenerate nearly as often as the epidermis. When an injury occurs on the dermis, it scars. Although the skin regenerates, you’ll still be able to see the site of injury. Since tattoos are wounds on the skin, they “scar.” This is why they are permanent.
Let’s discuss the science of skin regeneration and its relationship with tattoos to understand better.
The Science Of Skin Regeneration
We all know that our skin constantly regenerates itself over the course of our life. So, if this is true, why are tattoos permanent? Why don’t they fade? To understand why tattoos are permanent, we need first to discuss how and why skin regenerates.
Dermis VS Epidermis
After a few weeks, the epidermal layer sheds dead skin. The dead cells are then replaced by healthy skin cells from the lower layers. The epidermis is a protective layer that serves as a barrier to pathogens. The dermis is a layer of connective tissue that sits underneath the epidermis.
Skin Regeneration: Do All Layers Of Skin Shed The Same?
Firstly, not all of your skin regenerates at the same rate. Your skin is made up of two layers: the dermis, which is the inner layer, and the epidermis, which is the outer layer. When people claim that skin is “constantly regenerating,” they’re almost certainly referring to the epidermis. More specifically, one of the epidermal layers, the stratum corneum, which is the dead layer of skin on top.
As those dead cells from the stratum corneum are removed and new ones take their place, your skin has technically “regenerated.” Keratinocytes grow in the lower layers of the epidermis, beginning at the stratum basale, and progressively mature and make their way to the top of the epidermis, where they die off and form the stratum corneum, over the period of about 2-4 weeks.
However, the dermis, the skin’s deepest layer, does not regenerate itself nearly as frequently as the epidermis. This is to protect the dermis from injury. When the dermis of the skin is damaged by a cut or injury deep enough to wound it, the skin is more than capable of mending itself, leaving a scar where the wound previously was. A superficial epidermal cut or wound, on the other hand, should not produce a scar.
How Deep Into Skin Does A Tattoo Go?
Nanoparticle ink pigments are injected into the skin’s dermis during the tattooing procedure using a tattoo gun, which has thousands of microneedles at its tip. The tattoo needle is meant to apply ink to the dermis directly. The skin is pierced 100 times per second by the ink-coated needle.
Ink penetrates and collects in the tissue of the dermis layer. A tattoo is similar to a deliberate wound on the skin, and the skin’s first instinct is to heal the damage. The presence of foreign ink particles triggers the body’s immune system, which is one of the reasons why a freshly done tattoo swells. It’s simply the body’s way of treating the “damaged” skin.
Since tattoos pierce the dermal layer of your skin, the skin does not shed nearly as frequently as the epidermal layer. Once the dermal layer has been injured, a scar will form, and any new cells will form accordingly.
Dermal cells stay in place until they die, and after that, they are absorbed by younger cells. This implies that the tattoo remains in place while the ink moves from one generation of cells to the next. This is why tattoos are permanent.
The Healing Process Of Tattoos
The skin gradually heals over the next 1-2 months, and while some ink is lost initially during the healing process, with proper care, the majority of it is trapped in the layer just below the epidermis-dermis boundary, where it will generally remain for the rest of your life, assuming no significant damage to the dermis in the area where the tattoo is located.
What Causes Fading Of Tattoos?
Even though tattoos are permanent, the ink does fade with time. There are exceptions to tattoos’ “permanent” nature, as there are to anything else.
For example, suppose a tattoo is too shallow or is not adequately cared for shortly after it is put, such as bathing the region in a hot tub immediately after receiving the tattoo. In that case, the colors and lines might fade quickly as part of the ink escapes through the newly damaged skin.
It’s also possible that the pigment will be dragged deeper into the dermis over time, making it less apparent on the surface and changing the color of your tattoo.
A tattoo will also fade naturally over time when the pigment is bleached by UV light from the sun. This will happen more rapidly as you expose your tattoo to the sun’s harsh rays. For this reason, most tattoo artists will recommend that you apply sunscreen to all of your tattoos often.
To summarize, the dermal layer of your skin is the layer that is pierced by tattoo needles, and it does not shed as regularly as the epidermal layer. A scar will form once the dermal layer has been wounded, and any new cells will form in response. This is why tattoos last a lifetime.
While tattoos are permanent, they will fade over time. To avoid fading, you should follow your tattoo artist’s advice on the healing process and aftercare. Of course, you should also pay attention to the commitment that a permanent body modification brings.
Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you
Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.
Design and tattoo ideas
For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):
- Great Book of Tattoo Designs, Revised Edition: More than 500 Body Art Designs (Fox Chapel Publishing) Fantasy, Celtic, Floral, Wildlife, and Symbol Designs for the Skin by Lora Irish
- The Big Book of Small Tattoos – Vol.1: 400 small original tattoos for women and men by Roberto Gemori
- Tiny Tattoos: Over 1,000 Small Inspirational Artworks by Rebecca Vincent.
If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).
The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):