Tattoo Safety Tips

  • Written By Dan Hunter on February 04, 2022
    Last Updated: March 12, 2022

More than a quarter of all Americans have at least one tattoo. But, as tattoos have become more common, so have the health and safety concerns associated with them. So, if you’re planning to dive into the tattoo artist’s chair, there are a few safety tips to consider.

In this article, we discuss tattoo safety tips. We look at the precautions, preparation, and aftercare when getting a tattoo.

Before walking into a tattoo studio, there are some precautions you can take to reduce the health and safety risks. It’s also a good idea to prepare for your tattoo and follow any aftercare instructions.

Precautions to Take Before Getting a Tattoo

Is the Artist Bloodborne Pathogen Certified?

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Anyone likely to come into contact with bloodborne pathogens should train annually. During this training, the artist learns how to prevent cross-contamination and the spread of disease.

Bloodborne pathogen certification is a requirement for tattoo artists in all states. 

Are the Artist and Shop Licensed?

A tattoo license helps stop the spread of infections and diseases. But, tattoo licenses aren’t a requirement in all states and counties. 

The documentation needed to obtain a license also differs between counties. Some states, such as New Mexico, ask for a completed apprenticeship, CPR, first aid, and bloodborne pathogens training. But, places such as Washington only require the tattooist to be over 18 and have bloodborne pathogen certification. 

Check the licensing regulations in your state or county so you can make an informed decision when choosing a parlor. If there are no licensed studios in your area, it’s always best to travel. You can’t put a price on health and safety.

Is the Tattoo Parlor Clean?

Go and see the parlor before you have your tattoo; never book over the phone. Have a look around the studio, talk to the artist, and use your judgment about cleanliness. Don’t feel pressured into booking your procedure in a place that isn’t up to standard. 

All surfaces should be non-porous, including chairs, floors, and stations. Non-porous surfaces prevent bodily fluids from being absorbed, and they’re easy to wipe down.  

You should also check that the artist uses an autoclave. An autoclave is a piece of kit that sterilizes re-usable equipment using high temperatures and extreme pressure. If they don’t own one, it’s probably best you find another tattoo studio.

Does the Artist Use Disposable Equipment?

Check that the artist wears disposable gloves while working and changes them between clients. Changing gloves prevents the spread of bacteria. 

Some tattooists will sterilize their needles and re-use them. However, these should be single-use to mitigate the spread of bloodborne pathogens like hepatitis and HIV. 

At the beginning of each session, the artist should take fresh needles out of a sealed packet. If this isn’t happening the sanitation is questionable. The parlor should also own a sharps box to dispose of used needles correctly.

What Ink Does the Artist Use?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate tattoo inks. But, the FDA has the authority to explore any safety issues concerning inks. If the FDA finds any safety concerns, they’ll post warnings and information about recalls. So a quick web search of the pigments the artist uses should tell you whether there are any problems with the product. 

Discuss Any Medical Conditions

It’s in your best interest to disclose medical conditions to the tattoo artist. Disclosure ensures that yourself and the artist are kept safe. You should also notify them if you’re taking any prescription medications, as some can affect pain sensitivity or cause adverse reactions.

Prepare for Your Tattoo

Preparing for a tattoo can be a nerve-racking experience, especially if it’s your first. You may be anxious, and getting a good sleep the night before your session can be challenging, but you must try. 

Eating may also be difficult for some. However, having a meal and drinking plenty of water before the procedure can be beneficial. 

What Food and Drink Should I Eat?

Water: Hydrated skin provides the best canvas for your artist, the skin will be firmer, and the ink will take much better. You’ll also find that being well hydrated prevents excess bleeding. 

Protein: Eating high protein foods before and after having a tattoo can help repair muscle and skin tissues. Protein can also assist in fighting infections. 

Zinc: Nuts, legumes, and red meat are among the foods which contain zinc. Zinc helps heal damaged tissue and supports the fight against infection.

Vitamin C: Before getting a tattoo, it’s a great idea to consume foods rich in vitamin C. Citrus fruits, tomatoes, and potatoes all consist of substantial amounts of vitamin C and have high levels of antioxidant compounds. Antioxidants help speed up the healing process and help improve skin elasticity. 

What Food and Drink Should I Avoid?

Alcohol, caffeine, and energy drinks: Avoid drinking alcohol, caffeine, and energy drinks for at least 24-hours before your session. 

These drinks are stimulants, and they can make you feel more anxious. They can also dehydrate and thin the blood, which can cause excess bleeding and impact ink quality. 

When the quality of the ink is affected, the artist will go over the area to try and get the ink to take correctly. Going over the area can cause skin irritation and make the experience more painful.

Inflammatory foods: Inflammatory foods, such as fried foods and soda, have high sugar, salt, or fat content. They’re known to cause skin inflammation and can prolong the healing process.


Once you’ve had your tattoo, the artist should give you some aftercare advice. Remember, your tattoo is an open wound so bacteria may cause infection if the area is not cleaned regularly. 

Avoid soaking the area in water and allowing it to sit in direct sunlight for the first couple of weeks to allow the tattoo to heal. Keep the tattoo clean using antibacterial soap and lukewarm water, gently patting dry with a clean towel. After each wash, apply an antibacterial moisturizer or a product such as Vaseline or pure coconut oil. Do not use anything that contains harsh ingredients such as alcohol.


Getting a tattoo is a serious step to take, and it carries all kinds of health and safety risks. Choosing a reputable artist with a clean, licensed parlor and the necessary certifications can help ease safety concerns. 

Once your tat’s complete, you can help the healing process by eating certain foods and having a good aftercare routine.

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