7 things your teen needs to know about getting a tattoo

“Mum I’m thinking about having a tattoo!’ 


If you have teen kids, this is likely to be a statement that you will be faced with at some point. There are no accurate figures for exactly how many people in the UK have tattoos (it’s probably around 1 in 5 of the population) but commentators are unanimous on two things. The first is that they are more common among young people and the second is that their popularity is rising.

Irrespective of personal opinions on tattoos, parents are united in wanting to keep their teenagers safe and well and this is where the problem lies. Tattoos can present a risk to health – but so do a lot of things! What matters is the size of the risk and what you can do to keep the risks as low as possible.

Your teenager needs to fully understand what those risks are so that they can make an informed decision about where they will get a tattoo and about how they can avoid the more serious problems.



 7 things your teen needs to know about getting a tattoo


I found out about a great public health initiative called ‘Before you Ink – Think’ led by the Health Improvement Team at Cardiff Council now part of Commercial Services, Shared Regulatory Services (SRS). This campaign is impressive because it in no way tells young people what to do. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is about empowering young people by giving them the knowledge and skills to participate effectively in making decisions about their own bodies.

Here are the top 7 things that your teen needs to know about getting a tattoo:

  1. It is illegal to tattoo a person under 18 years of age. Teenagers under 18 years cannot legally obtain a tattoo in the UK. A reputable and registered tattooist will never tattoo a teenager who is under 18 years even if the parents consent to it. If they are under 18, they cannot legally obtain a tattoo.
  2. Tattooing punctures the skin. A tattoo is a procedure that punctures the outer layers of the skin using a dye-loaded needle. This results in the dye entering the dermal (lower) layer of the skin where it stays permanently. If you have taken drugs, or have been drinking, it is not the time to make your decision about getting a tattoo. Tattoo removal can be painful, it can also take a long time and scars may remain.
  3. Tattoos present an opportunity for infection. When the skin is punctured, blood and body fluids are released and they can be transferred from one client to another. This risk can be minimised by an experienced, professional tattooist through strict hygienic precautions.
  4. Infections from tattoos can be extremely series. The infections that can be spread are serious (some can be fatal) and include blood borne viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Septic skin infections (such as those caused by bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes) can also occur and cause anything from mild redness, pus and swelling to bacteraemia (infection in the blood) and even life threatening sepsis and necrotising fasciitis.
  5. Some people are allergic to tattoo ink. The chemicals in tattoo ink (especially red ink) can trigger an inflammatory response which is like eczema. This is an allergic reaction. There are several chemicals that can cause it and the components of inks vary. [1]
  6. Your tattooist must be registered. The law requires tattooists to be registered with the local authority in whose area they operate. They will be inspected by officers from the authority to make sure that they are complying with any local bye laws that are in place and the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and related regulations. Your tattooist will be able to confirm their registration. You can also check by contacting your local council.
  7. Unregistered tattooists put you at the greatest risk. Your teen may know of unregistered tattooists who are often called ‘scratchers’. They operate out of unregistered premises or their own homes and are an attractive option for teens as they may be willing to tattoo young people who are under 18 years and are cheap! However, it is important to be aware that they commonly lack the skills, knowledge and equipment to practice hygienic, high quality tattooing and, if you use one, you are at a much higher risk of developing allergic reactions and infections. Things can go very badly wrong, your skin may be permanently disfigured and it may be very painful.



What to look for in a tattoo parlour?


It is important to do some research and choose a registered tattooist. The experience should feel similar to a medical procedure. By this, I mean that the tattooist will make sure that a medical questionnaire is completed. The surfaces should look like they can be wiped down easily and the whole area should be clean and organised. The tattooist should wear disposable gloves and there should be disposable coverings on surfaces. Fresh needles and ink pots should be used for every client and the equipment will be packed in sterile packages before use. The tattooist should thoroughly wash their hands before starting the tattoo.

Infected tattoo
Infected tattoo

If your teens, like mine, have a preference for accessing information on YouTube, rather than listening to you, this excellent video sums up all the information in this post and gives a lot more. I highly recommend you having a look and share with any teens who may benefit.

You can try out a temporary tattoo like this one (United States) Full Arm Temporary Tattoo, Konsait Extra Temporary Tattoo Black tattoo Body Stickers for Man Women (18 Sheets) and see how you feel after a couple of days.

In the UK you could try out this one Tattify Floral Temporary Tattoos – A Rose by Any Other Name (Set of 12) or this one Temporary Tattoo (water transfert) “Polynesian Sleeve” – ArtWear Tattoo – SLEEVE028 XL


There is also a free app that you can try called ink hunter which will superimpose pictures of the tattoo on your own photographs.

In the USA, more details about the regulation of tattoo artists can be found for individual states.

Concerns and queries regarding tattooing in the Cardiff (UK) area can be directed to communicabledisease@cardiff.gov.uk. For other areas contact your local authority. 




[1] http://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961614P1274X/1


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  32 comments for “7 things your teen needs to know about getting a tattoo

  1. March 31, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    I must admit that I have never been a fan of tatoos, although the sleeve that my 24 year old son has is definitely a work of art
    Karen, the next best thing to mummy recently posted…Goodbye Bottle, Hello CupMy Profile

    • April 3, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      I have mixed feelings Karen. They can look amazing – but I don’t have one myself and it’s important to make sure that you do not risk your health when you get one.

  2. April 1, 2017 at 7:28 am

    That infected tattoo! Bleurgh! This is very helpful. I must admit I wasn’t aware there were so many risks. Having noticed the rise in tattoos in recent years, I’ve kind of accepted that one of my kids (and I know which one!) will have one. I don’t hate them, but I’m not a big fan either, and I will be persuading him to wait and make an informed decision rather than rushing into it.
    Sarah MumofThree World recently posted…Why Did You Lie? by Yrsa SigurdadottirMy Profile

    • April 3, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      Haha your family sounds just like mine! I know the picture is pretty horrible – can you imagine how much that must have hurt?!

  3. April 4, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    I don’t have any tattoos but my fella has one….I’m not against them but it is something you have to be really careful and think a lot about….
    That infected tattoo is gross….Enough to put you off getting one. Eek!
    Kim Carberry recently posted…A graffiti room for my teen.My Profile

  4. Nige
    April 4, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    That’s a fab post and brilliant advice. But I’m a fan of tattoos I have lost count how many I have. I have always loved ink but saying that it’s important to tell our children about the dangers thanks for hosting #tweensteensandbeyond

  5. April 4, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    I remember being adamant I was getting a tat when I was 17 – my friend went ahead and did it, but luckily I took fright, I’m so glad now but this is a great post with sensible guidelines because, as you say, we can’t stop them, but we can help them keep safe. Those photos of the infected tattoos are surely enough to put anyone off, you’d hope! #tweensteensbeyond

  6. April 5, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    Our 17 year old got a few small tattoos while she was estranged was us. I wan’t thrilled about it but have a bunch myself, so it was hard to come down too hard about it. To be honest, I’m just happy she came home and that she has since removed the nasal hoop. #teens,tweens,beyond
    Jeremy@ThirstyDaddy recently posted…Adrian Peterson? F That GuyMy Profile

    • April 6, 2017 at 11:13 am

      The main thing is that they don’t get very ill after having one. the rest is up to them. Thanks so much for commenting.

  7. April 5, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    I’m not a fan of tattoos at all, and I hope that neither of my kids get them but… teenager’s have a habit of doing things that you’d rather they didn’t. In which case, just like with smoking, drinking, drugs and sex, if they’re going to do it I want them to do it safely. So thanks for the advice 🙂 #TweensTeensBeyond
    Midlife Dramas in Pyjamas recently posted…One Year Ago Today…My Profile

  8. April 7, 2017 at 12:03 am

    I know quite a lot of folk with tattoos but I’m inclined to think they look better on someone else rather than me. I don’t think I’d want to sit and be poked with needles – it’s too much like visiting a dentist. My youngest was certainly thinking of having one, and I’d have been reasonably comfortable with it if she’d gone somewhere registered, but by the time she was old enough, the idea had somehow been dropped. #TweensTeensBeyond
    Mary Mayfield recently posted…Chatsworth – daffodils and rhododendronsMy Profile

  9. April 9, 2017 at 7:01 am

    Great post! 🌟 that Infected tattoo photo is just awful!!! really good advice Thank you for sharing 🌟 #tweensteensbeyond

  10. April 13, 2017 at 10:54 am

    We haven’t got any over 18 year olds yet – but not far off. My daughter is so squeamish I’d be amazed if she ever had a tattoo! Great advice here – thanks #TweensTeensBeyond
    Lynne (Raising my Autistic son) recently posted…Slow down and answer the question.My Profile

  11. April 14, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    I am sooo going to show my teens this post….those photos…..yuck!! #TweensTeensBeyond

  12. April 18, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    I did show my Teen and Tweens the photo. They were suitably impressed. I think I’ve already put them off. Let’s hope that if they ever decide to have a tattoo, they research and come across such clear advice. #TweensTeensBeyond

  13. April 20, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    Pizza anyone???!!! You wonderful woman – I need no further ammunition. I cannot bear the bloody things. I’m in the minority I know x #tweensteensbeyond

  14. April 24, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Oh Sharon I have heard my son say it so many times recently that he is thinking about getting a tattoo but as he can’t abide needles or pain I think it is all talk. This is such an informative piece and I will be waving it under his nose before he heads off this summer. Informed is prepared! #TweensTeensBeyond

  15. May 16, 2017 at 6:21 am

    This is a great guide. I think people should be allowed to get tattooed, but I believe that they should thoroughly research the health risks with tattoos.

  16. May 16, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    I appreciate that you point out that a tattoo parlor should feel like a medical office. I can see why this would help you find some place that is clean so that you don’t have to worry about getting an infection. My son is wanting me to take him this weekend to get his first tattoo. I’ll have to start looking around for places like this.

  17. September 23, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    Two other things. You can’t get anything good for cheap. Spend money for something. Never get a tattoo done in anyone’s home or by a mate. Ever.

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