Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Choices Have Consequences: Facial Tattoos Denied at Houston Eatery

 Once again, we have someone surprised that the world does not adjust to their personal choices. 

 Making the rounds on the news this morning was a story about a man who was denied service at a restaurant because he had facial tattoos. The facts of the story are as follows. Eric Leighton and a friend went into a Houston-area Bombshells Restaurant, after going to a rodeo, to get something to eat. They were seated for less than a minute when they were approached by a police officer. The officer was working as security at this restaurant, which is located in an area that has some issues with gangs. Because of the gang-issues, the restaurant has a policy designed to keep out potential problems, which apparently includes denying service to people with facial tattoos. The officer advised the men of the policy and told them they would have to leave. Leighton and his friend left, and Leighton posted about the issue on Facebook. From there, the story went viral.

 The lesson here is one that bares repeating; choices have consequences. As a tattooer, every studio I have worked at refused to do tattoos that are potentially gang-related. The reason for this is simple; as a business we did not wish to cater to the criminal element. We did not want to become the “gang tattoo studio” and have thugs discouraging our other clients from patronizing our business. The tattoo industry has struggled for too long to overcome its less-than-legitimate history.  This is a simple business decision; we don't want to have people in our place of business who may be disruptive or damaging to our profits. We don't want our reputation damaged by association.  It simply is not worth it.

 Furthermore, when a client requests a facial tattoo, there is always a conversation about the potential consequences of that decision. That conversation extends beyond just how such a tattoo can impact their employment options. It includes the reality that people may react poorly to the facial tattoo, that having a facial tattoo is making a statement that not everyone will appreciate. Having a facial tattoo means that you accept those consequences and are willing to tolerate the negative reactions that others may have.  When getting a tattoo on your face, you need to be aware that there are some businesses that will not hire you and some venues that will deny you entrance.

 This really should come as no surprise.

 Choices have consequences. Leighton sounds like a hard-working, upstanding individual, and definitely not a gang-banger. However, he should understand that his choice to have a facial tattoo lumps him in with an element of our society that cultivates a negative reaction. If a business chooses not to cater to that element of our society by making blanket policies regarding dress and appearance, then they cannot differentiate on a case-by-case basis regarding that policy. If red or blue bandannas are not allowed because of their gang-related symbolism, it doesn't matter that you are a sixty year-old cowboy, the policy is that you take off the bandanna if you want to eat at that restaurant. Imagine the outrage that would ensue if it was discovered that a restaurant did try to differentiate between regular tattooed folk and "gang-related" tattooed folk. The fallout would be far worse.

 This policy is no different than policies at some restaurants requiring a jacket and tie.  It is no different than some clubs that will not let you in if you are wearing baggy-pants, a baseball cap, or track clothes.  While it is true that clothing can be changed, the choice to get a permanent marking on your face was one made by the individual.  Just as an individual has a right to get a facial tattoo, a business has a right to deny service to someone for aesthetic choices out of concern for the impact it may have on their reputation.

 Bombshells is not the only eatery in the area. If they choose not to cater to you, then their choice has a consequence as well. You can go down the street to their competitors. You can choose not to eat in that area. You can tell your friends and encourage them not to eat there. You cannot, however, demand that the business change their policy to cater to you. Leighton is not necessarily making that request, but the story has taken on that aspect. Leighton did say, "If they're discriminating against face tattoos, what else are they discriminating against."

 The answer, Eric, is criminal activity. Even a sports-bar is entitled to have certain standards. If you have the right to get a facial tattoo, others have a right to choose not to interact with you. Your right should not negate the right of another.  The restaurant is not to blame in this situation.  Blame the thugs and criminals who get their faces tattooed, who commit crimes that give businesses reason to be concerned, and as a result continue to sully the reputation of the tattoo community at large.

 I will say it again, as I have said on other posts of this nature; think before you ink. You have to take the good with the bad. If you are not willing to accept that your choice may not be appreciated by others, and cannot handle the potential negative consequences, then maybe it is a choice you should avoid.

 Jason Sorrell is a writer, tattoo artist, satirist, artist, and generally nice guy living in Austin, TX.  He loves answering questions about tattoos.  Shoot him a message at

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Top Ten Tattoo Healing Concerns (In No Particular Order)

 Since starting my blog on tattooing, I have gotten asked a lot of questions from people who have recently been tattooed or are planning to get a tattoo about the healing process. It is awesome that so many people are seeking my opinion about their tattoos, and I am always happy to offer my advice. Often, the questions asked are about common concerns. Here are the ten most common questions I have been asked, in no particular order.

-Can I exercise/participate in sports while my tattoo is healing?

 I'm getting a tattoo this weekend, and the next weekend I will be participating in a tennis tournament.  Should I wait to get my tattoo until after the tournament, and are there any risks involved with getting a tattoo and working out?

 Generally, there are no real concerns with exercise effecting your tattoo.  The biggest concern I would have is the tenderness of the tattoo effecting your performance.  You would want to lightly moisturize the tattoo before and after the event, to prevent any possible damage from the skin stretching a "dry" tattoo.  You also want to make certain you can clean the tattoo after the event (assuming that you will be sweating more than normal), and if the tattoo is normally under your clothes you will want to put on a clean outfit.  

Not for at least two weeks.
-Can I use a tanning-bed?

 I am really excited about showing-off my summer-bod.  I have lost a LOT of weight, have been going to a tanning salon, and now I want to get a cute little tattoo.  I know I have to keep the tattoo out of sunlight as much as possible.  Do tanning beds effect tattoos?

 The guidelines for keeping your tattoo out of the sun as much as possible are the same for tanning beds.  You would probably notice that the light from the bed would irritate the exposed tattoo. Tanning can also fade your tattoo, and the darker your skin gets the less bright your tattoo will be.  The tattoo is a few layers under the outer-most layer of skin, so it will be like seeing your tattoo through a tinted window. You will want to hold off your visits to the tanning bed for at least two weeks.

-Are raised areas of skin normal in the tattoo?

 It has been about three weeks, and my tattoo seems to be healed (no skin peeling or scabs).  I noticed that some of the lines feel raised.  Will this go away in time and is that normal?

 Your skin is one huge organ with lots of different areas and types that react differently to being tattooed.  The thickness of your skin is not consistent throughout.  The raised areas are your skin's response to being perforated by a needle repeatedly.  Initially, you may have noticed that the entire tattoo was slightly raised, but most of it went down to normal. Some areas, however, take longer or will remain raised. Your skin is, in essence, scarred. While more experienced tattooers are better able to avoid damaging the skin in this manner, it can sometimes happen even when every precaution is taken. Once the tattoo is healed, you may want to try a scar reducing agent, like aloe vera sap. 

After a few days, this may be a problem.
-Is it normal for my tattoo to be red and hot?

 I noticed a few days after getting my tattoo that there is some redness around the area and the tattoo feels warmer than the rest of my skin. Is this normal?

 Redness and a fevered feeling is normal with a new tattoo for the first few days. Your tattoo is basically an abrasion, and the redness and heat is typical of your body trying to heal the wound. If the redness radiates from the tattoo, it has the appearance of a rash, has bumps or weeps anything more than a thin, clear fluid, talk to your tattooer and/or a doctor.

-How long does it take to heal?

 I am getting my first tattoo in a couple of weeks, and I was wondering how long it will take to heal.

 Healing times for a tattoo vary, and it can of depends on what you mean by "healed".  A tattoo can take three-to-six months to heal "completely", and even then the area is still technically contaminated with a foreign material (tattoo ink).  You body will be working to remove the ink from your skin for the rest of your life, which is one of the factors that contributes to fading.  That said, the time generally given for the skin to return to being relatively normal is two weeks.  This is an average, as the real indicators are that the tattoo no longer has any scabs and is no longer peeling.  This is when the integrity of the tattoo skin can handle sunlight and being submerged in water without any real risks.

Really not normal.
-How long before I go swimming?

 I want to get a tattoo, but I also really want to go tubing on the river in a week with my friends. How long do I need to wait after getting a tattoo before I get in water?

 The best time to get a tattoo is in the winter, and this is just one of the reasons. In the winter, there is no real urge to "hit the beach", and by the summer your tattoo will be healed and looking great. That said, you should wait until all the scabs have fallen off your tattoo and the skin is done peeling.  This generally takes about two weeks.

-When should I apply skin cream?

 My tattoo artist told me to apply a skin cream with no perfumes or dyes during the first two weeks while the tattoo is healing, after I wash it three times a day.  Sometimes it gets really dry.  Should I apply more moisturizer?

 In my opinion, yes.  The reason you moisturize after washing your tattoo is because the soap and water can dry it out.  If your tattoo becomes too dry, the scabs can crack, leading to bleeding and ink-loss.  However, you do not want to over-moisturize, either. When your skin starts to feel dry and taunt, apply a very small amount of moisturizer.

Normal scabbing.
-Is heavy scabbing on some parts of the tattoo normal?

 I noticed that some parts of my tattoo, in particular the large, black areas, are more heavily scabbed that others.  Is that normal?

 Yes, that is normal.  The more worked the skin is, the heavier the scabbing will tend to be. Black is the least forgiving when it comes to open or light spots, so tattooers tend to hit black heavier than other colors. However, heavy scabbing will probably also lead to fading in that area.  Keep it moisturized, definitely do not pick at it, and if it needs a touch-up speak to your tattooer.

-My tattoo really itches.  What should I do?

 It has been about 8 days since I got my tattoo and it has really started to itch. What causes the itching and what should I do about it?

 Your skin goes through a phased-healing process, which involves a layer of skin growing over the tattoo that will initially die and peel off.  Another layer typically grows, dies, and peels off as well.  Your body's reaction to peeling skin is to become itchy so you will scratch the old skin off and reveal the layer of new skin beneath.  DO NOT ITCH YOUR TATTOO! You can try slapping your skin AROUND that tattoo, or itching near the tattoo (tricking the brain into believing the area has been relieved).  Other than that, it is best to just tough it out.

-When should I speak to my tattooer or a doctor about problems with my tattoo?

 I don't know if I am being a baby or not, but this is my first tattoo and I have some concerns about the way it is healing.  Reading your blog has let me know that most of what I am worried about is probably normal.  I was wondering when I should be worried enough to see a doctor?

 I wouldn't want to just assume that anything medical I read about on the Internet was applicable to me.  Treat what you read as a suggestion.  If your worried about anything to do with your tattoo, start by talking to your tattooer.  They can verify if what you are seeing is worthy of concern and suggest what you can do if there is a problem, probably saving you hundreds of dollars in doctor's fees in the process.  However, if you are not confident in your tattooer's advice, see a doctor.  Better safe than sorry.

 Jason Sorrell is a writer, tattoo artist, satirist, artist, and generally nice guy living in Austin, TX.  He loves answering questions about tattoos.  Shoot him a message at

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Getting a Tattoo From Someone Other Than Your Regular Artist

 You have a tattooer that you really like.  He or she does amazing work, you have a good relationship, you get a fair price for your tattoos, and you have gotten a few tattoos from this one artist.  You feel like this person is "your tattooer", the person you go to for your tattoos and advice on tattoos.  Your tattooer is strongest, however, with one particular style of tattoos, and you want a tattoo in a style that you think will be outside their skill-set.  In other words, you have another tattoo artist in mind, but you don't want to damage the relationship you have with your current tattooer. What do you do?

 If this scenario sounds a little odd to you, it is because with most professionals this would not be an issue.  An Italian Chef is not going to hold it against his clients if one night they decide to go to an American Restaurant because they were in the mood for some American Food.  Unfortunately, tattooers are often a bit superstitious about the industry, maybe even a little paranoid.  We often find ourselves with the mentality that every tattoo done by another tattooer is an opportunity lost, and money out of our own pockets.  When one of our clients goes to another artist, we tattooers worry that the shop will be better, that the other artist will offer a negative opinion of our work or try to undercut our pricing, or will frankly just provide a better experience for the client. 

 The reality is that all of these concerns are valid, at least to a point.  We tattooers tend not to see that those concerns are well with in our control.  Being tattooers ourselves, we should assume that our work will be critiqued and the other tattooer will try to win over our client. The question we should ask ourselves is what steps we took to prevent that tattooer from being successful?  If we are concerned about the quality of our shop, then we should have stepped-up and corrected any deficiency.  If we are afraid of a negative critique, then we need to be our own worst critics and truly strive to improve and do our best work on every tattoo.  If we think the other tattooer might provide a better experience, then we need to know and correct the ways which we miss the mark.  

 In short, if our client needs to go to another tattooer for one tattoo because it is simply outside our skill-set, we need to be confident that this is the ONLY reason they are going to another tattooer.

 From the onset of this idea, we have a problem.  If your client feels that they need to be concerned about offending you, then you have already done something wrong.  Your client should recognize that you are a professional, fully aware of your own strengths and weaknesses.  If you are a professional, then you should have no issue discussing with your client what their tattoo needs are, how you can address them, and if you are unable to meet their needs, how they should go about finding an artist who can.  Indeed, as a professional caring for your client, it may even behoove you to have an artist or two in mind you know will do the job, offer a fair price, and treat your client in the same manner you would.

 A doctor will recommend their patients to a specialist when necessary.  A mechanic will send work to another shop if their customer's car needs something they do not offer. If your client comes to you seeking advice about getting a tattoo from another artist, you should feel good that you have built a professional relationship with your client and they see you as a resource they can trust in the tattoo industry.  Taking care of your client, even if it means sending them down the street for a tattoo that is outside your skill-set, is better than losing them because you have a poor attitude, or worse because you gave them a tattoo that was not on par with your normal work when you couldn't bare to do the right thing and send their money to someone else.  

 As a client, you should know that despite our sometimes fragile artistic egos, we tattooers tend to be realists.  If your tattooer does primarily American Traditional work, and you want a portrait, you should be confident that your tattooer will steer you right.  We tell our clients to always, always, ALWAYS look at portfolios when shopping for an artist, and we hope that the reason you selected us was founded on the strength of our portfolios.  With this in mind, we also must know that if a style of tattoo that you want is not in our portfolio, you will have concerns about our ability to execute it. You should expect professionalism from your tattooer, and that they will be willing to talk to you about any aspect of the tattoo process, including potentially needing to go to another artist.

 If you consider someone your tattooer, simply be open and frank with them.  Tell them what you want and what your concerns are about their ability to do the tattoo,  Be prepared also to give them the opportunity to show you what they can do with your concept.

 What that means is being willing to pay your tattooer's drawing fee and being open to seeing their take on your idea.  Your tattooer is your tattooer for a reason; you like their style and their technique.  It may be that they can present your concept in a manner that you had not considered, translating it into their style.  This will have the added advantage of keeping your work consistent, as you will hopefully get many additional tattoos from that tattooer. Being ready to pay when you have this discussion also demonstrates that you are sincere about your appreciation of their work and that you really do want to keep them on as your tattooer.  Your tattooer may even be willing to apply that drawing fee as a down-payment on your next tattoo from them, depending on your relationship.

 You, as a client, should never be anxious about addressing concerns with your tattooer.  If you are, then you may have reason to be concerned.  Not every tattooer can do every tattoo, and a professional tattooer will want you to have good tattoo work, even if the work is not their own.  They would rather have you sing their praises for taking care of them than have a tattoo you regret getting and they regret doing.

 Jason Sorrell is a writer, tattoo artist, satirist, artist, and generally nice guy living in Austin, TX.  He loves answering questions about tattoos.  Shoot him a message at