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Tattoos: Worth the risk?

by Berna bass, staff writer


Some people call it art, body art. Many people have it: simple or intricate tattoos, piercings, or even both. Stand out on Fort Street Mall and observe how many people have tattoos, girls and guys alike.

But for some, the costs of tattoos and piercings are greater than just the price. For instance, there are many health risks involved, and having them could affect perception of one’s professionalism.


Ask 20-year-old Alika Lopes, a prospective college student from Wai‘anae. He has five tattoos. His main reason for getting the first tattoo, at the young age of 14, was that most of his friends had tattoos. “I had to get one. It was like the ‘in’ thing,” Lopes said.

Lopes said after getting the first one, “I liked the pain. It became addicting.” Now, he would rather “have plain skin, like a normal person,” he said. He also mentioned that “at first it’s good, but it makes you feel ugly, like your skin doesn’t feel natural.”

For some others, like local entertainer, Baba B, 29, also from Wai‘anae, don’t regret getting some tattoos. Some of his tattoos became infected and faded. The needle went too deep, and another one resulted in welts all over it. He said “unless you have $1,000 per square inch to remove it, then you shouldn’t get [a tattoo] in the first place.”

Like Lopes, Baba also got his first tattoo because “all my friends got them,” Baba said. Another tattoo was a result of being drunk. Now, 10 years later, the first tattoo, a cross, is covered by his girlfriend’s name.

Some of the main reasons for getting tattoos are: to fit in, being addicted to the pain, to look a certain way, or for personal reasons.

Cristian Clemente, a 23-year-old junior majoring in marketing does not regret his tattoo either. The kanji, or Japanese symbol, he got in 2000, means “strength, love, happiness,” he said. Clemente got it while on vacation, and “wanted [to get] something personal, [that] stands for who I am, or what I want in life,” he said. For him, it’s still a goal. He has no regrets because it’s “part of me now.”

Students, teachers, faculty, celebrities, and almost anybody has a tattoo or body piercing. But, even though getting body art poses major health risks, people still get them. There are many risks that people don’t know about when they do decide to get a tattoo or piercing.

The Risk: Infections
Unsanitized tools can also cause infections. Sterilization is very important before using a needle. Even if needles are sterilized or have never been used, the equipment holding the needles may not be sterilized.

According to the “All I Need” Web site, a person can acquire Hepatitis C through old, unsterile needles that have been used on different customers, or from “unsterile practice” by the tattoo artist, such as “licking the tattooing needle, using the same ink or ink containers for more than one person, or testing needle sharpness by pricking his/her hand.”

According to, the risk of infection is the reason the American Association of Blood Banks require a one-year wait period between getting a tattoo and donating blood, because tests can be negative in the early stages of infection.

Besides infections, skin growths can also occur. Granulomas are small round spots that may form in organs or body tissues as a result to the body perceiving a material as foreign, such as particles of tattoo pigment. The spots, or nodules can hinder the normal function of where the spot is.

Keloid formations are scar tissue that are become raised blisters or pimple-like growths. They can form around a piercing or tattoo. Keloid scars can vary: they may be red, itchy, inflamed, and may change size over time. Bacterial infections can irritate the tattoo or piercing enough to form a lump of scar tissue.

The Risk: Removal problems
With laser technology, a person can get a tattoo removed, but many people don’t know that the process is painful, involves several treatments, and is expensive. And it may be impossible to remove the tattoo completely, and without getting scars.

Through removal techniques, although rare, some people may have allergic reactions to the pigments in their tattoos, and some pigments are difficult to remove. People can have allergic reactions for years, if the tattoo is not completely removed.

Tattoos and piercings may seem like the thing to get now, but permanent body art can affect one‘s health and future.



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