Tattoos can be a fun hobby and an enjoyable way to express yourself. However, if you don't have extensive knowledge of bloodborne pathogens and safe tattooing practices, then tattoos can become a dangerous gambit. Here are a few guidelines to making sure your tattoo experience is one that you will not regret later.
Always remember to put safety first. There are thousands of bloodborne pathogens out there that can be communicated to you through tattooing. In general, you should keep an eye out for a clean work environment in a tattoo shop. Always make sure that your tattooist is using new needles1 and nitrile gloves. Try to be sure that your tattooist changes gloves every time anything that could be contaminated, such as tabletops and trash cans, is touched.
Another thing to look out for is the use of an autoclave. An autoclave is a surgical sterilizer that uses superheated steam to kill bacteria, fungus, and viruses that might contaminate tattoo needles. It is important to note that using an autoclave is just about the only way to kill hepatitis strains B, C, and D in tattoo needles. Merely spraying disinfectant on needles or soaking the needles in alcohol will not kill all of the bacteria and viruses which are likely to contaminate tattooing equipment. Therefore, try to be sure that your tattooist uses an autoclave.
The best way of being able to tell whether tattooists use an autoclave is to ask them to show it to you. Most will be happy to. If they aren't, it is probably a better bet to try a different salon. You can also determine if your needles are clean by looking at the package they came in. Autoclave packets are clear plastic on one side and paper on the other. A sterilized packet will have brown burn marks on the paper side.
After receiving a tattoo it is also a good idea to spray it down with a non-alcoholic disinfectant such as 'Bactine' - which also has lidocaine in it and can help with soreness. This will help keep the risks of surface infection to a minimum.
The importance of safe tattooing practices cannot be stressed enough. It is your body and you may get poked where you please, but care is required to ensure that you don't come away regretting the experience. If a person is tattooing in their kitchen and not in a tattoo parlour or studio, then perhaps there is a reason for that. And, as in many things, remember that you will get what you pay for.
1 Although used needles can be sterilized, they become dull quickly and this can cause enormous trauma to the skin of subsequent subjects.