At Tattoo Lou’s, we operate at the highest level of safety possible for tattooing. Here in Suffolk County, NY, the Board of Health regulates all professional tattooing. In order to tattoo, each artist must be licensed, and each studio must be licensed. We pride ourselves on providing the safest tattoo experience possible for our customers. In order to help protect you, here’s what you as a customer should be looking out for when you get a tattoo.
First, your artist will begin to prep the tattooing area. As your artist begins prep their station, they should take off any body jewelry that they’re wearing. The workstation should then be cleaned with a surface disinfectant, and any paper towels or wipes should be thrown in the garbage. Garbage cans should have a foot pedal to open them so that the artist never has to touch the garbage can during any part of the tattooing process.
The artist should then thoroughly wash his hands using an anti-bacterial soap and apply gloves in order to set up the tattoo station. If you have a latex allergy, be sure to let your artist know because most artists will use latex gloves. If you are allergic, most artists will have Nitril gloves on hand to solve this before it becomes a problem. First, a dental bib goes out on top of the station so the artist can place their needles, inks, and other needed items on the surface. Barrier film is used to protect surfaces that must be touched during the tattooing (faucet handles, etc) – you’ve probably seen it in your dentist office. A little plastic holder comes out for the inks – inks are poured into the holder and disposed of after the tattoo process has been completed. No inks should ever be reused!
Your artist will then prepare his needle. All needles used in tattooing today are disposable, single-serve, and pre-sterilized. They are packaged in sterile blister packages like a hypodermic needle or any other needle you’d see at the doctor’s office. The tubes used in tattooing can be disposable or stainless steel, depending on the shop. Disposable tubes are obviously thrown away after one use, and the stainless steel ones are cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner and sterilized in an autoclave just as a doctor’s tools would be. All disposable needles and tubes have indicators on the packaging to signify that they are sterile. A little blue dot on the packaging starts as a red dot and changes to blue to indicate that the sterilization process was completed. They’re also all dated with an expiration date and warning label saying that they should not be used if the package has been damaged or tampered with. The needle is put into the tube and attached to the tattoo machine. Always make sure that your artist opens a fresh, brand-new needle right in front of you. Your artist should also use an object called an eye loop to check the needle for any sort of imperfections.
The chair in which you will be tattooed in should be covered—some artists will only cover the part of the chair on which the tattoo will be, like the arm, but there are also covers available to cover the whole chair. Many artists will also use traditional saran wrap will as a barrier on the armrests.
After everything is covered, tattoo machines would be set up, and all materials needed to do the tattoo would be double-checked. Then, the artist would prepare to actually complete the tattoo. First, the pair of gloves being worn by the artist would be removed and thrown out, and the artist would again wash his hands with an antibacterial soap. After a fresh pair of gloves is put on, the artist would then put on tattoo sleeves as a layer of added protection for both him and you. Note: at this point, the artist shouldn’t be touching anything unless a barrier film has already been applied to it. The barrier films will be removed after your tattoo is completed. If your artist, for any reason, touches anything else, answers a phone call, etc., his gloves should be taken off first, and a new pair put on before your tattoo is resumed.
After the tattoo is completed, the tattoo needles will be removed from the tubes and placed in a medical waste “sharps” container. Special companies who deal with medical waste will take the containers full of used needles and make sure that they are properly disposed of. The artist should then dispose of everything else—the ink, the tubes, etc—that was used to complete your tattoo. Barrier film, tattoo sleeves, and gloves should also be removed and thrown out. Then, the entire tattoo station should again be wiped clean with a surface disinfectant. After all of that is completed, the tattoo artist should again wash his hands with an anti-microbile soap.
After your tattoo is finished, the rest of the aftercare is up to you. You MUST take good care of your tattoo. Your artist will bandage your tattoo up with non-stick gauze while you’re in the shop. Two to three hours after your tattoo is finished, wash your hands thoroughly, remove the gauze, and apply a healing ointment to your tattoo. These healing ointments include Bacitracin, Tattoo Goo, and A&D—use whatever your artist recommends. After washing your tattoo and applying your ointment, it’s fine to let your tattoo “air out”, as long as you are not wearing tight clothing or have anything rubbing against it. It is okay to get your tattoo wet—you must do this to gently wash it off—but DO NOT submerge your tattoo in water. For instance, you may shower, but do not swim, take a bath, or use a hot tub for the first ten days after your tattoo. You should also not have your tattoo in direct sunlight for the first ten days. After this ten-day period is over, make sure you use a good sunscreen – the higher the SPF, the better – on top of your tattoo. Also, it is normal for tattoos to peel and itch – this is part of the healing process.
The life of your tattoo depends on YOU. At Tattoo Lou’s, we care about your protection and satisfaction. Of course, if you have any questions about aftercare or how to prolong the life of your tattoo, Tattoo Lou’s is always here to help. Call or stop by any of our locations, and an artist would be glad to answer your questions or concerns. All of the artists here at Tattoo Lou’s love what they do, and it is our job to make sure that all of our customers stay safe.