Ronda Xanthos: “I knew I didn’t want a 9-5 job.”

Ronda Xanthos: “I knew I didn’t want a 9-5 job.”

Let’s start with the basic question everyone asks, namely, what got you into tattooing?

The NYC Hardcore Scene!

I always loved tattoos. I featured them in all of my paintings, and even met a few artists along the way. Timothy Hoyer, Cary Brief, and Eddie Deutsche all tattooed me in their apartments. In the underground network of illegal NYC tattooing! Timothy and Aaron Cain shared a small illegal apartment, not unlike most of the artists in those days.

I was working for Temptu, and  they did tattoo shows. The community was very small at the time, but I met a lot of old timers, including my future boss Wes (of Unimax fame, operating in those days out of a basement apartment) and started to get involved in the scene.

When was this?

Probably 1990.

Were the few artists around big fish in small ponds? Did they make a killing?

Many were still operating off underground prices, but they did very well. I remember when I got tattooed at East Side Ink, as a potential client you had to call in from a payphone across the street.

Tell the Cape Fear story!

I was a student at FIT specializing in illustration. Temptu posted a job on our student board for artists who did “tattoo designs”.  I answered the call and ended up painting tattoo related artwork for fairs, movies, commercials, print ads, bands, art shows, you name it. 

The producers for the movie Cape Fear approached Temptu. The company responded by having three artists draw renditions  of “jailhouse tattoos”. One made it nice and neat, one thin and scratchy, and I rendered the requisite design (the name Loretta in a broken heart) as a blown out, hand stippled, jail house style tattoo.

The producers picked my design, and asked me to create all the rest. I ended up fixing everything they were already working on, researching the requisite bible quotes, and fixing the pre-designed back piece so it didn’t look like Popsicle sticks.

After that, I got a tattoo apprenticeship at the very first parlor I popped the
question. Peter Tattoo in West Hempstead, Long Island. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, does any 20 year old in college? But I knew I didn’t want a 9-5 job. And I have to say, maybe not by today’s standards, but considering the business in that era, I did have it pretty easy. I mean, I had two women working beside me, which was almost unheard of in those male dominated days. My boss would slap my ass and tell me to wear heels and a skirt (which probably led to my adversity for dressing in those clothes) but that was it. I spent 4 years there, then left for a painting class in Florence, Italy.

Let’s hear the Europe story!

Technically, I was still “owned” by Peter Tattoo. He told me I better not tattoo over there, but of course I did. I worked all over Europe, ending up at Alex Binnie’s “Into You” tattoo shop in London.

At Pete’s they had stressed that “bold will hold”, and pushed me to only do that, but in Europe, fine line was all the rage.

What happened with Pete?

I ended up offering him $2,000 as an apprenticeship fee, and he told me “You know how it works you little cunt bitch…” I told him I wouldn’t tattoo, but call him as soon as I got back. Then I went out of my way to never see him again.

I’m not knocking on him, that’s how old school people were back then, but it made me realize that the whole scene I thought would be shunning me was of no significance.  I’ve seen hands broken, shops burnt down, and was told that I was going to have bleach thrown in my face, but it all passed. Maybe he was just nicer to girls.

How long were you in Europe?

3 years.  I had all new equipment in Europe. I couldn’t bring what I already had or Pete would know, so I got all new stuff from Micky Sharps. I made my own needles, I felt like I was starting anew, with smaller needles, more artistic designs, and working on my own out of an apartment in Europe. I barely knew what I was doing.

Fortunately, I pulled it off, and headed a month later over to Amsterdam, I
worked at Hanky Panky’s wife’s place “Tattoo Peter”, headed to Luke Ackinson’s Checker Demon in London, did conventions and guest spots all over Europe, and then traveled back to NYC to work for Spider Webb.
Now he was an eccentric artist! I love him but it was a total mind-numbing
experience.

How so?

Let’s just say that he’s very eccentric. He taught me a bit about the art gallery world. He’s a showman at heart, definitely an artsy nut job, but in a good way.

Switching gears, you tattooed quite a few celebrities. What lead to that?

Being in New York City mostly!

I started out tattooing all my friends in the New York Hardcore Scene and related metal bands, which led to me going on tour with Machine Head when they did the first ever Ozzfest.

I tattooed backstage, in hotel rooms, met many more bands, and people just started flocking to me by word of mouth. I started working at East Side Ink, met David Blaine in the city, and he paid me a visit. He followed me to New York Hardcore, and then Venus, bringing many of his model and celebrity friends along the way.

I ended up tattooing Sarah Michelle Gellar at East Side Ink, and then Tim Roth
at Sacred.

One of your most famous clients was Rod Stewart. Did he specifically look for you?

His people called East Side Ink, asked for me, and the piercer just told the nonchalantly that I wasn’t in. I arrived shortly afterwards, they told me he’d stopped in, and to my amazement, they told me they didn’t take a message or get his number.

Fortunately, he walked in shortly afterwards, and I ended up tattooing him on
three separate occasions. The news at the time all covered the event like it
was a major story.

Thanks for telling us a little about the early NYC scene Ronda! Let me get a brief chronology of the shops you went through back in NY!

I did a few months for Spider Webb, then Sacred, when it was a total flea market looking, obviously temporary place on Broadway. That was all in ’98. I was at East Side Ink for 3 years, New York Hardcore Tattoo for 2 years, Venus for 10 years, then headed down south to look after ailing family members.

When I moved back, it was to Long Island. I worked at Wyld Chyld, totaled my
truck  and took some time off to recover, then headed over first to Lark Tattoo, and then finally your shop, The Abyss!

Nice to have you Ronda!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Henk grew up on a steady diet of science fiction and horror. He is an accomplished author, illustrator, painter, and tattoo artist.

He’s produced artwork for the bands Shai Hulud, Indecision, Coalesce, Locked in a Vacancy, Beyond Reason, Zombie Apocalypse as well as various record labels and venues. Dan is also attributed to creating political cartoons, and authoring controversial articles for a variety of other media.

He writes regular columns for Tattoo Revue and Skin Art magazines and does a regular comic strip entitled “Rollo & Me” for Tattoo Artist Magazine. He has done illustrations for Black Static Magazine, and This is Horror. His long-in-the-making first novel, The Black Seas of Infinity, was published by Anarchy Books in 2011. A reissue of this debut novel was put out by Permuted Press in April 2015, and a collection of his short stories entitled “Down Highways In The Dark…By Demons Driven” was released by the same publisher in August of that year.

Dan has done illustrations for Red Door Magazine, The Horror Zine, Litro Magazine, Out Of Step, and every issue so far of the British horror zine Splatterpunk. His artwork has been featured on the covers of many books including “The Sopaths” by Piers Anthony, “Splatterpunks Not Dead”, “Splatterpunk Fighting Back”, “Past Indiscretions”, “Insatiable”, “The Flood” and “The Red Death”. His third novel “The End of the World” came out in April 2019″.

Website: danhenk.com
Instagram: instagram.com/deadguyllc
Twitter: twitter.com/danhenk
Facebook: facebook.com/deadguyllc


From Germany to Historic Prague

After one of the most incredible travel experiences on the Uniworld, Tattoo Themed, German River Cruise, Reese Hilburn, her apprentice Jackie and I continue on to Prague then north to Berlin and finally to Copenhagen (see map below) to attend 50 shades of Ink Copenhagen tattoo convention.

This will our first time to Prague, Czech Republic for all of us. Now it is now one of my favorite cities in the world.  I need to go back!!

Regensburg_Germany_to_Prague

Prague was never bombed

I was informed that Prague was untouched by war and never bombed because it is said that Hilter loved Prague, he wanted to save it for himself.  I just had lay eyes on a city so untouched seeping in history!!! Prague was established in 14th Century – Golden Age under the Luxembourg dynasty during the reign of Charles IV. At that time Prague became one of Europe’s largest and wealthiest cities. And the clock… that still works which is said was built by aliens.. whaaa??? Um ok..  I’m intrigued ..let’s GO!

We depart from Regensburg Germany  bus station, it’s close to a 3 hour ride to Prague and I slept the entire trip. Once we arrive in Prague, we check into “Old Town” Caruso Hotel Prague. The room is huge with shuttered windows overlooking the statues of the buildings next to us which is now almost eye level. Old hotels in Europe can have the tiniest of elevators! It took us 3 trips to get all our luggage up to our room.

hotel caruso prague

Old Town Square, Prague and Astronomical Clock

Caruso Hotel is a 5 minute walk into Old Town Square and the must see Astronomical Clock.  The clock is located inside the haunting looking Tyn Church (Týnský chrám). Gazing up at the church, you almost expect Dracula to swoop out of the Gothic upper windows. The Astronomical Clock is a medieval clock first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest WORKING astronomical clock in the world.  It has special mechanisms and dials to display astronomical information, such as the relative positions of the sun, moon, zodiacal constellations, and sometimes major planets. Groups of people surround it every hour and cheer when the clock chimes and the saint statues rotate and pop out the window. Some say the clock is cursed by the great clockmaker Mikuláš from Kadaň. In that anyone who may try to fix it would either go insane, or die. While this is only a legend, it stands as a testament to the extraordinary nature and haunting history of Prague. There are also cobblestones below the clock that are marked with 27 crosses commemorating 27 beheaded Czech noblemen. YIKES!

Old Town Square Prague

The square is filled with outdoor cafes, restaurants, street performers, Thai massage parlors, shops, etc. I stood in the middle of the square and slowly turned in a full circle and got completely dizzy and fantastically overwhelmed with architectural history, sights and smells! I loved Prague!

Prague astronomical clock

Charles Bridge and Absinthe 

Not knowing or caring what direction we are walking, we zig zag our way through cobblestone alleys and streets  making our way to The Charles Bridge. We round a corner and there it is! WOW I was excited to see a bridge lol! The Charles Bridge is a historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic. It was the most important connection between Prague Castle and the city’s Old Town and adjacent areas. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues, most of them baroque-style, originally erected around 1700.  Standing on the bridge I imagined kings and queens of other European cities crossing the bridge to visit Prague castle.

Charles Bridge Prague

It is time for a drink! Close to The Charles Bridge is an Absinthe bar called Absintherie. I’ve never tried this drink before. It is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from botanicals, including the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium (“grand wormwood”), together with green anise, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs. Absinthe traditionally has a natural green color, but may also be colorless. I was later told that when drinking absinthe, you are “meeting the wizard” or the drink is referred to as the “Green Fairy” . And yes, it’s true! After a few sips I definitely felt a head rush and lightheaded when looking around. FUN!

Absinthe Bar in Prague

Day 2 – St. Vitus Cathedral of Prague Castle (Pražský hrad)

The second and final day in Prague (too quick! I need to go back!!)  we cross back over The Charles Bridge and begin the 121 steps, built in the 17th century up to the castle Pražský hrad, founded around 880. It is now the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. The castle was a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia and contains tombs of some of them.

After climbing the 121 steps to where the complex of castles and churches are we enter the St. Vitus Cathedral. Little did we know we were about to climb 825 Steps to the top! It’s a narrow tower where 2 people are barely able to pass each other on cement stairs! Imagine climbing a spiral staircase that is about 7 stories high and 14 flights of stairs! We make it to the top and the sweeping views make it worth the climb! Here we stand in awe of the 360 degree views of Prague.

Prague Castle (Pražský hrad)

St Vitus Cathedral’s stained glass

We stop to rest after our climb before we explore The Royal Gardens and then inside St Vitus Cathedral. In 1344, Charles IV began the construction of this Gothic cathedral and it was built over a time span of almost 600 years. Inside, the nave is flooded with color from stained-glass windows created by eminent Czech artists of the early 20th century. These are nothing like I have seen anywhere before in any church! There are also frescoes and semi-precious stones, historic musical organs, life size bronze reliefs of kings, beautifully carved columns and more. The Cathedral of St. Vitus had a tremendous influence on the development of Late Gothic style characteristic for Central Europe. Just WOW!

The Cathedral of St.Vitus

We make our way back over The Charles Bridge and pass by some type of parade. People are walking dressed in traditional attire wearing clothing replicating; gypsies, Italian mothers,  middle-eastern women and more…. and then they are gone. What just happened lol! We are exhausted. Reese get’s a Thai foot massage, we eat dinner and are back in hotel ready for an early morning train ride to Berlin to meet up with Loz and Vanessa!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jennifer Lee, president of The Jenn Lee Group – a full service advertising agency which was established in 2003. Specializing in logos, websites, SEO, digital social media advertising, Public relations, etc.  It is a boutique agency with acute attention to detail, technological knowledge and overall passion for all clients’ success. In 2012 she started working as a manager, booking agent and publicist for influencers from reality TV shows on Spike/Paramount and VH1.  In this role she coordinates and negotiates travel appearances and itineraries as well as media relations globally for tattoo artists, performers, and public figures. Jenn Lee says; “We listen closely to understand the target goal, future initiatives and overall brand message. From this we deliver unique and custom solutions, developed in industry standard digital software with exceptional customer service.”

Jenn Lee
Email: jennifer@jennlee.com
Phone: 1-401-249-1564
https://www.instagram.com/thejennleegroup


 

Should You Tip Your Tattoo Artist?

Tipping is customary in most places within the United States and most tattoo artists world wide love the extra cheddar after a day of hard work. You, the client who is overwrought with joy and a new piece of art that will last a lifetime may be asking yourself, “should I tip or should I go?”

The answer is, always tip your artist if it fits into your budget, you were happy with the work and you feel compelled to let them feel how grateful you are. We setup a quick and easy tipping calculator located at the bottom of the page to help you figure out what is considered a “good” tip when tipping your tattoo artist.

tattoo money

Here are a few reasons you may not have known that can help influence your decision on how much to tip your tattoo artist:

The whole system is setup like a barber shop

You may not know the in’s and out’s of tattoo business operations but most tattoo artists out there do not make every dollar you pay them. Much like barber shops, booths or chairs can come with a rental fee. In some places this is a flat daily rate, in other places artists are paid a percentage of your total bill.

Let’s say your tattoo cost $300. Well, in most places an artist may get a percentage of that total, somewhere around 40%-70% of the total. On the low end, your artist make $120 out of that $300 and the shop takes the rest. What a racket eh?! This is the most common reason tattoo artists like tips: The system is rigged for the shop an not the artist.

Learn more about the cost of an artist setup by following this link:

Cost of setup

Artists must purchase most, if not all of their supplies.

Tattoo shops do not purchase all the supplies for a tattoo artist. Some supply disposable items, others just gloves and paper towels. Everything else is covered by the artist, including their training and skill.

tipping your artist - they buy all the Art Kit - Wallpaper

Tattooing is very competitive and not all artists are booked 5 years into the future.

Have you see how many shops are in the Portland Oregon area? How about Austin, Texas? Even in the middle of nowhere tattoo shops are springing up and offering their own take on colorful modifications. with the increased saturation of shops globally there are less options for artists to book out long term. Due to this increase in competition, shop owners have been quick to lower artist pay rates, holding the clients as chattel owned wholly by the shop. With lower pay coming into an artists pockets, you can be assured they will find any form of gratuity very welcome.

The work they do for large scale projects far exceeds the time spent on the tattoo session(s)

If you are getting a back piece done, or a full sleeve, the work done before the tattoo can incur multiple hours. This work is something most clients never think about and even more rarely are a part of. I will personally spend tens of hours on a single design, sometimes the hours can reach 100+ if multiple redesigns are ordered by the client. If a tip is tossed onto the final sitting of the tattoo, I will thank that client and express the warm and fuzzy feelings that fill my black heart.

If you get more than more sitting to do the tattoo, choose when to tip (beginning, end or after every session)

If you really enjoy the service and want to tip every sitting, or if you have a fixed budget and don’t know if you will have enough to tip your artist, let them know up front. Most artists will be thankful for the upfront and direct way that you will talk to them. Just please, don’t lord a tattoo over them as if they were a dog begging for a treat. That habit is rude to dogs and definitely rude to a skilled artisan.

If you have a shop owner tattooing you, you can straight ask them what tip rate is good for them (shop big and fancy or small comparison)

Shop owners make more money than the artists they employ when a business is run under the barbershop model. If they are professional they will not be expecting a tip after service. If they do come asking for it… well that is just not kosher.

Gifts are great but cash is king

Love Text-printed Board Leaning on Wall

I have received books, clothing, shot glasses and a bunch of artwork from clients over my career. While I really have enjoyed the gifts I have only utilized 1 gift in 17 years more than once. If you will feel poorly if your nicknack gift isn’t well received, bring cash to brighten the mood in the shop. Or food. Tattoo artists love candy, coffee and tacos.

So that’s it. A few tips for the clients out there on how to tip your artist.

Below is an interactive widget that can help you figure out how much to tip if you are unsure.

Thanks for reading.

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Warning Signs That a Tattoo Shop May Not Be Clean.

Warning Signs That a Tattoo Shop May Not Be Clean.

Most people venturing out for a new tattoo are focused on the process of getting a tattoo, not how clean the tattoo shop is. The pain, the possible bad mood of the artist, how much to tip… it can be a crisis for some people. On top of that, you are permanently marking your body and in doing so, opening yourself up to possible infectious agents that can cause discomfort, illness, possibly hospitalization and worse yet, death.

Take one stressor off your plate and make sure the tattoo shop you are going to is clean before committing to that new tattoo. Here are a few things to look for when walking into a tattoo shop to determine if it is clean or not.

  • The tattoo shop looks dirty –

Dirty Tattoo Shop

https://i.imgur.com/BI7JXfH.jpg

If you walk into a tattoo shop and you see visible dirt, dust on surfaces, unwashed floors or overflowing garbage cans, it’s time to leave.

  • Food in the tattooing area –

Food is not permitted in work areas, regardless how small the shop is. 

  • It stinks, and not the good, clean stink –

Overflowing garbage dump

If you walk into a shop and the smell of something foul overtakes your senses, there is a good chance that shop has not been cleaned well enough to ensure safe tattooing.

  • Handling products without gloves –

Image result for tattoo no gloves

The use of disposable gloves are ubiquitous in the body modification industry and should be changed regularly. If you see artists setup for your tattoo without wearing gloves, or handle products to be used in a tattoo without gloves, something is afoot. Handling objects without proper barriers increases the chances of cross contamination, which in turn points to a dirty tattoo shop.

  • Their setup should include barrier films and plastic covers – 

tattoo barriers

Creating a barrier from potentially infectious materials coming into contact with commonly used products or tools are a minimum safe practice for tattooers. These barriers need to be new and freshly applied to all surfaces, machines, bottles, clipcords and other things during the tattoo process. If the shop you walk into doesn’t seem to use barrier films, chances are that it can be considered less clean than other tattoo shops.

  • Staff that are visibly ill – 

sick person

You don’t want to work with an artist who has diarrhea, is vomiting or is coughing all over the place. Healthcare can cost a lot so don’t put yourself in a position that costs you time and money. Stay away from shops that have fallen ill. It should go without saying that you should stay away from tattoo shops if you feel sick.

  • The shop should give you a full tour –

All tattoo shops should be appreciative of the discerning clients want to explore the shop. If they process items onsite (onsite sterilization), have them show you their machine, sterilization logs and explain their practices. If they refuse to do so, be wary of how clean the shop may be. 

  • Single use means single use – 

Image result for single use tattoo supplies

Most of the products that come into contact with your skin during a tattoo procedure are single-use. Ask to check the expiration dates on single-use items like needles, disposable supplies and ink. If a shop is willing to use products that are expired, or attempts to reuse single-use items, they may not take your health seriously.

  • Does your state have health code or licensing requirements?

If your state has licensing requirements for the shop or artist, make sure they are up to date. (Most cities/states/provinces require a business license at minimum. Check with your local authorities to see how they keep the public safe from unlicensed tattoo shops) 

  • Has your artist gone through Blood Borne Pathogens (BBP) training?

blood borne pathogens certificate

A certificate of completion in BBP is a requirement in most places for an artist to practice tattooing. This course trains people in the fundamentals of safe practices when biological contaminants are in play.

  • The rates are far below what industry standard for the area- 

Good tattoos aren’t cheap and cheap tattoos aren’t good. If a deal looks to good to be true, it most likely is and you can wonder how they save money to make the product so cheap. Most likely from skimping on a cleaning budget. Be safe and never sacrifice your safety for a cheap tattoo.

  • Do they have sharps containers – 

sharps containers

Look for red containers with a biohazard symbol on them. These containers are where used needles and other sharp instruments are placed after use for safe disposal.  If a shop doesn’t have any,or if the sharps containers are overflowing, something may be seriously dangerous about getting a tattoo at that location.

  • The shop is difficult to find information about – 

We live in a digital world and most established shops have a digital footprint. If you can’t find any information on social media, or with a search online, chances are the shop may not be legit. If it is not legit, chances are it may not know how to operate in a sterile fashion.

  • Is the shop dark – 

How bright and light is the shop? By having light colored walls and floors, you are better able to see if blood or other substances have splashed out of the work area and are in need of cleaning. Light walls, accompanied with enough light to properly see what the artist is doing, ensure artists are able to keep you safe before, during and after the procedure.

  • When in doubt,  trust yourself – 

Never let yourself be pushed around when you are spending money. This is even more true when you are spending money on body modification. Trust your judgement and walk away from any place that doesn’t treat you as well as you deserve.

Thumbs Up!

Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

 

TATTOO U – German River Tattoo Cruise Part 3 FINAL

Nazi education in Nürnberg

Nuremberg was the next town we woke up in.

Honestly, I’m so not a fan of war museums or iconic war sites. I struggle with the horrific things that we as humans did to one another. I respect people and specifically Germans who feel the need to preserve the history as to not repeat them ..but honestly.. it’s so not my thing. It makes for a sad day… but I went and it definitely was an educational experience.

The town of Nürnberg, itself was the center of Nazi propaganda activities. This creeped me out!

We got on a bus and were brought to The Zeppelinfeld (in English: Zeppelin Field). It’s a massive open-air space where the Nazis held their annual party rallies from 1933 to 1938. The building is crumbling; grass and moss grow from the constantly expanding cracks. Various areas have had to be fenced off to preserve visitors’ safety. It was a really strange feeling being there while our guide showed us history photos of the rallies. What struck me the most is they were mainly children!

Zeppelinfeld Nürnberg

I was not aware how much the Nazis lured children into Hitler Youth by promising them camping trips and a spirit of comradeship. You’ve got to remember this was after WW1 and there was terrible poverty and unemployment. The Hitler Youth and the BDM made many promises for these impressionable followers.

Zeppelinfeld speaker platform

Do you see the children, young girls bowing in the left image above?? Urgh… I needed a beer after this and thankfully there was a food truck selling them! Back onto the bus…

Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally

After the rally fields we were brought to the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds. It is in the north wing of the unfinished remains of the Congress Hall of the former Nazi party rallies. Its permanent exhibition “Fascination and Terror” is concerned with the causes, connections, and consequences of Nazi Germany.

Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds

Justice – Nuremberg trials museum

To end the day we were brought to Nuremberg trials museum. This is where leaders of the Nazi regime had to answer for their crimes before an International Military Tribunal between November 20, 1945 and October 1, 1946.

Driving around Nürnberg I saw sections of a city bombed and built up right next to each other. By looking at the architecture you can see that one side of the road is modern buildings while directly across the street are traditional Bavarian buildings which just missed being bombed by the US. We also learned a lot about Hitler’s architect Albert Speer. Hitler instructed him to design and construct structures. These are very noticeably a different style of architecture not seen anywhere else. (look at the right image above of the Documentation Center of Nazi Party Rally Grounds)

At the Nuremberg trials museum we sat in the actual trial room. The choice of the city of Nuremberg was symbolic as the Nazis had held large Nuremberg Rallies in the city, so that as Nuremberg could have been thought of as a sort of birthplace for the Nazi Party, it would also be where the Party met its end. The courtroom is still used, especially for murder trials. Judges from the Allied powers—Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States—presided over the hearings of twenty-two major Nazi criminals. Twelve prominent Nazis were sentenced to death. And it is said that Adolf Hitler had committed suicide in the spring of 1945 to avoid capture. (or many speculate he escaped to Argentina, where the Nazis were supported by future president Juan Perón, who, with his wife “Evita”, had been receiving money from the Nazis for some time.)

War Crimes trial in Nuremberg

Thankfully it was time to get back to the boat for dinner and a 70’s dance night! Much needed  after such a heavy and emotional day.

70 Dance Night

It was so easy to sleep on the Uniworld River cruise! You definitely feel the movement of the boat ro each new town but it’s so quiet and calm. Plus, the beds are so comfortable!
Goodnight.. tomorrow is our last day!

Kelheim Biergarten Festival

Our last stop was a quaint town in Bavaria called, Kelheim located about 70 miles north of Munich. I was so excited because we were about to experience a proper  – beer festival with numerous Beer gardens! German Biergarten originated in Munich, the capital of the German state of Bavaria! There were many places where you can sit at long tables with friends and soon to be friends drinking large steins of beer that you can barley pick up when full of yummy German beer! The pretzels were bigger than your head, German candy, brats, colorful tents and some classic carnival rides. They still have big elaborate haunted houses and rides! It was so much fun to experience! I will definitely plan a trip to Munich for Octoberfest for sure!

Kelheim Festival

Lots of attendees were dressed up in traditional outfits too. Women wear traditional dirndl (DEERN-dul) dresses while men wear leather lederhosen (LAY-der-hozen) shorts.

German Food

Final Night Tattoo Competition

Our final evening on this amazing Tattoo themed  German U River Cruise was a tattoo competition. Everyone who was tattooed during our trip entered. This included guests of the boat and quite a bit of the staff. it was a fun, light competition of Reese Hilburn’s and Steven Tefft’s finished tattoos during our adventure. This was an exceptional time exploring Bavaria and one of the most bonding experiences I’ve had so far! I’m so excited for more tattoo themed travel and to meet incredible people from around the world as we share adventures together! 

Uniworld Tattoo Themed River Cruise

The trip continues … Reese, Jackie and I are off to Prague for a few days. Then we meet up with Loz and Vanessa in Berlin before flying up to Copenhagen to attend 50 Shades Ink Denmark tattoo convention.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jennifer Lee, president of The Jenn Lee Group – a full service advertising agency which was established in 2003. Specializing in logos, websites, SEO, digital social media advertising, Public relations, etc.  It is a boutique agency with acute attention to detail, technological knowledge and overall passion for all clients’ success. In 2012 she started working as a manager, booking agent and publicist for influencers from reality TV shows on Spike/Paramount and VH1.  In this role she coordinates and negotiates travel appearances and itineraries as well as media relations globally for tattoo artists, performers, and public figures. Jenn Lee says; “We listen closely to understand the target goal, future initiatives and overall brand message. From this we deliver unique and custom solutions, developed in industry standard digital software with exceptional customer service.”

Jenn Lee
Email: jennifer@jennlee.com
Phone: 1-401-249-1564
https://www.instagram.com/thejennleegroup


 

Tattoo Aftercare – Products

I have spent some time rolling around the great vastness of the internet looking up different articles on how to take care of your tattoo. There are a variety of protocols that have been put forth by artists and regulators but none of the methods I had found were focused on the individual. For the most part, all aftercare solutions have been rolled into a single process – Don’t pick it and keep it wet. 

This idea of tattoo care is blatantly wrong (apart from picking the tattoo).

There are so many variables that go into taking care of a tattoo: Your skin type, the climate that you live in, your daily activities or type of work you do, if you pick your scabs or not… We can put a definite etcetera on that list but, I am going to take a poke at how you should pick apart aftercare products. Hopefully you can figure out what is the most viable option for you and your skin..

Tattoo Aftercare And Healing Your Tattoo

First, let’s dismiss the idea that you are healing your tattoo. You are not healing your tattoo. You are not making it go faster by applying some magical topical ointment or lotion to your skin. There is no chance in this life that the $45 bottle of magical, salt-infused tattoo cream will magically imbue your body with healing powers comparable to Wolverine. I am sad to point it out but, it did make me feel kind of happy at the same time.

 

What science has shown us is that our body has an amazing ability to heal itself, regardless of our interference and wish to make things progress faster than they naturally occur. Our bodies are amazing machines and without proper knowledge or planning, our efforts to speed things up can result in annoyance, or at times, catastrophe.

Caring For Your New Tattoo – The Default Setting

In my experience, there is always a default for taking care of a tattoo. This occurs with both the artist as well as the client. 

Clients will always remember their first tattoo like it was yesterday. With the nostalgia of pain and process comes the memories of how tattoo aftercare is to be approached. Because the first experience is so discreetly unique, our memories of it become more readily ingrained in our habits. This process creates a default memory that will have a greater than presence in future accounts. It also creates a minefield where new information must be added to or amend the previously learned knowledge. This topic should probably be torn into as it is massively interesting to me but, as this topic has already been laser focused on tattoo aftercare products, I will walk away from it for now.

I am focused on the bad habits with types of products or a timeline for the care regimens which are hard to break.  The easiest way to combat this is to make it apparent that we have a shortage in knowledge surrounding this subject. In knowing that we can move forward developing new techniques that will increase the positive outcomes artists experience globally we can improve the user experience and hopefully make tattoo aftercare more targeted to the user.. We as an industry need to have a more comprehensive care routine for our clients, hence the efforts to write this article.

The artist is not always right

As artists, we all know a few tips and tricks when healing a tattoo. Some of us go so far as to toss a proverbial tattoo aftercare blanket on every client that walks through the door. We apply a universal qualifier to all clients healing a tattoo – “I” did the tattoo and “I” know how tattoos heal when I do them (on average) and you need to do it this way or you suck.

This solipsistic approach has worked for years, but I can’t imagine a place where an artists hasn’t had a tattoo come back from what we considered a fantastic session looking like absolute crap. When this happens, defenses come up on the artist’s side, as well as the client’s. When it comes to tattoo aftercare, rarely does the situation result in a way that both sides feel validated.

A quick explanation of what happens when an artist applies a tattoo

A tattoo is a medical procedure where pigment is permanently inserted into your skin. By creating openings in the skin for the pigment to enter, the body becomes more vulnerable to the possibility of infection. We develop aftercare procedures for clients to follow because the process is collaborative: We artists apply the tattoo to your skin in a way that we (hopefully) understand will limit the possibility of long lasting damage internally, scarring of the procedure spot as well as decreasing the chances of transmitting an infection. 

Sadly, our industry and the media created a blanket procedure that we utilize globally for taking care of a new tattoo. I fear that many artists have not thought critically about what they are being sold when confronted with new products “designed” for healing broken skin.

Now that I have effectively called out an entire industry, let’s take a look at some variable that effect your skin and how it heals.

Healing your tattoo

Moisture.

Your skin is the largest organ of your body and it acts as a barrier to the dangerous, pathogenic environment that surrounds us. While there is significant scientific information about the processes surrounding your bodies natural ability to keep your skin hydrated, we will avoid falling down these rabbit holes. Getting tattooed damages your skin and therefore damages your skin’s natural ability to hydrate itself.

In healthy undamaged skin, the human body naturally hydrates the upper layers of the skin through transepidermal water loss (TEWL).  It’s very complex, so for those interested in the many mechanical and chemical processes TEWL is comprised of, take a look around the reference section at the bottom of this page. To not shy too far away from the science, here is a brief description of how your body keeps the skin hydrated – Moisture moves through your skin starting at the bottom, or the part that is nearest to your internals. It moves up through your dermis to the epidermis where it is eventually lost due to evaporation. 

Regardless of the damages that may occur mechanically, we use moisturizers to increase the health of the skin. It has been shown that what we put on our skin has a lasting effect on the health of our body’s largest organ. If we think about how these products can harm your skin when it isn’t injured, you can imagine what happens when you apply a product that is “designed” to aid in the healing of an area that has been repeatedly stabbed with a needle for hours on end. At times it can result in a well healed tattoo, other times it can leave you with an extended healing time.

pH And Acidity Of The Skin

When measuring the difference between acidic conditions and alkaline conditions, scientists use a scale called the pH scale. A pH scale is the measurement of how acidic or basic a solution that is water based is (a solution is a dissolved mixture of substances. In this case it is a mixture dissolved in water).

At room temperature, this scale displays numbers that are lower (left hand side of the scale) are considered acidic, while those on the opposite (right hand side) are alkaline. A neutral state, which is neither acidic or alkaline is considered neutral. A neutral pH reading is somewhere around 7.

pH measures the molar concentration (not teeth but a chemistry-based measurement) of free hydrogen ions (hydrogen ions are positively or negatively charged hydrogen atoms- the atoms that have gained or lost electrons) are found in a solution. Here is a video from Crash Course Chemistry that explains it in further detail:

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The Acid Mantle

The very top layer of skin (called the Acid Mantle) on an average adult human’s skin has an approximate pH of 5.6-5.8 (averaging 5.7) but this number can be affected due to climate, elevation, pollution, nutrition or products which are applied to the skin. The acid mantle is very thin but has an incredibly effective way of keeping your body safe from pathogens by forcing adaptation to things that could otherwise cause illness.

Skin Acid Mantle

The acid mantle is created when secretions from your sebaceous glands mix with sweat and lowers the pH on the tissues involved. By doing this the body forces bacteria and other pathogens to become “comfortable” in this environment. When we are cut or have an abrasion, the opening in our skin and the blood that accompanies this break are relatively neutral, the change in pH creates an environment where the invading pathogens are not as “comfortable”, or less well adapted. This change in pH can actually kill the invading pathogens before they are able to establish a foothold and cause illness or infection.

Healing Stages

Misconceptions on the first peel of a tattoo

Most tattoos that I found online, that are deemed “healed”, have only gone through the first (initial) peel. After a sitting, your fresh tattoo goes through a dynamic process of being accepted and settling into your skin. This process ensures permanency and if taken care of properly, decreases the chances of scarring and infection. This initial healing process does not equate what the tattoo will look like in the years to come but only ensures the wearer is less likely to pick up an infection during life’s normal wear and tear.

I also have run across many articles giving a timeline of months for a tattoo to be through the first peel. While this timeline may be adequate with some artists who do not understand skin function or what happens when you overwork the skin, most first peels should occur within the first 7-10 days, not 4-6 weeks after the procedure.

After the first peel your tattoo will still look nearly fresh, as the pigment is located relatively high in the dermis layer of your skin. Regardless of your skin health as you age, your skin will become thinner and with time The pigment that makes up your tattoo will undergo changes in its appearance. Due to this evolution of the artwork, what you see in social media posts or in person as a fresh tattoo is not what the tattoo will end up looking like in 1 month, 1 year or in 1 decade.

The Stages of Healing a Tattoo

There multiple stages to the healing of your tattoo that are commonly broken down into 3 parts.

  • The first stage of healing is the first 7 to 10 days after your tattoo has been completed. During this time you will notice the pigment in the skin become less vibrant, be swollen and start to develop a mild, thin scab over the area that had been tattooed. Macrophages in the body (specialized cells that capture and destroy pathogens) contain the pigment particles introduced during a tattoo procedure. These specialized immune cells “eat” the pigment particles and hold them in place.
    • During the initial healing process your skin may ooze exudate for the first 24-48 hours (Exudate is fluid that leaks out of blood vessels into nearby tissues. The fluid is made of cells, proteins, and solid materials. This substance may ooze from abrasions or from areas of inflammation. like you may see after receiving a tattoo.) There may be redness radiating around the edges of the tattoo as well as a feeling of itchiness or irritation while the tattoo goes through this initial stage of healing. During this stage, the majority of surface healing is done with the tattoo. The scabs that collect on the skin surface should also fall off and your skin should have a glossy, thin looking sheen to it.

 

  • The second stage is a deeper healing, wherein the dermis rebuilds its structure to support and consolidate the pigment that has been introduced through the tattoo process. This process starts as soon as the scabs that have formed on the upper layers of skin start to fall off naturally and can last anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months. On average this settling of the skin and consolidation of pigment lasts around 2 months.

 

  • The final stage of healing is what we call in the business “settling”. During this stage, the skin has adapted to the newly introduced pigment and adjusts the saturation sections as macrophage interaction (dying off and being replaced with newer cells) redistributes the pigment is ways that eases the distributed skin tension. The settling process will cause the pigment to “bleed out” a little and make the tattoo look less focused as time passes. This process is continuous and will affect your tattoo for your lifetime (or the lifetime of the tattoo).
Aged Tattoo - Courtesy of BoredPanda.com

https://www.boredpanda.com/tattoo-aging-before-after/

Common tattoo aftercare products

Let’s cover the products used most commonly in aftercare regiments and toss out a few pros/cons with each type-

Lotions creams and gels

These are the most commonly recommended products for taking care of a fresh tattoo. Emollients are usually made up of lipid (hydrophobic compounds that repel water) and water emulsions that utilize a binding agent to keep them together. These products fill the gaps in your skin creating a more “full” stratum corneum layer (the outermost layer of skin) and cover the outer layer of skin to prevent TEWL. This increases the pliability, fullness, softness and moisture of the skin. These products are commonly produced  with additional products added for increased shelf-life and mechanical enhancements (ease of application, color, medications, natural products, smells etc.) Lotions are the thinnest of these mixtures. Creams usually have additional ingredients that create a thicker consistency. Gels will liquify when the contact skin.

Examples – Lubriderm

Pros- due to the decreased amount of oils in lotion, the maximum retained moisture is decreased. There is also a greater effect of excess moisturizer being evaporated so over moisturizing of the skin is less likely to occur with single applications. Given specific climates, lotions are a best bet for the aftercare of a tattoo if the preservatives and additives are considered beneficial for healing of damaged tissues.

Cons- In arid climates, there is a decreased ability of lotions to retain enough moisture in the skin to promote faster healing. You will need to reapply more often which may result in a mixed over-moisturized/under-moisturized situation with the affected area of skin. You may also unknowingly introduce pathogens to an open wound by touching it more often. This can result in a higher incidence of infection.

For larger areas of skin to be covered, there can be an inconsistent level of beneficial moisture applied. Along with the increased amount of damage that increases the amount of moisture lost by the skin, there can be a dehydrating effect that will increase the amount of discarded tissue collected on the surface of the skin (increased scabbing). There are also additives that are more often found in lotions that can cause allergic reactions and with a new tattoo, and when healing a fresh wound we want to avoid any possible reactions.

Occlusives

Usually an oil or wax based moisturizer that is applied to the skin. It acts in a way that stops the skin losing moisture due to evaporation by creating a barrier where the skin won’t be able to lose moisture due to TEWL.

Examples – A&D Ointment, Aquaphor

Pros- Less product must be consumed to create a high level of hydration. This is beneficial in moderately temperate climates to hot or arid climates and decreases the amount of product used to ensure proper skin moisture levels. In people who have dry skin or problems like eczema, the oil based moisturizers will soothe the skin and increase the body’s ability to heal before the tattoo procedure is scheduled.

Cons- In humid climates the skin can become choked with moisture when using ointments which results in excessive scabbing and delayed healing times. If you have oily or combination skin types, ointments can effectively over moisturize your skin, which in turn can increase the chances of contracting an infection. Using ointments can increase your chances of having acneiform eruptions (pimples) as well as contracting short bouts of contact dermatitis, especially if you have oily, sensitive skin or allergic responses to additives or the base ingredients. Another drawback to using occlusives is that the water content of the skin takes a long time to increase, as the water must be drawn from deeper levels of the skin before an improvement takes place

Humectants

Substances that attract and hold moisture in the skin. They are commonly used in conjunction with other products to increase skin health.(Honey, propylene glycol, hyaluronic acid). Humectants can be mixed with a simple moisturizer to enhance their effects.

Examples – Manuka honey, glycerol

Pros- If you have naturally dry skin, humectants have been shown to increase the natural moisture levels of the skin when applied correctly and in the correct environments. There are many “all natural” choices when selecting humectants. 

Cons- If used separately, these products underperform clinically developed emollients and occlusives, especially when the relative humidity levels are less than 70% (making them useless in arid climates). There can also be a concern for purity and controls when purchasing what could be considered less than regulated substances from producers.

Specialty Products

These products we will classify as those specifically made for healing tattoos. I will not be going out on a limb to give any review with these products. Not only do I wish to not be sued by blasting some of their claims, I also do not wish to sway any person who is currently using a product that is produced specifically for tattoos and having a positive result.

Below is a short list of product reactions that I will be adding to as more become available through your submissions.

 

Formulations – An expansion and explanation

The term “cream” traditionally refers to a product containing more occlusive ingredients, whereas a “lotion” contains primarily humectants.

Modern moisturizers often contain both occlusives and humectants that contribute to the efficacy but levels of each additive are not uniform among. Understanding the physiology of the skin barrier, and how a disease state or circumstance may contribute to dry skin, impaired barrier function or flaking of the skin can help us choose the best ingredients for a patient. The specific balance and combination of ingredients will help achieve a variety of outcomes depending on the desire of the consumer.

Pay attention to the additives and formulations of any product that you choose to utilize. Take the time to look up ingredients and potential reactions that may be experienced when using the products.

When in doubt – Lotions make for the best aftercare product

I admit that I have left out many variables that go into the best course for your tattoo aftercare but this article is a good introduction for those wanting a more focused aftercare regimen.

In my opinion, using a lotion in most, if not all occasions, makes the most sense. The possible complications that arise from overuse the of  humectants or occlusives make e default to that choice. It’s not some paid ideology but experience that has shown time and again that people will attempt to care for their tattoo in a way that doesn’t help it heal. People more often than not smother their pain with love and care and that doesn’t help a wound heal.

This article is just part 1 of an indepth look at tattoo aftercare. As they become available, we will link additional information for you, our discerning reader.

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