December 12,

Tattooing – Make Sure it’s Safe!

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Tattooing – Make Sure it’s Safe!

Protect Yourself – get the hepatitis B vaccine before you get a tattoo.

Shopping Tips for Safe Tattooing:

  • Do your homework!  Check out different studios and ask to see examples of the artists’ work.  Make sure that the artist can answer all of your questions.
  • Always use a professional tattoo artist who operates out of a public shop or studio.  Home-based tattooing is not recommended because these premises are not likely to be inspected by Public Health.
  • Ask if the tattoo studio has been inspected by the 
Public Health and ask to see the most recent inspection report.
  • Look for a work area that is clean and well organized.
  • Look for a sink with hot and cold running water, liquid soap and paper towels.
  • Before the artist gets started, watch to see that he/she washes his/her hands with liquid soap and water, and puts on a new pair of single-use disposable gloves.
  • Tell the artist if you have any allergies to pigments, latex, iodine (antiseptics), etc., before getting started.
  • The tattoo machine, clip cord, light fixtures, spray bottles, etc. (i.e. items that cannot be easily cleaned and disinfected) must be covered with single-use, plastic covers that are discarded between clients.
  • Tissues, wipes, petroleum jelly, etc. must be dispensed prior to starting the tattoo.  Clean, single-use applicators must be used to dispense all creams, lotions, etc.  No double-dipping!  Left over portions must be discarded after each client.
  • Non-toxic inks (pigments) must be used and the inks should be dispensed in front of you into clean, disposable ink caps.  Left over inks and used caps must be discarded after each client.
  • A new, disposable cup with clean water must be used for rinsing ink from the tattoo needles (i.e. when changing colours) during the tattoo procedure.
  • The body area to be tattooed must be cleaned with soap and water then wiped with an appropriate skin antiseptic (eg. 70% rubbing alcohol).
  • A single-use disposable razor must be used when shaving hair on the tattoo site.
  • A single-use disposable stencil must be used to transfer the tattoo outline onto your skin.
  • The artist must use a new, sterile, single-use disposable needle for each tattoo.
  • Never agree to share a needle!
  • Hepatitis and HIV/AIDS can be passed on by improperly sterilized or re-used, contaminated needles.  Used needles can also develop burrs, hooks and rust which can tear skin and result in infections.
  • All sterilized tattoo instruments (i.e. needles, needle bars, barrel/grip, etc.) must be stored in sealed, sterile packaging and you should see the package(s) opened and the items assembled in front of you.
  • Used needles must be discarded into an approved, plastic SHARPS disposal container immediately after use.
  • All reusable equipment that may be contaminated by blood or body fluids during use (i.e. barrel/grip) must be cleaned and then sterilized before each use.  Otherwise, contaminated blood or body fluids from a previous client may remain on the equipment.

Aftercare Tips:

  • The finished tattoo should be covered with a clean, non-stick bandage.
  • Ask about the follow-up care needed with your tattoo.  The artist should provide you with verbal and written instructions on how to clean and care for your tattoo to help prevent an infection.
  • Always wash your hands before cleaning the tattoo or the surrounding area.
  • Avoid touching your tattoo, except to clean it, until it has healed. Tattoos can take up to six weeks to fully heal and may be at greater risk of infection if irritated by clothing or if the site is not kept clean and dry during the healing period.  If your tattoo becomes infected it can result in permanent scarring.

See your doctor immediately…

  • If the tattooed area becomes infected (i.e. increased redness, swelling, tenderness and/or the appearance of pus).
  • Play it Safe!  Don’t get a tattoo if…
  • An artist can’t or won’t answer all of your questions.
  • An artist refuses to show you their most recent Public Health inspection report.
  • An artist does not use pre-packaged, sterile, single-use disposable needles.
  • An artist does not use proper cleaning and sterilizing methods in their studio.
  • The artist appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Alcohol and drugs may impair their judgment and coordination and you’ll pay the price for any mistakes they make!
  • You have taken drugs or alcohol.  Alcohol or drugs may thin your blood and this may lead to excessive bleeding.

For more information contact our Infection Control staff at Peterborough Public Health by calling 705-743-1000, ext. 249 or 285.

Last modified on Aug 21, 2012