Stick and poke tattoos, for those who need a refresher, involved dipping a needle in ink before inserting it into your skin repeatedly. Imagine getting a tattoo without a tattoo gun. You poke the tattoo into your skin by hand. You can easily shop a kit on the internet, but experts advise against doing so.
With people attempting salon services from their homes right now, one thing you should unequivocally leave to the professionals is tattoos. Feel free to dye or shave off your hair. Give yourself a facial. But please don’t give yourself a stick and poke tattoo unless you are qualified to do so. The idea is so tempting that it’s even crossed my mind. After talking to experts, I’m no longer tempted to give myself a DIY tattoo. Consider me scared straight.
Proper sterilisation is hard to come by
As Dr Claire Chang, a dermatologist at New York City’s Union Square Laser Dermatology, tells me, at-home kits aren’t regulated and may be unsterile or contaminated. Your first instinct may be to disinfect everything – including the needle – with alcohol as you’ve been doing so with everything lately.
However, your tools need to be sterilised, and alcohol may not be enough to destroy the bacteria on them because “disinfection and sterilisation are not the same,” says Evelyn Shaw, a tattoo artist from New York City known for her hand-poked work. An autoclave is needed for the later.
Allergic reactions are possible
Tattoo ink is also a common cause of allergic reactions, Dr Chang adds. Redness, itching, and blisters are some possibilities she lists off. In severe cases, you could experience dizziness, trouble breathing, and stomach pains.
The risk of infection should be avoided right now
Aside from having the right tools, the actual stick and poke tattoo process isn’t what you should be putting your body through right now.
The skin is the largest organ in the human body, Dr Chang reminds me. “It provides a protective barrier against environmental insults and trauma,” she says. “Using a needle to repeatedly penetrate the skin’s protective barrier can introduce foreign bodies, bacteria, viruses, and fungi into the body.” Now is not the time to willingly put yourself at risk of infections, such as staph and cellulitis.