Benefits to getting a tattoo include artistic self-expression, such as a tattoo preserving a specific memory, symbolizing a religion or philosophy, expressing passion or simply decorating the skin. A tattoo is a permanent body modification using indelible ink.
There are several types of tattoos, such as cosmetic, medical and professional tattoos. Cosmetic tattoos enhance the color and definition of facial features such as lips and eyelids. Medical tattoos are used to permanently identify a health condition or allergy if the patient cannot communicate and to help consistently pinpoint an area for treatment.
Professional tattoos are usually artistic in nature and form a method of self-expression. Tattooing as a form of expression has been in practice for thousands of years, sometimes serving to make a person look fiercer and sometimes serving only to decorate. Since the 1970s, tattooing has been common in Western culture. In 2012 the FDA estimated that 45 million Americans had tattoos.
Tattoos that match other tattoos in a person's social group can help define a person's identity as a member. Tattoos people get together can represent a commitment they have with each other, such as romantic partners or a parent and child. Tattoos that memorialize a deceased loved one or the date of a major life event can serve as a reminder and inspiration to the tattooed person. Tattoos that have no symbolic meaning to a person serve as skin decoration.