Traditionally, wedding rings are a physical symbol of marriage vows – so what more permanent way to show that promise than with permanent ink?
Tattoo wedding bands, while still uncommon, are increasing in popularity. Even celebrity couples are sporting ink on their ring fingers; Beyoncé and Jay Z each have the Roman numeral “IV,” in honor of the date of their birthdays (Dec. 4 and Sept. 4) and wedding (April 4), tattooed on their ring fingers.
“In recent years we’ve been doing at least two or three a week,” says Daniel Urano, a tattoo artist and owner at Café Ink in Blue Ridge, Georgia. “A lot of husbands that get one because they don’t wear their ring because of work, and newlywed couples do it as a bonding thing.”
Before you commit to a ring of ink, however, there are a few major concerns that come with hand and finger tattoos, according to Dr. Lauren Eckert Ploch, a New Orleans-based dermatologist.
First, even if you have other tattoos, fingers are a particularly sensitive area of the body. “The problem with the finger specifically is that there’s a high density of nerve endings that detect touch and vibration,” says Eckert Ploch. “So it’s extraordinarily painful to tattoo this area.”
Hand and finger tattoos also are known for being rather short-lived, blurring and fading quicker than in other parts of the body. This is partially due to the thickness of the top skin layer, which makes it difficult to properly place the needle in the lower and thinner layer. The constant usage of our hands – touching, rubbing and washing – can also add to tattoo distortion and discoloration.
“Over time, because the very top layer gets thick and it turns over, the depth of where the tattoo pigment is in palm or side of the hand relative to anywhere else of the body is deeper so it can blur or become a little bluer in color,” says Eckert Ploch.
If you decide to go the ink route, the next step is choosing a design. Experts stress the importance of simple designs like your fiancé’s initials, roman numerals of your anniversary or a few lines that mimic a band. You want your tattoo to be meaningful, but not complex or detailed.
“Don’t get an intricate design,” says Eckert Ploch. “Maybe get something that’s a little larger and ‘blobular,’ where if it does blur it wouldn’t look quite as funny.”
Once you’ve selected a design, you need to find the right artist. Research professional tattoo artists in your area and look through their portfolio to see what kind of experience they have.
“With something like a finger tattoo, it really does take expertise,” says Suzanne Gardner, author of the Kindle book “The Handy Wedding Ring Tattoo Guide.” “You want to make sure that you find a real tattoo artist that knows what they’re doing and has experience with these types of tattoos specifically.”
The best way to ensure your newly inked ring lasts as long as your marriage is through proper after care. Ploch advises keeping the area dry, germ-free and protected from the sun. You’ll also want to keep the finger as immobilized as possible to allow the tattooed skin to heal and avoid permanently altering the design.
Tattoos, especially wedding ring designs, are not for every couple. But for those that choose to seal the deal with ink, it’s a very permanent way to express their love and commitment.
“Couples that are looking for something unique, something that defines them, are interested in this kind of ring,” says Gardner.