Santa Clara University

Wellness Center


Deciding to get a tattoo may be something you decide to do at the spur of the moment. But that may not be the best thing to do. A tattoo is a permanent scarring of your body and, while the process is much safer than it used to be, there are still many things to consider when selecting a place to go.

Below you will find some tips on what to look for and ask about when deciding where to get your tattoo done. And don't forget to go with your intuition as well-if you aren't comfortable with the place, keep looking.

Things to Look For:

  • An autoclave and sterilization certificate-an autoclave is a machine that sterilizes equipment with high temperatures. This is the only way sterilization of tattoo equipment should be done. If you don't see an autoclave or they won't show it to you, move on.
  • Watch to see if the tattoo artist(s) are wearing gloves. Surgical gloves should be worn at all times to prevent any skin to skin contact since blood will be present during your tattoo work.
  • Ask if the tattoo artists have had the Hepatitis B vaccination. Hepatitis B can be transmitted through blood contact. As mentioned above, you will bleed during your tattoo work so it is important that both you and the artist are protected.
  • Make sure your tattoo artist uses sterile, single use needles and destroys all needles after use. Any needles used for tattoos or piercings should only be used once and disposed of immediately after use. If you do not see your tattoo artist removing your needles from sterile packages, insist on seeing him/her do so.
  • All water, ink and ointments to be used for your tattoo should discarded after the process is over. Look to see that the tattoo artists are not returning used items to universal containers.
  • Ask your tattoo artist about any training he/she has had. Do they have certificates available for you to look at? Don't hesitate to ask. Also, see if your artist has photos of finished tattoos. A photo book should be readily available.

Source: Tattoo Safety Checklist


Once you have left the tattoo parlor, aftercare is entirely up to you. Your tattoo artist should give you a copy of aftercare instructions, but here is a list of things to be aware of.

  • Do not remove the bandage. A tattoo, though beautiful, is an open wound when it's first finished. The bandage will protect it from any bacteria floating around. At minimum, you should leave your bandage on for 3 hours. If you are determined to show it off right away, request that your artist place a cellophane wrap over your tattoo. This will offer the same protection as a bandage, but your tattoo will be visible.
  • Wash your tattoo. Once you have removed the bandage, you need to gently wash the tattoo with lukewarm water and antibacterial soap. You will only need to clean the area lightly so as to remove any remaining ointment. When finished, pat the tattooed area firmly with a clean towel-do not rub! You will want to apply a light layer of ointment to the area (Bacitracin is recommended). This cleaning schedule should be followed twice a day for the next two to three days to prevent infection.

Scabbing and Peeling:

Mild scabbing and peeling is not unusual after getting a tattoo. It may even itch, similar to a sunburn, but do not pick or scratch your tattoo! This is the end stage of the healing process and you don't want to ruin your tattoo.

Sun Exposure:

A tattoo will fade if exposed to sunlight for extended periods of time. To ensure the color lasts, make sure to always apply sunblock (SPF 30 is recommended) to your tattoo before heading out into the sun.

Source: Tattoo Aftercare

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