How Tattoos Work

By: Hannah Chang

How They Work

Tattoos are created by injecting ink into a person's skin. An electrically powered tattoo machine is used to do this. The machine moves a needle up and down and injects ink into a person's skin. The needle only goes down the skin about one millimeter. It injects the skin with a drop of insoluble ink with each puncture. The skin is punctured between 50 and 3,000 times a minute!

The ink is actually in the dermis, which is the 2nd layer of the skin, but when you look at a person's tattoo, you see the ink through the epidermis. The cells of the dermis are much more stable than the cells in the epidermis, so the tattoo's ink will stay in place. Minor fading and spreading of the ink may occur.

The Tattoo Machine

Samuel O'Reilly invented the tattoo machine in the late 1800's. Modern tattoo machines are really similar to that of O'Reilly's.

The basic components of a modern tattoo machine are:
~an electric motor
~a sterilized needle
~a foot pedal, which is used to control the up and down movement of the needle
~a tube system, which draws the ink through the machine

Fast Facts

-Tattoos under an inch cost between $50 and $100.
-The U.S. Food Drug Administration does not approve of the pigments and inks used for tattoos.
-Almost 1/5 of people with tattoos in the U.S. regret getting one, and it's usually because it contains a name.