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If you're thinking about getting a tattoo, there is one very important thing you have to keep in mind — getting it done safely. Although it might look a whole lot cooler than a big scab, a new tattoo is also a wound. Like any other slice, scrape, puncture, cut, or penetration to your skin, a tattoo is at risk for infections and disease.

First, make sure you're up to date with your immunizations (especially hepatitis and tetanus shots) and plan where you'll get medical care if your tattoo becomes infected (signs of infection include excessive redness or tenderness around the tattoo, pus, or changes in your skin color around the tattoo).

If you have a medical problem such as heart disease, allergies,diabetes, skin disorders, a condition that affects your immune system, or a bleeding disorder — or if you are pregnant — ask your doctor if there are any special concerns you should have or precautions you should take beforehand. Also, if you're prone to getting keloids (an overgrowth of scar tissue in the area of the wound), it's probably best to avoid getting a tattoo altogether.

AVOIDING INFECTION

It's very important to make sure the tattoo studio is clean and safe, and that all equipment used is disposable (in the case of needles, gloves, masks, etc.) and sterilized (everything else).

Professional studios usually take pride in their cleanliness. Here are some things to check for:

  • Ask if they use one-time ink cartridges that are disposed of after each customer
  • Check that the tattoo artist is a licensed practitioner. If so, the tattoo artist should be able to provide you with references.

If the studio looks unclean, if anything looks out of the ordinary, or if you feel in any way uncomfortable, find a better place to get your tattoo.