Have you ever decorated your skin with a colored decal from a bubble gum wrapper? If so, you know it soon washes off, because it is only on the surface of the top layer of skin.
Tattoos, however, are body decorations that do not wash off. They are permanent designs on the body because their dyes are in the skin, not on it.
Tattooing is usually done by pricking the skin with a sharp item. Needles are used in tattoo parlors in many cities catering to soldiers and sailors, among whom tattooing is popular. Shells or bones are used in primitive societies where tattoos are regarded as tribal markings or signs of beauty on women. Once these small, deep holes are made in the skin in the form of the desired design, colored dyes are placed in them.
Although pricking is the more common method, tattooing is also done by sewing in a design of colored thread. In both cases, the permanent dye material is deeply imbedded in the skin.
Primitive tribes around the world have used tattooing for many centuries, and in some cases, young men and women are not considered grown up until they are properly tattooed. Some 3,000-year-old mummies have been found with blue tattoo marks under the skin.
Tattoo designs once took the place of clothing for some Japanese people, who completely covered themselves with tattoos from head to toe!