Home tattoo fad putting Barking and Dagenham teens in danger of infection

Tattooist's Gary Bullock 50 and Ben McCarthy 35 who work at Churchills Tattoos in Chadwell Heath.

Tattooist's Gary Bullock 50 and Ben McCarthy 35 who work at Churchills Tattoos in Chadwell Heath. - Credit: Archant

Ten people a day in Barking and Dagenham – many of them underage – are undergoing laser treatment or having cover-ups after being inked by unlicensed tattoo artists, it has been claimed.

The tattoo an 18-year-old girl (who wished not to be named) got when she was 14 from a home tattoois

The tattoo an 18-year-old girl (who wished not to be named) got when she was 14 from a home tattooist. She is now having it lazored off at Churchills Tattoos in Chadwell Heath. - Credit: Archant

Youngsters risk infection and disappointment with their tattoos but are attracted by lower prices and unscrupulous age checks.

Churchills Tattoos, Chadwell Heath

Churchills Tattoos, Chadwell Heath - Credit: Archant

Churchills Tattoos worker Ben McCarthy said on average he had to remove or obscure two tattoos each day that were the handiwork of unlicensed tattooists.

The lazer machine used to remove unwanted tattoos

The lazer machine used to remove unwanted tattoos - Credit: Archant

Between them, four other tattoo parlours estimated nine people each day made the same request.

Ben said customers were putting themselves in danger of hepatitis, HIV and even cancer through contaminated needles and dangerous, impure inks. “Kids don’t have a clue they’re putting themselves at risk,” he added.


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When the Post visited Gary’s Chadwell Heath parlour an 18-year-old woman – who asked to remain anonymous – was discussing having a tattoo of the word “nanny” removed from her thigh.

She was inked when she was just 14 – four years under the age of consent.

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“I’m so unhappy with it,” she said. “It just doesn’t look nice – it’s wonky and feels a bit bumpy. When I was having it done there were animals around and the tattooist was smoking.”

The girl will need at least 12 sessions priced £40 each to have the tattoo removed.

But Kayleigh Thompson, who has had two tattoos carried out by an unlicensed home tattooist her friend had recommended, said her experience was “fantastic”.

“Everything was clean and sterilised,” she said, “and the tattoo wasn’t overly expensive.”

Former home tattooist Bradley Lockhart, who now works officially, said more young people were getting tattoos done below board because shops charge “silly amounts” – between £80 and £400 an hour.

Bradley, of Dagenham, added tattooing at home had helped him build up a “good customer base”.

“My work is very good and that’s why I’ve been so successful,” he added. “I practised on my own leg and my family when training.

“I’ve never had any complaints except when people haven’t looked after their tattoos.”

Ben urged the council to clampdown on home tattooists.

“People think they’re saving money,” he said, “but they’ll only spend it in the future getting laser removal, or having treatment for an infection.”

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