Stick And Poke Tattoos: Are They Worth The Risk?

If you love tattoos, you know how expensive they can be. So you may have found yourself bored at home thinking, "Maybe I'll just give myself a stick and poke." Though it's tempting, a stick and poke tattoo isn't something to mess around with. After all, you're dealing with needles and permanent ink on your body. Therefore, it's important to educate yourself before making any big decisions.

Stick and poke tattoos are done by applying the ink manually using a sterile needle. "It uses the same needles as tattoo machines, and ink is manually inserted into the skin rather than electrically via machine," stick and poke tattoo artist Aiyana Inatsu explains via Insider.  People have been tattooing for thousands of years before we had the modern tattoo machine. In fact, Discover Magazine reports that researchers discovered over 50 hand poked tattoos on Ötzi the Iceman, the world-famous 5,300-year-old mummy.

Nevertheless, people still love stick and poke tattoos to this day, appreciating the time and detailing that goes into creating them, along with the fact that they don't require machinery. Though they often get a bad rap because of their DIY vibe, this form of tattooing only yields bad results when not done properly and safely. 

Remember tattoo safety

Stick and poke tattoos are perfectly safe as long as they are done correctly and in sanitary conditions. Yoyo Lee, a tattoo artist who specializes in hand-poked tattoos, explains via Byrdie that "Hygiene is everything. That means sterile tools, single usage needles, gloves, a sanitized workplace and your tattoo artist should have all the necessary certificates and knowledge in cross contamination." 

They can be good for a first tattoo, as the hand poke tool generally causes less pain compared to an electric tattoo machine. They are said to also have an easier time healing. "The hand-poke method generally causes less trauma to your skin, which means less scabbing and less irritation," tattoo artist Jenna Bouma tells Glamour.

In terms of caring for a new tattoo, you may experience itching, scabbing, and mild swelling with a stick and poke tattoo as you would with a mechanical tattoo. In that case, you'll want to look out for signs of infection, like blistering, pus, and prolonged redness. It's best to follow the instructions given to you by the artist, which is why you should ideally be getting a tattoo in a professional setting — not your friend's basement. 

Leave it to the pros

So, should you and your friends give each other stick and poke tattoos? Experts advise against it. Unless you're a trained professional, you might accidentally cause more harm than good. "Tattooing should be done under sterile conditions by a trained individual who understands the potential risks and how to avoid them. The correct equipment and ink should be used as well to avoid complications," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jeremy Fenton explains via Insider.

Not knowing how to properly do this type of tattoo can result in infection and cross-contamination. An unsanitary needle can lead to staph infections, which can later lead to more serious conditions, like sepsis, toxic shock syndrome, and arthritis, according to Healthline. In fact, sharing a needle with anyone can potentially spread HIV, as well as hepatitis B or C (via UW Health). There are artists who have years of experience with stick and poke tattoos, so it's better to trust them. With the right tools and environment, you'll have a nice tattoo. And trust us, it'll be worth it.