Pete Davidson gets Kim Kardashian’s name branded on his chest

Pete Davidson had Kardashian’s first name branded on his chest. Learn how the branding process works and the risks involved with this body modification.

Emma Jones 5 minute read April 7, 2022
US actor-comedian Pete Davidson in a white suit arrives for the 2021 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

US actor-comedian Pete Davidson arrives for the 2021 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York. (Photo by Angela WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Pete Davidson got Kim Kardashian’s name branded on his chest, but experts warn that this body modification style, which occupies a legal grey area in many jurisdictions, isn’t for the faint of heart.

In a promo clip released for an upcoming episode of the Ellen DeGeneres show, Kardashian talks about Davidson’s new body art: “He has a few tattoos, a few cute ones that he got. But the ‘Kim’ one isn’t a tattoo, it’s actually a branding,” Kardashian tells DeGeneres, making a stamping motion with her hands.

“Well, you are a brand,” Ellen later quipped.

The SNL star has a significant number of tattoos from various points of his life, including to ex-fiancé Ariana Grande. Kardashian said that Davidson is in the process of having several tattoos removed, but wanted something more permanent for his new girlfriend.

“He wanted to do something that was really different,” explained Kardashian.

Although Davidson himself hasn’t commented on his latest addition, in the Ellen interview, the process was described as searing the skin with a hot iron in the shape of the desired scar. Kardashian also explained that Davidson has “a few” other, ink-based tattoos in honour of the business mogul, including “my girl is a lawyer” on the front of his shoulder.

The Ellen episode with Kardashian is scheduled to air on April 13.

Branding is rumoured to be the most painful 

Of all the methods of scarification, branding is rumoured to be the most painful. The process uses either hot or cold instruments to create a burn that leaves behind a permanent scar.

While branding typically brings up images of heating an iron in a roaring fire and then pressing it into the skin, leaving the entire image in one go, this method isn’t widely practised in western body modification shops. Artists are more likely to use electrocautery pens that can heat up to 2,000oC (causing instantaneous third-degree burns) or strike-branding, where a small iron is heated up and pressed into the skin, one small piece at a time, until the design is complete.

“There’s the traditional form of heating some sort of tool in a shape and pressing against the skin, but now there are specific pens and various tools that you can use very similarly to a tattoo machine,” professional piercer and cosmetic tattoo artist Caitlin Cartwright told Yahoo Life. “I have a cauterizing pen that I’ve been learning on, it burns tissue to leave a mark, which you can essentially draw with.”

Once completed, the design should be cleaned, bandaged and protected from air and other elements. Because of the damage done to the skin, infection is a serious possibility, so the injury has to be taken care of diligently.

And because every body is different, these designs don’t all heal the same way from person to person, with some skin types developing thicker, more pronounced scars than others. Branding is also permanent, unless a doctor agrees to surgically remove the area of skin (which may not be possible depending on the location and/or size of the scar.)

Is branding legal in Canada?

Branding is a tricky area of the law because creating a permanent scar requires making a deep burn into the skin. In the U.K., for example, this can be considered bodily harm, even when it is done for a paying customer.

In Canada, body modification is regulated by the provinces, with specific guidelines — or oversights — of the practice varying by region. Nova Scotia, for example, mentions branding under the Safe Body Art Act, while Ontario regulates “hairdressing and barbering, tattooing, body piercing, nail services, electrolysis and other aesthetic services” under the Health Promotion and Protection and Promotion Act.

Like most forms of body art that breaks the skin barrier, branding carries risk of infection, undesired scarring and exposure to blood borne pathogens like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV, a spokesperson for Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care told the National Post about scarification practices.

A Canadian working group taking into account all areas of “personal service,” found the greatest risk of infection was from inadequate training and skill level, as well as poor or non-compliance with accepted practices. Not wearing gloves properly, not thoroughly cleaning the studio and not properly sterilizing the tools between clients were some of the most common areas of non-compliance that could result in bacterial, viral or fungal infection.

The working group also noted that standards put out by provincial bodies can be vague and not take into account the multitude of new techniques or different places esthetic services take place, including temporary pop-ups and mobile units. There also isn’t a protocol for training in infection prevention, which can lead to inconsistencies across the board.

If this is something you’re interested in, it’s a good idea to research your chosen artist’s training — specific to branding, not just tattooing or piercing — and reach out to past clients to see how the process went for them. Speaking to your family doctor before diving in will also be a good idea to fully understand the risks to your personal health and get a better understanding of the legality of the procedure in your area.

Emma Jones is a multimedia editor with Healthing. You can reach her at emjones@postmedia.com or on Twitter @jonesyjourn.

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