Will You Love That Tattoo in 20 Years?

It’s not a question that many teens ask themselves before they get a tattoo. The American Academy of Pediatrics has some advice for teens who are considering getting tattoos—and for their parents.

It’s permanent

  • Many teens get tattoos impulsively as a harmless lark, with little consideration to the fact that they may regret the decision later.
  • Do not get tattooed with the names of boyfriends, girlfriends, bands, movie stars, etc. When you break up or lose interest in a particular band or star, that tattoo is still going to be there.

Possible complications (That’s right: nothing is without risk)

  • Allergic reactions to the dyes (especially red, green, yellow, and blue) can cause itching, redness, and swelling that may last for years.
  • Ugly bumps/scars. Raised scar tissue can form around the area of the tattoo. If you are someone whose old cuts or scrapes heal into thick, raised scars, chances are this is how your body heals—and how tattoos will behave on your skin.
  • Diseases such as tetanus, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS. If the tattoo artist uses a contaminated needle, he or she can give you an illness. This risk is compounded by the fact that teens are much more likely to go to an “economy” tattoo parlor, where the sanitation and sterilization practices are substandard.
  • Skin infection at the tattoo site. Teens are also more likely to try to tattoo themselves by using supplies from home that are not sterile. With the rise of today’s frighteningly aggressive bacteria and antibiotic resistance, such infections can result in hospitalization.

Long-term considerations

  • Our bodies change. Such transformations as wrinkles and the stretching of one’s skin can change the appearance of that piece of artwork, and usually not for the better.
  • Tattoo removal can be done by laser, but... it hurts, takes multiple treatments, and costs thousands of dollars—dollars that no insurance company is going to reimburse.

Talk with your teen. Repeatedly. It shows that you care, even if you feel like you’re talking to a wall. They just might hear you. They might even thank you one day.

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