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DIY Tattoos: Trend Or Trouble?

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- Chances are you probably know someone with a tattoo: stats show one in five adults has one.

Now, personal body art is getting really personal as more people choose to ink themselves or have someone else do it for them right at home.

While "DIY tattoos" allow for ultimate creativity, critics say the trend can be really risky.

From head to toe, Robin Marquis loves her tattoos. She inked some herself and also had friends do some for her at home.

"I think having the experience of having a tattoo at home is really awesome!" Marquis said.

CLICK HERE to watch Vanessa Borge's report

The National Tattoo Association says those "at home experiences" are a growing trend, a trend that gives them growing concerns.

"It's a trade that needs to be taught and if you're not taught properly you're not going to be doing proper work," said Sailor Bill Johnson from the National Tattoo Association.

The association says it's becoming easier to get a tattoo outside a licensed and inspected shop. Just go online and you'll find directions on how to tattoo with a sewing needle.

There are even YouTube videos that show how to make your own tattoo gun.

Complete DIY kits can also be purchased on the web, containing needles, ink possibly even an electronic tattoo machine. No experience necessary.

"Are they clean? Are they keeping things sterile? Are they using the proper procedures? Are they using the proper ink," Johnson asked.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration takes complaints about tattoo ink related infections, but doesn't track how many infections are related specifically to "do it yourself tattoos".

However, a report of an infection from contaminated ink sparked a recent recall of some online kits.

Using unsterile equipment can be dangerous, especially to people with compromised immune systems.

"If the infection spreads systemically into the bloodstream it could become a life threatening situation. It could also threaten the limb if the infection is very deep-seated in the soft tissue," said Dr. Amesh Adalja, MD Infectious Disease Specialist.

Adalja warns that with any tattoo you need to know there are risks involved.

"You're breaching your skin, you're breaching a part of your immune system to apply this tattoo, so everything needs to be sterile," Adalja said.

Nicole West creates and sells home tattoo kits. She got a certification for infection control and tries to help "do it yourselfers" as safely as possible.

She equipped her kits with medical gloves, sterile needles and ink, alcohol wipes and information on how to prevent diseases.

"I decided to start making these kits because I know people who stick and poke using random, you know, objects around the house not necessarily the best thing for creating a tattoo," West said.

Marquis says she feels safe and has never had a problem with any of her "do it at home" tattoos. And each one is a reminder of a special time in her life.

"Having my community members, my family, my partners use my body as a canvas I think is a unique thing that you don't get from being in a studio with a tattoo artist you may not know," Marquis said.

The National Tattoo Association says tattooing is not just about having sterile equipment but proper training, which it says comes with experience and oversight.

For more information about home tattoos and do it yourself tattoos see the FDA's website.



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