Celebrating Tattoos’ Lasting Impacts on National Tattoo Day

Marnie Rustemeyer National Tattoo Day Scar Camouflage

It’s National Tattoo Day! Most people think of this as a time to show off and celebrate the incredible art that has been tattooed on their bodies. While that is part of it, tattooing is often about so much more than that. From commemoration to emotional and physical restoration, tattoos often have symbolic or medical significance.

Tattooing has existed as an artform and as a type of medical practice for centuries. There is archaeological evidence that suggests that ancient Egyptians practiced tattooing. Tattoos have been discovered in natural mummies of indigenous people frozen within ice that date back even further. Tattoo shops started to open up in the United States in the 1800s, and the practice has only grown since. Along with its body art and indigenous roots, tattooing has also had medical implications for almost as long as the practice has existed.

While the precise beginnings of their therapeutic uses are not well documented, one thing is clear: medical and restorative tattooing have grown significantly in recent years. Restorative tattooing allows tattooists like me to camouflage scars, add pigment to reconstructed nipples, create the illusion of a three-dimensional nipple where there is no physical tissue, and more. These tattoos help patients who have endured trauma, patients who have lost something—in many cases, more than one thing—to get something back. That restoration has a profound impact on mental health. It facilitates long-term healing.

For many of us, body art tattoos are meaningful in their own right. They, too, can have long-term positive effects. I have two commemorative tattoos on my own body, one in memory of a grandmother, the other in memory of a pet. Permanently recognizing those who I lost on my own body keeps them with me every day. The tattoos may not be able to restore what I lost in this case, but they do help me stay connected to it.

On National Tattoo Day, I encourage you to reflect on the deeper significance of tattoos for so many of us. Take a moment to honor the profound and lasting physical and emotional impacts this form of body art and restoration can impart. If you have tattoos, set aside some time to appreciate them!

Dr. Randall Feingold, patient Patricia and Mollie Sugarman, Clinical Director of NYBRA's Patient Empowerment Program

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