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Body ART at a Glance
  • Tattoos are common: 24% of the US 18- to 50-year-olds in 2004, equal numbers of men and women.
  • Tattooing medical complications are rare: mainly related to pigment ingredients, but include viral, bacterial, fungal, and transfusion-transmitted diseases.
  • Tattoo social associations and difficulties are significant.
  • Piercing: soft earlobes 37% and body piercing excluding the soft earlobe 14% of the US 18- to 50-year-olds in 2004, mainly women; 46% of women aged 16–24 in the United Kingdom in 2005. Body piercing fashion started in the late 1980s.
  • Piercing medical complications are common: metal-induced contact allergic dermatitis, broken teeth, anesthetic risks, and infections of all types.
  • The relationship of body art to hepatitis is unclear.

Body art is art made on, with, or consisting of, the human body. The most common forms of body art are tattoos, body piercings, and body painting, but other types include scarification, branding, tongue splitting, subdermal and extraocular implants. Tattooing is the practice of producing an indelible mark or figure on the human body by inserting pigment under the skin using needles or other sharp instruments.1Body piercing refers to the cosmetic piercing of body parts for the implantation of objects such as rings, studs, or pins.2Body painting is the application of paint on to the skin and includes face painting, the application of mehndi and temporary tattoos. Scarification is a means of permanently marking the skin by cutting alone, without the use of pigments. This includes the deliberate formation of keloids. When purposeful third-degree burns are used to induce a scar, the procedure is called branding.3Tongue splitting is the bisection of the tongue from the tip toward the back for about 3–5 cm leading to an appearance similar to the tongue of a lizard.4,5Subdermal implantation is the placing of a foreign body under the skin so that none of the object remains outside of the body. A three-dimensional effect is seen on the surface. Materials used are silicone, Teflon, or metal.6

Extraocular implantation is the placing of sterile nonpyrogenic platinum jewelry inside the interpalpebral conjunctiva of the eye.7

Epidemiology and Background

The word “tattoo” is said to come from Captain Cook after he saw markings on the bodies of the Polynesian people during his 1769 South Pacific voyage. “Ta-Tu” means “to mark” in Tahitian and is associated with the sound made by the Tahitian tattoo instrument.8 However, tattoos have probably been performed since the beginning of humanity. The famous Ice Man dating from 3300 BC found in the mountains of Europe was covered in tattoos, and they are seen on Egyptian mummies dating from 2000 BC. Tattoos were a sign of nobility, bravery and beauty. They are forbidden in the Old Testament in both Leviticus and Deuteronomy and in the Koran. Despite this, the practice has persisted and has ...

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