Now that you have an idea of what it takes, let's start learning. The most important thing you have to know is sterilization. What kills germs, and what doesn't? Tattooing is 90% sterilization and technical ability while only 10% art. The health department doesn't want you to know this but they really don't care if you can't draw a stick figure. As long as you're screwing up people and not spreading disease they could care less. These are the basic Diseases and Bacteria you have to guard against in the area of tattooing and piercing both.
• Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
• Staphylococcus aureus (Staff Infection)
There are many more diseases and bacteria's you will be dealing with.
These are just the most common. If you can guard against these, then everything else will be taken care of as well. Something I would like to point out is that bacterial infections do not come from tattoo shops. You always hear about some chick saying her tattoo from such and such shop got infected so they suck. No! They might suck, but they did not give you an infection. Bacteria grows on the skin naturally. Everyone has it. If you take a person and remove every bit of hair, skin, meat, blood, and bone you will have an exact replica standing in front of you made out of bacteria. This is right after they get out of the shower. I know, Sexy huh? The point is that a bacterial infection is the massing together of bacteria. The difference between bacteria and a virus is you can cure bacteria, and only treat viruses. Diseases are viruses. Ok, so what does that mean? Well, it means that the chick with the infected tattoo did not take care of her tattoo. When you don't treat a wound, bacteria will grow. Washing it kills them. If the bacteria has been there long enough for her tattoo to get infected then she has not been taking care of it. Now she's trying to blame some poor shop for her being lazy. In the thirteen years I have tattooed, I have only seen three infected tattoos in person. The first was an allergic reaction to the metal the needle was made from, (this is very rare.), and the other two were from neglect of the client. Tattoo shops don't give out bacterial infections. Tattoo shops need to worry about diseases. If you got a tattoo and now you have Hepatitis, then go to the health department and register a complaint. Just remember that it can take any where from six to twelve months for a virus like Hep or HIV to show up on a test, and you have a better chance of being hit by an airplane while walking on the sidewalk then you do of getting a disease from a properly ran tattoo shop. So how do we get such a good record ? It's what we do.
You always hear about these diseases but no one really knows what they do or how they are really spread. All blood born pathogens are spread by two ways, Direct and Indirect contact. Direct contact means that contact is blood to blood or seamen to blood. An example of direct contact is unprotected sex. I can't tell you how many times I have heard people say you can't get Hepatitis from a blow job, it kills me. Fighting is also form of direct contact. You hit someone and cut your hand open while wounding them, you mix blood. Contrary to popular belief anal and oral sex can pass disease just as easily as intercourse. Another form of direct contact would be if you got someone's blood in your eyes. This means if you see someone spraying blood at a car accident the best thing you can do to help is call 911, not rush over and swim in his pr her blood. Not very chivalrous, but at least you get to live a healthy life.
A good example of this in a tattoo shop is the spray water bottle. Most artist spray a tattoo with water to clear away blood and excess ink during the process. This is very wrong. I even catch myself doing it every once in a while.
The force from the water leaving the bottle will push the blood and it's contaminates into the air. If you're standing in the path of it, or if you have an open window while a breeze is blowing, you will blow this stuff right in your eyes and mouth. It's scary how easy it is to contract a disease. The worst form of direct contact in a tattoo shop is a failure with a glove. We as artists wear latex gloves to guard against contamination. Every one gets loose cuticles on there fingers. The little piece of skin at the top of your fingernail that gets sore and sometimes bleeds is called a cuticle. If a glove has a small hole in it and blood makes contact with that little, tiny sore, you have been infected.
Now here is some food for thought. Anyone who has had a tattoo in the last ten years has seen the artist use ten pounds of "A+D" ointment or "Vasoline" during the tattoo process. They use this to seal the tattoo while they are working on it. Not only is it completely unnecessary, but it's dangerous. If you remember high school health class, they always tell you to never use oil based lubricants with condoms. Why? Oil breaks down the composition of latex. This means that the condom won't work anymore. Latex gloves are no exception. The ointments are oil based and the gloves are latex. That means that those guys are tearing down the only thing that separates you and them. Ok, so you say as a client, "Hey, I don't have anything!" Good. But how sure are you of them being clean if they have tattooed for years? Well maybe they change gloves often enough for it not to have time to break down. Wrong! Latex is no longer a disease barrier after three minutes of oil exposure. After three minutes, you might as well have unprotected sex with the old biker guy that just did your tattoo. If you see this then leave, don't play Russian roulette for the sake of a new barbwire armband. Many artist also use Nitrile or Vinyl gloves, so there ok right? No, Nitrile and vinyl do last longer with oil exposure, but they only last twenty minutes at best. So either way oil based is bad.
Next we have Indirect Contact. Indirect contact is contamination through a middle man. Say I have a cut, and then mop the floor. Blood is a common thing to mop up in a tattoo shop, although it's in small amounts and usually mixed with pigment or water from over spray. The blood on the floor is contaminated and gets on the mop. I mop and it gets in my cut, presto; Hepatitis. Another example is a contaminated (dirty) needle being stuck in an uncontaminated person. So if someone uses an old tattoo needle or you accidentally stick yourself and pass a disease you have indirect contact. Another form of indirect contact is if a tattoo artist runs out of pigment (ink) during a tattoo. If they just grab the bottle with a bloody glove and refill the cap then that blood is on the outside of that bottle. It won't take long for it to work its way inside, contaminating the entire bottle. Even if it doesn't, they still have to hold it to pour the pigment for the next client. Most shops only have two or three artists. This means they usually share pigments to save on money. The average bottle of pigment will last for a hundred or more tattoos. That means from that one small action, more than a hundred people will have a disease. Indirect contact is the most common contamination method in a tattoo shop. The hot spots to watch are the sinks, the tattoo chairs, and the counter tops at the work stations. If these are not cleaned well enough then you have contamination. Now you know how disease is spread. The action of spreading is called Cross-Contamination. This means that you have a contaminate introduced in a non-contaminated area. So the person that grabs the pigment bottle with bloody gloves on TV is nationally making himself or herself into a hazard for everyone to see.
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