This Is The Reason You Shouldn't Get A Blackout Tattoo

It's hard to pinpoint precisely when tattooing originated, but many draw its lines — no pun intended — back to tribal nations like the Samoans and even the Egyptians (via Authority Tattoo). There are countless designs that date way back to these time periods, including the blackout tattoo. According to Tattoo SEO, tribal tattoos would often be "all black; using [carbon from] charred wood or bones," which would then be "punctured through the skin creating a permanent mark."

The more recent wave in popularity of blackout tattoos can be traced back to 2016, according to Fox News, when Singapore-based tattoo artist Chester Lee popularized the design on social media. Since then, many customers have been opting for blackout tattoos simply because they are aesthetically pleasing. But, more often than not, people choose them to cover up old tattoos. 

As tattoo artist Maxime Buchi explained to The Guardian, "Tattooists and customers have started to see how limited traditional cover-ups are in terms of aesthetic results." Buchi continued, "You will always see there is something underneath — they can be OK, at best, in my opinion. I recommend blackouts instead, they always work well." Like any tattoo, doing your research is imperative before considering a blackout design, especially as there are certain negative connotations associated with them. 

Blackout tattoos can potentially be seen as offensive

First and foremost, blackout tattoos are frequently interpreted as cultural appropriation. As Elisheba Mrozik, tattoo artist and former contestant on "Ink Master," asserted to Byrdie, a white person covering large portions of their skin in black ink can be seen as problematic and inconsiderate to Black people. Especially considering, "For centuries, being dark-skinned in this nation has been a curse and cause for pain, strife, economic slavery and injustice, stolen wealth and legacies, ruinous incarceration rates, violent death, and dreams deferred."

Mrozik acknowledged that, obviously, people can do whatever they want with their bodies, but ignorance of the correlations that many may draw from a blackout tattoo "does not excuse people from its consequences." So, essentially, it's vital to do your research before you get a tattoo — especially when it comes to blackout tattoos, due to the potential connotations of cultural appropriation.

Tattoo artists are tired of seeing plenty of clichéd designs but they've also been criticized for covering themselves in solid blackwork. However, London-based artist Bella Atrix notably started the process when her father was ill and used it as a "ritualistic practice" that provided her with "phenomenal strength and mental calm," as she revealed to Allure. Atrix also pointed out that "people who aren't from the tattooing community aren't educated in the tribal origins of blackwork." Moreover, as someone from a mixed-race family, she was surprised to see people accusing her of "wanting to change my race."  

They can also make certain medical checks difficult

Aside from cultural appropriation, blackout tattoos can be much riskier than other designs. According to dermatologist Howard Sobel, MD, the ingredients used in the pigments for black ink can include "titanium oxide, lead, nickel, [and] chromium," which could potentially be absorbed into the bloodstream and cause "allergic reactions, skin rashes, and inflammation" as he told Teen Vogue. 

That being said, famed tattoo artists like Kat Von D have noted that pigments used by professionals do not contain these harmful substances. "Nowadays you can even find vegan-friendly pigments that work just as well," she clarified on Instagram. While the ink may not be as harmful, blacking out a large portion of your skin can make skin cancer screening difficult while also hiding potential skin conditions (via the Gold Coast Bulletin). 

"With such large, dark tattoos, it's very difficult for a physician to distinguish between a normal mole and one that's abnormal — or even melanoma," Sobel warned Teen Vogue. Luckily, if you have a blackout tattoo and decide it's not for you, black ink is easier to remove with laser treatments. However, sessions are expensive and painful, and several are required to fully remove a tattoo — particularly if it's a large surface area (via Healthline).