Getting Body Art Done Safely
So you think you're ready to get that tattoo or piercing – what is next? Where do you go and who do you get to do it? There are serious health risks involved if the conditions are not clean. Here are some things you should consider before getting a tattoo or piercing.
Choosing a Studio
There are several things you can look for (APP, 1999; Hudson, 1999):
- The work areas should be kept in a clean and sanitary condition and have good lighting.
- The studio should have an autoclave – a machine used to sterilize equipment between customers. A spore test is done to see if the machine is working properly. Ask to see the spore test results. If a studio does not run regular spore tests, do not have your piercing done there.
- Packaged, sterilized tattoo needles should be used only once and then thrown away in a special bio-hazard container.
- Leftover ink should be thrown away after each procedure. Needles should never be inserted into the bottle.
- If the artist uses deodorant to create a darker impression of the transfer copy on your skin, the artist should never use the deodorant stick directly on your skin. Instead, the deodorant should be wiped onto a tissue, and the tissue placed on your skin.
- The tattoo artist or piercer should wash and dry his or her hands and wear latex gloves during the procedure.
- A consent form should be completed by the customer before the procedure is completed.
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Choosing an Artist
Tattoo artists are not licensed and there are no FDA-approved pigments that can be used, although the FDA is currently evaluating the safety of tattoos and permanent makeup as a result of their growing popularity (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 1995). You could ask (Hudson, 1999; NIH, 1999) the following questions.
- Is the tattooist is certified by the Alliance for Professional Tattooists (APT)?
- Has the tattooist has completed any training and are certificates available for you to see?
- Is the artist vaccinated for Hepatitis B?
- Are there see pictures of finished work you can see?
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According to Hudson (1999), the most painful areas for men are considered to be the abdomen, spine, and chest. The most painful areas for women are considered the spine and ankle.
The least painful areas for men are the buttocks and arm, and the least painful areas for women are the abdomen, buttocks, thigh, and shoulder. In general, the areas near joints will hurt more because there are more nerves located there.
You cannot make blood donations for a year after getting a tattoo, body piercing, or permanent make-up (Virtual Hospital, 1999).
Some states have laws that prohibit the tattooing of minors. In some states with no regulation, local cities set up their own standards. The law for each state may be obtained from state, county, or local health departments (Virtual Hospital, 1999).
Unsterile tattooing and piercing equipment and needles can spread serious infection, hepatitis, tetanus, and even HIV. Without proper cleaning and protection from the sun, the tattoo or piercing site can become infected.
Hypersensitivity to a tattoo pigment may result in an allergic response. Scars can also develop. The iron oxide used in some eyeliner tattoos has caused tissue injury when the person had a special x-ray study called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI testing) (Virtual Hospital, 1999). Exposure to the sun can also stimulate an allergic reaction to the pigment used in a tattoo.
Tongue piercings initially swell a large amount. Nipple piercings may burrow through milk-producing ducts and cause infection or problems with breastfeeding.
If the jewelry is too thin or too heavy, the body may reject the jewelry, or it may cut off the blood supply and cause a lot of swelling and pain (Virtual Hospital, 1999).
The signs of infection you should look for include:
- Oozing or bleeding
- Yellow or green discharge, or pus coming from the body art
- Area feels hot to the touch
- Red lines starting at body art
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