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Tattoos: from Captain Cook to Beckham

According to a study carried out by Sigma Dos, 26 % of youngsters between 18 and 29 years old have a tattoo in Spain. In this article we are going to tackle the subject of tattoos from a health view.

Who could have told Captain Cook in his trips around the Polynesia that those marks of signs on the bodies of the indigenous people (called “tatow”), would become such a generalized practice among young people in the 21st century.


Nowadays in our society we give more and more importance to the image, the beauty and the body cult. Precisely, one of the techniques to achieve this last one is having a tattoo or a piercing, which has reached its peak, above all among young people. However this obliges to take a conscious and responsible decision so we can evaluate all the advantages without forgetting the possible disadvantages.


There was a time when we identified people having this kind of ornament as people from deprived neighbourhood or as members of a determined criminal band. But times change and currently we use tattoos and piercings as a way of being different, a mark of identity, showing that we belong to a group or, most of the times, just as an ornament. Now they are also part of daily life and we can see top ranked players or famous artists with them.


These techniques involve the use of sharp tools and the addition of earrings, jewelries, inks and pigments which suppose a risk for the health for both the tattoo artist and the users, especially if they are not done with the right equipment and without the appropriate health requirements. 


The main risks associated to these techniques are based on the transmission of infections through the blood (like hepatitis, HIV, herpes, syphilis, etc.) and allergic reactions. These risks can be avoided in most of the cases if the guidelines of disinfection are observed and also the aftercare for the healing.


We will start by pointing out that tattoo artists, in order to minimize the risks, should be vaccinated against those diseases, which can be passed on blood, as well as they should have a high knowledge of health care.


There are some basic hygienic and compulsory rules that a tattoo artist should accomplish like using latex gloves and renovate them in every session and using only sterilized and disposable products.


The needles as well as the tools and the materials which go through the skin have to be sterilized, one-use and be packed and sealed until their use.


The establishment, where a tattoo or a piercing is done, must give information about the practices carried out there, the health risks, the complications and the necessary cares for the healing. If your tattoo is going to be colourful you should check first if the pigments may cause any allergic reaction, so it is advisable to have an allergic test done at least 24 hours before being tattooed.


Each customer will have to give informed consent to be tattooed or pierced. Only people above 18 years old or emancipated minors will be entitled to do so. Therefore, minors cannot get tattooed or pierced without the authorization of their parents or legal guardians.


Bear in mind that tattoos are permanent, removing them is tricky and depending on the skin type and tone it can even be impossible to remove them using conventional methods.


Be careful with non-permanent black henna tattoos done at fairs and street stands. They may contain fixing products such as parafenilamine, a substance that can cause severe eczema that may produce sequels and provoke allergic reactions, especially in kids.


We invite all young people to worry about the hygienic and personal aspects involved in having a tattoo done.


Tattoos are not recommended if one suffers blood coagulation problems or diabetes. If you have herpes, a fungal infection or abnormal spots in the area to be tattooed a doctor should be consulted before proceeding to have a tattoo or a piercing done.


After receiving all this information, we hope your tattoo or piercing does not go from being a unique experience to a health issue.



Written by Luis Obeso Lahera. Asesoría de Salud. CRIDJ

Sent by Eurodesk Qualified Multiplier, Dirección General de Juventud y Deportes. CRIDJ. Comunidad de Madrid

Published: Mon, 04/04/2016 - 08:19

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