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The History of Tattoos and Tattoo Aftercare

The History Of Tattoos (and why we choose Saniderm for our aftercare).

We’ve been getting tattoos for thousands of years. It used to be an indicator of our social rank, occupation or even our life experiences. They have also been used simply to decorate the body, especially now. Despite the overwhelming fascination with tattooing, The history of tattoos has been studied throughout the past few decades to determine where they originated. The word “tattoo” itself is said to come from two origins – the Tahitian word “tatau” which means, “to mark something” and the other from the Polynesian word “ta” which means striking something. Tattoos are recorded to have begun thousands of years ago and unfortunately the history is varied as the people who have them. People believe that the first tattoo cultures may have existed before Ancient Greek and Romans, possibly beginning in Europe before the last Great Ice Age, 5,000 years ago. In 1867, bowls with traces of black and red pigments along with sharpened flint instruments were found in France. These items were also found in caves in Portugal and Scandinavia. Based on the size and shape of the tools, it has been suggested that they were used for tattooing. These works of art, sometimes elaborate, sometimes plain, have served as status symbols, declarations of love, religious beliefs and even forms of punishment. The history is what sets the future up and in the tattoo world it’s no different.

Bronze Age

Back in 1991, a 5,000 year old frozen body was discovered on a mountain between Austria and Italy. They called the body ‘Otiz the Ice Man’ and to this day is the best-preserved corpse of that period ever found. Otiz’s skin bears 57 tattoos, a cross on the left knee, six straight lines 15 centimeters long above the kidneys and numerous parallel lines on the ankles. Close examinations revealed that Otiz’s tattooed skin tissue contained carbon particles. Anthropologists believe that a traditional healer made incisions with a heated metal instrument and put medicinal herbs in the wounds to treat Otzi’s rheumatic pains, thus creating a tattoo.

Ancient Cultures

In 1948, Russian archeologist Sergei Rudenko began excavating tombs in the Altai Mountains, which contained mummies that are around 2,400 years old. The mummies had a variety of tattoos that are said to represent various indigenous and mythological animals. This includes griffins and monsters that were thought to have magical significance. When looking at the tattoos as a whole piece, they were believed to reflect the status of the individual bearing them. Tattoos pertaining to the Egyptian period have been dating back to as early as the Xi era. In 1891, archaeologists found mummified remains of Amunet, a priestess goddess, who displayed several lines and dots tattooed on her body that were aligned into abstract geometric patterns. This art form is believed to be restricted to females who were often associated with some kind of ritualistic practice.

Greeks And Romans

The Roma tattoo culture was developed from the Greeks and is a pattern similar to many aspects of Roman culture. Despite the widespread decorative tattoos in other cultures, the Greeks found that barbaric. However, they did begin a form of tattooing that was introduced to them by the Persians. Herodotus informs us that Persians marked their slaves, convicts and prisoners of war by tattooing letters onto their foreheads. The assumption is that Greeks adopted this practice from the Persians because they also tattooed their slaves’ faces. This was a way to make it impossible for a runaway to go unnoticed. In his dialogue on Greek law, Plato refers to the marking of desecrators caught plundering treasure from the temples. Writers such as Virgil, Seneca and Galenus reported that many slaves and criminals were tattooed. Tattooing specific groups made monitoring their movements easier. A legal inscription from Ephesus indicates that during the early Roman Empire all slaves exported to Asia were tattooed with the words ‘tax paid.’ Greeks and Romans also used tattooing as punishment. Early in the fourth century, Constantine banned tattooing on the face. He believed that the human face was a representation of the image of god and should not be disfigured or defiled.

Celtic Culture

The Celts were tribal people who moved across Western Europe in times around 1200 and 700 B.C., reaching the British Isles around 400 B.C. Most of what has survived from their culture is in Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Celtic culture has had a long history of body art and was done with woad, which left a blue design on the skin. Spirals were a very common, whether they were single, doubled, or tripled. The most recognized form of Celtic art is knot work. This design is formed with a complex braid, weaving across each other. These symbolize the connection of all life. Step or key patterns, like labyrinth designs, are seen both in simple border and full complex mazes. Similar in the way labyrinths are walked, these designs are symbolic of various paths that life’s journey can take.


The relevance of tattooing during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was due to circus. When traveling carnivals were prevalent, tattooing prospered. For nearly 100 years, all major circus acts hired individuals who were completely covered in tattoos. Some of these tattooed men and women were exhibited in ‘slideshows’ while others performed in traditional circus acts like juggling or sword swallowing.

21st Century

In the 21st century, tattoos have seen resurgence in popularity. For many young Americans, tattoos have taken on a different meaning than previous generations. It has shifted from a form of deviance to an acceptable form of expression. In 2006, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that 24% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 50 have tattoos. In 2012, tattooed women outnumbered men for the first time in American history. Western tattooing has become a practice that crossed social boundaries from ‘low’ to ‘high’ class along with reshaping the power dynamics regarding gender. The clientele has changed from sailors, bikers and gang members to the middle and upper class. There was also a shift in iconography from the badge-like images based on repetitive pre-made designs to customized full-body tattoos. Tattooers transformed into “Tattoo Artists” that consisted of men and women with fine art backgrounds along with older, traditional tattooists.

Beyond The Impulse: The Perfect Tattoo From Start To Finish
So, you’re thinking about getting a new tattoo, but you’ve decided to skip the impulsivity that often times comes with tattoos and start planning ahead. Maybe this is your first tattoo; maybe it’s your tenth. Regardless of how many tattoos you have, there are always things you need to think about beforehand, and doing so can pay off big.

As someone who has gotten tattoos since I was 18, I’ve realized that the older I get, the more important it is to take my time when going through the process. The excitement of getting my first, second, third tattoo was so overwhelming that I didn’t fully think them through. You might say that I acted on impulse.

Don’t get me wrong, the excitement of getting a new tattoo is an amazing feeling, but that excitement can lead regrets that later require cover ups. Since tattoos are permanent markings, it’s important to learn the process from start to finish and ask questions along the way.

There are so many questions that come with getting a tattoo. At Saniderm, we love body art and the expression it can give you. For those of you who are new to tattoos or those who still have questions about any part of the process, we have answers to your questions.


Are tattoos safe? Yes, tattoos are definitely safe as long as you have a reputable artist that follows the safety precautions. Every artist in a professional tattoo shop must learn about safety and sterilization during their apprenticeship. If someone wants you to get a tattoo in his or her home, reconsider that decision.

Does it hurt? Everyone has a different amount of pain tolerance, but yes. However, some areas of your body will hurt more than other areas. It almost feels like a hot scratching feeling. But don’t let that deter you. People would not return again and again for new tattoos if it hurt THAT bad. The moments of pain are highly outweighed by the result of your ideal tattoo.

What should I get and where? Choosing a design is one of the best parts of a new tattoo. Often times, this is where people get impulsive and choose something from the wall or a magazine. Your tattoo is an expression of yourself! No matter what the style, choose something that moves you. Think of your interests or even memories and combine them with your favorite style. Once you start to have an idea, discuss it with your artist. Professional tattoo artists are incredibly talented; you might be surprised over what they can create from your imagination.

You should also consider your professionalism with a new tattoo. Although tattoos are becoming more mainstream that does not mean it’s acceptable to all employers or clientele of the professional worker.

Where should I go for a tattoo? This is another situation where impulse tends to take control. Many people just decide they want a tattoo and go to the nearest studio without much thought. One of the most important things you can do before getting a new tattoo is to find the right studio and artist for you. A studio that is clean, sanitary and uses professional products is a studio you are likely to feel comfortable in. Look at examples of the artists’. Most artists will have portfolios that include their best work in the lounge. Take your time and see what where they are limited or where they excel.

Once you find someone you like, talk to them and see where they tattoo. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the design you are thinking of and about their work. You may have to spend a few hours with them so make sure they’re personable and friendly.

How much is it going to cost? When it comes to the cost of anything, remember that you get what you pay for. There are plenty of tattoo shops that are cheap, but it’s worth it to pay a little extra. If you’re worried about the cost, talk to your artist to see what the total will come to and schedule it a few weeks or months away so you can save enough money. This is something you will have for life so it’s better to pay now for quality work.

Don’t forget to show your tattoo artist that you appreciate them by tipping. There isn’t a guide for tipping, but think of two things. How much can you afford and how much you feel it is worth. Tips are a great way to show your appreciation to artists.

Dealing with tattoo aftercare: Once you finally have your fresh new tattoo, take care of it! Your artist isn’t responsible for any infection or problems you have with your tattoo if you don’t take care if it properly. Your perfect tattoo can turn into a disaster if the proper aftercare is not taken and a tattoo is never complete until its fully healed.

Before your tattoo, ask your artist what they use to cover up the tattoo when they are finished. One of the most progressive and health conscious aftercare solutions is Saniderm, which you can buy in individual portions on our products page if your artist doesn’t carry it. If they do carry Saniderm, they will clean and dry the new tattoo and surrounding skin then peel off the paper backing of Sandierm to reveal the adhesive side followed by gently applying it over the tattoo.

Leave the first piece of Sandierm on for 8-24 hours, depending on how much the tattoo bleeds. Ask your artist for an extra piece of Saniderm before you leave so you can keep it clean after the first patch. Remove the bandage, clean and dry the area thoroughly and apply the second piece of Saniderm. The second piece can be worn for up to 6 days, virtually eliminating the hassle of traditional aftercares.

If your artist doesn’t use Saniderm, they will explain the healing process they use which is usually washing your tattoo in lukewarm water with antibacterial soap without a washcloth. Once it is done air-drying, lightly apply ointment (not Neosporin) on it and continue that routine for several days.

However, I do recommend purchasing Saniderm online in individual sheets if you do want an easy, clean way to heal your tattoo without any worries or fuss. It makes tattoos stay their true colors and will help avoid future touch-ups. Plus it can go in the shower without falling off or damaging.

After the aftercare: Once your tattoo is healed, remember to protect it from the sun’s rays. These can fade and damage a brilliant tattoo very fast, meaning touch ups may happen more often than you’d like. Always protect your tattoo with a minimum of 30SPF sunblock when you’re in the sun for an excessive amount of time. Tattoos are a life-long decision that you shouldn’t rush into. The best thing you can do for yourself is to think about every step from deciding what you want to hiring an artist to healing efficiently. The more time you spend on all of these steps, the more likely the dream of having the perfect tattoo will become a reality.

Once your tattoo is all healed, don’t forget to show it off and hashtag Saniderm on Instagram! If we didn’t answer a question that you had in mind, comment on our social media or our blog and we’ll be happy to answer them for you.

How Does Saniderm Work?
In layman’s terms, Saniderm locks in the body’s natural moisture and healing enzymes, allowing the body to heal itself in the most efficient manner possible. After tissue has been injured the body goes through autolytic debridement – a big word for the body’s natural process of removing dead and dying tissue. During this process moisture and enzymes are produced to help break down dead tissue and, in normal circumstances, they dry up and evaporative which reduces their effectiveness. When this happens, longer healing times are required and scabbing and scarring may occur. Saniderm locks in these healing enzymes, called autolysins, and allows the skin to continue to function as normal because the bandage is permeable to oxygen and water vapor (breathable). In addition, Saniderm protects against dirt and germs while eliminating friction and other irritations that might further interfere with the healing process.

How Will It Affect My Ink?
Saniderm’s adhesive will not attach to the weeping area of a tattoo, therefore it can never damage or pull out ink. In fact, customers report that the colors of their tattoo remain more vibrant after using Saniderm, compared to tattoos that have healed by other aftercare products.

What Makes Saniderm Better Than Other Aftercare Products?
Simply put, Saniderm eliminates the tedious process that accompanies traditional aftercare and promotes the body’s natural healing agents. With Saniderm there is no need for lotions, ointments or maintenance 3-5 times a day. Not only is it extremely simple and convenient, but it protects your tattoo from dirt and germs, expedites the healing process, reduces scabbing, and enhances color quality, all while overcoming the following complaints associated with other aftercare products. Lotions are vehicles for bacteria, which can cause allergic reactions, infections and scabbing. Antibacterial soap can dry out the tattoo and cause bleeding, scabbing and fading of color. Antibacterial Ointments can create allergic reactions, discoloration, and excessive fluid weeping while petroleum based products contain no healing agents and may drain color, leaving clothes and sheets stained. Saniderm eliminates all these complaints, while harnessing the body’s natural healing enzymes and ensuring it heals in the most efficient manner possible.

Can I Shower While Wearing It?
Saniderm stays on skin even when immersed in water… so you’re able to bathe, shower and swim as normal. It is waterproof, however excessive exposure to water should be avoided because it could weaken the adhesion.

Can I Sunbathe With It On?
Saniderm does not contain any kind of sun protection, so you should avoid prolonged sun or UV ray exposure. We do not recommend exposing your new tattoo to UV rays, ever – with or without Saniderm. Even after your tattoo is fully healed, continue to use sun protection to maintain the integrity of your tattoo colors.

How Many Pieces Should I Use?
We recommend using three pieces per tattoo, in order to allow ample time for healing. You first piece may be used for 1-2 days, and the next two pieces should be used 1-6 days each, depending on how much fluid the tattoo weeps. If you feel your tattoo needs more time to heal you may continue using additional pieces of Saniderm but most customers report complete healing with 2-3 pieces.

How Long Should It Stay On My Tattoo?
The first piece of Saniderm can be left on your new tattoo for 8 to 48 hours. Since everyone heals differently the length of time will depend on how much fluid your tattoo weeps, which will affect the adhesion of Saniderm. If you notice excessive weeping or fluid under Saniderm, replace it with a new piece. Many people choose to use the first piece of Saniderm for 1-2 days, and wear the second piece for up to 6 days.

Could I Have An Allergic Reaction?
Saniderm is both latex free and hypoallergenic, so allergic reactions are very rare. Some people, however, have very sensitve skin and are allergic to adhesives. (Tape, bandages, etc). If you experience a rash, abnormal skin irritation, or other symptoms of an allergic reaction, discontinue use and wash with mild soap. Consult a physician if necessary. Of-course, Saniderm should never be used on infected skin.

Does It Hurt To Use?
Not at all. In fact, most people report the healing process to be less painful when using Saniderm, compared to using other aftercare products.

Where Did Saniderm Come From?
Transparent adhesive dressings like Saniderm have been used in hospitals for abrasions, burns, road rash, cuts, etc… since the 1980′s. We now bring you Saniderm bandages in sizes that are more adequate for the tattoo industry, and at less than 1/2 the price of the hospital brands.

Canvas Tattoo endorses Saniderm as the best Tattoo Aftercare program in the business!

Saniderm Aftercare FAQs

Written by: Our good friends at Saniderm!