Information if you’re considering getting a tattoo

The health risks of having a tattoo

Health Risks

During any skin piercing procedure (ie tattooing) there is a risk of infection to the operator and the client, as well as anybody else who may be exposed to body fluids and contaminated materials.

Local infections

Infections maybe localised in the area of the tattoo due to bacteria. They may give rise to localised inflammation and pain or can result in more chronic problems with pus, oozing, odours and scar tissue.


Viruses are more worrying especially those that can cause hepatitis B and C and HIV.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B occurs by contamination with infected bold serum or tissue fluids. Poor practice in tattooing has been known to be the cause of outbreaks. Tattoo artists should have a hepatitis B vaccination to protect themselves, their families and their clients. Sterilisation of equipment at 134°C for 3 minutes destroys the hepatitis B Virus

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is acquired through intravenous drug use and the sharing of needles. It was also spread through blood transfusion prior to the introduction of screening in 1991. There is a small risk of infection associated with skin piercing and infection through sexual intercourse can also occur. No vaccination is available for hepatitis C.


AIDS and HIV are transmitted in the same way as Hepatitis B. Steps taken to eradicate the Hepatitis B virus by sterilisation will also eradicate the risk posed by HIV. No vaccination is available for HIV, although in the case of a needles stick injury, medical advice should be sought as treatments are available to minimise risk of infections.

Effective infection control is key to safe operations and satisfied customers. This can be achieved by:
Cleanliness of premises, fittings and persons

Cleansing and so far as is appropriate, the sterilisation of instruments materials and equipment used.