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7 Tips Before Getting A Tattoo: Dos And Don'ts

Getting Inked: Dos And Don'ts

Never take the risk of inking a tattoo all by yourself. Choose the right tattoo parlor with artists who have adequate training on safety measures to prevent infection. Get satisfied with the hygiene and cleanliness of the parlor, make sure a fresh set of needles and sterilized equipment are used, and get vaccinated for certain bloodborne infections like hepatitis, just in case. Take proper care once inked.

Are you planning to get inked any time soon? While you have probably spent hours, maybe even weeks picking that perfect design, you should set aside a little time to do your due diligence on the tattoo parlor or artist you have picked too.

After all, with health risks that include contracting hepatitis and other infections, it does not hurt to be careful. Here are some dos and don’ts to simplify that process.

1. Check The Credentials Of The Tattoo Artist

Try and stick to a licensed tattoo artist or parlor. Ask about the artist who will work on you. How experienced are they? Look at their work to understand if their style suits you. Slip in some questions about their training and license.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates that all employees in tattoo parlors undergo annual training on bloodborne pathogens to stay up to date on safety and prevention. So check that is followed by the parlor.1

Settle for anything less and they may botch up not just your artwork but mess with your health too.

A badly done tattoo job without proper adherence to hygiene and safety rules can mean scarring, skin infections, staph infections, or other diseases that are transmitted through blood, like HIV.

2. Ask About Cleanliness

Be sure to check the hygiene and cleanliness of the place you plan to get your tattoo. Feel free to ask them tough questions if you have to – a good tattoo parlor will understand, especially since they are regulated by local and state laws, owing to the risk of infectious diseases that can be spread through infected equipment/premises.

  • Check if the tattoo artist can use a fresh pair of gloves for you.
  • Find out how they sterilize equipment. Do they have an autoclave to sterilize equipment? This one is non-negotiable for hygiene reasons.
  • Check if fresh needles will be used for you.
  • Confirm that tattoo ink is poured into a single-use cup and any leftovers thrown away. If you see the artist returning the remnants to the main bottle, it is a red flag.
  • If you are permitted, request to watch the preparation for or the actual tattooing of someone else to check if they tick all the boxes on hygiene and safety.2

3. Ensure Needles Are Opened In Front Of You

Contaminated needles can pass on all kinds of infections, from hepatitis and HIV to superbugs like the MRSA staph bug that can become a lifelong nightmare.

There is only way to confirm that a fresh set of needles (and other equipment that pierces the skin) is being used on you – have them unpacked in front of you. You can request this in advance to be sure.3

4. Get Vaccinated

With tattoos posing the risk of hepatitis B and C as well as HIV, it is a good idea to protect yourself against whatever pathogens you can. Do remember that these viruses can survive even a week or more in dried blood on used needles or surfaces and other equipment in the tattoo parlor.

So you run the risk of contracting it from a previous client or from your tattoo artist who may themselves be infected.

Of the three infections mentioned earlier, hepatitis B can be prevented if you are inoculated, so be sure to get the vaccination before you get inked.4

5. Choose Fewer Tattoo Colors

If you do decide to change your mind about your tattoo a few years or a decade down the line, the larger and more colored it is, the harder it will be to remove. So, a couple of colors and a tattoo that you can easily conceal when you need to is a smart choice.5

6. Don’t Tattoo Yourself

Trying to tattoo yourself is a bad idea. A very, very bad idea. You run the risk of an infection, side effects like rashes or other allergies, and – if things go south – even death.6

The same applies to tattoo removal. The off-the-shelf tattoo removal products available both online and offline are not FDA approved, and the acid in them is likely to cause terrible skin reactions.7

7. Take Care Of Your Tattoo Properly After Being Inked

Your tattoo will need a few weeks to heal. Until then, be sure to avoid swimming or soaking in tubs. Wait for the scabs to form and fall away.

Stick to a gentle antibacterial soap to wash your body and pat dry the inked skin. Avoid any abrasion, including from rubbing a towel on it.

Your tattoo artist may suggest a suitable ointment to help moisturize and heal the area, and a regular moisturizer should be used after the healing process is complete.

Be sure to continue using sunscreen on the area after it heals, for the rest of your life, to prevent sunlight-related fading or damage of your lovely body art.8

References   [ + ]

1. Reduce Cross-Contamination, CDC.
2, 3, 8. Body Art: What You Need to Know before Getting a Tattoo or Piercing, University Health Service, University of Michigan.
4. Get Vaccinated, CDC.
5, 6. Do’s and Don’ts When Considering Tattoos or Piercings, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.
7. Think Before You Ink: Are Tattoos Safe?. FDA.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.