Tattoo Safety

When making the decision to get a complex piece of body art, tattoo safety is something that should come first and foremost in choosing an artist. There are many factors you should be looking for, such as cleanliness, certifications and overall professionalism of the artist.

A few red flags in a tattoo shop would be pets, smoking and food in the work area, unpackaged needles and tubes, and an artist that does not use sterile gloves. Tattoo safety is important, even more important than skill level of the artists as an unsafe tattoo artist can not only cause pain and embarrassment, but in extreme cases, severe illness and death.

While in some areas it is not required that a tattoo artist obtain a blood borne pathogens training course, this knowledge is a very important key in tattoo safety. Knowing the risk factors is important to both artist and client and is not to be taken lightly. The most extreme risks of ignoring tattoo safety are risks of infection with staph, tetanus, hepatitis and in some rare cases, even HIV. It is important to note that there are not, at this time, any known cases of HIV transmission from a lapse in tattoo safety, but an artist reusing needles with no sterilization takes that risk of infecting not only themselves, but the client as well.

When in doubt, talk to your artist about the precautions used to prevent the transmission of blood borne pathogens. If they do not go into great detail about autoclaves, pre-sterile needles and tubes and cleanliness- find another artist. Most artists and shops do have a single use policy for their needles and tubing, making tattoo safety a priority, and for this reason, these risk factors are rare, but not without the scope of possibility.

Allergic reactions to the ink are also fairly uncommon, but not unknown and more common than the above risk factors. The most common culprits in allergic reactions are inks that use a red pigment or a variant of the color. While not an extremely harmful reaction, this is also a tattoo safety issue that should be taken into account. Common symptoms are itching, swelling and slight burning- which can result in fading of the tattoo itself due to scratching the skin.

Another risk factor that is generally overlooked as it’s not all that common is MRI reactions. Trace amounts of metal in the ink used in tattooing can sometimes cause burning in the skin, and distortion of the tattoo. This is generally not a tattoo safety issue unless the tattoos are home made- which typically results in a higher volume of metal in the ink.

It should go without saying that drinking and getting a tattoo is a bad idea- as well as getting a tattoo while on blood thinners, however, this is a common tattoo safety issue that is not often considered. Drinking thins the blood, which can not only compromise the quality of the tattoo, but also, can lead to increased risk of infection as well. Blood thinners work on the same principal. Most reputable shops and artist will not tattoo someone under the influence, and many have waiver forms to increase tattoo safety by not only having the client sign the form stating they are not on any such medication, but informing them of the risk.

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