13 Tips for Safer Tattoos
There is much more to getting a tattoo than putting needle to skin. Wherever you decide to go for your tattoo, it is essential to find a shop and artist who can not only tattoo well, but safely. Hepatitis C and MRSA (antibiotic resistant staph bacteria) are just a couple of life threatening infections that can easily be transmitted by those who do not have proper training in prevention of cross contamination . Here are some things to consider when looking for a safe and healthy tattoo experience:
(1) The shop should look clean, much like a dentist or doctor's office. (Hopefully with better artwork on the walls!)
(2) All artists should take yearly courses designed for tattooers on preventing disease transmission
and blood-borne pathogens.
(3) Fresh, disposable gloves should always be used and then removed before anything that is not
directly related to the tattoo process is touched (ie. no answering phones, picking up cameras with
dirty gloves, etc). A fresh pair of gloves should be put on before continuing the tattoo.
(4) You should see a clearly marked Sharps containers for safe disposal of used needles.
(5) There should be no food, drink, or smoking at the work stations.
(6) The work area should be set up in your presence. You should see needles and tubes removed from sealed packages and any inks poured out into single use cups.
(7) All surfaces that the artists may touch (such as lamps, knobs, switches, bottles, etc) while working
on the tattoo should be covered in waterproof barriers that are removed and disposed of at the end of
the tattoo. Furniture or surfaces that may come in contact with the part of the body to be worked on should be wrapped in protective barriers.
(8) Even though barriers are used, the work area, spray bottles, and equipment should always be
wiped down thoroughly with a hospital grade sanitizing solution between every client. (Bleach, Lysol
or alcohol are NOT acceptable as substitutes)
(9) Ask about the shop's aftercare. Do they use paper towels or plastic wrap instead of bandages?
If so, this is a good sign that you are in the wrong place. Plastic wrap creates a warm place for any
trapped bacteria to thrive leading to infection and both methods allow for your blood to seep out and possibly transmit disease to those around you.
(10) Be very wary of someone who works out of the home. While they may be cheaper, home tattooers
rarely have proper safety training or even proper training in tattooing. Dangerous infections such as Hepatitis C and MRSA can easily be transmitted by those without knowledge on how to prevent crosscontamination.
(11) Watch out for "bargain" tattoos. Think about how much it might cost to set up new needles, tubes, barriers, inks, ointments, gloves, ink caps, bandages, and so on for each new client, not to mention
the time spent setting up, cleaning up properly and getting designs ready. If the price is much lower
than other shops in the area, they are probably cutting corners somewhere.
(12) Some shops use reusable equipment, such as stainless steel tubes. This is fine as long as they
also use an autoclave for sterilzation. There is no acceptable substitute for an autoclave, that includes pressure cookers, toaster ovens, bleach, alcohol or any other improvised method. Only an autoclave
can maintain the proper temperature and pressure to ensure sterilization. Shops using an autoclave
should have a a certificate to show that their autoclave is tested routinely to make sure it is running effectively.
(13) You should be able to see the workspace in advance and ask questions about the process and equipment. If you are made to feel uncomfortable or if the artist seem resistant to answering
questions, you are probably in the wrong place.