Increasingly popular unlicensed tattoo parlours are putting users at risk of contracting hepatitis and HIV, council leaders have warned.
Illegal operators working out of residential properties, garden sheds, pubs and clubs, or advertising home visits on social media sites, are tempting consumers away from registered parlours with cheap deals, the Local Government Association (LGA) said.
It claims such operators are more likely to use substandard equipment and inadequate sterilisation, and are less likely to check the customer's age or medical history. As a result, customers looking for a cheap deal are exposing themselves to a higher risk of serious skin irritations or viruses like hepatitis and HIV.
Tattoos are continuing to rise in popularity with an estimated 29% of Britons aged between 25 and 34 having one or more, while there are now more than 1,500 licensed tattoo parlours in the UK, according to the LGA.
Cllr Mehboob Khan, chairman of the LGA's safer and stronger communities board, said: "Unlicensed tattooists and parlours continue to operate across the country in an unscrupulous bid to cash in on the growing popularity of body art. People looking for a cheap tattoo by using them run the real danger of picking up a serious infection such as Hepatitis or HIV or permanent scarring from botched procedures that are often delivered by these dangerous imposters.
"Everyone likes a bargain but it is simply not worth the risk to save a few pennies. Ultimately, the tattoo may be cheap but disfigurement or a life-changing health condition could be the final price paid.
"There are thousands of legitimate, licensed tattoo parlours doing a great job across the country. Many are left having to correct substandard work and frustrated that their industry is being brought into disrepute.
"All tattooists and their premises must be registered with the local authority by law to make sure they are meeting strict standards.
"Anyone who is thinking of having a tattoo should do their research and use a registered tattooist. We would also encourage anyone who has visited an unregistered tattooist to seek medical advice from their GP and report the parlour to their local authority. Councils and the police will continue their unrelenting crackdown on these illegal parlours to continue shutting them down and bringing the perpetrators to justice."
Unlicensed tattooists face a prison sentence of up to two years and unlimited fines, with local authorities able to seize and destroy equipment under the Health and Safety at Work Act.