Tattoos: Empowering Art

EMPOWERING ART:

THE TATTOOS THAT HELP HEAL US FROM WITHIN

For me, my tattoos are a storybook of my life, cherished memories I wear on my skin with pride; marking moments in time,
reminding me of where I want to be
and symbolising all the loves in my life.

 

Tanya Buxton
Tanya Buxton

I have been obsessed with tattooing for as long as I can remember. Fascinated by my father’s tattoos as a child, tattooing called to my soul, and was something I always wanted to pursue from a very young age. The rich cultural history and creative freedom that surround this incredible art form is something I’ve always been drawn to.

I started my apprenticeship as a Traditional Tattoo Artist in 2009. I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world through tattooing, working at various studios and conventions and placing myself firmly within the industry, before basing myself in Cheltenham, UK at my studio Paradise. I’ve enjoyed a successful career so far and have been published in a number of magazines, books and online blogs over the years, both in the UK and internationally, including BBC Radio 4, Total Tattoo Magazine, Inked Australia, Memento Publishing and Tattoo Life Magazine.

Brows and Eyeliner
Brows and Eyeliner

In 2015, I progressed into Cosmetic and Medical Tattooing. I’ve always loved make-up and beauty, and this form of tattooing was something I planned to branch out into from the beginning of my career. Expanding my skills into Cosmetic and Medical Tattooing opened me up to a whole new world of people who can benefit from tattooing. It allowed me to meet people who may not have thought about approaching a traditional tattoo artist (or even felt brave enough) for these types of services.
It was also through Cosmetic and Medical Tattooing that I realised just how wonderful tattooing can be for people and the many positive affects it can have on a person.

3D Realistic Nipple Tattoo and Tattoo design, post mastectomy, breast cancer survivor.

I have seen first-hand the impact tattoos have on people, from decorating a scar with a beautiful piece of art to recreating a realistic 3D nipple after mastectomy surgery, tattoos can help heal a person inside and out. They can mark a milestone moment, symbolise a new beginning or celebrate cherished memories in a person’s life; they enable people to reclaim their bodies and transform their skin into something they love, helping them to move forward, build self-esteem and boost body confidence.

 

 

What is Areola Tattooing?

3D Realistic Areola Tattoo, post preventative mastectomy

Areola Tattooing is something I feel extremely passionate about; the healing and empowering capabilities of these tattoos, for breast cancer survivors in particular, is truly remarkable. Helping to give women a piece of themselves back and feel more complete after their mastectomies. Our nipples are a part of our identity, often taken for granted, but when taken away can have a huge impact on a person’s confidence, which is why this type of tattooing is so important.

Areola Tattooing is a highly specialised tattooing skill, most commonly known for reconstructing and enhancing the nipple area for breast cancer survivors. Small sterile needles and high-quality tattoo machines are used to gently implant ink into the top layers of the skin to create a beautiful, realistic areola. These tattoos play a vital part in the healing journey for many survivors, helping them regain their confidence and body positivity.

3D Reconstruction Nipple Tattoos are also a great option for anyone who has had top surgery (also known as gender reassignment surgery), nipple reconstruction or grafts, and breast surgery where the nipple has been lost or comprised.

Heart shaped areola tattoo.

Areola tattooing can be used to enhance natural nipples too, adding shape, increasing size and boosting colour. Heart shaped areola have also become a popular trend, offering a fun alternative to a natural areola shape.

This form of tattooing is extremely skilled; working on scarred, radiated and delicate skin takes a great deal of tattooing experience and artistic skill to execute safely and successfully. It’s a skill that takes years to master and it’s so important it is performed by a trained artist experienced in traditional tattooing; inexperienced artists are likely to cause trauma to the skin, resulting in a poor quality and badly healed tattoo.

 

In the past Areola Tattooing was mainly performed by Cosmetic Tattoo Artists and Medical Professionals; referred to as ‘Medical Micropigmentation’ these types of tattoos were typically done using cosmetic pigment.
Cosmetic pigment is specially designed to gradually breakdown and fade in the skin over time; making it a perfect choice for using on the face to execute cosmetic make up tattoos, such as brows, eyeliners and lips. The reason for using cosmetic pigment on the face is that it allows for changes and adjustments to be made to the cosmetic make-up tattoo as the skin ages over time.
However, using cosmetic pigment to produce ‘semi-permanent’ results is not a safe or suitable option for Areola Tattooing. Semi-permanent results mean regular ‘top ups’ are required, and over time this has a negative impact on the skin. Repeatedly disrupting the already delicate skin and scarred tissue (from surgery) can result in further damage being done, which can lead to more scar tissue being created and will cause poor healed results of the tattoo.

'Semi-Permanent' results, reworked with permanent tattoo ink by Tanya
‘Semi-Permanent’ results done at NHS hospital, reworked with permanent tattoo ink by Tanya

These regular and long-term ‘top up’ appointments are not a sustainable approach to Areola Tattooing, not just physically on the skin but emotionally on the client. For many people, having their Areola Tattoo done is the final chapter in their healing, it marks the end of their breast cancer journey and symbolises a new beginning. Having to revisit that period of time in their life, year after year, for regular ‘top up’ appointments is not only inconvenient but can also prevent a person from being able to fully move forward emotionally; not to mention the negative impact it can have on their body confidence. The women I tattoo have sought me out specifically for permanent Areola Tattoos for these very reasons; they don’t want to be reminded of their breast cancer, they want to close the door on that chapter and move forward, their Areola Tattoo symbolises this.

Areola Tattoo post mastectomy and nipple reconstruction.

This is why it is important permanent tattoo inks are used for Areola Tattooing. I believe the skin should be respected; Areola Tattoos should be built to last and completed in as fewer sessions as possible, ensuring the skin is treated with care and kept as healthy as possible. Professional tattoo inks are produced to extremely high standards and go through rigorous safety checks to meet strict regulations. They come in a huge variety of colours and tones and are designed to be more stable in the skin, meaning they stay true to colour and fade very little as your skin ages.

 

Why choose a tattoo artist?

The misinformation given to the medical industry discouraging the use of trained Tattoo Artists and permanent tattoo inks is something I feel very strongly about.

Tattoo Artists have the experience, knowledge and proper equipment to execute these tattoos to their full potential. We tattoo day in day out, it’s our field of expertise and for many of us, it’s our entire world.

The skin is the largest organ in the human body, living, breathing and changing every day. This is why tattooing should not be taken lightly, there are many risk factors to consider whilst tattooing and executing a piece of art perfectly in the skin is not an easy task.

3D Realistic Areola Tattoo, post preventative mastectomy
3D Realistic Areola Tattoo, post preventative mastectomy

Areola Tattoo services are provided to survivors by some NHS hospitals, which I think is really wonderful, we are so lucky to have the NHS in the UK. However, lack of funding, time and education, along with limited resources mean it is often carried out by medical staff, who more often than not, have received minimal training and experience in this specialised field. As mentioned earlier, tattooing is a highly skilled craft both technically and artistically that takes years to master; and while these tattoos are done with the best of intention within hospitals, these tattoos are often of poor quality and don’t heal well in the skin. This is devastating for the client and can have a huge impact on their body confidence and mental wellbeing.

Most Areola Tattoos performed in hospitals are also tattooed with ‘semi-permanent’ cosmetic pigment meaning regular top up appointments are required year after year. Tattooing the skin repeatedly like this is not only incredibly traumatic to the skin but can also be emotionally damaging for the client too. For this reason, it is vital only experienced medical Tattoo Artists should perform these types of tattoos with permanent ink.

'Semi-Permanent' results done numerous times at NHS hospital. Reworked with permanent tattoo ink by Tanya
‘Semi-Permanent’ results done numerous times at NHS hospital. Reworked with permanent tattoo ink by Tanya

Another important factor is the pressure providing these tattoos has on the NHS, they require expensive equipment, time and manpower. With such a demand for these life changing tattoos, hospital waiting lists can be extremely long, preventing women from being to fully move on from their breast cancer. This is something the tattoo industry can help with. Allowing trained Tattoo Artists to relieve this pressure is something I would love to work alongside with the NHS and medical industry.

My passion to empower more survivors with these amazing tattoos, improve industry standards and help take the pressure off the NHS led to the creation of the Mastectomy Tattooing Alliance. Founded by myself in January 2021, the MTA is a non-profit organisation focused on supporting Breast Cancer Survivors reclaim their bodies. Our goal is to make these life changing tattoos more affordable and more widely accessible to people by providing funding and connecting them with professional tattoo artists. All MTA Artists are hand-picked for their excellent level of artistry and skill; ensuring peace of mind to survivors that their mastectomy tattoos are executed to a high standard by a trained and experienced artist. The Mastectomy Tattooing Alliance are also dedicated to helping improve the information and education available for this wonderful form of tattooing and aim to raise more awareness to the many options available to people through tattooing.

3D Areola Tattoo with decorative Traditional Tattoo design.

 

I have such a huge admiration for these brave women (and men) they are my inspiration every day. I think all breast cancer survivors deserve the opportunity to receive a beautifully executed mastectomy tattoo, whether it is a decorative tattoo design or a realistic 3D nipple, they should be able to celebrate their amazing bodies in any way they wish; and I’ve made it my mission to help in every way I can.

Tanya Buxton

 

 

 

 

 

Paradise

 

www.tanyabuxton.com

www.instagram.com/tanyabuxton

Email: tanya@tanyabuxton.com

 

 

Mastectomy Tattooing Alliance

 

Coming soon: www.mt-alliance.org

www.instagram.com/mta_org

Email: info@mt-alliance.org

 

CELEBRATED NOT CENSORED

CELEBRATED NOT CENSORED

This campaign originated in July 2020, as a way of raising awareness to the issues the medical tattoo industry face with the censorship of areola tattoos for breast survivors.

Mastectomy tattoos are life changing to the people wearing them, yet these images are constantly removed and banned by social media, claiming they violate ‘community guidelines on sexual and nudity activity’ ….which, when you consider the amount of offensive content allowed to circulate our screens, deeming a photograph of a tattoo that resembles a nipple, for a breast cancer survivor is outrageous!

The many layers of hypocrisy and double standards surrounding this censoring is infuriating. The more I spoke about these issues, the more I realised just how many people are affected by other forms of social media censorship.

The media have brainwashed us into hating our bodies and that we need to fit into this ‘perfect’ body image. I feel this mindset is responsible for a lot of images that are censored online and contributes to people shaming those that don’t conform to this ‘ideal’ body image too.

This seriously needs to change, our bodies should NOT be subjected to censoring and shaming online and in the media; and in particular these remarkable and brave breast cancer survivors, who wish to share their areola tattoos with the world. Our bodies are truly amazing, (scars, stretch marks and all) and we should ALL be able to celebrate them, no matter our age, gender, colour or size. This campaign represents that too ❤️

Please sign and share the CELEBRATED NOT CENSORED petition on change.org: http://chng.it/LZd8mbpV

For more updates on this campaign follow me on Instagram @tanyabuxton

AREOLA TATTOOING: A guide to nipple tattoos

WHAT IS AREOLA TATTOOING?

Areola tattooing, also referred to as Medical Tattooing, is a highly specialised tattooing skill, most commonly known for reconstructing and enhancing the nipple and areola. This type of tattooing is widely known for creating realistic 3D Reconstruction Nipple Tattoos on breast cancer survivors, post mastectomy surgery.  These tattoos play a vital part in the healing journey for survivors, helping them regain their confidence and body positivity. 

3D Reconstruction Nipple Tattoos are also a great option for anyone who has had top surgery (also known as gender reassignment surgery), nipple reconstruction or grafts, and breast surgery where the nipple has been lost or comprised. Tanya uses her extensive skillset, knowledge, and artistry from her traditional tattooing
career to recreate beautifully realistic areola tattoos for everyone. 

Areola tattooing can be used to enhance natural nipples too, adding shape, increasing size,
or boosting the colour; and is a perfect choice after breast enlargements and reductions to cover up scarring also. 

Heart shaped areola’s have also become a popular trend, offering a fun alternative to a natural areola shape. 

Tanya offers a free clinic for breast cancer survivors each month and is hugely passionate
about these types of tattoos. 

 

FAQ’s:

HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO WAIT AFTER SURGERY BEFORE I CAN GET MY AREOLA TATTOO?

If you are tattooing over scar tissue, it’s important to wait until the scar has fully ‘matured’, this can take anywhere from 3 months to 2 years depending on your individual circumstances, surgery types and/or cancer treatments. As a general rule, a scar is matured when it is no longer red or pigmented, has softened and is no longer tender or itchy.

Tattooing over scar tissue before it is fully matured will increase the chances of damaging the scar further and causing more trauma to the skin, which in turn will result in a poorly healed or faded tattoo.

Breast Cancer Survivors: Tanya always advises clients to wait a minimum of 12 months post mastectomy surgery and 6 months post cancer treatment (such as chemo and radiotherapy); healing a tattoo puts strain on your immune system so she believes it is important to not only let your body fully recover, and also to give yourself time to heal emotionally; ensuring you are completely ready to embrace your new body, your new areola tattoo and to positively move forward in your journey.

Top Surgery: Top surgeries that involve nipple grafts are advised to wait until the graft is completely healed and settled, this can take up to 2 years depending on the individual. Again it is important to let the graft and scar tissue fully mature before tattooing, to avoid further damaging the already delicate skin.

Opting for not having the areola reattached or reconstructed during top surgery is becoming an increasingly popular option within the Trans Community, as this means you can have your areola tattoo done sooner than with a nipple graft, and it also makes the tattooing process easier. Tanya recommends waiting a minimum of 6 months before having your Areola Tattoo done, to allow for your body and immune system to fully recover from surgery.

Cosmetic Breast Surgery:  If your tattoo is not going on or near your surgery scar tissue then Tanya recommends to wait a minimum of 6 months before having your areola tattoo done, and a minimum of 12 months (or until the scarring has matured) if the tattoo is on or near scar tissue. This is subject to individual circumstances.

WHY USE PERMANENT INK?

As a traditional tattoo artist, Tanya is a firm believer in using permanent tattoo ink for areola tattoos; these high quality inks are specifically formulated for detailed tattooed work, and go through rigorous health and safety checks as standard. Using permanent tattoo ink is fast becoming a popular choice for many Medical Tattoo Artists, and for very good reason!

In the past Areola Tattooing was mainly performed by
Cosmetic Tattoo Artists and Medical Professionals; referred to as ‘Medical Micro-pigmentation’ these types of tattoos were typically done using ‘cosmetic pigment’. Cosmetic
pigment is specially designed to gradually breakdown and fade in the skin over time; making
it a perfect choice for using on the face to execute cosmetic make up tattoos, such as brows, eyeliners and lips. The reason for
using cosmetic pigment on the face is to allow for changes and adjusts to the cosmetic make up tattoo as the skin ages over time. 

However, using cosmetic pigment to produce ‘semi-permanent’ results is NOT safe or suitable for areola tattooing. Semi-permanent results mean regular ‘top ups’ are required, and over time this has a negative impact on the skin. Repeatedly disrupting the already delicate skin and scarred tissue (from surgery) can result in further damage being done to the skin, which can lead to more scar tissue being created and will cause poor healed results of your tattoo.

For many people, having their areola tattoo is the final chapter in their healing process and marks the end of their journey (be it from breast cancer, transitioning or cosmetically enhancing) so having to revisit that period in time of their life with long term, regular ‘top up’ appointments is not a suitable or sustainable approach, not just physically on the skin but emotionally on the client.  

This is why Tanya uses permanent tattoo inks, the same high quality inks she has used in her traditional tattoo work for over a decade. She believes the skin should be respected and that areola tattoos should be built to last and be completed in as fewer sessions as possible, ensuring the skin is treated with care and kept as healthy as possible. Tattoo inks are produced to extremely high standards, come in a huge variety of colours and tones, and are designed to be more stable in the skin, meaning they stay true to colour and fade very little as your skin ages.

 

WHAT IS THE PROCESS?

Each client is different and unique, so Tanya uses her extensive knowledge and skillset in traditional tattooing to adapt her areola artistry to each individual. All appointments and consultations take place in Tanya’s private studio space, Paradise, which is warm, welcoming and full of her personality! She also recommends having a Pre Appointment consultation, either in person or virtually, so she can answer all your questions and talk you through the process before hand.

At your appointment, you will have another detailed consultation with Tanya, she will go through the drawing and tattooing process with you again, answer any further questions you may have and discuss placement, nipple style, colours etc; once you are happy and ready to continue the appointment will begin. Appointments take between 1 – 3 hours depending on the type of tattoo(s) you are having done, but Tanya will give you a better idea of how long your appointment will be when booking in.

Colour swatches are done on the breast area to establish a suitable colour palette that will compliment your skin tone and desired look. For a unilateral mastectomy the natural areola is matched in appearance, placement, colour etc as much as possible to ensure natural results. For a bilateral mastectomy, placement, shape and size are discussed and drawn on to compliment the breasts and create balance and symmetry. You will have time to look at the design in the mirror and make sure you are happy before the tattooing begins.

Once the design prep is complete, you will be laid comfortably on your back on the tattoo couch and the tattoo process will begin, this usually takes around 20 – 40 minutes per nipple (depending on the type of tattoo being performed). 

WILL A PERMANENT TATTOO AFFECT MY BREAST IMPLANT?

No, once you are fully healed from surgery it is perfectly safe to have a permanent tattoo over breast implants.

Tattoos are placed in the top layers of the skin (dermis layer), implants are beneath several more layers of dermis, fat and breast tissue etc; tattoo needles do not go into these deeper layers of the skin during a tattoo, so they will not interfere with breast implants.

It is important to visit a professional and experienced tattoo artist for a Areola Tattoo or a Traditional Tattoo design to ensure the tattoo is executed safely and to a high standard; inexperienced artists could damage the skin and produce poor quality tattoos.

DO I NEED TO DO ANYTHING BEFORE MY APPOINTMENT?

When booking your appointment you will receive an email confirmation containing some Pre Appointment Advice and Aftercare Advice for you appointment. 

The most important things to remember before your appointment are:

– get a good nights sleep before your appointment.

– make sure you are feeling fit and well.

– eat a good meal at least 2 hours before your appointment.

– avoid alcohol for 24 hours prior to your appointment.

– you cannot be tattooed if you are pregnant, breast feeding or are taking antibiotics.

– avoid aspirin based medication for 48 hours prior to your appointment.

You are welcome to bring someone with you for support if you wish, Tanya also recommends wearing comfortable clothing to your appointment, along with a shirt, cardigan or zip hoodie type garment incase you wish to be more covered or feel cold during your tattoo.

DOES IT HURT?

The answer is YES and NO.

Surgical incisions and skin/nipple grafts usually cause damage to the nerve endings in that area in some way; meaning sensation and pain is minimal (if at all) during a tattoo. 

However, areola/nipples are a highly sensitive body part, so if you are having your natural areola tattooed then expect it to be uncomfortable. Pain is variable from person to person, but overall it is tolerable, and the tattoo process to a natural areola is relatively quick. 

Tanya warns against arriving to your appointment with numbing cream on the area as this can interfere with the tone of you skin, making colour matching impossible and will risk your tattoo healing an unnatural and unsuitable colour. If you arrive to your appointment with numbing cream already applied, then you will be unable to have your tattoo done.

 

WHY DO I NEED TWO APPOINTMENTS?

A 8-10 week follow up appointment is always recommended for 3D Reconstruction Nipple Tattoos; this is to allow for Tanya to see your healed results and make any final ‘refinements’ needed to your areola tattoo. Tattooing scarred or damaged skin is a delicate process, and it is important the skin isn’t over worked, as this can cause further trauma, so performing two shorter tattoo sessions is a more manageable approach to areola tattooing and allows the skin to heal itself more easily. Your follow up sessions also gives you the opportunity to make any adjustments to colour, shape and detail should you wish.

WHAT IS THE AFTERCARE?

After your areola tattoo is complete, the area will be dressed in a sterile and breathable dressing. You will be given thorough healing advice and aftercare cream to take home before you leave the studio. You will be able to go about your normal daily routines after your tattoo, but you may want to treat yourself to a relaxing and restful evening after your appointment. Swimming, heavy exercise, sun exposure, hot tubs/saunas/hot baths etc must be avoided until the tattoo is fully healed. The tattooed area may feel a little tender to touch for the first few days, this is normal. It is advisable to wear loose, comfortable clothing on the area during the healing process. The tattoo is usually healed within 7-14 days, however, the skin will continue to settle for a further 4-6 weeks. This is why your follow up appointment is 8-10 weeks after your initial tattoo, as it allows the scarred skin plenty of time to rejuvenate and heal completely.

For natural areola enhancements, a follow up appointment is rarely needed, but if it is then 6 weeks is needed in between tattoo sessions.

If you have any questions or would like to book a consultation/appointment please email Tanya: tanya@tanyabuxton.com

.

TANYA BUXTON
Paradise
58 High Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1EE

Micro Needling: Scars and Skincare

Micro Needling, also known as Skin Needling or Collagen Induction Therapy, is a mildly invasive skin treatment that uses tiny needles to lightly
puncture the skin; this triggers a ‘healing’ response from your body, which boosts collagen and elastin levels in the area and increases skin cell renewal. 

Micro Needling can also improve the appearance, texture, and colour of a variety of scars, burns, and stretch marks, including surgery, scars, self-harm scars and acne scarring; it also increases the mobility of tight or thickened scarring by relaxing and softening the tissue .

Micro Needling is also a great treatment to improve the quality of scar tissue and skin in preparation for a tattoo.

Here is a quick video from Tanya explaining the benefits of Micro Needling scars.

Micro Needling can also be used to treat a number of other skin concerns, and has become an increasingly popular alternative to botox and fillers. Loved by many celebrities for its almost instant results, as well as
long lasting effects, Micro Needling facials have taken the beauty industry by storm and is quickly becoming a must have for your skin care routine.

Micro Needling has wide variety of skin health benefits
including:

Anti Ageing – fine lines and wrinkles are reduced, skin is plumper.

Dull/Tired Skin – specially designed serums are infused
into the skin leaving

it rejuvenated and hydrated.

Scarring – including acne scarring, chicken pox scars and
stretch marks are

improved and reduced.

–  Larges pores and uneven skin texture – pores are visibly reduced and skin is smoother.

–  Pigmentation – can help fade sun damage and
pigmentation.

Increases absorption of skin products – the tiny ‘entry
holes’ made from the

micro needling allow products to absorb into the deep layers
of the skin.

Unlike more invasive treatments, such as some laser and
chemical peel treatments, Micro

Needling does not cause high levels of trauma to skin, which
can result in hyper or hypo

pigmentation, making it suitable for all skin types and a
perfect choice for darker skin.