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Tattoo or Not to…

Thomas J. Berger, Ph.D.,
Former Human Development & Family Studies Specialist
College of Human Environmental Sciences
University of Missouri-Columbia



Tatoo in progress
During the spring and summer, it's almost impossible to walk through a mall for more than a couple minutes without spotting people of all ages with tattoos. In the United States tattoos have steadily gained popularity as a fashion trend in the last decade - a trend that shows little signs of slowing down. Tattoos come in all shapes and sizes, and they can appear almost anywhere on someone's body. Permanent cosmetic studios also tattoo on eyebrows, eyeliner and lip liner for those who want to make their makeup to be permanent. In these cases, you may not even know that you are looking at a tattoo!

But before people make a decision to get a tattoo, they should learn about the possible health hazards associated with the practice. These include the possible transmission of diseases like hepatitis, tuberculosis and possibly HIV. The American Academy of Dermatology says that non-sterile tattooing practices have led to the transmission of syphilis, Hepatitis B (i.e., HBV), and other infectious diseases. In addition, allergic reactions to the ink or its pigments can occur. None of the 50-plus colors and shades of pigment used in tattooing are currently regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Is tattooing regulated in the state of Missouri?

Tattooing is regulated under Missouri's Title 4 Code of State Regulations, Division 267 - Office of Tattooing, Body Piercing and Branding, as well as the Missouri Revised Statutes Chapter 324. Many municipalities across the state also regulate tattooing through local laws and regulations.
At what age can a person get a tattoo in the state of Missouri?
You must be at least 18 years old to get a tattoo in Missouri. Persons younger than 18 (i.e., minors) must obtain the written consent of their parent(s) or legal guardian in the presence of the tattoo artist.

Can your teen get AIDS or HIV by getting a tattoo?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (i.e., CDC), there has not yet been a documented case of AIDS transmission from a tattoo. However, a risk of HIV transmission does exist if tattooing instruments contaminated with blood are either not sterilized or thoroughly disinfected or are used inappropriately between clients. CDC recommends that instruments that are intended to penetrate the skin be used only once, then disposed of or thoroughly disinfected and sterilized.

Can your teen get Hepatitis C (i.e., HCV) by getting a tattoo?

In other countries, HCV infection has been associated with folk medicine practices, tattooing, body piercing, and commercial barbering. However, in the United States, case-control studies have reported no association between HCV infection and these types of practices. In addition, the CDC identified patients with acute Hepatitis C during the past 15 years who denied a history of injecting-drug use. Of these patients, only 1% reported a history of tattooing or ear piercing, and none reported a history of acupuncture. Among patients who were injecting-drug users, frequency of tattooing and ear piercing also was uncommon (3%).

Although any percutaneous exposure (i.e., penetration of the skin) has the potential for transferring infectious blood and potentially transmitting blood borne pathogens (i.e., HBV, HCV, or HIV), no data exist in the United States indicating that persons with exposures to tattooing alone are at increased risk of HCV infection. Further studies are needed to determine if these types of exposures and settings in which they occur (e.g., correctional institutions, unregulated commercial establishments), are risk factors for HCV infection in the United States.

Can you donate blood if you have a tattoo?

The Red Cross will not accept blood donations from someone who has been tattooed within the past twelve months.

Some things you should expect from a tattoo artist:

State law requires tattoo artists to be licensed. They should also be educated about how HIV is transmitted and take precautions to prevent transmission of HIV and other blood borne infections in their establishments. If you are considering getting a tattoo, ask the staff at the establishment what procedures they use to prevent the spread of HIV and other blood borne infections such as the Hepatitis B and C viruses. In addition, ask the tattoo artist if s/he uses antiseptic techniques, keeps permanent individual records, and uses sterile tools and equipment because those items are required under state law. Above all, make sure the tattoo artist uses fresh, sterile needles for each color and/or design.

Can tattoos be removed?

There are several methods available for tattoo removal, but always consult a physician, surgeon or dermatologist first. Successful removal depends upon a variety of factors including the type of ink, depth of ink, intensity of color, and the age of the tattoo. Never attempt to remove a tattoo yourself!




Last Updated 12/08/2016







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