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Tattoo and Piercing Safety

Tattoo and invasive makeup safety: Think before you ink

​​Getting a tattoo or invasive makeup service, such as microblading or permanent makeup, comes with health risks, like hepatitis and skin infections. Before you get these services, take a few extra minutes to look around and to ask the artist or studio staff questions. This guide can help.

What are the most unsafe practices that I should watch for?

Tattoo or invasive makeup artists, operations, or facilities should never:

  • reuse needles. Needles must be sterile, used once, and thrown out.
  • reuse any tattoo or invasive makeup equipment that punctures the skin, unless the equipment is sterile when it contacts the skin.
  • have visibly dirty reusable equipment such as tattoo machines, power cords, or power supplies.
  • allow staff to put needles directly into ink bottles. They should use single-use disposable ink caps for each client.

What should I look for at a studio?

Studios must always:

  • Be able to show you a copy of their health inspection report from the last 12 months before they start any service. If they don't have a health inspection report, don't get the tattoo or invasive makeup service and call your local Alberta Health Services (AHS) Environmental Public Health office​
  • Look clean and in good repair, including having smooth, washable equipment and surfaces. If the studio doesn't look clean, your artist likely doesn't work clean either.
  • Have the service area totally separate from all other areas of the business or home.
  • Make sure staff don’t smoke, drink, eat, or have pets in the service area.
  • Use sterile, single-use tattoo needles.
  • Use either sterile, single-use disposable tattoo tubes tubes and microblading handles or reusable tattoo tubes and microblading handles if they are cleaned and sterilized. Tattoo tubes must be sealed in sterile packages and opened in front of you.
  • Use ink intended only for tattooing.
  • Change all plastic and cloth barriers after every client.
  • Provide you with written and verbal post-care instructions for healing your tattoo or makeup.

What should I look for in a safe tattoo artist or invasive makeup service provider?

Make sure tattoo artists and service providers:

  • Wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before starting your tattoo or service.
  • Wear single-use disposable gloves while tattooing you. Gloves must be changed when switching tasks and between clients.
  • Wear clean clothing.
  • Use disposable ink caps and never put needles into ink bottles.
  • Use new ink caps at the start of each service.
  • Wash their hands (or use a hand sanitizer) and change thier gloves before continuing work on your tattoo or skin if they had stopped to do something else.
  • Use clean gloves or wooden sticks to take gel or cream from containers.
  • Use puncture-resistant biohazard containers to dispose of the needles. These containers often look like the red or yellow ones you might see in a doctor’s office.



Tattoo artist wearing disposable gloves while preparing the tattoo machine.


A studio with clean and smooth surfaces.


Tattoo machine with single use cover.


Shelf with ink intended for use in tattooing.


Who can I call if I have questions or concerns about a studio?

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

Current as of: August 19, 2022

Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services