Mumbai: It's a style statement, an attitude and a fast evolving expression of the self and art. Once you're inked, it's for life. With India's first tattoo convention, which concluded in the city last weekend, tattooing is serious business indeed.

Angelina Jolie has once again got the grapevine buzzing, this time thanks to her new tattoo, rumoured to be the coordinates of sweetheart Brad Pitt's birthplace. However, if we've learnt anything from celebs who have tattooed names of lovers, only to regret it during Splitsville, it is to be careful before going under the needle.

Swapnil, owner and designer at Tattoo Star Collective, insists it is important to know what you want before you get a tattoo. "A tattoo can take anything from half an hour to four hours, and almost two weeks to heal, during which you need to keep applying oil on the tattoo and ensure it remains clean," he says.

Once you've overcome your fear of needles, consider the health implications of getting a tattoo.

Dr Sunita More, dermatologist, advises utmost care when choosing a parlour. "Unsolicited parlours that do not use the organic US FDA-approved primary pigments can result in allergies and lesions on the skin. Be careful when using red ink as that pigment contains mercury, which causes the most allergies," she says.

Indian skin is prone to keloids and hypertrophic scars, which can result in horrible scars above the tattoo, as the body classifies the tattoo as a wound and will try to heal it, according to More. "It is important to find out if you're allergic to the pigment before getting a tattoo," she adds.

Swapnil says that he has come across very few people who have shown allergies due to tattoos. "Sometimes the skin doesn't soak the colours, and the pigment comes out, but we can always do a touch up once the tattoo is healed," he says.

Dr Ashok Borisa, GI & Hepato-Pancreatico-Biliary Surgeon, Fortis Hospital warns about the use of unsterilized needles, which can give rise to Hepatitis. "It is a must to use disposable needles when getting a tattoo. It is the same rule as when getting an injection or a blood test, as contaminated needles can result in the spread of Hepatitis B or C and even HIV. In some cases, the infection can stay as long as 15 years and ultimately cause liver cirrhosis," he says.

For those wish to undo their body art, laser tattoo removal comes to the rescue. Neelam Gulati, owner of a cosmetologist clinic, says, "A 'permanent' tattoo is nothing, but ink embedded within and below the skin. So the process basically entails using a laser to disintegrate the ink inside the body. The trick is to avoid injuring the body tissue in the process."

Swapnil says that they have an 85 to 95 percent success rate, which means that you cannot see the original design but the skin is not left baby smooth. "However, the body's natural healing process continues, so a few months after the laser treatment is over, there may be no signs left."