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.