The Science Behind Tattoos: What Makes Them Permanent?


Tattoos are something that can be traced right back throughout history. Different countries and cultures have used tattoos to represent memories, beliefs, groups and associations. Some people use them as artwork, whilst others to express their love for someone or something.

We know a lot about why people get tattoos, but do we ever stop to think about the science behind them? Most people don’t even give it a second thought before getting their body inked. As a tattoo artist; how much do you know?

We know it’s sort of painful, that the ink goes deep into the skin and that it’s permanent. However, it’s not actually that simple.

Tattoo being made_1

The Relationship Between the Ink & Dermis

When your needle pierces the skin, it must get into the dermis in order to make the tattoo permanent. This is the second, deeper layer of skin that just underneath the outer layer of our skin - the epidermis. The epidermis is the layer that sheds around 40,000 cells every hour – no ink is deposited here. The dermis is composed of nerves, glands, blood vessels and collagen fibres.

The needle repeatedly pierces the skin quickly, a process that allows the ink to enter the dermis. The needle moves up and down between 50 to 3,000 times in one single minute. This penetrates the skin’s dermis – inflicting damage and creating a wound.

The Body Fights Back

When the needle enters the skin, the body reacts in the same way it would when suffering from an attack. It reacts to the pain by distributing immune cells (macrophages) to the area which the needle has entered - it wants to repair the wound. This is the reason why some tattoos do fade over the years.

These macrophages consume ink particles; taking them to the liver for excretion. Some don’t make it this far though and end up staying in the dermis – these ink particles remain as visible as ever. This is the tattoo that is revealed to the outside world.


Tattoo Removal

The permanent nature of a tattoo is what makes it so hard to remove. Tattoo removal generally depends on the size, location, colour, application and length of time that it’s been on the skin of your client.

When a tattoo has been done by a high quality professional, the tattoo is easier to remove. This is due to the even application to the same level of skin. This isn’t always done by artists with little experience.

Now that you know the science behind tattooing, we wish you happy tattooing! 

If you’re a tattoo artist looking for tattoo ink or supplies, please don’t hesitate to contact us. You can give us a call on 01922 744088 and a member of our helpful team will be more than happy to answer any questions!