Hollywood Home Tattoos: The Dangers

Commercially successful but critically despised superhero movie Suicide Squad has certainly been effective at generating publicity for itself (perhaps unsurprising in a film that was re-edited by a movie trailer company in a last-minute salvage attempt).

Among the many attempts to get people talking about it was a peculiar social media campaign in which several of the movie’s stars took up careers as amateur tattoo artists, branding each other and members of the crew with toe-faces or misspelled words so that they could always remember being involved in the making of a film that scored 26% at Rotten Tomatoes.

Actress Margot Robbie has used talk-show appearances to talk about having bought a tattoo gun on eBay and using it to tattoo the toes of her co-stars and friends, and some of them also seem to have taken it up as a hobby.

Margot Robbie at work
Margot Robbie at work

The photos show that, commendably, gloves were worn when giving the tattoos, but no information was provided about whether anyone observed other forms of blood safety. This is a problem because backyard tattooing can be a easy way to transmit blood-borne diseases like hepatitis C.

Margot Robbie and Cara Delevingne displaying their home-made tattoos
Margot Robbie and Cara Delevingne displaying their home-made tattoos

When you receive a tattoo, your skin is being pierced by a needle and injected with small amounts of ink. You need to make sure that the needle is coming out of a new, sterile package, that the tattoo artist is wearing latex gloves, and that all other tattooing equipment has been sterilized—something which is unlikely to have happened in a backyard tattooing session.

Items that come into contact with blood and cannot be sterilized (gloves, ink caps, cotton swabs, ointments, soap bottles, paper towels, etc) should be disposed of immediately after tattooing and labeled as a biohazard. Ink- or water-based products should be thrown out after they are used and should not be put back into the container they came from. Surfaces and other areas the tattoo artist used to work on should be cleaned regularly with a disinfecting cleaner.

Things to remember about backyard tattoos:

  • Tattooing equipment can only be sterilised correctly in an autoclave machine. Autoclave machines are expensive and require regular servicing. People are unlikely to have professional autoclaves in their homes.
  • Many people risk serious health conditions through using tattoo equipment that has been purchased online.
  • Your backyard tattooist is unlikely to have been professionally trained. They will not undergo safety checks and may not follow professional regulations.
  • Backyard tattoos can be performed in unsterile conditions using unsterile equipment and ink.
  • Soapy water, bleach, alcohol wipes, methylated spirits and a flame cannot completely destroy the hepatitis C virus.


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