Getting a tattoo: the health risks to be aware of 

In this video, a GP explains the health risks associated with tattooing, such as skin infection, allergies and hepatitis, and members of the public talk about their experiences. Also get tips on what to look for when choosing where to get a tattoo.

Can I get my tattoo removed on the NHS?

Transcript of Getting a tattoo: the health risks to be aware of

(man) The potential health risks that come from having a tattoo

that people ought to be considering beforehand,

obviously is the issue of contaminated equipment,

equipment contaminated with infections.

So Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV, that's the virus that causes Aids.

Then there are the less significant but still possible health problems,

infection of the skin,

because, of course, in a tattoo you're piercing the skin.

The potential there is that you can let infection into the skin

and get a nasty spreaded infection there.

And, of course, some people react with an allergic response

to the inks that are used.

So these are the major things that anybody considering having a tattoo

should think about beforehand and be aware of.

(man) There was a guy who was in... used to have a caravan up near me.

And he was doing everyone's tattoos and then...

Everyone thought he was really good.

But then he was... all these people all ended up with big infections.

He wasn't cleaning his needles properly,

he was using the same needles for people.

I think it's important to think ahead, plan, do some research.

Let's face it, we do research for most things, these days,

before we purchase something or go on holiday somewhere.

It should be no different if you're going to have a tattoo done.

Find somewhere that's registered, a tattoo studio that's got its licence,

its got its registration, showing the certification to confirm that.

When you get to the studio, have a look around.

Does it look clean? Does it look well-maintained?

Are there gloves being used?

Is there an autoclave to sterilise things?

Make sure that instruments are new,

they're freshly coming out of clean packets, and the like.

All sorts of things you can have a quick look around.

If you feel uncomfortable, walk away. Think again.

Where I've had certain tattoos

has been when I've been on girls' weekend holidays and stuff like that,

a matching tattoo that I have to my partner's.

I did it myself when I was about 12! (laughs)

(Dr Hicks) Think of it as a permanent feature, a permanent part of you.

They're not easy to remove.

I mean, in the UK, in the NHS,

it's rare to get the NHS to support removing a tattoo.

Yes, they can be removed with laser treatment, dermabrasion.

They can be surgically removed.

But even these leave a risk of having a permanent scar afterwards.

Each tattoo I have

is something in my life special.

When you're considering...

You've got your design.

You may not know where you're going to put it or have it put on your body.

A couple of things to think about:

It says a lot about a person. It can say what their background might be.

And it might, wrongly, influence their success

in their career, relationships, everyday living.

So think about where you might put it.

You might want it hidden.

If you put it somewhere... face, hands, somewhere visible,

the reality is you don't know how other people are going to react.

You've got to think about them properly.

If you do it, it's permanent.

I've got one on my arm that I got when I was 15.

I thought it was really grown up. And now I hate it.

I think they're great. I'd probably have another one.

I've had a good experience with mine. I like them.

I think they're a good artistic expression.

(Dr Hicks) Do your research. Find a place that's registered.

Remember that they are permanent.

And just make sure that it's right for you.

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