Tattoos and Piercings: Don't take chances when it comes to your health!

Many people feel they have the proper knowledge to make an informed decision when it comes to tattoos and piercings. The last thing you want to do is take chances when it comes to your health and safety. Educate yourself!!!!!!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

TATTOOING - Substance over Safety

Tattooing has been practiced in cultures around the globe for thousands of years and has constantly improved and evolved into an artform of such mind-blowing proportions that even many critics can't dispute it's place in the world of art. We constantly see new innovations in machines, inks and needles in an effort to provide the best tools to create even more impressive works of art on our bodies. Many machines designed over the past several years have been incredible. Rotaries using Maxon motors, John Clark inventing a magnetic rotary, adjustable grips and the cartridge system have all been cutting edge developments. Talk to almost any tattoo artist about tattoo gear, and the level of excitement parallels that of a 13 year old girl at a Justin Beiber concert. There is absolutely no disputing how far the craft has come, especially in the last 2 decades. With all of the advances in tattooing, there is one topic that has pretty much been left behind, with little to no advancement in the last few decades and is rarely a topic of discussion, and that is the advances and innovations we have made to improve health and safety practices to better protect our clients and ourselves. Many tattooers I have spoken with around the country feel that there is no need to change or improve 30 year old practices. Tattooing techniques and tools have improved and evolved dramatically in that timeframe, so why would we not follow suit with safety related issues? The only 2 products involved in the typical tattooing process that are sterile are the tube and the needle, with the rare exception of instances where sterile ink caps are being used. If we look at an average tattoo setup on a work surface, we will see some form of porous liner which will have ink caps with ink, a lubricant or ointment, a tattoo machine with tube and needle, rinse cup, squirt bottle with green soap or the like and paper towels. Once the procedure begins, we are cleaning the area with a product that isn't a true skin prep, then dipping a previously sterile needle and tube into non-sterile ink that was placed in an ink cap which was mass produced in a non-medical manufacturing facility which we placed on a non-sterile barrier that was manufactured and stored in a manner where it was exposed to a variety of uncontrolled conditions, placed next to a plastic cup with non-sterile water that we use to rinse our needles and then using a stack of paper towels that were meant for household use to clean the area. Once the tattoo is complete, we then typically cover it with a non-sterile bandage or covering of some sort. For those who use and process their own reusable tubes, there are many potential issues there as well. For instance, if you are using an M7 autoclave like so many, guess what, your tubes aren't sterile!! An M7 isn't able to sterilize hollow-ware properly. The above workflow is simplified of course, but using that general procedure, we claim to be providing "safe and clean" tattooing. Safe and clean as compared to what exactly? Most of our actions and procedures are in complete opposition to that statement. We will never be able to eliminate all of the issues in the tattooing process, but we can do so much better. Better products, procedures and education are readily available and the days of making excuses as to why we don't need to evolve and put our clients health and safety first need to go! Just a thought.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tattoo and Body Piercing Survey

Many of us in the tattoo and piercing community are very outspoken and opinionated when it comes to political and social topics.  I am curious as to not only if consumers feel as strongly, but do they make decisions about where to go based on the visuals put forth by the business and their staff?  Additionally, do business owners and staff consider any potential repercussions resulting from vocalizing their ideologies?

I would greatly appreciate taking a few moments to participate in, and share this poll.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Tattooers view on Body Piercing

I know this will result it some angry people and maybe even some spirited hate mail, but it's something I wanted to talk about for a while.

As a tattooer who respects body piercing and has spent the last couple years constantly traveling to studios across the country and seeing the vastly different views on piercing from shop to shop, I wanted to point out a few things, ask a few questions and really just try to understand the thought processes of some. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to the piercing side of shops.  Some of the things I've seen are truly horrid and others are amazing.  When a client walks in for a navel, tongue, industrial, TFH etc and the person piercing them doesn't even check their anatomy before having them fill out paperwork and picking their jewelry, you know you're gonna have a bad time!

People at most shops I've visited will totally geek out on tattoo related topics, from the latest and greatest machines, inks, needles etc.  More often than not, the topic of untrained "scratchers" using junk inks and machines from China will come up and turns into a lengthy discussion about how dangerous imported inks are due to the lack of quality control and use of toxic ingredients.  You would have to assume that this same thought process would apply to the training of those performing the piercings and the jewelry they carry, right?  We hear that price doesn't matter when it comes to quality tattoo supplies and equipment, so again, you would assume the same applies to piercing as well,  wouldn't you?  Sadly, this is far too often not the case.  The issues of health, safety and quality is often limited to tattooing and is completely ignored when it comes to piercing for some reason.

When you discuss the topic of tattoo apprenticeships with many tattooers, the view is that one has to pay their dues not only financially, but often over a period of years.  Piercing on the other hand is just something you can teach someone in a week or 2, I mean, what's there to know?  It's not like you're actually putting needles and pieces of metal THROUGH someone's body and leaving them there.  It's not like there's any need to know the locations of vessels, ducts, nerves etc, know tissue types and what is anatomically necessary for certain piercings to be viable right?

I have even seen situations where a tattoo apprentice is required to learn to pierce first.  My question about that is pretty simple.  Is it that piercing doesn't deserve to be respected and properly taught, or that tattooing is easy enough that it doesn't require or deserve your full attention and dedication?

You could say it's about the money, but as most tattooers say, it's not about the money, it's about the quality and the art.  If it's not about the money, there would be no hesitation in buying quality American made jewelry rather than the 10 cent junk being made in china that, as we know and acknowledge based on the reasoning not to buy imported inks, is not safe to use.

So the final question is simple.  Why do tattoo clients deserve the best and safest experience possible as well as the best materials available, but piercing clients don't?  Feel free to share far and wide!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The finer points to choosing a Studio for your next Tattoo or Piercing

The explosion in the number of Tattoo and Piercing studios worldwide has created unprecedented accessibility to wide array of body modifications. There are several different types of potential clients walking through the doors, calling or messaging to inquire about various procedures. It appears that 2 are the most notable types as to how they choose a studio. There are those who make a decision based solely on price and those who base their decision on where they feel does the best work. While price and quality should absolutely be a part of the selection process, health and safety conditions of a studio should take precedence above all else. An amazing tattoo or piercing isn't so amazing if there are complications afterward that could have been avoided by taking proper health and safety precautions.

The most common concern that most customers have is whether you will be using clean needles or not. While this is a very important question, there are numerous other factors that need to be taken into consideration.

The first things that you will most likely notice are the look and smell of the shop when you walk in. Yes, these are two important factors, but there are several other things to look at. When you step in, what are you stepping on? Are you standing on carpet, or is it a hard surface? Carpeting may be acceptable in a lobby or waiting area, but NEVER in the work areas. Carpet and fabrics cannot be properly disinfected by wiping them down. Every surface in the tattooing or piercing areas, from floor to ceiling must be non-porous in order to be properly decontaminated after the procedure. If you see fabric or upholstery in the work area it means one of two things. Either those working there have no knowledge of blood borne pathogens and cross contamination, or they simply are not concerned about your well-being, nor their own. What do you smell? It should go without saying, but if you smell smoke, alcohol or any offensive odors you need to turn around and walk out! You are about to have an invasive medical procedure performed. Would you go to a doctor or hospital where they smoke or drink? Not only is this unsafe, but illegal nearly every state in the country.

Everything looks and smells right, so now it's time to sit down and get your new tattoo or piercing. Take notice as to whether reusable or disposable instruments are being used. Needles are NEVER to be reused! Regardless of which is being used, the needles, tubes and piercing tools and body jewelry will be sealed in packages or bags which have indicators that show whether it has been sterilized. The exception to tools, needles, jewelry etc. being sealed in autoclave pouches is when a Statim autoclave is being used. You will typically only see a Statim used by body piercers in upscale studios who choose to go above and beyond accepted sterilization methods. The two types of sterilization that are commonly used are EO gas and steam. When reusable instruments are being used, the shop must utilize an autoclave for sterilization. You would assume that because an autoclave is being used, everything will be sterile. This is not the case. When an autoclave is being used as the sterilization method, spore testing MUST be done periodically to ensure that it is working properly. All shops that use autoclave sterilization should be able to provide spore test results if you ask. If they are not having the equipment tested, there is no way to know if it is working properly. Ask to see the reports. Make sure that anything that should be sterilized is opened in front of you and ask to see the sterilization indicators on the packaging. This, in addition to seeing the spore test results is the best way to protect yourself. If you are called back to the work station and the sterilized items are already opened, insist on new items being used so you can see for yourself that things are as they should be. If you don't see it with your own eyes, you need to assume it doesn't exist. Additionally, packaging should never be opened with bare hands. Make sure gloves are being worn when opening any packaging.

If you are getting a body piercing, you need consider what jewelry is used. Is the piercer using low quality imported steel products with a high nickel content which are not meant for long term wear in even healed piercings, let alone a fresh piercing? All piercers who care about the health and safety of their clients will only order true implant grade body jewelry, and many insist on piercing with American made titanium jewelry only. When in doubt, ask your piercer to provide mill certificates to ensure that only the highest material standards are being conformed to. So if a piercing is $20-30 including jewelry, there is little to no chance that the jewelry being used meets the proper standards. In many cases the cost of high quality, implant grade jewelry alone exceeds the $20-$30 pricetag. This is why most studios who provide the highest quality possible charge a base procedure fee and jewelry cost is additional and determined by your jewelry choice.

Another way to ensure the studio holds your health and safety as a high priority is to observe the cleaning process after a procedure. Obviously, gloves should be worn during the cleanup process, but also observe what is being used to wipe down all surfaces. Antimicrobial wipes such as caviwipes or Optim 33TB must be used. A spray bottle should not be used, keep in mind that when you spray the contaminated area, the spray causes the contaminants to spread to areas that were previously uncontaminated. A good example would be spraying a hose on a muddy sidewalk. It does not remove the mud, it just moves it to another area.

These are just a few examples among countless that should be considered to make a safe, well-informed decision when selecting a studio.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Think twice before getting that CHEAP Tattoo or Piercing

Nowadays, there seems to be tattoo and piercing studios opening on every corner. Typically, in business, competition results in expanded choices, higher quality products and a more budget friendly pricing. Unlike typical businesses, this is not so much the case in the body modification industry. In the world of consumer goods, a rise in sales volume results in increased purchasing power for the company itself, leading to lower prices which can then be passed on to the consumer. The vast majority of materials used for tattoos and piercings are at set prices, and even volume purchasing has little to no benefit as to lowering costs. The amount of products needed to properly perform a tattoo or piercing is substantially more than you may think. Most clients only take notice to the obvious supplies such as gloves, needles, ink and jewelry. The average client never takes into account the cost of tray liners, ink caps, tattoo machines, piercing implements, anti-microbial solutions and wipes, disposable tubes, autoclaves, autoclave pouches, clip cord covers, barrier film, paper towels, marking pens and so on. The true cost of each tattoo or piercing is staggering when the actual products used for the procedure is taken into account.

This leads to one of the most important questions you need to ask yourself when seeking your next tattoo or piercing. Why are the prices so much lower at one place than another down the street? In order to perform a $20-$30 tattoo or piercing with jewelry included in that price, you have no choice but to cut costs. There are only 2 reasonable possibilities to drastically cut costs for a tattoo or piercing. The first is to use substandard equipment or materials. The negatives to using substandard materials is obvious, for example:

When cleaning up after a procedure, an antimicrobial such as cavicide, Optim 33TB or opticide must be used. One of the easiest ways to reduce costs is to use a spray bottle rather than wipes, but keep in mind that when you spray the contaminated area, the spray causes the contaminants to spread to areas that were previously uncontaminated. A good example would be spraying a hose on a muddy sidewalk. It does not remove the mud, it just moves it to another area.

The main way to cut jewelry cost, is to use low quality imported steel products with a high nickel content which are not meant for long term wear in even healed piercings, let alone a fresh piercing.  All piercers who care about the health and safety of their clients will only order true implant grade body jewelry and are able to provide mill certificates upon request to ensure that only the highest standards are being held.  So if a piercing is $20-30 including jewelry, there is no chance that the jewelry being used meets the proper standards.

The second reason may be the fact that many tattooers and piercers are willing to work for next to nothing and care only about the persona that many attribute to being a tattooer or piercer. It's more about looking cool than anything else. When you go for that cheap tattoo or piercing, think about this:

The vast majority of us have bills to pay and families to support, so working for next to nothing is not an option. People walk through the door every day looking for nothing but the absolute lowest price on a tattoo or piercing. This tells me that not only do they have no respect or appreciation for what we do, but they also have no appreciation for their own bodies. The other side of this, is that those who are willing to perform these procedures so cheaply, have no respect for their art form, themselves or the person standing in front of them.

When it comes to price.....THINK!!!!

When choosing a studio for your new Tattoo or Piercing, your first impression may not be the right one!!!!

When going for a tattoo or piercing, your first impression may not always be the correct one. 

You have decided to get that new tattoo or piercing that you have been wanting. You have talked to friends, looked online and know what to look for to ensure the place is clean and safe.....ARE YOU SURE ABOUT THAT? 

The most common concern that most customers have is whether you will be using clean needles or not. While this is a very important question, there are numerous other factors that need to be taken into consideration. 

The first things that you will most likely notice are the look and smell of the shop when you walk in. Yes, these are two important factors, but there are several other things to look at. When you step in, what are you stepping on? Are you standing on carpet, or is it a hard surface? Carpeting may be acceptable in a lobby or waiting area, but NEVER in the work areas. Carpet and fabrics cannot be properly disinfected by wiping them down. Every surface in the tattooing or piercing areas, from floor to ceiling must be non-porous in order to be properly decontaminated after the procedure. If you see fabric or upholstery in the work area it means one of two things. Either those working there have no knowledge of blood borne pathogens and cross contamination, or they simply are not concerned about your well-being, nor their own. What do you smell? It should go without saying, but if you smell smoke, alcohol or any offensive odors you need to turn around and walk out! You are about to have an invasive medical procedure performed. Would you go to a doctor or hospital where they smoke or drink? Not only is this unsafe, but illegal nearly every state in the country.

Everything looks and smells right, so now it's time to sit down and get your new tattoo or piercing. Take notice as to whether reusable or disposable instruments are being used. Needles are NEVER to be reused! Regardless of which is being used, the needles, tubes and piercing tools will be sealed in packages or bags which have indicators that show whether it has been sterilized. The two types of sterilization that are commonly used are EO gas and steam. When reusable instruments are being used, the shop will be utilizing an autoclave for sterilization. You would assume that because an autoclave is being used, everything will be sterile. This is not the case. When an autoclave is being used as the sterilization method, spore testing MUST be done periodically to ensure that it is working properly. All shops that use autoclave sterilization should be able to provide spore test results if you ask. If they are not having the equipment tested, there is no way to know if it is working properly. Ask to see the reports. Make sure that anything that should be sterilized is opened in front of you and ask to see the sterilization indicators on the packaging. This, in addition to seeing the spore test results is the best way to protect yourself. If you are called back to the work station and the sterilized items are already opened, insist on new items being used so you can see for yourself that things are as they should be. If you don't see it with your own eyes, you need to assume it doesn't exist. Additionally, packaging should never be opened with bare hands. Make sure gloves are being worn when opening the packaging. 

These are just a few of the many things to take notice to when you are having a tattoo or piercing procedure performed. If one of these things are off, there is a strong likely hood that others are as well. BE SAFE!!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Any silence is an awkward silence.


If there is one thing I have learned in the last few years, it is that the vast majority of those who come to get tattooed or pierced enjoy the social interaction that is commonplace in most shops.  Much like they do with their hairdressers, bartenders and even therapists, our clients want to be able to engage in conversation and have a positive experience.  Whether it be a tattoo, piercing or any other form of body modification, we are performing painful procedures on every person who sits in our chair.  Many people are nervous, anxious and in some cases truly scared before the procedure regardless if it is their first time, or 100th.  Engaging in conversation with not only the person in your chair, but others around you does a great deal to help put them at ease and decrease their anxiety level.  Social interaction helps to shift some of the focus away from the pain the client is being sujected to.  Silence, on the other hand, creates an environment where the only thing they have is the pain.


Imagine how awkward and uncomfortable it would be to have someone inflicting pain upon you, for several hours in some cases with only an occasional word or two.  It is our responsibility to ensure every person who walks out the door had a positive and enjoyable experience!  Personally, I like to joke around and have fun with those I tattoo as well as others around me, and for each person who may not appreciate that approach, there are countless others who return because of it.  You can never please everyone, but if they see that you enjoy what you are doing and making an effort to connect with them, the vast majority will do the same.  


We DO NOT work in a funeral home or library, so it shouldn't sound and feel like one.  With a shop on almost every corner these days, you need to  create a positive and enjoyable experience for your clients....or someone else will!!!