WHAT IS TATTOOING
A tattoo is a form of body modification where a design is made by inserting ink, dyes and pigments, either indelible or temporary, into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment. The art of making tattoos is tattooing.
Tattoos fall into three broad categories: purely decorative (with no specific meaning); symbolic (with a specific meaning pertinent to the wearer); pictorial (a depiction of a specific person or item). Tattoos have historically been regarded in the West as 'uncivilised', and over the last 100 years the fashion has been associated mainly with sailors, working men and criminals. By the end of the 20th century, many Western stigmas of the tattoo culture had been dismissed, and the practice has become more acceptable and accessible for people of all trades and levels of society.
Tattooing, carries health risks for the client. The superficial layer of the skin (epidermis) is treated, so during our work we have to take care not only about the Artwork, but also about the hygiene requirements that this kind of work implies. Therefore we kindly ask each artist and apprentice of Tattooing - independently inform themselves of hygiene requirements and measures valid in their area. You can inform yourselves via the Internet, and, of course, you can always contact the Healthcare Service.
A very detailed text on hygiene requirements and measures can be found on the following Website
Every artist and apprentice are advised to print and read this text. The main importance of complying with hygiene measures is to reduce the risk of infections and contageous diseases (such as AIDS, hepatitis B and C, etc ...)
When it comes to tattooing, there are three areas within which the attention is to be paid to hygiene measures:
1. Hygiene and product quality
2. Hygiene standards of the studio (Salon)
3. Hygiene measures related to the client
Hygiene and Product Quality
Production of hygiene materials is subject to the regulations of GMP (Good Manufacturing Procedure). Therefore, during the work we have to comply with manufacturer's instructions. This refers to the usage of materials such as needles, grips, anesthetics, pigments and care creams used after the treatment. Disposable materials must be properly disposed after the treatment, and reusable materials must be cleaned, disinfected and sterilized in the prescribed manner according to the manufacturer's instructions prior to reuse. For example, disposable grips and needle cartridges must be disposed of in a hygienic manner and sterile packaged. Use of anesthetics and colors (pigments) which must be disposed of and kept in a prescribed manner also plays an important role in maintaining hygiene. Conservation is achieved by adding a certain percentage of alcohol which shall not be less than the prescribed amount so that the preservative efficiency is not reduced and that the pigment can be applied to the skin in a convenient manner. Other preservatives (except alcohol) can lead to skin irritation and they do not provide adequate safety in terms of hygiene. This especially applies to pigments and anesthetics that are used multiple times. Please contact the manufacturer or distributor regarding shelf life.
The Biology Aspects of Tattooing
Tattoo artists have to be able to do much more than draw pretty pictures on the skin. While learning how to create designs and transfer them to a client’s satisfaction is certainly one of the most important aspects of your training, you must understand a whole lot of other factors that go into making the entire process successful.
To develop the base for this, a tattoo artists needs to have in-depth knowledge about how to protect not only the health and safety of the client, but also of himself.
There are some inherent dangers that come along with tattooing, and it’s up to you to put yourself and others at as little risk as possible.
In order to do this, you need to understand how tattooing can transfer disease, as well as how to do everything in your power to keep it from happening.
As was mentioned earlier, the depth at which you place the tattoo will vary from client to client, with some basic guidelines to get you going in the right direction. One of the reasons for this is that we all have multiple layers of skin that won’t have exactly the same depth as everyone else’s.
A person’s skin is his or her biggest protection from the dangers of the world. It is waterproof, keeping liquids both in and out. It is a cooling system, allowing us to sweat when we are overheated. It is also a barrier between us and all kinds of dangerous germs and parasites. To protect the skin is to protect the whole body.
The skin itself is made up of three layers. There is the epidermis, which is actually made up of five sub-layers, the dermis, and a layer of subcutaneous fat and tissue. The top layers of the epidermis are continually shedding in the form of dead skin cells. As one layer is shedding from the top, a new one is forming below. The dermis is also made up of layers: the papillary on top and the reticular dermis on the bottom. These cells also die and are replaced, but at a much slower rate than those of the epidermis.
As you can imagine, placing a tattoo into the epidermis wouldn’t lead to very good results, as the ink would be pushed out and sloughed off with the dead cells. Placing it in the subcutaneous layer is also a bad idea, the tissues here aren’t as stable as those above, so a tattoo that is created in the subcutaneous layer will probably end up distorted and unattractive. Instead, you want to penetrate the through the epidermis to deposit your ink into the dermis.
The dermis is about 1/32” to 1/16” inch thick. By setting your needles to this depth, you are looking to place the ink just below the epidermis. You very well may need to adjust the depth at the beginning of your tattoo.
How do you know if you’re finding the right spot? Here are a few clues to let you know when you’re on (or off) track:
EXCESS BLEEDING: If there is excessive bleeding, you are likely going too deep and puncturing the subcutaneous layer.
EXCESS PAIN: If the client is experiencing considerably more pain than you would expect, you may be delivering ink to the subcutaneous layer.
COLOR VIBRANCY: If the color is vibrant, then you’re probably hitting the dermis.
OOZING INK: If the ink oozes out of the puncture marks more than expected, you may not be going deep enough.
At this point, it should start becoming clear why a tattoo artist needs to use strict health and safety protocols.
The main purpose of the skin is to protect the body from foreign bodies, and the main purpose of the tattoo needle is to inject foreign bodies. In bypassing the human body’s most important protective shield, there are all kinds of risks of getting more than just ink under the client’s skin.
A phrase that is commonly used in both the medical field and the tattoo world is “blood-borne pathogen.” “Pathogen” is basically another word for germ, and “blood-borne” refers to how the germ is transmitted from one person to the other. The most talked-about pathogens include hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides mandates for what employers must do in order to protect employees who can reasonably be expected to be exposed to blood and other infectious materials.
- Establish and exposure and control plan
- Update the plan annually
- Implement universal precautions
- Identify and use engineering controls
- Identify and ensure the use of work practice controls
- Provide personal protective equipment
- Make hepatitis B vaccinations available
- Make post-exposure evaluation and follow up available
- Use labels and signs to warn about hazards
- Provide information and training to employees
- Maintain worker medical and training records
The pathogens themselves can be passed through “needle sticks” (getting stuck by a needle that has been used to tattoo someone with one of these pathogens), through mucous membranes, and even through some skin exposure. Professionals in the tattoo industry will usually need to be certified for an understanding of blood-borne pathogens in order to be able to work safely.
It is always important to keep the health risks in mind, both to your clients and to yourself. Because the needles are the items that can most obviously spread disease, it is discouraged to use the same needles on more than one client, instead placing them into the approved “sharps” container and having them picked up by a company that deals safely with medical waste.
While your job is to provide interested parties with the tattoos they desire, you are not expected to do so when it will put them, yourself, or your shop in harm’s way. Knowing what concerns are out there can help you make decisions regarding when you should or should not tattoo a particular person.
For example, yellowish skin and eyes are often a sign of jaundice, a symptom of hepatitis. If a potential client enters the shop looking for ink but you see this jaundice, you may choose not to expose yourself and the shop to the disease.
A tattoo artist is responsible for doing his best to protect clients from:
||Hepatitis B & C viruses
This is by no means a comprehensive list of concerns, but it does help to illustrate the importance of the situation. As a tattoo artist, you may even need to be inoculated against certain diseases such as Hepatitis B.
Other Medical Considerations
The potential spread of pathogens is not the only health concern that goes along with tattooing. Everything from wooziness to full-on life-endangering illnesses can be reason for the tattoo artist to think twice, or to at least be ready to handle the unexpected.
The Real Importance of Sterilization
Tattooing is at least 80% sterilization and technique/ability vs. 20% actual art. This means sterilization should be your #1 priority! Learn how to not only tattoo the right and safe way, but also to do it the sterile way. You are risking people’s lives if you don’t!
Cuts and Sticks
There are plenty of sharp objects in a tattoo shop, including needles, razors, glass, and more. These can obviously create hazardous situations and there are times when you or the client might get cut. A tattoo artist who cuts her hand might not be able to perform to the best of her ability, so you will have to decide whether to continue forward after tending to the wound or not.
Because this type of injury is quite common in the industry, you should be up-to-date on first aid training. If you are able to clean and bandage the wound and then make sure it is covered to avoid cross-contamination, you may continue. As long as the client is in agreement, of course.
For some reason, some clients’ skin is more prone to reactions than others. A sensitivity can cause what are known as “Granulomas.” These are bumps that appear around the ink, especially when red is used. “Keloids” can also appear. This is puckering or raised areas of the skin that tends to happen with those who are prone to scarring.
There is also the possibility that a client is allergic to the ink being used. There is no way to know this in advance of getting a tattoo, and if it happens, you may need to refer the client to a dermatologist. This rarely happens, but does on occasion.
Generally speaking, none of these reactions is considered to be the fault of the tattoo artist, rather they are potential risks that a client is willing to take in order to get the tattoo. You will usually go over these risks before ever sitting the client in the chair, and he or she will have signed a waiver releasing you from liability.
This basically means fainting, and there can be different causes in a tattoo client. One of the more common is sometimes called “blood injury phobia.” As a tattoo artist, you will likely be all but immune to the sight of blood. Many people, however, have a psychological and physiological reaction to seeing either their or someone else’s blood.
When this happens, their blood pressure drops and they lose consciousness (faint). There’s no great explanation for why this happens to some people and not to others, but it is common enough that you will likely encounter it throughout your career. Other reasons for fainting include excitement, heat, and low blood sugar.
Sometimes there are signs that will let you know that a client is starting to get woozy. Be on the lookout for cues that he or she might be a candidate for fainting. Talking with the client as you go through the preparation for the tattoo can help distract him or her and settle nerves. Look for the following:
- Body is very rigid
- Eyes look dazed
- Heavy sweating
- Change in skin color
If the client is exhibiting these signs, it might be a good idea to take a break. You might offer the clients something to drink at this point or even have them lean forward with their head between their knees to ward off an oncoming fainting spell. If the fainting just can’t be avoided, it’s good to know that it doesn’t mean you can’t finish the tattoo. It should be up to both your comfort level and that of the client after he or she has had the chance to take a break.
If the client vomits at the sight of blood, you will need to stop and clean everything up before continuing. Vomit carries all kinds of germs, and you need to sanitize the area before it is safe to go back to puncturing the skin.
Clients with Diabetes
There can be issues with tattooing those who have diabetes and other illnesses. Whether or not you choose to provide a service will depend on your personal comfort level, shop protocols, local regulations, and the client himself.
Blood sugar levels can impact how a tattoo heals. Diabetes patients who are not good about monitoring and controlling their blood sugar run the risk of having a tattoo that gets infected and won’t otherwise heal properly.
It’s typically not in the client’s best interest to get a tattoo if he or she is feeling under the weather. Colds and flu, for example, lower the immune system’s response. This is not a good idea when you are creating a wound that needs to heal quickly and nicely. Additionally, you as the tattoo artist would probably not appreciate spending a couple of hours sitting inches away from someone who is breathing cold and flu germs directly at you!
Health and Safety
You’re not very far into this course yet, but you may have already noticed that words like “health,” “safety,” and “hygiene” are appearing quite regularly. If you want to be a successful tattoo artist, then this is something you will not only get used to, but you will thoroughly understand and utilize in your daily activities.
There are plenty of reasons to follow proper health and safety guidelines...
Ethics – People are entrusting you with their health and well-being. It is your ethical responsibility to honor that.
Business Sense – If your clients are infected or otherwise harmed, they will not return and will spread the word and damage your reputation.
Legality – Tattooing is fairly regulated, and if it’s found that you are not following the applicable laws and codes, you can be fined and even shut down.
Personal Safety – The rules and regulations aren’t just put into place to protect clients. As a tattoo artist, you will be continually exposed to human blood and all of the dangers that carries with it.
Health and safety procedures play a role in just about every single aspect of a tattoo artist’s work. From properly preparing the client’s skin before the tattoo, to wearing gloves during the process, to educating the client on proper aftercare, there is no area that goes untouched. In fact, it isn’t until after the tattoo is done and the client leaves that a majority of the most important health and safety procedures—such as sterilization of equipment—are even begun.
No matter how “clean” a person appears to be, he or she is naturally carrying any number of bacteria and viruses. Some of these may be present in the blood, which is why the tattoo artist needs to protect herself. Others, however, can be on shoes, clothes, and hands. While you can’t sterilize a client from head to toe, you can certainly do your part to lower your risk of being contaminated, as well as to ensure that these potential germs don’t have the opportunity to pass from one client to the next.
These risk factors are in place anywhere you go, whether it’s a restaurant or a concert. However, when you get into the tattoo shop environment, there’s all of a sudden a whole lot more blood and needles involved. You are injecting inks directly into the client’s body, and he or she is bleeding back onto those needles. Imagine if you tattooed a client who unknowingly had HIV and then used those same, unsterilized needles on a second client later that day? You run the very real risk of causing the second person to contract a fatal disease. This is why proper health and safety procedures are more than just “rules” that you are forced to follow. Instead, they are an ethical responsibility on your part.
Introduction to Safety
Section two will go far more in-depth when it comes to the actual procedures you need to follow in order to protect yourself, your shop, and your clients. But, a basic overview can introduce you to what kinds of things you should expect to deal with.
- Sterilization Procedures
- Working with Biohazards
- Equipment (Heat and Ultrasonic)
When you think of limiting exposure to germs, one of the first things that probably comes to mind is the proper use of sterilization techniques. Just like a hospital, dentist’s office, or other setting where blood is common, tattoo shops use many different techniques and types of equipment to sanitize and sterilize. The overall goal, of course, is to kill any bacteria, viruses, or other “nasties” that could make clients and employees sick.
Don’t overlook the importance of regular cleaning, either. Dirt and dust can collect in fabrics like drapes, germs can be spread as multiple people touch the front counter or door handles, and anything accumulated on the floor can be transferred on clients’ shoes, bags, or anything else that gets set on the floor and then picked back up.
The chance of cross-contamination among clients can be significantly lowered by using disposable products. For example, a brand-new disposable razor should be used for every single client and then thrown away immediately. The artist should also always use a new pair of sterile gloves on every client. If you need to take a break during the tattoo process to answer the phone, smoke a cigarette, or do something else, throw away the old gloves and start with a brand-new pair after thoroughly washing your hands.
Many tattoo artists also see their needles and needle bars as disposable. While it is sometimes possible to use the same needle grouping on more than one client (after sterilization in a machine called an autoclave), it’s not usually recommended for multiple reasons. Often, the client will feel more reassured about what is happening if he or she sees you actually open a new package of needles. Basically, if there is a part of the process that seems like it could be made disposable, it may just be in your best interest to take that route.
A sterile barrier film is available for the tattoo artist to use in the shop. Usually a plastic covering of some sort, this material can be draped over your equipment to help protect it from splatter. Likewise, if there are any remaining germs on the equipment, setting up that barrier keeps them away from the client. This type of covering is a great idea for the chair where the clients sit for just this reason.
By covering your equipment and furnishing, you are also limiting the amount of blood and germs that can settle on them. That means that there is less opportunity for something to get “missed” in the sanitation process later. You’re really just setting up extra layers of protection for both your equipment and the people who enter and exit your shop.
Keep in mind that there are all kinds of little “hidden” spaces where blood can reach and hide out. For that reason, it’s important to cover your entire tattoo machine (think of all those bolts, washers, knobs, etc. that can collect and hide germs). Even the footswitch should be covered. There are also special cord covers that should be used to keep germs and blood off of the cords. It’s easy to overlook small items that need to be used, like ink or spray bottles. These should also be protected.
Once you have finished with the client, every piece of film and covering should be removed and disposed of. These are not the kinds of things that should be reused. Despite being covered, it is still necessary to disinfect every surface, from the floor to the chair, to the tattoo machine and tables/carts, etc.
Disinfecting is one of the most important procedures the artist has for protecting himself and his clients. As we already mentioned, germs can hide out in all sorts of places, including light switches, the shop telephone, couch cushions, and so much more. In order to keep the shop as safe as possible, it’s necessary to use various chemical cleaners to disinfect surfaces. Really, the whole shop needs to be disinfected everyday in order to reduce the risk of transmitting blood-borne and other contaminants among clients and staff.
Sterilization and disinfecting is simply getting rid of as many germs or bacteria as possible. As a tattoo artist, it is impossible to get rid of all germs, but your aim is to get rid of as many as you can, especially the really bad ones (HIV, Hepatitis, MRSA, etc). Hepatitis is the easiest to get. The transfer of it usually occurs via the hands and personal contact. That is why it is essential to keep your hands clean as much as possible (along with your equipment, floors and shop of course). If you are not careful, Hepatitis can be spread throughout your shop very quickly on various surfaces.
The Truth About Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol will not kill Hepatitis or HIV. In fact, the only thing rubbing alcohol will kill is bacteria and not viruses. Huge difference. The right combination of bleach (chlorine, unscented) and water will do the job (75% water, 25% bleach), just be sure that if you use it on anything metal, to re-clean it as it will cause oxidation and rust.
Just be sure to let it air dry when possible, and to sit for a minimum of two minutes when it’s not. A new bleach solution must be made every day, because it will lose its effectiveness after 24 hours. And of course, have good ventilation because, as you know, bleach is strong smelling stuff!
What needs to be cleaned with disinfectant every day?
- Tattoo Machine (including footswitch)
- Chairs (Light colored is best)
- Tables/Carts (Light colored is best)
- Countertops (Light colored is best)
- Cabinets and Knobs
- Floor (Mop with bleach/water)
While all of these things should be disinfected on a daily basis, many of them will actually need it multiple times a day. For example, the entire tattooing area, including the machine, chairs, tables, bottles, etc.) should be disinfected between clients. Even if it had a covering on it during the tattoo, make sure to disinfect it in case any stray droplets of blood made their way under the barrier film.
Another very important safety consideration is that of biohazard waste. Consider some of these things you’ll be throwing into your garbage that have blood on them or are used:
- Disposable Razors
- Paper Towels
- Needles/Needle Bars
- Barrier Film
- Ink pens used on client
- Disposable Needle Tubes (if you use them)
These are just a few of the things that could potentially be contaminated with blood-borne pathogens.
Most of the time, you are not permitted to throw most of these items into the regular city garbage. Instead, it must be treated as a biohazard. There are specific laws and regulations that govern how biohazard materials are to be handled.
For example, needles may need to be placed into an approved “sharps” container, just as syringes are in a medical clinic. Be sure to keep these away from the client the best you can to avoid any accidental sticks.
Gloves, ink caps, gauze, and most of the other things on the list above will likely need to be treated as medical waste and will need to be sealed and stored for pickup by licensed professionals who specialize in that kind of service.
While this may seem like overkill, it is another one of those precautions that just makes sense when you think it through. Should you just toss your biohazardous materials into the regular trash, anyone coming into contact with it (from the person emptying the shop garbage to any number of city sanitation workers) could potentially and unknowingly be exposed to life-threatening diseases such as Hepatitis. So don’t do it!
If you don’t follow the proper procedures for waste disposal, it can cost you, too. Getting caught can mean some pretty big fines. Word can, and will, get out that you don’t take sanitation seriously, and customers will think twice before choosing you over an artist with no violations. The shop can even be shut down for this kind of activity.
Another area of health and safety that is talked about repeatedly is that of “aftercare.” Aftercare includes those things that the client needs to do to promote healing and the best quality of his or her tattoo. It is incredibly important for the tattoo artist to make aftercare instructions as clear as possible. After all, if the client doesn’t follow through and the tattoo is damaged or the client gets an infection, who do you think it going to get the blame?
Once you’ve done a few tattoos and gone over the aftercare instructions with your clients, the information will start to seem obvious. To you, it will be common sense not to go swimming with a fresh tattoo.
For the client, however, this is all brand-new information. He or she has no idea how to take care of their new body art, and it is up to you to make sure that the instructions are clear and accurate.
You can help instill the importance of proper aftercare by talking about it throughout the tattoo process. Talk about not just what should be done, but why it’s important. Offer recommendations for the type of ointment that your clients have found the most beneficial. Explain that covering the tattoo in the sun will help to protect its colors. Also, ask for the client’s questions. He or she is looking to you as the professional with all the information. Go ahead and be the expert. It will only protect the integrity of your work and the reputation of you and your shop.
For the Artist
So, what exactly do you need to be telling clients regarding the aftercare of their new tattoos? After all, if you don’t know what’s important, then how do you convey it to the people looking to you for an education?
The two most important aspects of aftercare include:
- Protecting against infection
- Keeping the tattoo looking great
Of course, avoiding infection begins with using proper tattoo procedures. A clean shop, disinfected equipment, and good hygiene all make a difference. When you’ve finished the tattoo in the shop, you’ll want to clean it thoroughly with green soap and wipe it off with a disposable paper towel.
Then comes the slightly painful part: spraying it with a good alcohol/water mixture. You may recognize the smell from a visit to the hospital. The reason hospitals userubbing alcohol is because it works great for sterilization. Spray the tattoo with the alcohol/water mixture VERY LIGHTLY and then blot it with a fresh paper towel.
Follow this up by covering the entire tattoo with a coat of triple-antibiotic ointment, such as Bacitracin™. The antibiotics in the cream will help to ward off infection as the tattoo heals. Once this has been done, you can cover the tattoo to further protect it. A common practice these days is to cover it by taping clear plastic film over the piece. (Think Saran Wrap.) This helps avoid quite a few problems, like scabs or inks sticking to gauze and pulling off when the bandage is removed. It also lets the client show off your handiwork without exposing it over and over. Make sure that the piece of plastic is about an inch larger than the image on all sides so you can tape it down with a product such as Dermalite™ without touching the design.
Instructions to Client
From here, tattoo care is up to the client, but it’s still in your best interest to provide as much information as possible, usually in the form of an aftercare sheet. Now each tattoo artist or shop has various ways to go about this. Some are against a lot of bandages or plastic wrap, other are not. Below is what I’ve found to work very well as far as healing and also making sure the tattoo maintains the BEST amount of color for the long haul...
- Uncover the tattoo after about 1 hour, and do not re-bandage if possible.
- Rinse it with warm water and antibacterial soap. Do not rub it with a cloth. Use clean hands with a very gentle circular motion.
- Gently blot the tattoo with a clean, lint-free cloth.
- Repeat step 2 and 3 daily, 2-3 times a day.
- After 2 days, you can begin to apply a light coating of non-scented lotion.
The first two hours after a tattoo is completed, are the most critical when it comes to the natural healing process of that area. It’s normal for it to start seeping plasma (clear fluid) or blood within 10-15 minutes so don’t be shocked. This can last up for 12 hours in many cases depending on the size and location of the tattoo piece.
The real trick is keeping the tattoo clean with
multiple daily washes with warm water and
antibacterial soap, and letting it “breathe”.
When you don’t cut off the oxygen to the skin (with covers), it allows the tattoo to naturally heal faster, plus it keeps it dry. To keep it from getting too dry and too scabbed over, that is why I recommend applying daily applications of a light lotion. By using this overall process to heal the tattoo, it not only saves you money on expensive lotions or “tattoo creams”, it also makes sure the pigment stays intact for a beautiful tattoo that will last for years to come.
Now, if a client has a large tattoo (not for smaller tattoos), it might be advised to take a very warm shower to open up the pores, clean them, and then rinse with cold water to seal or close the pores. By doing this, the client will greatly reduce the pain and speed up the healing process quite a bit.
The Ancient Japanese Can’t Be Wrong
Thousands of years ago, the ancient Japanese would soak in natural hot springs right after getting a fresh tattoo (only for few minutes), and then would be sure to finish off by getting into cold water. This worked for them, so why not let it work for you?
Don’t re-cover with a bandage or tight-fitting clothing during the healing process. The more your tattoo can “breathe”, the better.
Do, however, cover the tattoo with light clothing before going into the sun in order to protect the colors. (Sun block may be helpful, once the tattoo has healed.)
Don’t scratch or pick the scab. It will itch and it may seem like you’re helping it heal faster, but you’ll really end up pulling out the color (this is called a holiday)
Don’t freak out if the tattoo looks kind of white and scaly after the scab falls off. This is normal and will improve as dead skin cells slough off over the next couple of weeks.
Do have the client call the shop with any questions or concerns at any time.
What you Need to Know About Water
The client needs to avoid getting the tattoo wet for about a week (except for daily washing of the tattoo). This is especially important when it comes to swimming or submerged baths. If the tattoo is allowed to soak like this, the scab will take on water and then slough off. Unfortunately, because the skin hasn’t healed yet, it will take much of the ink with it and will destroy the tattoo. The client can take short showers, but he or she should make sure to cover the tattoo with a thick coat of triple-antibiotic cream to help make it water resistant. Something that is oil-based is best since it will repel the water.
What follows is a sample aftercare sheet that you can use to develop your own. Make sure that every client has one of these that includes full instructions, as well as your contact information.
How to Care for Your New Tattoo
- Shop Name and Logo
- Tattoo Artist
Thank you for allowing me to be a part of creating your new piece of body art. In order to get the very best results, we’re providing you with this list of instructions. Following these will help make sure your tattoo stays clean, healthy, and vibrant. If anything is unclear or other questions come up, don’t hesitate to contact the shop directly for answers and advice.
- You can remove the covering after one hour. Please avoid doing it before then so you don’t interrupt the healing process.
- Gently wash with warm water and a antibacterial soap (non-scented). Use clean hands, with a highly gentle touch, and gently use a circular motion. Not only will this feel good on the skin, but it is also done to rinse away any blood, medication, or other debris.
- Blot the tattoo very gently with a clean, white (unscented) paper towel. Let it dry.
- Continue steps 2-3 daily, at least 3 times a day.
- After 2 days or 48 hours, you can gently apply a light layer of lotion (non-scented) to the area of the tattoo.
- Don’t go swimming or submerge your tattoo in the tub for at least a week, as it can pull out the inks and ruin your tattoo.
- Cover the piece with a layer of triple antibiotic cream before showering.
- Don’t re-bandage the tattoo or wear tight clothing over it.
- Avoid exposing the ink to sunlight by covering with loose-fitting clothing during the healing process and using PABBA-free sun block later.
If you follow these directions, you should expect your tattoo to be healed in about 1-2 weeks. Again, please feel free to call the shop with any questions or concerns.
Problems With Tattoo Healing
There are times when problems will arise with the tattoo healing process. This rarely happens when tattoos have been done correctly and also, the person who has received the tattoo has followed the right aftercare procedures. When infections do arise, it is usually something the client has done. Using things like hydrogen peroxide or even rubbing alcohol will only make things worse. The best thing to do is wash it well, and to let it dry. If that doesn’t solve the issue, it is important to seek medical attention right away. Most likely they will have to clean it and prescribe a good antibiotic.
Sometimes clients will freak out a bit if the tattoo gets red and tender. This does not always indicate an infection though. When redness and swelling continue to occur, along with pain, there is a good chance an infection is present.
The other issue with healing is allergic reactions to the tattoo. Many think they are having a reaction to the ink or pigment, but in most cases, this is not true. What they are not aware of is they may be having an allergic reaction to the aftercare process, such as using perfumed or scented lotions, etc. Once again, the best course of action is to clean and wash the area, and stop using any kind of lotion or cream that is suspect to see if it helps.
As you can see, being aware of and using the proper health and safety procedures is a very big deal.
It protects you and your clients from possible illness and infection, which is certainly very important. It also protects the shop from potential fines and other sanctions. In the end, it also protects your reputation in many different ways, making sure that your clients’ artwork is of the highest quality and that you don’t have any marks against you when it comes to the perceived (or real) state of your shop and work habits.
Cleaning and Sanitizing/Sterilizing Your Equipment
At Invictus we use everything disposable, so we don't have to sterilise anything, that saves time and is more safe.
But here is some info about sterilisation if you'r interested to get you head around this area;)
Any equipment in the shop that is not disposable will need to be cleaned on a regular basis. There are different ways of doing this, depending upon the type of item and even the type of “dirt” you’re cleaning off. Two commonly used tools are the ultrasonic cleaner and the autoclave.
An ultrasonic cleaner does NOT sterilize your equipment, but it does help to get off caked on ink, blood, and other grime. You can use this as a first step to prepare pieces that do need to be sterilized. It works by submerging the items in a cleaning fluid inside the device.
Microscopic bubbles are created by the machine wherever the fluid touches the instruments, and because they are so tiny, they can get into all kinds of crevices. The bubbles implode and liquid rushes in to fill the space they left behind, breaking the grime off of the items to be cleaned.
Ultrasonic cleaners are actually used for all kinds of purposes including cleaning jewelry, surgical instruments, golf clubs and many other items. In the tattoo shop, you can use the ultrasonic cleaner on the parts of your tattoo machine that can withstand being submerged.
After they’ve been washed with soap and water, the items are placed into a mesh basket and then placed into the solution. The machine is then run according to the manufacturer’s directions. The cleaning fluid can typically be used multiple times, although some regulations require you to change it daily. When the items are removed, they should be rinsed and dried before being sterilized in the autoclave.
The autoclave is the big dog of tattoo equipment sterilization. It is a specialized machine, along the lines of a pressure cooker, that can produce incredibly hot steam and lots of pressure. An autoclave is pretty much a must these days because it does so much to protect against infections and cross contamination.
Autoclaves are used in a variety of fields, not just tattooing. Doctors and dentists use them, as do scientific labs.
Every autoclave will vary from the others, so you will need to learn the ins and outs of whatever product is available in your shop. In most cases, however, the process requires you to bag up the equipment to be sterilized (after you’ve washed it and/or put it through the ultrasonic cleaner), seal the bag, and then place the bags into the autoclave.
Because of its ability to create pressure, the autoclave can get the interior temperature much higher than what it takes to boil water. The result is approximately 250 degree Fahrenheit, and that temperature is hot enough to kill any pathogens that have remained on the equipment up to this point.
The amount of time you run the autoclave is also important for sterilization. The machine should run for a minimum of 30 minutes at the 250-degree mark. Again, however, each machine will be a little different, so always check the manufacturer’s instructions.
Some of the bags used in the autoclave have markings on them that will only show up after the bag has gone through the sterilization process. This offers proof that you are using materials that are sterile. If you store new needles, for example, in their autoclave bags, then clients will be able to see that you are following protocols and looking out for their well-being. Of course, you want them to stay that way until it’s time to put the needle to skin. That means that even the bags themselves should only be touched with gloved hands.
Items that are often sterilized in the autoclave include:
- New needles (because you’re not reusing old needles)
- Needle tubes
- Metal trays
It’s likely that you won’t be able to autoclave all the parts of your tattoo machine, so you need to use other disinfecting procedures to ensure that they are sterilized, too.
The autoclave is such an important part of protectingthe health of your clients and the reputation of your shop. It is also a financial investment on your part. For these reasons alone, you want to maintain your machine and keep it in top running order.
Follow these suggestions to lengthen the life of your machine:
- Wipe down the door gasket daily, using a mild detergent and cloth.
- Replace any gaskets that are getting worn.
- Clean the outlet screen daily, as well, using your detergent and a brush.
- Wipe down the interior (trays, too) and exterior with your detergent each day.
- With the outlet screen removed, use warm, soapy water to flush the exhaust line. Rinse with clean, hot water.
- Clean away any debris that has become caught in the autoclave trap.
- Once a month, at least, use a spore strip or “biological indicator” to make sure that your autoclave is working properly.
The spore strip is a piece of paper that has thousands of bacteria spores on it. (Usually ones that are particularly hard to kill so you know you’re machine is up to the task of sterilizing just about anything.)
You place it into the autoclave and run it just as if you were sterilizing your equipment. In fact, you can even place one in while you’re running equipment through the machine. When the process is over, you can determine if all of the spores were killed. In many places you will be required to send the strips to an independent testing laboratory. The lab will make sure that no spores were able to survive and will send back a test report that the shop will keep on file.
If your autoclave should fail the spore strip test, you will need to discontinue its use while determining and fixing the problem and will need to avoid using any equipment that was run through it. They need to be unwrapped, repackaged, and run through a different machine. Some shops keep a backup autoclave for this type of emergency.
When cleaning your tattoo machine, there are no shortcuts. The entire tattoo machine must be taken apart.
Be sure to hold the coils together with a simple rubber band and not move them around too much. Doing so can easily weaken the coil wires and they may even break.
When breaking down your machine, lay all the parts out on a paper towel or a white cloth towel (if you use a cloth towel, properly dispose of it when done). Once all parts are evenly spread out, you can then spray them down with a bleach and water mixture and let them soak for for at least 3-4 minutes. This will ensure that all viruses that may be attached are now killed. Once this step is complete, simply wipe them down with a paper towel and rubbing alcohol making sure you get all the bleach off to avoid any rust. If you do spot any current rusty areas, use a higher grit sandpaper to smooth it down. This can also be used on areas such as the tips of contact screws and the coil heads.
I also recommend you replace any rusty screws or washers, they are cheap and it’s well worth replacing them on a regular basis anyway.
Once all these steps are complete, put your machine back together. Done. At this point, it is time to tune your machine. Please refer to the section in this guide on tuning the machine.