Tattoos and piercings – are we right in condemning body modification?

According to healthline, a tattoo is a form of body art that is created when ink is inserted, using a needle, into the dermis layer of the skin. This changes the skin’s pigment and can be used to create almost any image imaginable.

Pemanent makeup is also a form of tattooing. This is when permanent ink is used to mimic the look of eyeliner, lipliner, eyebrow pencil, or other kinds of makeup.

Piercing is another popular form of body art. This is a type of body modification where a needle punctures a hole in the body. Jewelry is then inserted into this hole. Ears, noses, eyebrows, tongues, lips, navels, nipples, genitals, and other body parts can be pierced.

A little background:

The purpose of tattooing varied from culture to culture. The Greeks for example used it for communication among spies. Romans use them to mark criminals and slaves. Tahitian tattoos served as rites of passage, telling the history of the wearer’s life. Tattoos served as symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, amulets and talismans, protection, and so on.

According to some stats I found online, about 60% of people born after 1980 in the US have tattoos and/or piercings. Strange , isn’t it? Here in Africa, we’re trying to become civilized, hence giving children tribal tattoos as we used to is fast becoming a crime. While the civilizations we emulate are returning to what we’re leaving behind.

But I derail.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking of getting a tattoo, or are trying to talk someone out of getting one, or just plain curious. Might as well know the health risks involved.

Health risks.

Allergic reaction to tattoo dyes, skin infections such as staphylococcus or tuberculosis, development of inflamed tissue(granuloma) around the tattoo site, formation of keloids, blood borne diseases such as hepatitis B and C, HIV, burning or swelling at the tattoo site and interference with future MRI(Magnetic resonance Imaging) tests. Health risks of piercings include complications that may arise if the person has other medical conditions such as diabetes, allergies, skin disorders like eczema or psoriasis, or a weak immune system.

Okay, enough with the medical stuff. My initial response to seeing any tatted/pierced person was a mix of bewilderment and disgust. Like, why would someone hate the clarity of his skin so much that he would decide to draw a permanent image on it? Or love looking weird so much that he goes and lets someone punch holes in his body for jewelry?! It wasn’t until I saw a cancer survivor draw a tattoo over her chest where her breasts had had to be cut off, that I realised it might not be eccentricity that pushes everyone to go down this route.


Before you get that tattoo or piercing, think on it. Would you still want that tattoo on your body in the next 10, 15 years? Will that piercing make you progress in your chosen sphere of life without constantly having to fight to be taken seriously? If you’re in a professional field, are you ready to always have to find out first if they have a no-tattoos-or-piercings policy before applying to a new place of work? What exactly is the additional appeal you think you might have by piercing your nose or lip or eyebrow or having your arms or neck tattooed?

You might want to read this.

What I think.

If, after weighing the pros and the cons, you realize that that tattoo or piercing won’t help you progress at due speed in life, drop it like it’s hot. The truth is that most normal people wouldn’t want to be alone with a tatted or pierced person late at night. In all honesty, it’s not something that inspires trust. It would take an extremely liberal interview team to ignore a candidate’s tattoos/piercings and pick him/her above other applicants even if he or she were as qualified. Except of course, if you’re in a Muslim community where it’s not unusual for women to have nose piercings. Semi permanent henna tattoos are also quite common in such places, especially for special occasions. Young America may think otherwise, but tattoos and piercings do make you look irresponsible. People’s perception of those with such “body art” is “he probably does drugs as well” or “he surely moves with a crowd you don’t want to be around” or “she’s probably a slut”. It’s unlikely that someone’s first thought on seeing it is “he must have been in a bad place when he drew that one ” or “that lovely nose ring must be her best form of personal expression”. As with those with tattoos, according to a study I read, there was a strong association of piercing relative to alcohol and recreational drug use, jail time and lack of religious affiliation.

The fact is that most young people would pay a lot of money to get these things done, but still clamor for cheaper education and social amenities. Eventually in the future when they feel like they could do without it, they manage to save for painful and expensive removal processes which might not yield aesthetically pleasing results and may lead to yet more scarring. Something tells me that if these people were born with the tattoos, they would eagerly find find a way to remove them. The craze is simply a case of dissatisfaction plus enough spending money. Actually, scratch that. Even broke people will still find a way to do something to themselves.

I was once a kid, and I would have got lost a hundred times over before venturing to ask for help from someone with tattoos or piercings. They’re mostly scary to kids, and like I said, they do not inspire trust.

That said, not all tatted and pierced people are bad people. As a matter of fact many of them are quite great. The choice to draw on your body or punch holes in it is entirely up to you, but you have to prepare for people’s reactions to how you look, and try not to blame them. It’s not the norm after all, and never will be. People don’t take lightly to ideas or concepts that are different from what they believe in, or what is socially acceptable.

Now there are tattoos, and there are tattoos. A butterfly tattoo on the wrist may not be viewed with the same distaste as a long bible quote on the buttock area. An offensive image, no matter how small, will definitely put you on the “to avoid” list of a normal person. Earrings are generally accepted, but of course overdoing it by piercing a gazillion holes in your ear won’t likely win you normal people as close pals. I mean, I have two earring piercings in my right ear, and I have lost count of the number of times I’ve had to explain how the maternity nurse got the first one wrong and had to give me another piercing, less than 48 hours after after my birth.

Why should ear piercing be seen as normal while piercing of other body parts is deemed abnormal? I think that since the wearing of earrings is a universally accepted way of life(for women), the piercing of the ear at birth has become one too, except for those whose religion forbids it.

Would I date or marry someone with tattoos and/or piercings? I’m 99% positive I wouldn’t.

Would I get a tattoo or piercing? No. Not even if I was offered money to get one.

Would I let my kid get one? Somebody better be kidding. Not as long as you’re under my care, you won’t.

Would I befriend one? Definitely. As long as there are no chances of my future kid suddenly wanting to punch holes in his/her body or getting stuff drawn all over.

In nutshell, it’s not up to anyone to judge others because of choices they have made Tattooed, pierced, scarified, one God made us all. The real issue is doing what you’ll regret later on in life. It might feel good to be seen as a cool dude right now, but if 10 years later you have a slight chance of regretting it, it would be wise to let that sleeping dog lie if you want to go far in life.

We all do things we desperately wish we could undo. Those regrets just become part of who we are, along with everything else. To spend time trying to change that, well, it’s like chasing cloud – Libba Bray

Sincerely, Chibugo.

PS. Let me hear your opinions in the comments!

90s chick; nerd, humanitarian; lover of life, family, fashion, food, art and literature; Christian by birth and choice. In short, I’m like jollof rice: you’re gonna love me. 😉

6 thoughts on “Tattoos and piercings – are we right in condemning body modification?

  1. Somehow the media is sending subtle messages about tattoos and piercings being kinda cool. We now have lots of shows and series with physicians and other professionals wearing tattoos. Most people are beginning to disregard tattoos as a result, especially in the western world. One industry with a strict ‘no tattoo’ policy is the banking industry. It might change in the future though. I guess they understand that people require that to voluntarily trust them with their money. This doesn’t apply to the healthcare industry per se. When you are truly sick, you careless about a physician wearing tattoos.
    I would never get a tattoo. Mostly because I have a very low pain threshold. If my mom hadn’t pierced my ears at birth, I doubt if my ears would ever be pierced.
    Some people have really cool tattoos. While others have really ugly tattoos. I’ve come to realize that tattoos don’t look good on very dark people. It just makes them look kinda dirty. Fair people, not so bad. My kids, heck no!

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