I’ve worked in a tattoo shop long enough (17 years) to really know and weigh the pros and cons of hand and finger tattoos. That’s why it’s ok for me to say, “In my experience,” I’ve learned that it’s easy to divide the tattoos into two primary groups: 1. Body tattoos and 2.Hand(finger) and head tattoos. Here is a basic introduction to the subject.
We are going to talk now about the group no.2. The first thing that we must cover is the anatomy/medical side of the story. The skin on our hands and fingers if strong and hard. That’s not because we were born that way. Caring for your skin, genetics, environment, are the most important (maybe the ONLY important) things that will decide the final result of your hand/finger tattoo. This is, of course, if you’ve chosen a proper tattoo artist.
Let’s start with number one. Carrying for your skin is essential for your tattoo project, and it’s a big deal with the actual work on your skin. Let’s break this down. One of the reasons for doing better tattoos on girls (statistically) skin than on men is the known fact that girls use a lot more skin products in their lifetime (with or without tattoos). When we use products with vitamin E, aloe vera, coconut oil, and other oils, moisturizers we create a skin with more elasticity, less cracking, and breaking/dry parts.
Of course, we got men carrying for their skin too, but the percentage is on the female side. Every tattoo artist out there knows the difference between skin with proper care vs. the skin treated with soap and water (and nothing else).
Genetics is also an important part, and the only part that’s is out of our control. It’s what mother nature gave you. I think that with adequate care, some level of elastic and softness is reachable, but it is going to take time, and when you stop, you’re back to the beginning.
The environment is the next one, and it’s essential. Extreme weather conditions are not your skin friends. Too cold or too hot, wind, the sun is one of the worst enemies of the skin on your hand (and head). Skin becomes dry, has a tendency of cracking, and it will create a number of dead skin cells(more than usual) that will require pilling or some other cosmetic procedure to be removed.
Another vital part of the “tattoos on hands” story is “the joints.” It’s a medical fact that we got more joint in our hands than in 30% of other parts of our body. And also, every tattoo artist (with more than three years working experience) will tell you that the skin on and around our joint is harder and thicker. That’s why it is challenging to work on that skin like on the elbow or the knees. One of the reasons for that skin being harder to work on is that it’s continually moving, and it’s dry and hard almost all the time.
That’s all about that. Now let’s talk tattoos. I think that hand and fingers are not suitable for detailed tattoo work. Of course, you can always do something more straightforward, but not everybody wants that. Tattoos, on the other hand, have tendencies to fade, blur, and blowout more than other parts of our bodies. A lot to “blame” for this situation are the three reasons mentioned above (carrying, environment, genetics). And now somebody reading this will think (say) “I got a friend with perfectly healed hand tattoo,” and I agree with him.
I also know a couple of customers with good hand tattoos. But when you compare how many people have done hand tattoos and how many of them can proudly say “my hand tattoo healed just good,” then you are going to see that odds are against the second group. For example, you can find a girl (boy) with a perfectly healed hand or finger tattoo online, but you are going to find hundreds of people complaining about the outcome of their hand tattoos. That’s why the statistics will say that tattoos on hands don’t heal well.
Like I’ve said above, I think that one of the reasons is the amount of detail in chosen tattoos. I’m going to give you a simple example: When you want to do a finger tattoo of a simple cross like a + or simple font (one letter), number, random symbol or anything that you can think of (but it has to be done simply in 2-3 lines) it will ALWAYS turn out better than the snarling wolf with a full set of teeth on your middle finger. Maybe for the first couple of weeks (months), it will look just lovely, but after that period of time, it’s going to deform drastically.
For me, the worst part is not that. The worst part is that, in some cases, it is almost impossible to do fix up or covers. What are you going to do for cover on your finger?? Black circle or square?
That’s why you need to think before you ink or even better to find a straightforward, honest tattoo artist that will tell you that a lion head on your finger is just a bad idea.
Last but not least. The society question.
They don’t call hand and finger tattoos “job stoppers” without reason. Of course, every country and system is for itself. However, the general stigma is still around us out; there are still companies and businesses that will judge you for your (hand) tattoos and not for your abilities and knowledge. This situation is getting better, but it will still need time for general acceptance.
Until then keep on thinking before inking 😉