Tattoos have their fair share of downsides: the pain, the cost, and the disapproving glares from elderly family members. But if you select the right design, there can also be sweet functional benefits to getting inked. Here are some ingenious uses for tattoos that may even cause staunch opponents to soften their stance.
1. Give Baldness the Boot
Image credit: Good Look Ink
Move over, Rogaine - there’s been a revolutionary breakthrough in the science of baldness prevention. It’s a cutting edge procedure known as “cosmetic transdermal hair replication,” which is really just an official-sounding word for tattooed-on toupees. At a few specialty salons scattered across the globe, balding clients can get inked with tiny, irregular marks designed to look like natural hair follicles. The point is to make these men seem like they’ve got a full head of hair, but have simply opted to buzz it off.
2. Watch Cartoons 24/7
A Parisian tattoo artist named Karl Marc broke ground (and skin) last summer when he tattooed a scannable QR code onto his friend’s chest.
When scanned by a simple cell phone, the red flower tattoo came to life, revealing a mustached, animated character performing opera. And the coolest part? New animations can be added over time. Considering the growing number of cell phones capable of reading QR codes, it won’t be long before all of us are running around with a smorgasbord of Saturday morning cartoons inked on our chests.
3. Save on Make-Up (and Remover!)
A modern cosmetic procedure known as permanent makeup – popularized in the 1990s – can shave seconds off your morning routine! By tattooing on eyeliner, eye shadow, lipstick, and even perfectly tweezed eyebrows, you’ll never have to worry about being caught without your face on again. The procedure is pricey – between $400 and $800 - but it’s well worth the time you’ll save browsing drugstore aisles for the perfect lip color.
4. Relieve Pain (with More Pain)
Who knew that being repeatedly poked with a rudimentary needle would squelch pain? But in the good old days, tattoos were commonly used for therapeutic purposes, much like acupuncture. Perhaps the most famous recipient of this unique treatment was Otzi the Iceman, a mummy discovered on the Italian-Austrian border estimated to have lived around 3300 B.C. Otzi’s body reportedly contained 57 carbon soot tattoos, arranged along his spine, knees, and ankles. Forensic analysis revealed joint degeneration in these areas, suggesting that the tattoos were probably an attempt at pain management. Too bad Otzi was unavailable to confirm.
5. Free Tacos for Life
In 1999, Casa Sanchez launched a corny but super successful marketing campaign. The San Francisco taquería promised free tacos for life to anyone who got a tattoo of the restaurant’s logo: a sombrero-clad boy riding an ear of corn. A number of regular customers took advantage of the offer. The tattoo itself cost about $100 – meaning that it paid for itself after about 15 meals.
6. Crack Down on Crime
For centuries, tattoos were the ultimate form of punishment in Japan. They had two major downsides: the pain, and the shame they conferred. Criminals were branded on the arm or the forehead with tats denoting their crimes and oftentimes the location where they took place. In one region, a pictograph for “dog” was inked onto the foreheads of serious criminals. This worked as a crime-prevention strategy for about 1000 years (hey – that’s a pretty good run!). But around the 17th century, criminals began covering up penal tattoos with ornamental ones. Pretty soon, tattoos became associated with gang membership and were outlawed by the Japanese government. Tattoos went full circle - from punishment for a serious offense to seriously punishable offense.
7. Craft a Portable Resume
During World War II, sailors didn’t bother to carry around CVs. They simply used tattoos to record their accomplishments directly on their bodies. A sailor earned a swallow for every 5,000 miles he sailed and a King Neptune for crossing the equator. An anchor meant that he had served in the Merchant Marines or that he’d crossed the Atlantic. A full rigged ship indicated that he’d sailed around Cape Horn.
8. Memorialize Fido
In the procedure known as known as “commemorative” or “ritual” tattooing, cremated ashes called cremains are incorporated into memorial tattoos. In the unique procedure, small amounts of ashes are sterilized in an autoclave and mixed with ink before being injected into the body. While the practice started with human ashes, it wasn’t long before clients started asking to use pet remains instead. At many parlors today, the majority of “commemorative” tattoo requests are actually tributes to pets.