Stick and Poke: the DIY Tattoo – The Daily Tar Heel


September 30, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Uncategorized


With the help of a needle, some ink and the bravery to repeatedly stab yourself, you too can experience a permanent tattoo right from home.

A stick and poke tattoo is not a new phenomenon — but it isn’t a very common one, either. The idea is to poke the skin with an ink-covered needle repeatedly to create a permanent image on the skin, similar to a professional tattoo.

After our tattoo Impression, we wondered — what does UNC know about stick and poke tattoos? 

Sophomores Lacey Rowan and Hayley Sigmon, along with a group of friends, gave each other matching stick and poke tattoos last semester. 

Rowan, a psychology and women’s and gender studies double major, said she heard of the idea through friends from high school.

“It started because I was talking to my friend and I was like ‘Hey, I really want a tattoo,’” she said, “and they were like ‘Oh yeah, sure, I can totally do that for you.’”

Sigmon has friends who had done stick and poke before as well and got the idea from them.

“It just seemed to me like a real sort of bonding experience,” she said.

The group of friends gave each other matching star tattoos on their wrists, which took two days, despite the small size of tattoos.

While Rowan and Sigmon took necessary precautions, such as everyone having sterilized needles, not everyone who partakes in the trend does it safely. 

Both UNC’s Residence Hall Association and Campus Health do not recommend not getting stick and poke tattoos at all. 

RHA President and senior Taylor Bates cautioned students to make wise decisions, especially regarding their health. 

“We have Safetoberfest in October and it’s definitely something we might incorporate into the educational components of that,” he said. “We do a lot with alcohol education and peer pressure, along with making wise decisions in general.”

Jonathan Chan, a senior chemistry major and the director of sustainable projects for RHA, said he was concerned about the potential biohazards of handling needles that would penetrate the skin. 

“I can’t imagine people doing these things being particularly well-informed about proper needle handling,” he said.

Dr. Thevy Chai, lead physician at UNC Campus Health, had not heard of the method before speaking with The Daily Tar Heel, but said she was concerned after researching it. She also emphasized the dangers of getting a stick and poke tattoo while under the influence of alcohol. 

“I have concerns about this product because there is pressure from friends to do these things,” she said. “When you’re drunk, you’re not in a clear frame of mind to know what you’re doing. The process has to be sterile, cleaned with alcohol and iodine. There are professionals who do this and have years of training doing so.”

Dr. Chai said MRSA and fungal infections are just a few consequences that can come from improperly handling a needle.  

Rowan and Sigmon agreed that infections are possible with such a method, and said it is important to be careful when doing the tattoos, making sure to keep each person’s needle sterile and separate.  

Still, neither Rowan nor Sigmon are against getting professional tattoos in the future.

“I feel like it’s not used as really a substitution for a real tattoo,” Sigmon said. “I feel like most people get stick and poke as a precursor to real tattoos.”

Rowan said she also understands the importance of keeping local tattoo shops in business. 

“You have to support your local tattoo artist — they are trying to make a living, too,” she said. “If you want something really nice, you need to go to a professional. They’re not comparable.”

swerve@dailytarheel.com

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