This has been a cult, or fashion, since the earliest days of history. Apart from the mixed motives for its use, it has a therapeutic use in matching the colour of skin grafts (see GRAFT). It is performed by implanting particles of col-our pigment into the deeper layer of the skin known as the corium (see SKIN). This is done by means of a needle or needles. The main medical hazard of tattooing is infection, particularly HEPATITIS. The tattooed person may also become allergic to one of the pigments used, particularly cinnabar. Removal, which should be done by a plastic surgeon, always leaves a residual scar, and often needs to be followed by a skin graft. Removal is not allowed under the National Health Service unless there is some medical reason: for example, allergic reactions to it. Other methods of removal are by CRYOSURGERY, DERMABRASION and laser surgery. These, too, must only be carried out under skilled medical supervision.
In order to reduce the health hazards, tattooists – along with acupuncturists, cosmetic skinpiercers and hair electrolysers – are required by UK legislation to register their premises with health and local authorities before starting business. The practitioners have to satisfy the authorities that adequate precautions have been taken to prevent the transmission of infections.