A lot of people get their start in body art by drawing on their own skin with ballpoint pens (or having their more artistic friends draw on them). I had a little flower drawn in green ballpoint ink on the inside of my left ankle for several years. I’d just re-draw it every time it got washed off. My daughter had an extremely elaborate abstract pattern on her arm when she was in high school–apparently that was a good way to fill time in boring classes.
I recently read a post on the about.com tattoo/bodypiercing forums (a link to their home page is under “resources” on the right) whose son had actually tattooed himself with a ballpoint pen. The parent’s concern was whether ballpoint ink was toxic; the kid’s was that after he put the ink on himself he decided he didn’t like it. (It is said that a person who represents himself or herself in court has a fool for a client; seems that some people who tattoo themselves have fools for artists, too.)
From everything I have read, ballpoint ink used in the USA is not toxic, but nowadays who knows where the ink is actually manufactured? I sure wouldn’t want to take a chance on ink manufactured in China out of who knows what kind of industrial waste. It might be OK for a temporary design on top of the skin, but injected into the skin? No WAY. Ballpoint ink is pigment dissolved in solvent, and you’d have to be nuts to want solvent punched into your skin.
And there doesn’t seem to be any consensus about whether ballpoint ink can be laser-removed like tattoo ink. The pigments are different. There’s the solvent to consider. It may well be that this particular adolescent folly is there for good. If the kid hates it now while he’s still in school, just think how he’ll feel about it later when he (presumably) grows up.
I think this is yet another example of why people should think before they ink!