Science Smackdown: Tattoos Vs. Piercings


Lauren’s shoulder, freshly inked.

The needle doesn’t even hurt—it just scratches meekly at my shoulder blade, like the world’s most gentle kitten sharpening its claws. I relax my grip on my friend Lauren’s hand just enough to give her back her pulse. Fifteen minutes later and it’s over. “All done,” says Kevin, my tattoo artist, and before I know it I’m climbing off the green surgical bed with a Band-aid and a distinct sense of anti-climax.

I suppose I’d expected my first tattoo to feel a bit more … momentous. Instead, it was basically like when I was 16 and got my nose pierced. That experience went something like this:





Actually, when I thought about it, the two were quite similar. Both involved needles, pain, and permanence. Both, teenage me thought, would help me express to the world how special and unique I was through my most easy-to-access canvas: my skin. Both have been practiced for thousands of years, and disapproved of for just as long. “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you,” says the Bible (Leviticus 19:28). “Whyyyy?!” says my mom.

They can’t be all that bad, I thought. So I decided to consult science on the matter: Which is worse, a piercing or a tattoo? Read the rest of this entry »