Getting a tattoo of a butterfly or the logo of a favorite band may sound like a good idea to teens, but they may not feel the same way years from now.


Photo courtesy of Paige Brase

Although tattoos — and piercings for that matter — are nothing to be taken lightly, many adolescents get them on a whim. A recent study of teens found that 1.7% had tattoos and 30.6% had piercings. Later on in life, however, they may regret their decision.

Teens also are much more likely than adults to get tattoos in unsafe ways. Some teens tattoo themselves with a homemade gun or a sewing needle, while others may go to studios that are not clean or do not sterilize equipment.

Parents can raise the possible health risks of tattoos before their children make a hasty decision or as they head off to college:

  • Allergic reactions: Tattoo dyes (especially red, green, yellow and blue) can cause itching, redness, swelling and pain at the tattoo site — even years later.

  • Granulomas: Bumps or raised scar tissue (keloids) can form around the tattoo ink.

  • Diseases: If the needle used for the tattoo has infected blood on it, you can get infected with tetanus, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS or other infections (see photo).

Aside from infections, adolescents who get tattoos may not like them when they get older because their interests change (I hate that band!) or their body changes. Skin stretches and sags over time, so a tattoo might look different years later.

Dermatologists can remove tattoos with a laser, but the process is painful, lengthy and expensive. Depending on the size, color and location of the tattoo, removal can take two to four treatments and cost thousands of dollars. Black and dark-green ink are the easiest to remove, while yellow, purple and turquoise dyes are the hardest.

For more information on tattoos, visit

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