Tattooing is safe if proper sterilization and infection control standards are practiced. Basically, this means anything that comes in contact with blood / body fluids must either be disposed of (single - use) or sterilized. However, there are some serious health concerns. Needles and other equipment used for tattoos or body piercing that are not sterilized or disinfected, or are used inappropriately among clients, increase the risk for transmitting infectious diseases such as hepatitis, tetanus, and even HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). Researchers say the infection can be passed through the reuse of needles or dye and poor sterilization practices and techniques, such as when a tattoo artist pricks the back of his hand with a needle to determine if it's sharp enough. Scarring, swelling, infections, discharges, skin thickening, allergic reactions, and other complications may occur if procedures are done incorrectly or the skin is not cared for properly.
Obviously, the word “tattoo” is a fairly new one, as far as the beginnings of words go, the first time ever being used in 1769 in Captain James Cook‘s diary. It comes from a Polynesian word, as many of the Pacific islands at the time tattooed themselves. English speaking sailors first got their tattoos on these islands, then introduced the custom to Europe. However, tattooing was believed to have started in Egypt, before Egypt was even an organized society, 6,000 years ago. At that time, the only tattoos archeologists believe were done were tattoos on women’s legs that were meant to protect the woman from the dangers of childbirth. From Egypt tattooing was later spread and shared with other parts of Africa, into Asia, and Pacific islands through trade lines and travelers.
Today, tattoos are becoming less taboo and more accepted as cleaner, more professional shops open up and the artistic boundaries are pushed with the medium of tattoo art. Also, the advances in color and other tattoo equipment have made tattoos more than just a symbol or a testimony, but a real piece of art on skin.
Over my personal history of being tattooed, I’ve heard many variations on how to best heal a tattoo. Essentially, one must keep the new tattoo from being soaking wet during the first healing phase. Once the surface has scabbed, it’s best to keep the area lightly moisturized for uniform shedding and to minimize itching.
Variations of this method are reported across a wide number of tattooists. Initially, the just-finished tattoo is bandaged, but even this carries differing methodologies. Some tattooists bandage with gauze pads and masking tape, some smear on antibiotic ointment and then cover with plastic wrap. Some say to keep the tattoo covered for an hour or two, and some say for the first twenty-four hours. My recommendation is to go with what the tattoo artist said unless you’ve got a lot of tattoos and have worked out a routine for yourself that goes best with your individual healing process.
People with sensitivities to antibiotic ointments should avoid their use, and be sure to tell your tattooist before they start working on you! This helps avoid any accidental applications of something containing a reactive ingredient. Some people don’t use antibiotic creams at all unless the tattoo is actually infected. This choice is up to the individual, as general opinions are quite mixed on this topic.
A fresh tattoo is an open wound and soaking it in water should be prevented as this is one of the main ways the tattoo can become infected. Public water such as pools, hot tubs and contaminated ocean water should all be avoided until the tattooed skin is fully healed. New tattoos can also be easily irritated by exposure to sunlight, sweat and by being rubbed by clothing. Take care to protect the tattoo surface until the scab has come off.
While the tattoo scabs, it can be quite itchy. Don’t scratch! Picking at the scab or scratching can cause it to pull off, and take some of the underlying ink with it. This is often called “healing out” and essentially looks like blank spots in the midst of the artwork. If a large enough spot heals out, it may require a touchup visit to the tattooist.
Applying moisturizer to the tattoo can ease the itching. You can use any hypoallergenic moisturizer, something like shea butter, or a product specially formulated for tattoos. Those who are looking for an organic product have the option of The Hemp Company’s Tattoo Aftercare.
Once the scab has fallen off, the tattoo is considered healed. Swimming and soaking is no longer a danger. Watch out for mosquito bites on your tattoo. Scratching can cause the ink to “heal out” and left missing spots in the artwork. Sunburn is the greatest danger a tattoo faces, as this will prematurely fade the color and blur the softer lines. Sunscreen or covering clothing is highly recommended for your tattoo when out in the sun.
With the advent of many communicable diseases, some fatal, it has become necessary to institute certain isolation and sterilization procedures in the tattoo process to assure the public of a safe, risk-free tattoo. Professional tattooists working with local, state, and national health authorities have prepared the following advice.
1. Always insist that you see your tattooist remove a new needle and tube set-up from a sealed envelope immediately prior to your tattoo.
2. Be certain you see your tattooist pour a new ink supply into a new disposable container.
3. Make sure your artist puts on a new pair of disposable gloves before setting up tubes, needles, and ink supplies.
4. Satisfy yourself that the shop furnishings and tattooist are clean and orderly in appearance; much like a medical facility.
5. Feel free to question the tattooist as to any of his sterile procedures and isolation techniques.
6. Take time to observe them at work and do not hesitate to inquire about their experience and qualifications in the tattoo field.
7. If the tattooist is a qualified professional, they will have no problem complying with standards above and beyond these simple guidelines.
8. If the tattooist or studio does not appear up to these standards or if they become evasive when questioned, seek out a professional tattooist.
1. Remove the bandage after 2 hours. Do not re-bandage.
2. Wash with mild soap and water, pat dry.
3. Apply a light amount of Tattoo Goo or Curel lotion 3 times daily for 2 weeks.
4. If a scab forms, do not pick or scratch!!!
5. Keep your new tattoo from sun burning.
6. Do not swim or soak until healed.
7. Avoid contact with oils, cleansers, and other chemicals.
Tattoo / Tattooing: Precautions to be taken:
First of all get yourself immunised against tetanus and hepatitis B. Check if the tattoo parlour uses disposable needles? Check if the tattoo parlour is clean. Check if the tattoo parlour uses disposable inks. Never tattoo yourself or allow your friends to do it. Deal only with experienced parlours. Ask what procedures are used to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Tattoo artists should wear surgical gloves to help maintain a germ-free environment near your skin. Ask how needles and inks are used. Needles and inks used on one person must never be used on another. Reputed and experienced tattoo parlours will always use new needles. But still it is safe to verify. Make sure that the artist unwraps the needle in front of you. Every ink used in your tattoo should be poured into a small cup specifically for your tattoo. Any leftover ink should be thrown away after your tattoo is finished.
There are various ways to remove tattoos, the main 3 being:
Laser treatment is one of the most common methods. Different wavelengths of light are used for different pigments. The laser beam passes through the skin and is absorbed by the ink. This causes the ink to break down so that it can be removed by the body's lymphatic system.
If the tattoo is too deep for laser treatment, or is quite small in size, the skin with the pigment can be cut away and the edges sewn together to close the wound.
If the tattoo is too large for the wound to be closed with sutures, it is sometimes possible for a piece of skin from another part of the body to be grafted onto the site. Unfortunately, this causes two scars - at the site of the tattoo and at the site of the 'donated' skin, although it is usually taken from an area of the body that is not normally exposed. The scars should settle and fade over time, and further surgery is sometimes possible to further minimise the scar.
Dermabrasion literally rubs the tattooed skin away with an abrasive tool, over a series of treatments. If the tattoo is deep, a skin graft may also be necessary to 'level out' the surface of the skin.