The tattoos that stick with you... or don't: Exploring stick-n-pokes as an alternative to profes

Photo by Kortney Reed

Dip, poke, dip, poke, dip, poke. While it sounds like a very painful, tedious process, the act of getting a Stick-n-Poke tattoo is one fad teenagers have held onto for years. A Stick-n-Poke is a slightly permanent tattoo that lasts anywhere from six months to three years. All one needs to give a Stick-n-Poke is a needle, some ink and someone willing to be poked multiple times.

Stick-n-Pokes are very popular among teenagers, as they are much cheaper than professional tattoos and they don’t require an ID, unlike a traditional tattoo at a tattoo parlor. These at-home tattoos also don’t break the bank, unlike the professional kind, although users do run the risk of trading the expensive cost for a much less safe experience.

“On the lighter end, you could be looking at all kinds of infections, including Staph. More seriously - the risks of sharing needles or not knowing proper blood borne disease control could result in passing Hepatitis or HIV,” Matt Brown, a tattoo artist at Thrill Vulture Tattooing, for 13 years said.

Others argue that amateur tattooing also results in a lower quality tattoo. “The quality of a professional tattoo is immensely different from that of a ‘Stick-n-Poke’ style. A simple way to look at it is the difference between eating at a nice restaurant and getting a dollar menu item from McDonald's. Sure, they are both food, but one is clearly better quality. Except with a tattoo, you have to live with your choice permanently and have McDonald's quality for the rest of your life, not just for lunch,” Brown said.

Despite all of their faults, Stick-n-Pokes are still a multi-generation tradition. People often use Stick-n-Pokes as a bonding experience with friends.

“I got a Stick-n-Poke because one of my friends wanted one and we thought it would be something fun to do together,” Brooke Thompson ‘21 said.


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