1. The Tattoo Artist Provides Samples of Previous Work
Never select an artist who can not produce some kind of portfolio. A photo album of tattoos done on living skin should be provided for you to look at in the studio. An artistic display of stock tattoos on the walls is not enough to tell you that the artist has a good reputation.
Nothing that that the tattoo artist uses should ever be placed back into a container. This includes ointment, ink and water. Usually these substances have been in contact with your blood plasma. Such thriftiness increases the risk of the spread of infection to you and others.
Ink should always be placed in ink caps, which are tiny cups used to hold just enough color that is needed to tattoo you. This ink should never be returned to a bottle or a jar.
3. The Tattoo Artist Possesses an Autoclave Certificate
An autoclave is an electric sterilization unit that resembles a steel pressure cooker. It is used by doctors to sterilize medical equipment. In order for equipment to be sterilized it must sit n the autoclave at a temperature of 246 degrees for at least thirty minutes.
Just being in possession of an autoclave does not guarantee that it is in use. Ask if the artist possesses a recent autoclave certificate that shows that the unit is regularly tested and in use by the operators of the business.
If the tattoo artist gives you any "attitude" or is evasive with regards to the use of the autoclave or tries to pass off an ultra-sonic cleaner as a sterilization equipment then head for the front door.
New sterile needles are always removed from a pouch called an autoclave bag. The needles should not be removed from this pouch until your tattoo work is in progress. Each autoclave needle bag usually boasts a small label called a "sterile confirmation" label along with the name of the manufacturer. If you do not see this label on the bag or if your needles are sitting outside the bag, then the artist may be reusing materials.
New needles are bright silver in color. If needles appear stained, brownish or dulled then stop the procedure.
Fingers spread germs to raw, freshly tattooed skin faster than anything else. For this reason the tattooist should always wear standard medical latex gloves. The gloves should not have holes or tears in them and fit the artist properly. It only takes a pinhole in the latex glove to increase the risk of cross contamination.
6. The Tattoo Artist Disposes Needles In a Sharps Container
A Sharps container is a plastic container, usually red, with a biohazard symbol on the outside. You also see these containers that are labeled "hazardous waste" in dental and doctor offices.
Used needles, and anything else contaminated and not scheduled for autoclave sterilization should be placed in these containers and removed in a timely manner.
Most states require a tattoo artist to have some kind of license before they can touch anyone with a needle. Check the laws in your state to make sure that you are dealing with a licensed practitioner.
Unfortunately, there isn't any kind of official certification given to tattoo artists that complete their education. Tattooing is an oral tradition that is usually passed down through generations through an apprenticeship. However most tattoo artists will be able to produce proof that a well-known tattoo artist has trained them in safe and hygienic practices.
Although most tattoo studios are kind of Goth looking, complete with black lights and loud stereo music, this doesn't mean the place is dirty. What matters most is that the "surgical" area looks spic and span and is well lit with halogen lights.
10. You and the Tattoo Artist "Click"
You must revere and respect the tattoo artist and he or she must revere and respect you. You do not have to become best friends, however this is a situation where you should not be subjected to any kind of humiliation, sarcasm or displays of artistic temperament. Behaviors that fall into the category of displays of artistic temperament include anger, giddiness, and a reluctance to stick to schedule and inviting you to get high or drunk. A tattoo artist should also not consider him or herself to be too hip to conduct themselves in the civil and courteous manner that is usually associated with good business practices.
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