In recent years, more and more people have been adding blackout tattoos — a large block of solid black ink — to their skin art repertoires. The tattoo style has been popularized by many influencers across social media and has become a common way to cover up old tattoos that people are no longer satisfied with. It’s also becoming an increasingly popular first-pass tattoo.
The rising trend has stirred up some controversy among groups that consider the aesthetic a form of cultural appropriation. On top of concerns about cultural appropriation, there are also some serious medical issues associated with them.
Of course, people should be free to express themselves however they choose and to do whatever they want with their own bodies. However, if you’re considering getting a blackout tattoo, you should consider the social and medical implications before you make your decision.
What exactly is the process of getting a blackout tattoo like? What are the potential health effects of getting a huge section of your skin filled with black ink? Should blackout tattoos be considered a form of cultural appropriation? Why have blackout tattoos become so popular in recent years?
What Is It Like to Get a Blackout Tattoo?
You are essentially having an entire section of your body colored in. As you can imagine, the process is time-consuming, very painful, and usually involves and a fair amount of blood. The larger the section you’re looking to get filled in, the more needles the artist will have to use and the more time you will have to spend sitting.
If you have a low threshold for pain or you’ve never gotten a tattoo before, you should know that getting a blackout tattoo is going to hurt like hell. Your artist will probably run over the same spots on your body several times to ensure that no part is left blank. And, yeah, that doesn’t feel good.
On top of the pain factor, blackout tattoos obviously involve a ton of ink so they can be very expensive. Depending on where you get yours done, artists might charge anywhere from $100 to $300 per hour to do your blackout tattoo. Even if you absolutely love the blackout aesthetic, make sure you have the money for it first.
In terms of the healing process, blackout tattoos typically take about the same amount of time to heal as most other tattoos. Like with other tattoos, your blackout tattoo will also feel itchy and should be washed with soap regularly.
What Are the Medical Effects of Blackout Tattoos?
In addition to being painful, blackout tattoos can pose health risks that you should take into consideration before you get one. Getting a large area of your skin filled in with black ink can make it very difficult to recognize if you’re developing melanoma or other skin problems, for example.
It can also make it more difficult for doctors to diagnose other dangerous skin ailments. If you have a history of skin cancer in your family, you may want to reconsider getting that blackout tattoo.
With that said, some research suggests that blackout tattoos may offer health benefits as well. A study done on mice showed that tattoo ink may actually protect you from developing skin cancer in the first place. In the study, the mice that were tattooed developed skin cancer less often than the mice without tattoos.
Why Have Blackout Tattoos Become So Popular Recently?
Blackout tattoos have become largely popularized on social media in recent years. Prominent tattoo artist Kat Von D got a blackout tattoo on her arm back in 2019. Although she was widely criticized for it, her tattoo surely inspired many others to get one like it.
Apart from celebrity endorsements of this radical tattooing style, many people these days are attracted to minimalism in general. More and more are applying the minimalist aesthetic to their homes and their clothing, so it’s no surprise the aesthetic would find its way into tattoo trends as well. The blackout style certainly fits into the minimalist aesthetic with its solid blocks of monochrome black ink.
There’s also a more practical reason for their popularity. They’re perfect for covering up old tattoos that people are no longer fond of. Your ex-girlfriend’s name? An iguana drinking a margarita that you got in Cabo? Get it all blacked out, and it’s like it never happened.
Are Blackout Tattoos Cultural Appropriation?
One of the biggest problems with blackout tattoos, however, is that many people consider them to be cultural appropriation. When Kat Von D revealed her blackout tattoo, the criticism she received was largely about her appropriating something very important to the Black community: the color of their skin.
For centuries, white oppressors have been targeting people with Black skin for abuse, torture, slavery, and dehumanization. So, the idea that intentionally blacking out your skin is a fun trend for white people can be upsetting for Black people who’ve been the target of racism on the basis of skin color.
Similar issues have occurred with traditional Black hairstyles and fashion, which are labeled “ugly” or “inappropriate” when worn by Black people but “beautiful” and “trendy” when worn by white people.
To have something about your identity shamed for years and then to see people who are not Black glorifying that exact same trait just because it’s trending on Instagram can feel like betrayal and hypocrisy.
Whether or not your intention in getting a blackout tattoo was to darken your skin or simply because you liked the aesthetic, as a non-Black person, you shouldn’t ignore the emotional effect that your tattoo may have on Black people.
At the end of the day, when so many Black people have received hate and ridicule for their complexion over the years and into the modern-day, copying that complexion can be hurtful. If you were considering getting a blackout tattoo before reading this article, I would implore you to reconsider your decision.
If you need to get a cover-up tattoo, come up with a cool design that isn’t going to come across as cultural appropriation. If you want to get a blackout tattoo, maybe consider getting an intricately designed sleeve instead.