Tattoo studios in Kochi on sticky wicket

Tattoo artists, as well as training centres, face a challenge as rumours of safety and health issues are bandied about on social media after every controversy

Published: 10th March 2022 07:14 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th March 2022 07:14 AM   |  A+A-

Illus: Express

Express News Service

KOCHI: With unpalatable ‘stories’ regarding the tattoo studios coming up, especially on the safety issues and health problems, the industry in the state is facing a setback. The artists say the trust and publicity they earned in nearly 10 years have been shattered due to the recent controversy in a studio in Kochi. Now, apart from the police investigation, some of the ‘online health experts’ have also started attacking them with the side effects including cancer for people who are tattooed.

Now, these officially unorganised groups of artists have come forward raising the issues they face in functioning in the state like lack of proper guidelines or proper trade section in giving licence to them. For small-scale studios run by the artist himself, it is not practical to hire more staff to ensure a female staff member’s presence while tattooing on a female customer because of the financial constraints and fewer customers, they said.

Earlier in the state, to start a tattoo studio, the artists/owners needed only the licence of a beauty parlour or salon. However, last year, the government brought in some changes, stipulating that the respective local self-government body should inspect the studios individually before giving a licence. So, officials from the LSGD, including health inspectors, will visit the studios and ensure that they are following the health protocol including waste management.

Health protocol

Local self-government bodies categorise different trades and give licences accordingly. However, there is no category or subcategory called ‘tattoo studio’ in Kerala. While applying online for a licence, a four-member team from the LSGD will inspect and submit a report. They inspect the datasheets of the ink, machines and cream, before finally approving the application and giving the licence under the ‘art studio’ category.

“Waste management is the most important factor here — gloves, tissues, clothes, needles, shaving blades and cartridges are the common waste. Of these, except cartridges, all others are collected everywhere. They are collected by a team collecting medical waste. In city limits, there are people easily available, but this is not the situation on the outskirts and other areas,” said Rajeev Panicker, artist and owner of tattoo studio in Thrikkakara.

Spreading rumours

Apart from the skincare experts, others spread guesses and fake stories online and other media, allege the artists. They said the health risk involved in getting tattooed is similar or less than that of getting a medical injection. There are no reports of a person contracting a deadly disease or life-threatening situation just because of tattooing. The absence of a union is also preventing them from collectively raising their problems amid these rumours, said Kuldeep, artist and owner of The Deepink Tattooz, who has studios in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.

“When an issue is raised, several fake stories are spread, which affects the industry as a whole. In Kochi, I have been working for three years and no customer has come with any such health issues yet. Before the tattooing, they are given consent forms to fill in to understand if they are diabetic, allergic or have very dry skin. Sample tattooing is done on a small patch of skin to understand any kind of allergies to the person,” said Kuldeep. 

He also runs a training institute in Kochi, which has students from other states as well. More than 100 artists have completed their courses so far. For experienced artists, they charge nearly `95,000 for the three-month course, whereas the cost will go up to `1,20,00 including GST for the others. The three-month advanced-level training is certified by National Skill India Mission.


Skincare experts point out that though there are no fatal issues or diseases spread due to tattooing, people are likely to develop health issues if they do not follow proper health guidelines. While handling needles and cartridges, the artists and those who handle the materials should follow the proper hygiene protocol, said Dr C K Prasad, skin and cosmetic expert. “If the tools including the needles are properly sterilised, there are no harmful issues. But some people may develop allergies or infections over some time. There are issues attached to the tattoos losing their colour clarity later as per the skin speciality. Tattooing may not be 100 per cent trouble-free for everyone. I have treated many patients who faced difficulties at a later stage,” said Dr Prasad.


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