For a long time, hands and fingers have been two of the most favored tattoo placements out there. They have been so frequent in history, that even a 5,300-year-old mummy known as Ötzi showcases one of them around his wrists. Nowadays, the focus of the public eye on these popular tattoos lives on through social media. Among them, those that display a minimalist style seems to be the most sought-after.
If history is any indication, this trend is here to stay. And with so many people either curious or plain interested in getting one, the necessity for available information on the subject is apparent. So, without further ado, here are six things you need to know about hand and finger tattoos:
How painful are they?
There are many ways in which the skin on hands and fingers is different from the rest of the body. For instance, the palms contain some of the most durable tissue in the human physique with a thickness of 1.5 mm. Conversely, thickness only amounts to 0.05 mm in the eyelids.
However, the back of the hands far outweighs the palms as a preferred tattoo placement, the skin of the former being far thinner than the latter. Hands are also particular in that they are more prone to dehydration. This is because they contain less sebaceous glands, organs responsible for producing fat. The constant exposition of hands to outer elements also further strips their skin from natural oils.
But what does any of this have to do with pain? When getting a tattoo, a needle has to pierce through the surface of the skin until it reaches the dermis where it deposits ink. Coincidentally, the dermis also holds pain receptors.
Therefore, nerve endings are left vulnerable when a tattoo needle makes contact with an area where not much fat is stored. That’s why a combination of thin skin plus minimum fat makes the hands and fingers more susceptible to pain when compared to other tattoo placements.
Designs: the bigger, the better
Hand and finger tattoos are constantly exposed to outer elements due to their particular placement, making them vulnerable to fading and distortion. This is why it is important to settle on a tattoo design that will age gracefully.
If you’ve been around the web long enough, chances are you’ve encountered pictures of ring, calligraphy, and even elaborate portrait finger tattoos. However, these are a bad idea if you’re going for a design that will look good in the long run.
As the skin ages over time, the ink of a tattoo will inevitably disperse, leaving lines in smaller tattoos more susceptible to merging. The natural process of fading will also make words and complex designs unrecognizable after a couple of years.
This is why it is recommended to go instead for bigger designs with bolder lines and minimal color when getting hands and fingers tattooed. Nevertheless, it is also true that bigger designs are more painful and prone to swelling.
You can’t get them at every studio
A large number of tattoo shops and artists outright refuse to go near hands for many reasons. While some cite the stigma associated with tattoos in visible areas (as is the case with hand tattoos), others mention biology as an argument.
After all, the skin on the palms of the hands and the sides of the fingers regenerates at a higher rate than elsewhere in the body due to their constant use. This makes hand and finger tattoos prone to fading faster.
The uneven and tender surfaces of the hands and fingers also makes them especially difficult placements to work with.
The main reason, though, seems to be how hard it is for them to heal properly. After all, the tattoo industry is all about reputation. No artist would want someone walking around with a low-quality tattoo to their name. That’s simply a bad business practice. The healing process is crucial in shaping the final look of a tattoo, but why is it so difficult?
Healing: a complicated affair
The average tattoo takes around three weeks to heal properly. This leaves plenty of chances for things to go awry with how often hands and fingers are put to use. Outer elements such as exposure to sunlight and water pose significant challenges to the healing process.
Moreover, skin shedding will transform the appearance of your tattoo’s lines and color over time. Anatomically, the average body contains over a trillion skin cells. You lose around a million skin cells every 24 hours. This usually results in undesirable blowouts and blurred ink.
Additionally, it has been reported that the sides of the hands and fingers do not hold ink properly, resulting in more noticeable fading in the long run.
You should take your profession into account
The kind of activities you perform daily will highly impact the appearance of your tattoos in the long term. Far from only establishing whether your career of choice allows them or not, you should always ask yourself if your tattoo idea is well suited for your lifestyle.
For instance, does your job require you to make constant use of your hands for different tasks throughout the day? If so, hand and finger tattoos are not the right choice for you. Constant friction will only make your tattoos fade faster.
Those who are usually in contact with water, such as fishermen, or use their hands as a primary tool for work, such as mechanics, should consider other placements when getting tattooed.
Maintenance: a lifelong commitment
If you’ve read this far, it should be evident by now that hand and finger tattoos require copious amounts of care. Even after fully healed, there are several measures you need to take to maintain your hand and finger tattoos in good condition.
A high-quality sunscreen will become your greatest ally to fight off the damaging effects of sunlight. However, keep in mind that while sunscreen with a high-number SPF will grant you greater protection, it is recommended that you reapply a new layer every couple of hours while outdoors.
Additionally, your skin will naturally get drier as you age. This is why investing in a good moisturizer to hydrate your skin is necessary. Moreover, you should also take into account that hand and finger tattoos require touch-ups more frequently than your average tattoo. You’ll need to get them at least twice a year.
So, while your tattoo artist might offer the first couple of touch-ups for free, the overall price of your tattoo may be higher than what you first estimated.
In short, hand and finger tattoos are ideal for those who aren’t afraid to commit to their care. Admittedly, they can often be tricky and painful to get. However, you have to remember the discomfort is nothing but momentary when compared to the long-lasting satisfaction of an incredible piece that will live on in your skin forever. After all, no tattoos are ever pain-free.
So, as long as you have a suitable lifestyle, find an experienced (and willing) artist, and settle on the right design for you, there’s no way to go wrong with hand and finger tattoos.