DIY 'stick-and-poke' tattoos are on the rise - but come with serious health risks

Stick-and-poke tattoos are on the rise and come with serious health risks

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DIY 'stick-and-poke' tattoos are on the rise - but come with serious health risks

A hand-poked tattoo by Seattle-based MKNZ The needle pokes into your skin, piercing it so that the tattoo drips into your flesh. Poke, poke, poke.

It hurts, but don’t you dare wince – you’re the one hammering the ink into yourself. A heart on your wrist, a leaf on your ankle, the word "remember" on your ribs. It’s like what you used to doodle with a pen in Year 8, only this time, it’s permanent.

This is "stick-and-poke", a method of tattooing once reserved for jailbirds but now increasingly popular among young people and creative types.

As with traditional tattoos, stick-and-pokes are meant to provide a reminder of a milestone passed or a daily inspiration towards a future goal. But now that practically everyone in your life has a pricey tattoo-parlour memento somewhere on their flesh – your boss, your mum – the allure of rebellion they once commanded has been lost.

But a tat you did yourself with little more than a common sewing needle? Cue the raising of eyebrows.

Health experts raise concerns about the risks of blood-borne disease and infections associated with DIY tattooing, given that people might not disinfect their implements. The safest stick-and-pokes are drawn with professional-calibre tattoo ink or Indian ink from a reputable shop – but it’s completely possible, and terribly fashionable, just to break open a ballpoint pen.

"It’s kind of blowing up at the moment among people who want something that’s not the mainstream," says British artist Sarah March, who began doing stick-and-pokes on her friends two years ago after seeing the trend on Instagram.

Now, she does them professionally, for people of all ages. Many are inspired by tattoos that appear to be stick-and-pokes on celebrities such as Rihanna and Kesha. Others are drawn to the small symbol tattoos they’re seeing all over Pinterest and Tumblr. Some like the idea of a traditional tattoo but are too intimidated to actually do it.

"The atmosphere when you’re getting a stick-and-poke tattoo is much […]