Simone Ashley of 'Bridgerton' Tattooed Herself — Is That Safe?

Here’s what a cosmetic tattooer and a dermatologist have to say about the at-home tattoo process.

Simone Ashley attends the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 27, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California.
Photo: Getty Images

Those who have already streamed the second season of Bridgerton, which dropped on Netflix last week, are now familiar with the show's latest main character, Kate Sharma. She's independent and doesn't subscribe to society's rules, and it turns out neither does the actress who plays her, Simone Ashley. Earlier this week, Ashley made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, where she revealed that she gave herself a tattoo while under lockdown early in the COVID-19 pandemic. (

In the interview, Ashley told the host that she tattooed herself with a rotary tattoo pen — a handheld tattoo machine — that was "surprisingly easy" to find online. She also said she used deodorant and transfer paper to make a tattoo stencil, admitting that she figured out how to do it by watching YouTube videos. A quick search online reveals instructions on how to apply deodorant to napkins, rub the the napkins on your skin, and then press an inked image on transfer paper to your skin, revealing a stencil left directly on the body to trace with a tattoo pen. For Ashley, the process resulted in a small sphinx on her left ankle.

While Lady Whistledown would surely have a field day over the news, Ashley wasn't the only one interested in DIY tattoos during the pandemic. Searches for "at home tattoo" spiked in the spring of 2020, when studios shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions, according to Google Trends.

"A lot of people went to buying cheap rotary pens online during the pandemic, and I've heard some crazy stories from clients on unclean conditions," says Ohio-based cosmetic tattooer and body piercer Caitlin Cartwright of American Crow Tattoo. "I've also seen some horrific-looking tattoos."

Although Ashely smiled and laughed about the experience of tattooing herself at home on Kimmel's stage, it's not exactly an expert-approved activity. "The problem with at-home tattoos is that you don't know what possible side effects may occur with the chemicals that you are putting into your skin or even the sterility of the procedure," says Jessie Cheung M.D., a board-certified dermatologist with practices in Chicago and New York.

Cartwright confirms that you technically can use deodorant and transfer paper to create a tattoo stencil on skin, but she and her coworkers use a stencil prep solution — a solution of chemicals, such as water, propylene glycol, and stearic acid — to create stencils on skin that won't rub off. "Professional tattoo inks have known allergens and irritants, but the effects of deodorant and transfer paper in the skin have not been studied," adds Dr. Cheung.

As for using a rotary pen for an at-home tattoo? "It is completely unsafe and irresponsible," says Cartwright. While some tattoo artists, including Cartwright, turn to rotary pens for their work, buying a cheap option online that you don't know how to use may lead to an infection.

"The big thing that I'm seeing is lack of gloves or lack of a sterile setup," explains Cartwright. "Also just not knowing how to apply the tattoo; that's irresponsible in itself, because if you go too deep, that could lead to injury...and if [the tattoo] is uncovered, that's a huge risk of infection as well."

She also indicated that a DIY tattoo done by someone who is untrained "doesn't hold up well," especially compared to the work of a professional artist. "It's just something pretty reckless to just go with something cheap, you don't know how to use it, and you're just going to try it for the first time on somebody's actual skin."

While there are always risks when it comes to tattoos, turning to a professional is the safest option, agree Cartwright and Dr. Cheung. So if you've been itching to get a tattoo, it might not be the best time to test out your DIY skills.

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