Tattoos and piercings

It can transform your body into a work of art, but rush in without thinking and you may regret it. The Mix looks at tattoos and piercings.

Tattoo of knuckles with the words 'love' and 'hate' tattoed onto them

Do you love or hate tattoos?


  • A tattoo is a permanent design using coloured ink pigment punctured deep into the skin.
  • Some find the pain hard to handle. Others believe it’s an important part of the process, and go with it.
  • If you’re under 18 it’s illegal to get a tattoo.
  • Tattoos must be performed by professional tattooists under totally hygienic conditions.
  • To avoid the risk of infections like tetanus or even HIV, be sure the tattooist uses a new needle and tube from a sealed packet, and that the ink is in disposable pots.
  • Know exactly what design you want and where.
  • Talk to the tattooist, then go away and think about it.
  • Before you get tattooed, be aware that removal nowadays involves ultrasound treatment, which can be expensive.
  • Always follow the tattooist’s advice about after care.

Body piercings:

  • Before committing yourself, talk to the piercer about their techniques.
  • Although there is no legislation controlling body piercing, some piercers are regulated by their local authority. This means they must adhere to certain standards in order to receive an official certificate. If in doubt, ask!
  • The use of injectable anaesthetics in the practice of body piercing is also currently illegal. Sprays and gels are often used, but an element of pain is inevitable.
  • Always follow the piercer’s advice about after care.

Should I get a tattoo or body piercing?

If you’re up for turning your body into a canvas, why not give it a trial run first. Temporary tattoos (either henna or transfers) and body jewellery are difficult to miss on the high street. That way, you can walk away intact if you feel it’s not for you. Even if you’re totally sold on the idea, it’s a good idea to wait another month or so before committing yourself. Just to be 100% sure you’re making the right move.

Gary, 25, said: “I’ve got three tattoos, all done when I was under 18: a frog on my forearm; a bird on my shoulder; and a snake somewhere the sun doesn’t shine. At the time it was a buzz, as it helped me stand out from the crowd. But after I left college my attitude changed. I didn’t want to stand out. I wanted a job!”

Tattoo removal

If you change your mind you can get a tattoo removed. But it’s expensive and painful. Gary, who decided to have his removed said: “The doctor looked at the work I wanted doing, talked me through the process, then gave me a price. Just over £1000 for six sessions. I’d already been told it would be costly, so I was prepared for the shock and happy for him to start straight away.

“First off, we both donned our protective glasses, then the doctor started tracing a laser gun over each design. Basically, the intense light it shoots out heats up the tattoo ink and breaks it down so it can be absorbed into the skin.

“It is painful, but no more so than having the tattoo done in the first place. But getting tattooed is all about a needle whizzing in and out of the surface of your skin, while this was more like being hit by a very fine blow torch. It’s noisy too, and leaves you smelling like pork chops.”

Do tattoo removals work?

“You don’t see instant results, but in the few weeks between each session I could see the tattoos were fading.” Said Gary.

“About a fortnight after my last session, they’d vanished completely. There’s a very slight difference in skin tone now, as if I’ve been on holiday and worn two types of sunscreen, but I can live with that.”

Photo of tattooed knuckles by Shutterstock.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015