Report: Local Teens Branding Bodies, Running Health Risks

Professional Brander Says Risks High If Not Done Properly

A coat hanger and a blowtorch: that's what teens are using to be part of the latest trend.

It's called branding. But as 7NEWS discovered, those teens are facing serious health risks and they don't even know it.

It's been three weeks, but the scar and scabs and pus are still visible (pictured, left) on a local 16-year-old. She was branded, using a coat hanger, a blowtorch and seconds of pain.

"You think about the things that kids are going to do and you think about body piercing and tattoos. But this really blindsided me," said Carol Carner, a grandmother. "It is horrible."

In high schools across the metro area, branding is becoming popular, 7NEWS reported. And since you have to be 18 to get it done properly, many teens are turning to friends and branding parties.

"If they are doing several brandings with same coat hanger, you can transfer HIV," said Carner. "There are the acids that in the clothes hanger -- in the paint -- that can burn burns right into the skin."

"It is dangerous to be doing not professionally, said Alicia Cardenas, a local body artist. "This is an open wound, that means open to infection for an entire three months."

Cardenas owns a local shop called 'Twisted Soul' and told 7NEWS that branding is a spiritual experience, if done correctly. But Cardenas says if you're 16 that can't be done.

"They are not in a position in their life to make a long-term decision like that," Cardenas said.

Long term, because unlike tattoos or piercing, branding can never be undone. And if the branding isn't done in a sanitized and professional place you can contract hepatitis or HIV.

"Not to mention a pseudomonas infection that can become gangrene and then become the result of having an amputation," said Cardenas.

The teen in this story is lucky, the only permanent damage she will have is scarring. Plastic surgery may be able to cover her scars. But the other three teens who were branded that same night at the party aren't as lucky. Even with skin grafts, one of the teens will never be able to hide her mistake.

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