Entertainment Fashion & Style What Is a Tattoo? The Story Behind the Ink Share PINTEREST Email Print Fashion & Style Tattoos and Body Piercings Accessories Tops & Sweaters Dresses Skirts Jeans Pants Outerwear Lingerie & Swimwear Do It Yourself Shoes Skincare Advice Makeup Hair Fragrance Kids and Teens Bumps & Babies Learn More By Jodie Michalak Contributing Writer Northern Arizona University Jodie Michalak is a cosmetologist and contributing writer for Byrdie where she covers the tattoo space. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Jodie Michalak Updated February 24, 2018 While the question may seem simple enough, asking "What is a tattoo?" can offer answers that might lead in many different directions. Tattoos are permanent markings on the skin made by way of ink and needles. Once the ink is deposited into the second layer of skin known as the dermis, the wound scabs over and the skin heals to expose a design under the new layer. The practice is now an acceptable form of body art. Depending on where you reside, there may be certain age restrictions that might dictate the minimum age for getting a tattoo. Check with an established tattoo shop for local laws or jurisdictions specifying these tattoo requirements. In most cases, you'll need to be 18 years of age or have parental consent before getting a tattoo. Be thankful, you'll also likely need that time to select a tattoo that carries significance, anyway. Whether it be a memorial piece or one that expresses interests, hobbies, or even love themes, tattoos are rich in cultural history and deserve a bit of respect. History of Tattoos Tattooing has long been a way of ceremonial rites and passages in most cultures throughout the world. From Africa's scarification process to the Celt's inking griffins and monsters that were later found on their corpses, tattoos are worn to mark special events, to pay honor or respect, and even to unite body to body with ash remains that are later inked under the skin. Tattoos tell a story and can be written in any language. From symbols depicting cultural images to words and font designs, if you dare to dream it, a tattooist can likely create it and tell your tale on a living canvas. To celebrate life, choices, and to pay tribute and memorial to life's purpose and companions, tattoos have the artful ability to speak volumes. Many people choose to remember those they love and honor traditions and life events with a tattoo. As the saying goes, a picture speaks a thousand words. How Much Do They Cost? Tattoos cost money. Just as you expect to pay a professional for beauty, hair and other professional services, tattoo artists set their own rates and expect to be paid fairly based upon the details of the design, and their professional skill level. The better and more well known the artist is, the more you will likely pay. Rest assured; all artists will discuss their rates prior to beginning work, or at least they should. If not, get out of there. Things to Consider Before you get a tattoo, proper time and consideration should be put into your piece to better avoid the chance of regret. Hasty tattoos are at the top of the list for tattoo removal, so don't be so quick to jump the gun. Spend some time going over tattoo art styles to narrow down your personal style. With study, you will find that you are drawn to different styles as you begin to pay attention to body art. Tattoo artist selection is also imperative in the tattoo process. Take your time and do some research on top tattoo artists. Watch a few of the latest tattoo reality shows to learn basic styles and techniques, and then develop an eye for the art. Take your artistic eye to a more personal level by studying the works of modern artists and painters. Explore literature and mythology and begin to relate sentimental things that may apply to you into design interpretations. This is the fun part but, by all means, it can be a lifelong process. Take your time. Your body deserves the best answer to the question, "What is a tattoo? It's something that becomes part of you.