RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – If you're thinking about getting a tattoo, doctors and experts say don't just go to anyone. They say you're putting your health at risk, if you're not getting your tattoo from a licensed professional.
For some, getting a tattoo is a cool thing to do an expression of art. But regardless of your reasoning, tattoo artists, like Todd Norman with K&B Tattooing in Henrico, say you have to be safe. He warns consumers to stay away from unlicensed tattoo artists, also called "Scratchers."
"Red flags would be somebody not cleaning up their area, dirty equipment not wearing gloves," Todd said.
Norman is licensed and says customer satisfaction and safety are his main concerns.
"I get into a habit of when I set up for a tattoo, I clean things down," he said.
Health experts also warn about the dangers of getting bad tattoos from friends or freelance artists. Dr. Sheila Clasbey, with Primary Health Group in Brandermill says getting inked by a non-professional opens the door for serious problems.
"It could be the dirtiest thing around. So you have got to know what is going into your skin," Dr. Clasbey explained.
She adds it may seem harmless but it can be deadly.
"There is the risk of transmitting Hepatitis C and HIV, although there are no documented cases in the United States," she told us.
In Virginia, you have to be licensed and obtain permits to give tattoos. You also have to be at least 18 years old to receive one.
"Right now there is a lot of pressure to get unlicensed tattoos because they are less expensive. People are advertising on Craigslist, even doing it in parks," Dr. Clasbey said.
Benji Brooks got a bad tattoo on his arm. He didn't want to give too many details about how he got it or who gave it to him.
"Let's just say I learned it the hard way. Let's put it at that. In the end it's not really worth it, because you're going to be paying double what you would normally," said Benji.
"This is a life long decision so if you decide if you want to get the tattoo do it right. Ask for some documentation, if this person seems a little shady, they might be," Dr, Clasbey added.
Experts say remember, anyone can go online and buy a tattoo kit or hire a freelance artist. You may think you're saving money but remember you're risking your health.
We checked with the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation. It says there are 691 licensed Tattooist and 285 licensed tattoo parlors. When it comes to violations, it says for the most recent fiscal year, eight Tattooists and three tattoo shops were caught not following regulations.