Are stick and poke tattoos safe?

After years in the DIY tattoo business, we have enough insight data to say that, if done safely, stick and poke tattoos are safe, if not safer, than any other tattoo.

Home-made tattoo, done with the stick and poke tattoo kit.

Since we first started selling these kits, we were sure that we were selling a safe tattoo kit. We knew that many people around the world were eager to experience the electric-aid-free, DIY tattoo, and needed access to professional stick and poke tattoo supplies to do hand poke tats miles safer than the sewing needle and the pen or india ink.

After years of experience in this niche market, talking to hundreds of first time clients, health professionals and both professional tattooers and casual/DIY artists, we can confidently say that anyone can get a home made tattoo avoiding infection and without spreading blood borne pathogens. And it’s not difficult (certainly not surgery). It’s no wonder the ancient civilizations on every continent had a strong tattoo culture. It was low health risk cultural expression.

When we first made the stick and poke tattoo kit, we wanted to make sure everything was sterile. It was quite a journey to get sterile tattoo gloves sealed in their own sterile bag. Have you ever noticed at a tattoo shop that artists are pulling gloves from a 100 count box of gloves? Those are not and cannot possibly be sterile, and are the same ones phlebotomists use, and that is another needle wielding, skin poking profession.

We have the false idea that the tattoo process is sterile. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anything, even sterilized stuff, once opened cease to be sterile. There are some professionals in the industry mis-informing the public on the media, including national TV, saying that a stick and poke tattoo kit is not safe because “everything has to be sterile.” Sterile is the absence of bacteria or all living things. Since bacteria is everywhere (floating in the air, wriggling on our bodies and on all surfaces) sterile things last for about a second, once opened to a non-sterile environment. These professionals don’t know what they are talking about or they are purposely misinforming (fake news!). Stick and poke tattoos are ancient and as safe if not safer than any other tattoo.

It’s true that tattoo shops need to be very cautious to keep a clean space, way more than a home DIY tattooer poking himself, the reason being that tattoo parlors have people coming in and out. Blood and fluids containing potentially HIV, Hepatitis C is smeared about on shared equipment. To get an idea of the potential risk, HIV can survive 5 days in a dried smear of blood. At home, there are few to none smears of stranger’s blood anywhere. Consequently, serious blood borne pathogens are not the primary worry for the home tattooer, just infection or a reaction. Infection for a tattoo, especially a hand poke tattoo (slow process, less traumatic) is not likely. A reaction depends on the ink and the individual’s sensitivity level.

A tattoo needle is not going through the skin. A little poked tattoo is not a major injury to the body. If you are even mildly safe, you will very most likely be OK. Your skin can take a lot. Have you skinned your knee? Scratched or poked your skin on accident? Tried to bathe a cat? If you are a healthy individual, it heals, even if there’s some dirt in there. Yes, those prone to cat scratch fever and such, should be more careful to clean the area pre and post poking. Aftercare also makes a difference.

Here is the real issue: don’t share needles, ink, supplies – that could lead to HIV, HepB, etc. Sharing is NOT caring! Don’t cross-contaminate, follow instructions and you will be good.

Hundreds and hundreds of our tattoo kits have been sold worldwide. Not a single infection photo has been sent to us. Sometimes we get emails of people (not clients) whose skin reject the ink, or there is some strange reaction and people write in for advice. I suspect that the people who are willing to pay $49.99 for detailed instructions and high quality materials are the ones who will take care not to have problems by introducing bacteria or careless behavior. So, we cannot say that all stick and pokes are safe, but stick and pokes done safely are safe.