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Tattoos and piercing

Some people think piercings and tattoos look cool. In fact, some people call them body art. But body art can be risky to get and hard to get rid of. Make your decision carefully, and follow the advice below to protect your precious body. 


An ear with two earrings in it.Because piercing involves making a hole in your body with a needle, there’s a chance that germs may enter your body through that hole. In addition, you can have an allergic reaction to jewelry that’s used in piercing.

Consider these tips to avoid piercing problems: 

  • Never let a friend pierce your ear or anything else. You want clean conditions and someone who has been trained.
  • Make sure your piercing is done with a new, clean needle. Sharing dirty needles puts you at risk for serious infections, like hepatitis B.
  • Make sure the person doing the piercing wears gloves.
  • If the person piercing your ears is going to use a piercing gun, a single-use piercing gun is safest. Reusable piercing guns that use sterilized disposable cassettes may be OK, but some experts say any reusable guns should be avoided.
  • To avoid an allergic reaction, look for jewelry made of titanium, 14-karat gold or surgical-grade steel.
  • Ask how long it will take to heal. Some parts of your body can take months to heal.
  • Think carefully about mouth piercings. Infections are common, and tongue jewelry can damage your front teeth and gums.
  • Make sure you know how to take care of the piercing. If it gets infected, call a doctor.


A girl giving a tattoo.Tattoos are made by pushing colored inks deep under your skin. Before you get one, think about whether you’ll still want it in five or 10 years. Sometimes it’s just not possible to remove a tattoo. Other times it can be cut off or sanded down. Laser removal also is an option, but it can take months and lots of money. Keep in mind, too, that some states don’t let anyone under 18 get tattoos.

Consider these tips for tattoo safety:

  • Make sure the tattoo studio and procedures are clean. All needles, gloves, ink tubes, and masks should be thrown away after one use. The rest of the tools should be cleaned after every use. It’s possible to get a serious infection, like hepatitis B, from a tattoo studio that’s not kept clean. If the studio doesn’t look clean, don’t take any chances. Also, the studio or the artist should have a license.
  • Know what to do if you have an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions to tattoo ink are rare but can happen. Temporary tattoos that are made with surface skin dyes like henna also can cause allergic reactions. Also, henna should never be injected under your skin.
  • Make sure you know how to take care of the tattoo as it heals. If it gets infected, call a doctor.


Content last reviewed October 13, 2010
Page last updated October 31, 2013

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.