Nearly one in five Americans has a tattoo and those numbers are only rising. But as more people get inked, more people are ending up with infections.
Michelle Hintz is no stranger to the tattoo chair.
"To me, getting tattoos is pretty much a story," she said. "It's a memory of things that I really love, things that I enjoy, something that makes me happy, just something I want to remember forever."
She's never had a problem and doesn't expect any issues. Body Artist Jay Blondel says he takes every precaution to be sure of that.
"Cleanliness-that's the number one thing that will cause someone to get a problem or an infection. Using everything that's been sterilized. One time use only supplies are the best way to go," Blondel said.
Sometimes problems may start before the ink ever enters the tattoo parlor. In fact, the FDA, which is responsible for regulating the inks, says it's issued seven recalls since 2003 because of outbreaks from contamination.
There are other reasons the FDA says you should think before you ink.
"Rashes, bumps, infections, a variety of things people just are not happy with," said Dr. Linda Katz, Director of the FDA's Office of Cosmetics and Colors. "There can be allergic reactions that may occur immediately or may occur many years down the line, and because the tattoo itself is permanent, if an allergic reaction does occur, it may be very difficult to resolve."
There's no way for a consumer to tell if ink is contaminated to experts say pick a tattoo parlor that is in compliance with local and state laws. Make sure the tattoo artist is wearing glove and not touching other items while doing a tattoo. Also, make sure you walk away with care tips when you leave so you know what looks normal as you heal.