One of the worries parents of teenagers have is them coming home with a fresh tattoo is probably right up there. Parents may be aware that getting permanently inked is fraught with perils, from health risks to job limitations, most “live-in-the-moment” teens are likely to be less than receptive.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some ideas to share that may help you.
Following are a few of their key pointers for moms and dads:
1. Don’t make it about judgment.
This may be easier said than done, you need to approach the topic with concern while remaining open-minded to their viewpoint. Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Cora Breuner, one of the lead authors of an AAP report on this topic, emphasizes that you “just want young people to be [made] aware” of the potential issues with getting inked, rather than summarily dismissing it as a bad choice in and of itself.
2. Mention potential health risks.
Discuss the possibility of scarring or infections that could lead to skin trauma. That may get their attention. It is also a good “out” for teens who really do not want to get a tattoo, but need an excuse to stay looking cool with their friends.
3. Make sure they understand that a reputable tattoo artist must be licensed and follow basic health and safety procedures.
You cannot stop teens 18 and up from actually getting inked, but you can at least steer them towards a safe artist with minimal health risks. Tell them what to look for: a clean facility where artists wear latex gloves while tattooing, remove a new needle for them to see to be used on their ink, and dip into a freshly filled and disposable ink container to avoid any previous contamination.
To be extra safe, make sure your kids are up on their own tetanus and other immunizations, including for hepatitis C, which can be spread via dirty needles.
Lenox Hill Hospital Professor of Dermatology Dr. Bruce Robinson says if tattoo artists maintain the proper procedures, that the “risk of infection is low.”
4. Explain that allergic reactions are always possible, even in the cleanest tattoo parlors
You can never predict an allergic reaction to specific inks, no matter how careful the artist is. This is a risk with body piercings, where certain metals have been known to cause severe reactions in some sensitive individuals.
Secondary infections can be caused by scratching tattoos as they heal. Keloid scarring, where scars from that are raised and puffy, are also potential pitfalls. Robinson warns that those with darker skin tones, from Mediterranean to African-American and many ethnicities in between, are “more susceptible” to this reaction.
5. Help them to think ahead to a future job interview.
It can be challenging to get someone who is 18 or 19 to think about long-term career goals. But do your best, Bruener suggests, because “it might affect [their] ability to get a job,” she notes.
The doctor also recommends reminding your kids that fashions come and go, and what’s happening today may be yesterday’s news tomorrow.
Inks themselves do fade, particularly with regular exposure to sunlight.
Finally, make sure your teens are aware of the discomfort of laser tattoo removal, should they determine later that they made a mistake.
“It can take upwards of 10 treatments,” noted Robinson, adding that the process itself is “… not painless. And it can leave an outline or ‘shadow’ behind” as well,” he added.
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