The world of tattooing has seen a boom in the last few years, thanks in part to the success of e-commerce companies such as Instagram and Tumblr, and a growing demand for doctors who can make the work easier.
But while the demand for surgeons is skyrocketing, some have raised concerns about the quality of the work they are doing.
“I’m worried about what will happen if we get too much demand for this procedure,” says Peter Fung, an associate professor of surgical and surgical technology at the University of Southern California.
He points to the growing demand as a concern that the procedure will be seen as a luxury rather than a necessity.
“This has become a very, very high-tech industry.
We need to make sure we get the most efficient surgery possible, which is the primary reason for tattoos.”
A growing trend In the United States, more than 300,000 doctors have been licensed to tattoo, and about a third of them have tattoos.
In 2016, the number of tattoo surgeons rose by 2,000 to 7,700, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
The American Medical Association, which represents doctors in the US, has also noted that tattoos are becoming more popular among younger doctors, who are less likely to have completed medical school.
“A lot of the doctors who are tattooing are in their 20s, and many of them are working in areas that are underserved, such as underserved communities,” says Dr Richard J. Zablocki, chair of the AMA’s board of surgeons.
“It’s the first time we’ve had a lot of younger surgeons in the field of tattoos, and it’s a sign that there’s a growing awareness about this.”
Dr Zablocksi says it’s unclear whether the rising demand for tattoos will lead to a shortage of surgeons, because tattoo surgery is still a relatively new technology in the United Kingdom, which he says is also experiencing a surge in tattoo demand.
“We’ve got to make our surgical staff comfortable with the technology, but there’s not enough people willing to take the risk of doing this,” he says.
Zabblocki says he’s also concerned that the growing popularity of tattoo culture could put an unfair spotlight on the procedure.
“The trend in the tattooing world is a lot more commercial, and you can go to any tattoo shop, and the shopkeeper is going to be asking you if you have a tattoo or not, and then you can get a tattoo and you have to pay,” he explains.
“But if you’re going to do it for the first tattoo, you don’t want to do that.”
Some doctors are worried that tattooing could become a “costlier” practice that will affect their practice.
“If I can do this for less money, I’ll do it, but if I can’t afford to do this, I can just cut my nose off,” says Fung.
“There’s a lot that’s going to change in the surgical industry if people get tattooed and they start taking on this kind of responsibility.”
There’s also a growing concern that it could be more difficult to find surgeons who have the proper equipment and knowledge to perform the procedure safely.
“To me, it’s the least invasive way to have a procedure done,” says Zablockingi.
“And, as we see more people going to the surgeon’s office, there’s going be more demand for tattoo surgery.”
He says it could lead to “an increased demand for plastic surgeons, which may lead to an increase in plastic surgery.”
The medical establishment’s reaction to the trend has been mixed.
“While we applaud the increased interest in this practice, it is also important to remember that the surgeon-assisted tattoo is not an alternative to the removal of all tattoos,” says the AMA.
“In most cases, the surgeon will remove all the tattoos before the procedure.”
The AMA says it will be looking into the possibility of an AMA-sponsored tattoo-awareness campaign in the future.
“As we continue to grow in the technology and innovation of surgery, we will be continuing to examine whether there are additional ethical concerns related to tattoo removal,” the AMA said in a statement.
“Our primary goal is to continue to be a leader in healthcare and to promote the importance of a healthy body and mind.”