The Stencil: Keep it On

May 12, 2016

Before we get into the wonderful world of material science, we have to remind you all to go ahead and read last week’s post where we covered getting the stencil on the skin. Don’t worry; we’ll wait for you to get back.

Finished? Good. Then you will probably guess that the trick to keeping the stencil on the skin is basically an exercise in keeping the stained SSE intact and keeping what colorant remains on the surface in place. How do you do that? By proudly extending your middle digits to physics.

First, lets remember that the SSE is designed to slough off. It does this as a way of physical minimizing damage to sub-surface layers. Basically, it’s your body’s way of tackling the constant threat of friction, and it does it every second of every day for every moment of your life. As we type this, we are bashing away thousands of SSE cells on our fingers, rubbing them off as we rest our hands on our desk, and shedding them by the millions as we scratch the itch on our nose. It is super gross.

In this we can understand how stencils begin to degrade on the skin. If artists don’t do anything to protect the stencil, its going to begin to slough off the skin as friction begins to strip away those stained cells. Wiping, passes with a needle, incidental contact, even resting your hand on your client’s skin can compromise the stencil. And colorants on the surface begin wiping off the minute your client begins to sweat or you use a little bit of water or alcohol to wipe or dab away excess blood or lymphatic fluid. 

We’ve got a mechanical problem because as artists we’re trying to keep something in place despite the fact that it is basically designed to fall off. And tattoo artists have known this for as long as they’ve been dealing with non-acetate stencils. Most solutions have been rudimentary, as they don’t really solve the underlying problem. Many of the more recent “solutions” actually negatively impact the stencil.

We’ll be releasing a huge piece on “Tattooing Gels” as a concept and product class, but we want to quickly cover how our S8 RED Tattooing Gel takes a page out your skin’s book.

See, the lovely scientists at S8 developed a tattooing gel that a shares more than just a passing similarity to your SSE. As you recall, the SSE is composed of large, flattish cells that overlap one another, which distributes force loads across a greater surface area. This means that potential damage is more diffuse and that pressure is decentralized. That the cells themselves are relatively flat also helps reduce the number of cells that are wiped away as objects pass laterally across the surface of the skin.

S8 RED Tattooing Gel does the same thing. Our tattooing gel is made of silicone wax. This wax is made of extremely long siloxane molecules, which are mostly composed of silicon and oxygen atoms. These extremely long molecules align themselves in a format that is very similar to the SSE- they overlap one another. And what is amazing about these molecules is that they are totally inert and are already being used in surgical settings, meaning that this is a near surgical grade product.

So what does the S8 RED Tattooing Gel do to keep the stencil on the skin? Recall that we’ve compared SSE to a wood laminate. In this analogy, the S8 RED Tattooing Gel is basically a veneer on top of the laminate- it seals cells down and puts an extremely smooth, slippery surface down on top. This super-slippery surface has a near 0 degree coefficient of drag, meaning that beyond just keeping the cells in place, it actually reduces the resistance for objects passing laterally across the surface of the skin. 

In addition, our S8 RED Tattooing Gel is actually self-healing, like your skin. The types of silicone waxes that we use are film forming, which means that an element of the wax rapidly evaporates. What is left behind is stronger, more resistant, and actually fills in gaps left in the surface of the wax. This means that even during extremely long sittings, provided there is S8 RED Tattooing Gel on top of the stencil, it will largely stay intact.

But let’s say you don’t want to buy our products. What should you do to keep your stencil in place? You’re going to need to find a stencil fixative that is simultaneously non-toxic and actually efficacious. Look for products that are film forming, as they will self-heal to a certain extant. Its also a really good idea to avoid products with an alcohol based carrier, as the alcohol will not only cause stencils to get cloudy and diffuse but it will also aggravate the skin and may cause pain while tattooing. 

Ask other manufacturers what is in their products and why its there. If they cannot tell you if there is a film-forming agent, if their carrier mobilizes water-soluble colorants, or why they won’t publish the ingredients of their products, well what's the point?

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