Tattoos can be a beautiful, personal work of art, but many people also regret getting them. Get yourself clued up on tattoos before you head to get inked.

A good tattooist will happily talk to you about it before you commit

What is a tattoo?

A tattoo is a permanent mark on the skin made by ink or pigment.

For thousands of years, people have been getting tattoos on their body as an expression of individuality or rebellion. Others have been branded - as a criminal or slave - with tattoos.

More young people are getting inked now, than ever before - just look at One Direction!

How is it done?

A tattoo artist inserts ink into the skin, using needles or an electric tattoo machine. This drives the needles into the skin about 80 to 150 times per second.

Is it painful?

Some people find it painful, others just irritating or uncomfortable. A common description is that it feels like a 'hot scratch'.

Should I get a tattoo?

If you have to ask - the answer is no. Remember you have to live with this forever. No matter what you do, what you wear or how your body changes. If you're really sure you want one, know exactly what and where. A good tattooist will happily talk to you about it before you commit.

Am I allowed to get a tattoo?

It's illegal to get a tattoo if you're under 18, so be prepared to show ID.

Where should I get it done?

It is important to find a good, safe tattooist.

Three things to do:

  • Ask someone you know who has had a tattoo where they would recommend.
  • Visit as many tattooists as you can. Ask to see a portfolio of their work and certificates of training and hygiene/first aid. Take someone along with you if this makes it easier to ask.
  • Trust your instincts. Does the place feel, look and smell clean? Can you trust the tattooist? Are they open to questions? Do they explain things well? If you're not sure - leave.

What are the risks?

Tattoos use needles under the skin, so the biggest risk is from dirty needles which can spread nasty diseases like HIV and Hepatitis. Tattooists should use sterile equipment and fresh needles every time.

Some people are allergic to the pigment used to make the tattoo. This can take some time to develop, but the tattoo becomes uncomfortable and sore. It may be necessary to remove it.

Some tattoos are uncomfy in the sun or when they get hot.

About a third of people with tattoos regret having them.

Can't I get my tattoo removed?

This is possible, but expensive and often painful. If you think you might change your mind, stick with temporary tattoos. Or find another outlet for your creativity.

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations.