Why Tattoos Are Permanent? New TED Ed Video Explains with Animation

For the last three decades my right ankle has been the site of a deeply botched tat­too. It was sup­posed to be a yin yang, but with every pass­ing year, it looks more and more like a can­cer­ous mole. The drunk­en Viet­nam Vet who admin­is­tered it bare­ly glanced at the design tak­ing shape on my once vir­gin skin as he chat­ted with a pal. I was too intim­i­dat­ed to say, “Um…is it just me or are you fill­ing in the white cir­cle?” (I con­vinced myself that he knew what he was doing, and the ink would recede as it healed. Need­less to say…)

My pathet­ic, lit­tle yin-ya’ is an embar­rass­ment in an era of intri­cate four-col­or sleeves and souped up rock­a­bil­ly gor­geous­ness, but I con­fess, I’ve grown fond of it. The fact that I have an out-of-bal­ance sym­bol for bal­ance per­ma­nent­ly engraved onto my body is far more appro­pri­ate than the poor­ly grasped  flash art could have been. It’ll be with me til the day I die.

Longer, actu­al­ly, to judge by the dec­o­ra­tive mark­ings of an 8000 ‑year-old Peru­vian mum­my.

I feel for­tu­nate to have devel­oped ten­der feel­ings for my bush league mod­i­fi­ca­tion. Clau­dia Aguir­re’s TED-Ed les­son “What Makes Tat­toos Per­ma­nent,” above, does not make an easy case for removal.

In the words of your grand­ma, don’t embell­ish your birth­day suit with any old junk.

Your gang affil­i­a­tion may feel like a for­ev­er-thing now, but what if you decide to switch gangs in a few years? Eras­ing those mem­o­ries can be painful. Ask John­ny “Winona For­ev­er” Depp.

Dol­phins may strike you as peace­ful, spir­i­tu­al crea­tures, but I’ll bet there are ways to appre­ci­ate them that don’t involve hav­ing one punc­tured through your epi­der­mis at 50–3000 micro-wounds per minute. 

Choose wise­ly! If you’re veer­ing toward a Tas­man­ian dev­il or a rose, do your­self a favor and browse the Muse­um of Online Muse­ums. Feel a kin­ship with any­thing there? Good! Once you’ve fig­ured out how to best fea­ture it on your hide, take Aguir­re’s anato­my-based quiz. See if it’s true that you’ll be barred from bur­ial in a Jew­ish ceme­tery. Your tat­too artist will like­ly be impressed that you cared enough to do some research. Watch a cou­ple of episodes of the Smith­so­ni­an’s Tat­too Odyssey for good mea­sure.

Then lay in a tube of Prepa­ra­tion H, and pre­pare to love what­ev­er you wind up with. It’s a lot eas­i­er than the pain of regret.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Get Ancient Advice on Los­ing Weight, Sober­ing Up, Remov­ing a Tat­too & More at Ask The Past

TED ED Ani­ma­tion Gives You a Glimpse of What Life Was Like for Teenagers in Ancient Rome

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is up to her eye­balls in Bye Bye Birdie and so should you be. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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