Getting a new tattoo can be exciting, whether you’re a collector or a first-time canvas. While it’s tempting to fixate on the artwork, the first step to getting a great tattoo is choosing a safe tattoo shop. If you love the art but don’t have a safe experience, you could wind up with AIDS, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or an antibiotic-resistant infection like MRSA.
In Indiana, as in many other states, tattoo shops aren’t required to register and they aren’t inspected. If you want an experience you won’t regret, you’ll have to check things out for yourself. Before sitting in the chair, ask to observe for a while. If you’re told this isn’t allowed, think, “broken skin, blood and needles” and move on to another shop.
Once you find your shop, here are some things to look for:
- Is the shop generally clean?
- Does the artist use a bleach-based disinfectant on countertops, tables and chairs between customers?
- Does the shop have an autoclave (a high-pressure steam machine) to sterilize non-disposable equipment? If so, are they using it?
- Does the artist use a fresh pair of sterile disposable gloves for each new tattoo? Does he wash his hands before putting them on?
- Does the artist use a fresh needle from a sealed, single-needle pack for every new tattoo?
- Are there red disposable sharps containers for used needles?
- Does the artist use sterile, disposable towels?
- Does the artist take ink from the bulk container and put it into a single-use pigment tray for each new tattoo? The tattoo needle should never come in contact with pigments in a bulk container.
- Does the artist touch non-sterile surfaces after she has begun applying the art? If the shop offers body piercings, are they done in a separate area?
- Does the artist give detailed aftercare instructions to each customer before they leave?
What makes a great tattoo isn’t how you feel about it the day you get it. It’s how you feel about it in a year…. or two… or ten. If an infection or serious illness comes with it, you aren’t going to feel good about it for long.