May 5, 2015 5:20 pm
Updated: May 5, 2015 10:20 pm

The dangers of do-it-yourself ‘stick and poke’ tattoos


WATCH ABOVE: “Stick and poke” tattoos are growing in popularity but could spread Hepatitis and HIV according to health experts. Peter Kim reports.

TORONTO — Mike McLaine of Precision Laser Tattoo Removal is noticing a slow trend: more and more youth are walking into his tattoo removal clinic looking to have their homemade designs zapped off. It can be done, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

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His downtown clinic sees about a dozen people per month who have received – or self-administered – a so-called “stick and poke” tattoo.

“By and large, we’re talking about people in their teens and people in their young 20s,” said Mclaine. “They say they were bored, they always wanted a tattoo, alcohol is often a factor. The common thread is that they’re impulsive. I don’t think people plan out in advance that they’re going to get a homemade tattoo in a basement.”

The risky practice is often done with little more than a needle and India ink.

According to reports it’s growing in popularity among cash-conscious Ryerson University students looking for cheap forms of self-expression.

Global News spoke with a former student who declined to be named but said she “loves it,” and has no regrets.

But the practice is dangerous according to Dr. Herveen Sachdeva, Toronto’s Associate Medical Officer of Health.

“You can get a bacterial infection. You can also get a more serious blood-borne infection like Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. HIV is also a concern because it’s a blood-borne illness,” said Sachdeva.


The process of removing an unwanted tattoo is also painful, time consuming and costly.

Jamie Miller got a professional tattoo by an artist when he was eighteen and has tried several times to have it removed because of its location.

The design on his lower back is now slightly faded but still etched into his skin.

“It’s torture. It’s probably 15 to 20 times more painful removing it than getting it.”

Removing tattoos can take about six months, involve between three to six laser treatments and cost around $1,500.

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