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Tattoo and Piercing Safety

Tattoo Safety: Think Before You Ink

​​​​​​​​​​​​​It’s a cute play on words, but really, let’s get serious.

Getting a tattoo comes with health risks, just like any procedure that breaks the skin. Take a few extra minutes to ask questions and look around before you get inked. It could be the difference between clean art and hepatitis, HIV, and other serious infections that could change your life. Whenever you’re thinking of ink, use this as your go-to-guide:

Must haves:

​Tattoo studios must always:

  • be able to show you a copy of a health inspection report from the last 12 months before you start. Don’t get tattooed if they can’t give you a report. Instead, call your local Alberta Health Services (AHS) Environmental Public Health office. See the contact details at the end of the page.
  • look clean and in good repair (includes smooth, washable equipment and surfaces). If it doesn’t look clean, chances are your tattoo artist doesn’t work clean either.
  • have the tattooing area totally separate from all other areas of the business and/or home (includes all dining, washroom, kitchen, sitting, and sleeping areas). Tattoo studios in business spaces are preferred.
  • make sure staff don’t smoke, drink, eat, or have pets in the tattooing area
  • ask for your contact information for their records
  • use sterile, single-use, and disposable needles and tattoo tubes. Reusable tattoo tubes can be used if they are cleaned and sterilized. They must be sealed in sterile packages and opened in front of you. Tattoo needles must be sterile and single use.
  • use ink labelled for tattooing
  • change all plastic and/or cloth barriers after every client
  • provide you with written and verbal post-care instructions for healing your tattoo

Must do’s:

Make sure tattoo artists:

  • wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before starting your tattoo
  • use disposable ink-caps; never put needles into ink bottles
  • pour each colour into its own, new ink cap
  • wear clean clothing
  • use a hand sanitizer and change their gloves before continuing work on your tattoo if they had stopped to do something else. Handwashing may be done before using hand sanitizer.
  • wear disposable gloves while tattooing you—a clean pair for every client
  • use clean gloves or wooden sticks to take gel or cream from containers
  • use puncture-resistant, biohazard containers to dispose of the needles (they often look like the red or yellow ones you see in a doctor’s office)

 ​

 

Wearing disposable gloves preparing the tattoo machine.
 



 Clean and smooth surfaces.
 

 

 Tattoo machine with single use cover.
 
 



 Clearly labelle​d tattoo ink.
 

 

Deal breakers:

Tattoo operations/facilities should never​:​

  • come to your house or offer to come to your house to do your tattoo
  • reuse needles; needles must be sterile, used once and thrown out
  • reuse any tattoo equipment, unless it has been properly cleaned or sterilized​
  • allow staff to put needles directly into ink bottles. Single disposable ink caps should be used for each client.

If you have concerns or questions about a tattoo operation, would like to make a complaint, or confirm an operation has been inspected and approved by AHS, contact AHS Environmental Public Health. ​

Current as of: December 2, 2016

Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services.