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Body Art: Tattoo & Piercing

Make Sure It’s Safe!

If you want the work done, get it done right. It’s your body and your health! Protect Yourself – get the hepatitis B vaccine before you get a tattoo or piercing.

Choose Your Tattooing or Piercing Studio Wisely! The practices of tattooing (including micropigmentation) and body piercing have been around for centuries and the basic methods have not changed much over time. What has changed is the risk of getting Hepatitis, HIV/AIDS or other blood-borne diseases. Anytime you pierce the skin with a needle, there is a chance of infection or an allergic reaction. Be a smart consumer – get it done with the least amount of risk involved.

To help you make an informed decision, see below for shopping tips, aftercare advice, potential risks and other useful information.

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 (e.g. 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.

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

Shopping tips for safe piercings:

  • Do your homework! Check out different studios and ask to see examples of the piercers’ work. Make sure the piercer can answer all of your questions.
  • Always use a professional piercer who operates out of a public shop or studio. Home-based piercing is not recommended because these premises are not likely to have been inspected by Public Health.
  • Ask if the piercing studio has been inspected by Public Health.
  • Look for a work area that is clean and well organized.
  • Call us at 705-743-1000 for information on the studio’s most recent inspection report.
  • Look for a sink with hot and cold running water, liquid soap and paper towels.
  • Before the piercer 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 piercer if you have any allergies to certain metals, latex, iodine (antiseptics) etc. before they start the piercing procedure.
  • Make sure the body area to be pierced is first cleaned with soap and water, then wiped with an appropriate skin antiseptic (eg. 70% rubbing alcohol). Oral piercings require an appropriate oral rinse.
  • Pierce only fleshy skin areas. Areas with a large amount of veins and arteries or nerves (i.e. the neck, joints, tendons etc.) should not be pierced. These areas are at a greater risk of excessive bleeding, nerve damage or loss of movement.

Never share a non-sterilized instrument!

  • Hepatitis and HIV/AIDS can be passed on by improperly sterilized or re-used, contaminated instrument. Used instrument can also develop burrs, hooks and rust which can tear skin and result in infections.
  • The piercer must use a new, sterile, single-use instrument for each piercing.
  • All sterilized piercing instruments (i.e. needles, clamps, etc.) and jewellry must be stored in sealed, sterile packaging and you should see the piercer open the package(s) right in front of you before he/she gets started.
  • Sterile jewellry inserted into new piercings must be made of high quality, non-allergenic materials such as gold, surgical steel, niobium, titanium or PTFE nylon. The jewellry design should be appropriate for the type of piercing being done.
  • All sharp objects must be discarded into an approved, plastic SHARPS disposal container immediately after use.
  • All reusable equipment that is used to pierce the skin, or that may be contaminated by blood or body fluids during use, (i.e. clamps, pliers, etc.) must be cleaned and then sterilized before each use. Otherwise, contaminated blood or body fluids from a previous client may remain on the equipment.

Ear piercing:

  • Ear piercing guns must be used only on the ear lobes! An ear piercer should not use an ear piercing gun to pierce any part of the body other than the fleshy lobe of the ear. The earring (i.e. stud) can cause damage to the ear cartilage or tissue in other body areas during the procedure.
  • All approved ear guns are equipped with sterile, single-use, disposable, plastic cartridges or adapters, protecting the gun from being contaminated by blood or body fluids during use.
  • The earrings and disposable cartridge or adapters must be stored in sealed sterile packages. The sterile packages should be opened in front of you and the earrings loaded onto the gun before getting started.
  • The disposable plastic cartridges or adapters must be discarded into the garbage immediately after use.

Aftercare Tips:

  • Ask about the follow-up care needed with your type of piercing. Your piercer should provide you with verbal and written instructions on how to clean and care for your piercing to help prevent an infection.
  • Always wash your hands before cleaning your piercing or the surrounding area.
  • Avoid touching your piercing, except to clean, it until it has healed. Piercings may take from several weeks to months to completely heal and may be at a greater risk of infection if irritated by clothing or if the site is not kept clean and dry during the healing period. If your piercing becomes infected it can result in permanent scarring or disfigurement.

See your doctor immediately if the pierced area becomes infected (i.e. increased redness, swelling, tenderness and/or the appearance of pus). Removal of jewellry is generally not recommended because the hole can close up around the infected tissue. This can reduce access to the site, preventing necessary care.

Don't get pierced if...

  • A piercer can’t or won’t answer all of your questions.
  • A piercer refuses to show you their most recent Public Health inspection report.
  • A piercer does not use pre-packaged, sterile, single-use disposable needles.
  • A piercer does not use proper cleaning and sterilizing methods in their studio.
  • The piercer 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.

Resources

Hepatitis A, B and C

HIV/AIDS Information