Tattoo kits popular but potentially risky

Tattoo kits popular but potentially risky

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Tattoo kits popular but potentially risky

Hanna Cohen of San Francisco, friend of Stick and Poke creator Nicole West, shows her home tattoos on her hand and finger. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle Hanna Cohen, friend of The Stick & Poke creator Nicole West, poses for a portrait at her home in San Francisco, CA, Saturday, August 30, 2014. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle The Stick and Poke Tattoo kit includes sterile needles, vegan ink, gloves and wipes. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle With the array of ink, needles and tattoo devices packaged and sold on the Internet for as little as $30, anyone can play kitchen-table tattoo artist.

A local tattoo artist said the kits are particularly popular among Millennials – those born during the 1980s and ’90s – 40 percent of whom have tattoos, according to the Pew Research Center .

But at-home tattoos – some that are no more complicated than ink-and-needle prison tattoos and others that are applied with amateur machines – can carry higher health risks than professional ink. People who do them often use low-quality inks, which can cause infection, and the sterilization codes that govern professional tattoo shops do not apply to home kit tattoos. Madeline None at Blue Bird Tattoo in the Castro said she’s surprised at how many customers walk into her shop with homespun tattoos, often identifiable by their uneven coloring. Some of her business comes from covering them up.

"I’ve been dumbfounded by how popular they are with the, say, 18-to-25 demographic," None said. "It’s really popular right now, I think, because you can just go online and buy stuff."

The beauty of the tattoo isn’t the point, said Nicole West of Oakland, who got her first at-home tattoo – a circle on her wrist – three years ago.

"I think it’s an experience that you can’t get at a tattoo artist," West said. "It’s actually a totally separate thing to do. I have a tattoo I got in a shop. I don’t know […]