Tattoos are a time honored tradition of body modification that is a marking or design of indelible ink that is inserted into the dermis layer of skin to permanently stay—at least until modern laser techniques were perfected or if the person wanted a large scar from where he or she dig out the entire chunk of flesh that contained the mark. Throughout the centuries, countless tribal peoples have practiced tattooing even though the name for it that we use today actually comes from the Polynesian language’s word for them of “tatau.” The purposes of these inked markings vary for each culture, group, and time period that ever used them. Sometimes they are for spiritual purposes such as to protect against evil or to draw certain forms of magic to the person. They can also be used as identification. One of the most notorious forms of tattoo identification was the numbering of prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, but tattoos have also been used to mark rank, status, or even links with particular groups (such as gangs or even certain ethnicities).
Yet, the most common form of tattoos in today’s world is for decorative purposes to merely show control over one’s physical body and its outside appearance. Since these instances of body art have become more about beautification and choice, it has made the world of tattoos explode with choices. What do you want drawn on you forever? Where do you want it? Each answer is unique to each person since the majorities of tattoos are very personal—even if they are matching tattoos with a friend, family member, or loved one. However, tattoos have taken on a bit of a twist lately by becoming very popular markings to have on one’s tongue. Since in the mainstream culture of the Western World tattoos are considered to be something to at least be hidden if they are to be placed on your body at all, the tongue provides an interesting platform for the designs and personal body artwork that can remain discrete. The tongue has become a favorite palate for self expression in the minds of young adults who are part of Western culture.
Studs, pins, and pigments are all ways of putting a personal spin on someone’s tongue as a way of self expression and exploration into the realm of body modification. Yet, the tongue is a very sensitive and delicate part of the body. We can pick up subtleties in taste and can get quite a jolt of pain from just accidentally biting it. This fragility makes both piercing and decoration difficult to say the least and possibly dangerous if not performed by a trained and skilled professional who uses single use disposable gloves and equipment that is washed with disinfectant before employed and autoclaved (sterilized with high pressure hot steam) well to avoid any chances of infection.
Even though tongue tattoos are applied to the relatively small surface of the tongue, they can take quite a time to complete. The tongue has to be firmly held in place (since it has a habit of unconsciously twitching or moving) and kept still for the tattoo artist to properly draw the design with perfection. The stabilizing of the tongue for tattoos is achieved by the same device that is used to hold the tongue for a piercing as well if you were worried that you would have to keep your tongue still of your own control. Limited size of the tattooing area does not matter when such delicacies are needed for tongue tattoos. Since the tongue is actually a muscle, the pain associated with tattooing of the tongue tends to be the same as a tattoo on other places of the body. Most people describe it as a tickling followed by a numbing sensation while the design is drawn on the tongue.
Many people wrongly assume that since the tongue is ultra sensitive and a different type of flesh than the skin normally used for tattooing that the day after having a tongue tattoo applied they will wake up with a bleeding mouth or even a mouth full of blood. This is a wrong conclusion that indicates a severe problem with the way the tattooing was done, being the actual cause behind the irregular bleeding. The tongue will most certainly be sensitive for the first few days though as a crust of skin develops on the muscle which will eventually flake off. During the period when this covering forms and later fades away, the coloring of the tattoo may appear different from the ones you intended for the design. The colors have a tendency to look pale or “off” during the scabbing of the tattoo, but you do not need to worry as this is a normal occurrence and they will settle into the colors you looked at and chose before the application of the tattoo once it has fully healed. Your tongue will be very sensitive for some time after the tattoo (particularly while the crust of skin is growing there tends to be a twinging pain), but any intense pain after the first day or so is an indicator of a problem and needs to be looked at by a doctor. After the scab flakes off the skin of the tongue, the new tongue tattoo will look like it has a sheen of shininess or an even waxy appearance. Like all tattoos this “new tattoo” shimmer will fade slightly over time, particularly since saliva is a strong catalyst for the wearing down of anything in the mouth as its role as a digestive in our bodies. Yet, once the crust completely flakes off, the tongue tattoo will become an absorbed part of the tongue to look as merely a colored design drawn on a normal tongue with average look and texture.
Those who have tongue piercings are actually some of the most common people to later get tongue tattoos. The tattoo on the tongue is generally used to highlight or outline the piercing (or piercings). If a proper design is chosen, the piercing and tattoo on the tongue can truly work together to accentuate each other—making it so that your attempt at personal beautification and body modification would be very hard to go unnoticed.
The question of what to get as your tongue tattoo is a very difficult, personal analysis. However, one of the primary ways to limit the millions and millions of design choices is to figure out if you want a tattoo to cover your entire tongue or just part of it. At the moment, the most popular form of tongue tattoos is a small, simple design on the end of the tongue which can be easily noticed when the person is talking or freely exhibited to those the person wishes to show by simply sticking out his or her tongue. Simple, straightforward designs such as stars or hearts are very favored choices at the tip of the tongue on the lower half of the muscle. The tattoos which cover the whole tongue tend to be more personal and definitely more intricate as they take up more space.