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Ever thought your body would benefit from a bit of artwork but not known what options were available? Gone are the days where it was only acceptable for sailors and convicts to decorate themselves with tats; it is now much more common to see painted ladies and inked up fellas walking the streets, adorned with a myriad of patterns and pictures. Henna and permanent tattoos are simply methods of staining the skin with ink in some sort of aesthetically pleasing imagery.
Henna is a plant that reacts with the temperature of your skin, so if you’re hot stuff you’ll probably take well to the treatment. First the skin is prepared, removing any traces of oil, lotion or fake tan – the paint’s not gonna stick if you’re all greasy. The henna is then mixed with Eucalyptus oil and tea, coffee, lemon and sugar, in different quantities depending on what shade or colour you want your tat. It is then either applied with a tube (with a nozzle to make application easy) or a cone if you are a pro.
The paste is painted straight onto the body by squeezing the cone/tube and forcing the solution through the end onto the skin. The henna only stains your skin when it is wet, so by re-wetting the pattern you effectively darken the stain. It takes about 20-40 minutes for the henna to dry, whereupon the skin is often wrapped to ensure maximum life out of your tattoo. If you’ve spent hours doodling away, it is perhaps advisable not to skip this step! By layering on tissue under some cling film, you are trapping a layer of air between your skin and the bandage, keeping the henna warm and allowing sweat, hence darkening the design.
Once the henna is dry and begins to flake off, the skin will be left with an orange stain that will gradually darken. Whatever you do, don’t wash the henna for 24 hours after it is applied as it will smudge and all your hard work will go to waste!
Tattoos are a more permanent way to mark your body, and though they fade a little you’re pretty much stuck with them forever. Best be sure before you get that childhood sweetheart’s name tattooed on your arm!
Back in the day a knife and a pot of ink were all you needed but thankfully things have got a bit more civilized in recent years. The most common method of tattooing is to use an electric tattoo gun, which is made up of a group of needles that vibrate, driving the needle repeatedly in and out of the skin, (usually 80 to 150 times a second). Sound painful? It is! This certainly isn’t for the faint hearted.
The tattooist first washes the area you wish to get inked, then in most cases applies a stencil of the design you want. Incredibly skilled tattooists can draw the design freehand, but be sure you trust them before letting them loose with your skin – you’ve only got one chance to get it right. They then trace over this stencil with the tattoo machine, changing the speed and angle depending on the design. Afterwards the skin will heal naturally in about two to three weeks.
If you’re a bit of a girl when it comes to pain but really like the idea of adorning your body with some artwork, perhaps opt for the temporary henna option. The only downside is that it won’t last all that long, as henna fades after five to ten days, but then again, if you are a fickle character perhaps a permanent tattoo isn’t for you.
The oldest known tattoo was found on the 5,000-year-old frozen body of a Bronze Age hunter nicknamed Ozti the iceman.