Most recently, this blog has been making its viral rounds through the tattoo community. In a nutshell, a woman was denied a neck tattoo and left her local tattoo studio seemingly disgruntled that an artist had the audacity to refuse her service.
In an aggressive effort to discredit the artist and defame his studio she received a very public blowback from tattooers and shop owners around the country.
Skirting around all of that drama, I'd like to offer an unbiased explanation why hand and neck tattoos are turned down at reputable studios on a daily basis - to those of you who may not understand.
There is a code. A small code, (but a code nonetheless) - of ethics that most professional tattoo artists with a traditional upbringing are guided by. One of these codes is as follows... Hands, necks, and faces come last. Of course, there are exceptions, though, for all of you sparsely-tattooed enquirers, this is usually the rule. Although you might think that the side of the neck tattoos is all the trend right now, your artist will likely ask you to reconsider.
But, it's my body. Why?
Because Equal Employment Opportunity does not extend itself to the tattooed.
No matter how commonplace body modification is this day and age, society at large unfortunately still hasn't evolved past judgment - and while "norms" are shifting, it's happening slowly. The way we present ourselves is the first thing a potential employer will see in a job interview, and contrary to some people's beliefs - your tattooers' reputation is attached to that very visible piece that might have prevented you from getting that job, promotion, or loan from a conservative bank. Who wants that on their conscience?
"Hand, neck and face tattoos on lightly or un-tattooed people has forever been a discussion in the tattoo industry...
...many tattooers feel that tattooing these areas is ethically questionable and in fact they are commonly called 'Job Stoppers.'
Of course, it is not my position to tell someone what to do with their body. If you have a sweet idea for a neck tattoo design, you are free to go for it. But that does not negate the fact that there are social ramifications to having visible, large tattoos that you are not able to hide. Tattooers also should have the right to have our own professional standards and turn down work that they are not comfortable with."
Now that you understand the obvious societal drawbacks of being a visibly tattooed person, I'd like fast-forward and talk some science.
Tattoo pigment (ink) remains a liquid underneath your skin. The needle will go through several layers before it reaches the proper area in which ink is deposited, right between the Epidermis and Dermis. The tissue on your hands, fingers, face, and neck is so thin it takes skill and practice to “float” the pigment in the perfect spot. Even a very experienced tattooer can misjudge depth on this type of skin. Too deep and the pigment will "blow out" or appear blurred, too shallow and the pigment will fall out. These large tattoos often require touch-ups on a regular basis, as depicted in this image below.
Also, because this type of skin exfoliates constantly, maintaining the quality of a tattoo in these areas is proven to be very difficult. Irritation, fallout, and dispersion are all very typical on this type of tissue.
Tattooers are also reluctant to do foot tattoos as well, due to the level of difficulty and issues of quality and longevity. Although this foot tattoo looks great, it takes a lot of care and maintenance to reach the point of a fully healed foot tattoo. Socks and shoes are constantly irritating the area and making it susceptible to infections. If you really want to get a foot tattoo, you must be prepared to take care of your skin like never before. Foot tattoos are not highly visible tattoos, but artists remain reluctant to do them because they care about the longevity of their work. After all, they want to give you the best representation of their work.
I'm a firm believer in the "my body, my choice" philosophy, but if someone that thrives on my business is willing to turn it down for my own well-being, well I'd be eternally in their debt for saving me from myself. If a tattoo artist is an artist, the artist should be allowed to decide what art they want to participate in. Any tattooer worth his salt will make you aware of the repercussions of these types of tattoos during consultation... so seek out an artist whose work you respect, and listen to what they have to say.