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Are Tattoos Regulated

Are Tattoos Regulated

You have decided to get a tattoo. You picked a shop, selected your design, discussed a fair price, and committed to the procedure. You are ready. You sit in the chair, suddenly sweaty; your heart definitely racing a bit faster. And all at once it hit’s you: What do I really know about this place??

And what do you know? With any luck, you did some research before deciding to embark on this artistic adventure. After all, we are talking about people sticking needles into your body and injecting a substance under your skin. (Never mind the fact you are paying them for this treatment!) I can honestly say I have known people more selective about where they purchase their groceries than where they get tattooed. I have never understood this.

Take the time to learn about any tattooing regulations that may apply within your state or county. Learn the minimum standard a shop needs to maintain to keep it’s doors open where you live, and after visiting a few shops, it should be easy to determine who is not only living up to, but surpassing them.

While no state in America outlaws tattooing, many regulate it in some form. Some states do not offer any regulation on tattoo procedures, and this is unfortunate. Proper regulating and inspections help ensure that the public is safe when patronizing local tattoo shops. Many states, such as Wyoming, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and South Dakota only adhere to different bills passed in the House or Senate regarding tattooing of minors. This practice is prohibited in most states, though in some cases allowable with consent of parent or guardian. Again, this does not regulate operations and safety, it simply prohibits tattooing on a certain group of people (specifically, minors).

Some states really set the bar when it comes to training requirements and safety inspections. Oregon requires a training program of over 350+ hours, and a State exam that artists must pass. Nevada requires training, health permits, and other regulations as determined by the county in which the artist or shop is located. Again, performing any tattoo, and typically body piercing, is restricted by the age of the client. This does not, however, mean the State or County is actually going into these shops and performing any sort of checks and balances whatsoever. In most cases, it is up to the consumer to thoroughly research any shop, and be aware during each step of the procedure.

Information is Key, and Seeing Is Believing

So, what should you look for? In a perfect world, there will be some sort of license, or certificate, showing that the artists and/or shop has surpassed various standards of cleanliness and retains a solid understanding of blood bourne pathogens. There are many programs that shops and artists can use to get certified, even in states where it is not required.

A tattoo shop should have an autoclave. This device sanitizes the instruments that are reused from client to client, ie: the gun components, the needle cartridges, and other stainless steel, surgical grade materials used. The needles and ink should never be reused, and you should witness the artist open packaging, or see evidence of new packaging in the trash. Ink should be poured into ‘caps’, which are vessels the size of thimbles that are used during your session only, and then discarded. The main supply of ink is never contaminated, thereby significantly reducing any chance of transmission of blood bourne pathogens from one client to another.

You should be able to see the shop’s autoclave if you ask. Above all else, the shop should present itself as clean, fresh smelling (not necessarily smelling like a hospital, but I mean fresh!), with workspaces clear of food or drink, boxes of latex gloves present, and a friendly attitude from the receptionist and artist.

You should ask any questions upfront, and expect to get informative, helpful answers to your questions before any work begins. You can ask to quickly see the workspace of the artist assigned to you, and of course, look over his or her portfolio. Much of this can be done online once you know which shops you may want to visit. Take into account that this artist’s time is valuable, and do not try to “bargain hunt” here. Ask the fee after a piece is decided on, and do not start to negotiate like you did for that cute, striped blanket in TJ last spring break. If it is too much, simply say so, and if the price is to be reduced, the artist will offer this.

You’ll Have Only Yourself To Blame.

You are your best advocate. If you don’t take charge of your experience to ensure a safe and successful one, who will? Tattoos really are one of those things you want to get done right the first time. Think things through, and you will reap the benefits. Pick a clean shop. Use new needles. Ladies, forget what’s his name’s name: just say no! Fellows, listen up: Do not go for ink on a whim after a few beers with the guys: your wife (or future wife!) isn’t going to think Woody Woodpecker on your rump is anywhere near as funny as you did at the time. Honestly, you may not either.

Tattoos are great ways to express yourself, but if you want to avoid disease (and disbelief at your decision) later on, do your homework and keep it sober when you’re going in for ink. Your reward will be clean blood, and clean work. And I don’t know about you, but those are the only things I care about when I want a quality piece. I don’t care about the shop’s image if it isn’t back up by substance, and I don’t judge the entire shop by any one artist. It is a process. Enjoy it, and explore your local body modification scene feeling empowered. Understand the State isn’t going to save you; you need to be your own best consumer affairs and health inspection panel. Jennifer Waite is also the Tucson Rock Music Examiner on Exami. View profile

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