Ever wonder what's actually happening to your skin while getting a tattoo? It's clear enough that ink must be set deep enough to stick around, but for a tattoo to become permanent, needles must repeatedly push past the skins first layer, the epidermis, and into the layer beneath. Needles serve as a carrier for ink as they push past this first wall and into the dermis quickly.
As these repetitive jabs are wounds and the ink are foreign particles, your body reacts accordingly, viewing the ink as a threat of infection. In response, the immune system increases blood flow to the tattooed area so that blood cells can protect the body and carry away potential threats through the lymphatic system, eventually traveling to the liver to be excreted. Once pigment is in the skin, the effected area starts to swell, become red, and release blood plasma in an act of defense. (Sound familiar?)
While cells try and fight infection, the body seeks to repair damaged tissue created by needle puncturing. In the interest of healing this tissue and preventing fluid loss, a barrier is created where pigment will get stuck and form into scabs and flakes: your peeling tattoo! What does get left behind is healed scar tissue, brighter and more closely resembling the colors and clarity seen during your appointment.
While the epidermis is constantly shedding and regenerating, dying cells in the lower dermis layer are reabsorbed by younger cells. This is what keeps pigment in place once this healing stage has ended, making a permanent tattoo. For these reasons, some folks opt to take collagen and immune boosting supplements in the days leading up to their appointment and throughout the healing phase. Doing so may help with tattoo longevity and a smoother healing process.
All in all, what makes a successful tattoo is not only your trusted artist, but essential preventive measures like drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and eating full meals. Your body works overtime to (albeit, accidentally) lock in some hard-earned artistry. A little extra care leading up to and following your appointments will go a long way!