Tattoos used to be the mark of gangsters, sailors and prisoners.
As they have become more and more mainstream - and an expression of who we think we are - people have resorted to more and more extreme tattoos to achieve their desired effects.
Why do we get tattoos?
The reasons for getting tattoos are many and varied, but include:
The current trend towards extreme tattooing is not thought by most people to be beautiful in the usual sense, so why do people do it?
"It seems to be predominantly about the idea that you feel unique as an individual," says the author Swami. "People get tattoos for all sorts of reasons but that's the underlying one."
However, he says, there isn't any evidence that the character of people with multiple tattoos are different from those with a single one.
Following from his own experiences, Stuart Ross, a psychology lecturer at Newman University, Birmingham, has studied people's motivations for permanently inking their bodies. He believes those who undergo a lot of tattooing do so because they find it satisfying.
"For those with lots of tattoos, I think it's all about the process, not the end outcome," he says.
"Even while it's painful, it's always controllable. That's why I think you see a lot of athletes with big tattoos - it's a kind of a rite of passage, like running a marathon."
Like much of what was once considered part of the counterculture, to some extent tattooing has been taken over by the mainstream. The visibility of highly popular celebrities with multiple body markings has no doubt encouraged many to obtain tattoos, perhaps to be more like their role models.
Still, those with tattoos continue to face prejudice and disapproval.
Dr Andrew Timming, of the School of Management at the University of St Andrews, spoke to 15 hiring managers about their reaction to interview candidates with visible tattoos. The managers worked for organisations including a hotel, bank, city council, prison, university and bookseller.
As a rule, the managers were concerned about what their organisations’ customers might think. “Respondents expressed concern that visibly tattooed workers may be perceived by customers to be ‘abhorrent’, ‘repugnant’, ‘unsavoury’ and ‘untidy’”, he explained.
A 2007 study suggested that women with tattoos tended to be viewed as "less physically attractive, more sexually promiscuous and heavier drinkers".
In the end, there is no single reason why some people choose to get lots of tattoos and others don't. It may boil down to little more than personal taste.
Nonetheless, after 24 years in the trade, one man says he knows instantly which first-time tattooees will return for more.
"I can tell when they walk in. It's the little devil in their eyes," he says. "I'll say to them: 'You'll come back,' and they always do."
In the end, if you are doing something to be unique, individual, to stand out, and everyone else starts doing it too, you have to do more and more to look and feel different, to the point of being extreme.
Perhaps it is time to reverse the trend – and make clean skin the new black!