May 9, 2012 Tattoos
It is highly important that you have all of the information available on tattoo safety before getting your first tattoo. However, first-timers often run into the problem of too much good advice and not enough facts. When you have been doing ink work for many years, it can be easy to forget that not everyone knows as much as you do about the art, so getting answers from the experts may prove to be a challenge.
One of the first things you need to see before climbing into the artist's chair is their sterilization certification and autoclave. An autoclave is a pressure cooker type device that is used, particularly in the field of medicine, to sterilize tattoo instruments. In order for the equipment to be effectively sterilized, it must stay in the autoclave at a temperature of 246° or higher for a minimum of thirty minutes.
An autoclave can be either chemical or steam, which is most acceptable for tattooing. It is in your best interest to ask to see the artist's autoclave, and you should be leery if they hesitate to show it to you. In addition, you will also want to see the results from the parlor's most recent spore test, which should be no older than a couple of months.
Do not be fooled by the non-professional who tries to tell you that a kitchen pressure cooker is a sufficient sterilization device. It is not. A pressure cooker that is designed for use in a kitchen does not have the capacity to reach the pressure or temperature setting that is necessary to kill bacteria, germs and blood borne pathogens. If the parlor you visit uses a kitchen style pressure cooker, leave immediately. Do not let such people inject anything into your skin, because you may end up with more than a little ink on your skin.
A tattooist should always wear standard latex gloves, or some other medical grade gloves. In addition, the gloves need to fit properly. If they are too to large or small, there is a risk for puncture or tearing of the gloves. A small pinhole is all that it takes to cause contamination. This is a precaution that protects you as well as the artist doing your tattoo.
At the time of this publication, no official certification exists for tattooists who have completed an education or apprenticeship. No formal classes or diplomas are available in the art. As long as a tattooist is licensed, they are legal.
On the contrary, it is not difficult for an illegal tattoo artist to get work. This is why it is vital that you make sure the tattoo artist you go to for your art follows all other guidelines strictly to ensure that you receive quality inking.
In addition to protecting themselves against the spread of the disease Hepatitis, which is growing rapidly in the tattoo industry, it is important for a tattooist to vaccinate himself or herself to protect their clients as well. Although it is not international commonplace, several tattoo studios around the globe are not in practice of regular vaccinations.
This does not necessarily mean that these studios are not safe, but knowing that your artist has taken necessary precautions to protect themselves as well as their clientele will set your mind at ease. If you choose to go with an artist who has not been vaccinated for Hepatitis, make sure that they follow all other safety guidelines and regulations to a tee.
If your tattooist claims to be vaccinated, do not simply take them at their word; ask to see proof. They should be able to show you a record of the vaccination. Be cautious of anyone who claims they do not remember if they have been vaccinated. This particular vaccine is a series of three shots that are administered to the patient over the course of four months, definitely memorable.
As an extra precaution, you may want to have yourself vaccinated before climbing into a tattoo artist's chair just to be on the safe side.
It is important that you are aware that tattoo equipment is not reusable. This means that anything a tattooist uses on a client must be tossed out when the work is complete. Leftover ink should never be returned to its original container. The main reason is because once ink has been used it is contaminated with the client's blood and becomes somewhat of a biohazard.
When you visit the studio before getting your tattoo, make sure the artist is using ink caps. Ink caps are little cups that allow the artist to pour out just enough ink for the job and throw out any extra to avoid cross-contamination. The same is true for water as well as any ointments that may be used.
Several tattooists use some type of deodorant in order to make a darker impression of their transfer copy prior to inking. This method is actually quite effective. However, the deodorant should never be applied directly to your skin because multiple clients use it.
As an alternative, the deodorant should be applied to a tissue, which can be used to apply the deodorant to your skin and then discarded. Your skin should never come in direct contact with the actual stick of deodorant.
Think about the little bag that the hygienist gets all the tools out of when you go to the dentist. It is called an autoclave bag. The tattoo needles should not be removed from the autoclave bag until you are sitting in the artist's chair, shaved, stenciled and ready to ink.
In addition, you should also ask check the autoclave bag itself for a logo confirming that the contents are sterile. Typically, the name of the company that manufactured the autoclave bag is visible only if the equipment has been properly sterilized.
New needles are shiny silver, and will not look brown or have ink stains on it. Used needles can be safe if they are sterilized appropriately. However, there is risk of the needle being dull once it has been used, which may damage your skin.
Unfortunately, it is not a law in all states that new needles be used each time. If used needles have been autoclaved correctly, it is acceptable by law. However, this practice is not recommended.
Any tools that come in contact with blood, mucus or any other bodily fluid and cannot be effectively sterilized should be disposed of properly. This means it cannot be just tossed in the trash can, because someone could be harmed by it. Used tattoo equipment is equivalent to medical waste and must be disposed of in a separate bag or canister that is clearly marked "Biohazard".
Any type of needle must be disposed of in a sharps container, which is a plastic container that is clearly marked with the biohazard symbol. You have probably seen these typically red containers at your doctor's office. Once the container is full, it is disposed of accordingly.
The tools that a tattooist uses meet the criteria of biohazard once they have been used on a client and cannot be sterilized. These instruments include, but are not limited to:
- Any extra ointment, water or ink that is leftover after use
- Used cotton swabs
- Used ink caps
- Any used paper towels or tissues
- Any protective plastic that has been used to cover the cord, tattoo machine or soap bottles
- Used gloves
- Tattoo needle sharps
Aside from the actually needle sharps, any metal tools can be sterilized with an autoclave for reuse, such as tattoo machine tubes, tapers and needle bars.