The Ink Station: Busting some tattoo myths

While tattooing has been around for the last 5,000 years, it is only now losing the taboos surrounding it. Therefore, the world of tattooing is one that can often seem quite scary and misinformation surrounding the industry can even be off-putting if you are looking to get a tattoo for the first time.

In the past, people’s perception of tattoos was mainly ruled by their portrayal in the media, which most of the time would paint them in a less than favourable fashion. However, thanks to the current age of technology and information, it has become very easy to dispel these myths surrounding tattoos. So I am here to bust the most popular myths about the art form.


‘Tattoos can give you a skin infection, bacterial diseases, or even transmit HIV due to the needles piercing the skin’

Probably one of the first myths we have all heard about tattoo studios is that they are a hotbed for infectious diseases, due to the process in which a tattoo is done. Some even claim that there’s the potential to contract HIV while being tattooed due to its use of a needle. While not completely unfounded, these claims are highly exaggerated.

Most of the tattoo studios active today are highly sterilised environments, with equipment that are also sterilised after each client. Tattoo artists also wear gloves and masks, wrap their equipment in protective layers, and use disposable needles to avoid any sort of contamination. Therefore, statistics show that your chance of catching disease from a tattoo studio is actually much lower than catching one while walking in public. 


‘Tattoos are extremely painful to get’

Another popular myth which often keeps people from getting a tattoo is that it is unbearably painful to get a tattoo. It is common knowledge that tattoos are supposed to be painful, but how painful, is something people like to assume. 

Getting tattooed is best described as the feeling of scratching a bad sunburn or even several ants biting you at the same time. While this pain can differ depending on the body part, it is never as bad as you build it up to be in your head, and once the tattoo machine stops, so does the pain. 


 ‘Taking painkillers or alcohol before getting a tattoo is a good idea’   

While it might seem like common sense to take a painkiller before you go get a tattoo, it is not necessary, and might actually end up causing more harm than good. Some painkillers like aspirin are blood thinners, and this might cause you to bleed more while getting a tattoo, which makes it harder for your artist to tattoo you. 


‘Tattoos are only for gangsters or criminals’

Let’s look at another popular myth about the tattoo world. This one often stems from older generations, but we have heard it from all sorts of people. There’s a stigma surrounding heavily tattooed people, in that they seem like criminals, gangsters, or thugs. 

There are, of course, places in tattoo history where crime and gangs are relevant. For example, the Yakuza in Japan are heavily tied into tattoo history, as are prison tattoos. This stereotype is also perpetuated by uniforms and dress codes that ban tattoos, for the sake of “a professional appearance”.

There is no basis to this myth. Tattoos are a beautiful form of self-expression, with a wonderfully rich and vibrant history, and now many corporations are less likely to judge you based on your tattoos. Anyone can get a tattoo, no matter who they are or where they are in life.


‘Once you have a tattoo, that’s it forever’

While this may have been true a few decades ago, it’s not the case now. If you end up with a tattoo that you are not thrilled with, there are some great options out there to help you feel happier with your skin again. 

There are some wonderful artists who specialise in covering up tattoos, for example. There has also been a lot of development in the world of laser removal, and blast-over tattoos are always an option as well.


‘Darker complexions can’t get coloured tattoos’

This is not just a myth that we hear clients talk about; it’s a myth that some artists actually perpetuate too. People of all complexions can get tattooed. No matter how pale or dark your skin is, you can get a colour tattoo, and it will look beautiful. 

Performing colour tattoos on darker complexions simply requires a skilled artist and a good understanding of how to work with pigments. If you’re a person of colour looking for a coloured tattoo, please don’t be put off by this myth; you can get whatever style you like. 


‘You can’t donate blood if you have a tattoo’

We once thought that if you have a tattoo, you could never donate blood because of the chemicals in ink. Today, we know that this is just not true.

It is recommended you wait a year at most after getting a tattoo to donate blood, in order for your tattoo to heal and not develop an infection. Once it is healed, research shows that chemicals in the tattoo ink will not carry into your donated blood, making it okay to donate blood.