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  1. ITV Report

The real cost of a cheap tattoo

Unlicensed tattoo artists often work from their homes, sometimes offering customers designs for little more than a tenner.

But if they are not sterilising equipment properly, the real cost could be much greater.

Blood borne infections such as Hepatitis B or C and HIV can be transmitted through contaminated needles, and the symptoms can remain hidden for years.

Even if it is not that serious, painful infections can scar the skin.

Unsterilised equipment can lead to infection. Credit: Cardiff Council

Unregistered tattooists, or scratchers, are hard to trace, so Hartlepool Council has become the first in the country to introduce hygiene rating systems for tattoo studios.

A sticker in the window of a salon achieving full marks in the new hygiene rating system. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

They hope that by promoting the legitimate businesses, they will raise awareness of the risks, and let customers know where they can go to be safe.

Intravenous Ink in Hartlepool is one of four studios to achieve the highest grade. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Kez Hill's studio Intravenous Ink got the highest rating - level 4 - after the first inspection of the equipment, inks and needles that she uses.

The other tattoo studios in the town to receive top marks are Wishful Inkin, Spy Monkey and CopesStudios.

Environmental health officers came to the premises on a surprise visit to check how Kez was running the business.

Kez Hill, from Intravenous Ink, reworks one of her apprentice's tattoos. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

We want people to know that when they come in that they're not going to catch anything.

There's too many people out there that are doing it and they're not doing it safe.

But I think it's just the call of the cheap tattoo that calls them in, and they don't think about their health.

– Kez Hill, Intravenous Ink

The scheme is voluntary but four of the six studios in Hartlepool have already signed up.

For them, it is good for business. For their customers, it means they will be confident that when the tattoo machine is switched off, the result is what they were expecting.