Body art is an ancient but populous form of body enhancement. There are various reasons why people engage in body art such as coiffure, body painting, body markings and the like. Some are done for purely aesthetic or decorative purposes while others are for medicinal, spiritual, entertainment, identification or symbolic reasons.
A wide of tools can be used for body enhancement. These include dabbing tools, painting tools, incising tools, smearing tools, tattooing tools, etc. Materials used for body arts include tattooing dyes, special cleaning agents etc. Drawing and writing inks, such as Indian ink, Pelican ink and printer inks are popularly used for amateur tattoos. Other colourants that can be used include pigments and dyes. Other materials used include plant extracts, soot, carbon and ochre. Henna, which is a natural plant, is also used for the production of temporary tattoos.
There are several causes of health hazards in body arts. Majority of them are as a result of contamination of the instruments used. Examples of these are the skin penetrating tools such as lances, electrolysis needles and extractors. When these instruments are not effectively cleaned and sterilized before use on another person, or when single-use instruments are not discarded immediately after use.
There are also allergic and toxic reactions which are due to impurities from the production process of the pigments and dyes used for tattooing. Tattoo inks can contain aromatic amines with carcinogenic potential (can cause cancer). Some tattoo products have been seen to cause mild forms of skin cancer. Tattoo dyes especially red, green, yellow and blue dyes can cause allergic skin reactions, such as an itchy rash at the tattooed area. This can occur even years after you get the tattoo.
Moreover, skin problems such as bumps called granulomas form around tattoo ink. Tattooing also can lead to keloids or raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue. It may cause blood borne diseases. For instance, if the equipment used to create the tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, the person can contract various blood borne diseases including tetanus, hepatitis B, hepatitis C or even HIV/AIDS.
These health-related cases can be prevented by taking some practical steps. For instance, the tools and equipment used for the production of body arts must be sterilized. Washing hands is the single most important factor in preventing infection.
Also, chemicals used in body arts must be properly labeled so that there will not be any substitutions. The chemicals must be properly cared for. They must be kept in well secured containers etc. The instructions on how to use and care for them must be meticulously followed.
Moreover, all working surfaces used, for example, procedure couches/chairs, benches and tables, should be washed with warm water and detergent, rinsed and dried using a clean lint-free single-use cloth. Additionally, at the end of each working day, wash all visibly soiled surfaces with warm water and detergent. Rinse and dry the cleaned surfaces using a clean lint-free single-use cloth.
There are a lot of techniques that can be employed in body arts. The commonest technique is painting. It involves the application of the paint, dye or pigment by the use of brush. After drawing the sketch or layout of the design on the skin surface, brush is used to apply the paint on the body surface. Printing, whereby designs are sometimes printed on the body surface is also used. Sometimes papers with permissible ink are transferred onto the body surface. Laser printers are also used to transfer computerized designs onto the surfaces of skin. Paint can be dabbed on the body surface using sponge or foam to transfer designs onto skin surfaces. Sometimes, the ink or paint can be spread over the surface of the skin to create the design or impression on the surface of the skin.
Other techniques include incision, thus, cutting into the surface of the skin to create a design. This is used in scarification and some forms of tattooing. The interlocking of the hair strands to form decorative forms referred to as braiding or plaiting falls under body arts.
Body art is gaining much fame today in the art industry. Artists must be weary of the health hazards in the use of tools, materials and instruments. They must endeavor to keep healthy practices while engaging in this interesting form of artistic expression.