Think of these five main things before you get a tattoo, lest you regret

The youth in Kenya and beyond – especially in the urban setting – are increasingly developing a penchant for tattoos.

However, what many might not know is that there are factors that they should observe and think through quite deeply before deciding to have that ink engrained on their skin semi-permanently if not permanently.

Below are five significant factors to put into consideration before deciding to have a tattoo:

Meaning of drawing

“Tattoos are an expression of the self and actualization of one’s immediate reality,” says Dr. Ken Ouko, a sociologist and lecturer at the University of Nairobi.

Dr. Ouko says tattoos are predominantly symbolic and that the meanings of the drawings tend to be understood quite well and deeply by the bearer and target audience of the expression(s).

He advises tattoo seekers to ensure that the drawing does not communicate offensive or derogatory messages.

“Tattoos hence qualify to be private even if they are publicly displayed on visible parts of the human torso,” he notes.

Based on one’s individual taste, personality, personal affiliation and sense of adventure, one can choose tattoo that appeals to him or her.


It is quite obvious that there are some careers that won’t allow you to put that beautiful tattoo on display – and once your bosses unravel your little secret, they’ll ask you to make sure that the piece of art on your body is covered every time you are in the office.

Jeff, a tattoo artist at Barry Tattoo Studio located in Westlands, Nairobi ascertains that some of his customers are wary of getting tattoos on body parts that can be easily spotted in public. He is cognizant of how employers can be “hard” on employees who sport tattoos – and says before he draws a tattoo on his customers, he first seeks to find out their profession.

Dr.Ouko observes that the predominant perception society holds about people who have tattoos drawn on them is that they are deviant, rebels and loose.

However, the notion is quickly being done away with, especially in the urban setting, as company heads appear to be slowly warming up to the idea of employing persons with visible tattoos.


Selphine Abwao, a 23-year-old student at Daystar University, says she got her tattoo when the excitement to have the drawing on her body kicked in.

Ms Abwao regretfully has nuggets of advice to share with her fellow youth. She says: “Once you get a permanent tattoo you are stuck with it for life. There is no way out, so think about it before you decide to get that drawing. I currently regret having the tattoo because I feel it fell short of my expectations.

“How I had pictured it in my mind is not how it turned out to be, as it was not done by a professional artist. Moreover, being a student kind of hinders me from publicly exposing the design on skin,” she said.

Dr. Ouko says the permanent nature of tattoos imply that inscribing them on one’s body is not only a bold move but also a declaration of loyalty of whatever ideal the tattoo stands for.

Ms Abwao advises that due to uncertainty of the end product, tattoo seekers should ensure the drawing is done by qualified tattoo experts – that is if one has firmly decided he will get a tattoo.


Tattooing involves inserting layers of colour into the skin by using a needle to change its pigment, thus health risks may arise.

“Some of the diseases that one is exposed to when having a tattoo drawn on him include: granuloma, keloids and allergies. Keloids refer to the scaring of the skin while granuloma involves inflammation,” says Chris Mugo, a medical doctor at Prime Care Medical in Kariobangi South.

How you take care of a tattoo after getting it, could dictate whether you get an infection or not. If you want your tattoo to look sharp and colourful for long, take good care of it.

Jeff from Barry Tattoos advises people who have acquired fresh tattoos to apply after-care cream for at least a week or two. The best time to apply the after-care cream is after a shower. One should also clean the tattoo thoroughly after bandage removal.


Society holds a perception about everything and anything – so long as it is connected to human beings; and so is tattoo.

Beliefs that people hold dearly are usually based on social institutions which include the family, education, religion, and economic and political institutions.

“Men usually display their tattoos as an expression of masculine machismo while women tend to hide their tattoos in more private parts of their body to avoid appearing as if they are disobeying the social rules” says Dr. Ouko.

Religion plays a vital role in the setting of moral standards in a given society.

According to Reverend Ken Aringo from ACK Chrisostom Parish, it is not biblical to wear a tattoo, even if it is the name of God because “our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and not our own.” He quotes the Biblical book of Leviticus Chapter 19, Verse 28.

“I would not tattoo my skin because it is biblically forbidden. Plus I have seen my colleagues who got tattoos of their girlfriends name and as life would have it some relationships ended bitterly leaving them to regret getting the tattoo” says Samuel Kungu, a Finance graduate from the University of Nairobi.

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