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Body Piercing / Tattoos

There are many ways to decorate the human body, including piercing, tattooing, branding, and sculpturing. These forms of body art are becoming more popular, and so parents and teens should be aware of the risks and the alternatives.


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There are many ways to decorate the human body, including piercing, tattooing, branding, and sculpturing. These forms of body art are becoming more popular, and so parents and teens should be aware of the risks and the alternatives.

Teens are pursuing body art at younger ages, often during middle school years, and they often hide their body art from their parents, so talk to your child early about the risks associated with this form of body art.

Risks Associated with Body Art

Tattooing

  • Allergic reaction to the pigments that give the tattoo its color
  • Keloid formation - extra skin that forms on some people during the healing process
  • Cosmetic changes
  • The tattoo can change shape as skin stretches with time
  • The color in the tattoo can fade
  • The pigment can spread outside of the tattoo design
  • Infection
  • Bacterial infections can include skin infections (around the tattoo) but occasionally bacteria can cause blood, bone, and joint infections
  • Viral infections, including hepatitis (B,C, D, E and G),warts and herpes have been spread by tattooing

Piercing

  • Infection (see Tattooing)
  • Allergic reaction, especially to nickel (teens considering a piercing should use jewelry that is made of non-allergic metals such as titanium, silver, gold)
  • Keloid formation (see Tattooing)

Complications that are unique to the site of the body that is pierced:

Tongue piercings

  • may cause severe swelling and difficulty breathing, swallowing
  • may cause infection of the mouth and throat
  • may cause difficulty chewing and talking
  • may cause chipping of teeth
  • may cause problems during future emergency medical procedures

Ear cartilage piercings

  • may cause serious bacterial infections
  • may take 4 - 6 months to heal

Navel piercings

  • may cause serious bacterial infections
  • may take 6 - 9 months to heal
  • very likely to become infected because of constant irritation of clothing

Genitalia piercings

  • may cause serious infections of the urinary tract
  • may cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women
  • may cause urethral/urinary track rupture in men

Branding (heating a metal object and placing it on the skin to leave a scar)

  • Underlying muscles and organs can be damaged

Sculpturing (placing an object underneath the skin to form a shape or design)

  • Has all the risks of tattooing and piercing

 

Cutting

Cutting is occurring more frequently, especially in teenage girls and can be mistaken/misunderstood as a form of body art. Approximately 1 in 200 girls will practice "cutting." The girls will deliberately cut themselves with a sharp object, usually a knife. The cutting is usually done on their forearms, but can involve other parts of the body.

Cutting is NOT a form of body art. It should be viewed by parents as very similar to anorexia nervosa. Young people who cut themselves are trying to control or mask very serious emotional pain in their lives. They should receive mental health services / therapy to help them address the serious emotional distress they are feeling. Fore information and resources on cutting, choose 'Self Injurious Behavior' from the Topics List.