Questions Teens Should Ask Before Getting a Tattoo

woman with a tattoo on her inner arm

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So you've decided to get a tattoo, you've picked the perfect design and you're sure you can take care of your body art once you get it. Now what? You need to do your homework about tattoo safety, tattoo shops, tattoo artists, potential tattoo problems and the tattooing process in general. Here are a few tips.

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Shop Around

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You want to find a tattoo shop that is clean, safe, courteous and responsive to your needs and questions. In particular, you want to go with a place that clearly explains how to care for your tattoo after you get it so you can avoid having to deal with infections and other problems that can arise.

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What To Look For in a Tattoo Shop

What will a clean, safe tattoo shop look like? First of all, go with your gut: If a place doesn't feel clean or safe, or if something just seems off, look elsewhere. There are plenty of safe and reputable shops out there.

Other than that, a good, clean tattoo shop will have the following things on hand:

  • Latex gloves
  • Sterile, disposable cloths or towels for cleaning tattoos
  • A virus-killing disinfectant for cleaning the workspace
  • Antibacterial hand wash (for the tattoo artist's hands) and sterilizing soap (for clients' tattoos)
  • An FDA-approved autoclave, which uses steam, pressure, and heat to sterilize the tattoo equipment
  • Sterile disposable needles (individually packaged, sealed and dated)
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Questions to Ask Your Tattoo Artist

First, make sure the tattoo shop has all of the sterilizing items listed above. The shop should let you watch the autoclave being used and witness a new, individually packaged needle and tube set being opened for each client.

In addition, ask the following questions:

  1. Does your artist have a license and references?
  2. Does the shop follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Universal Precautions for blood disposal?
  3. Does the shop use disinfectant on the workspace before and after each client?
  4. Before being thrown away, are tubes and needles rinsed using an ultrasonic tank?
  5. Does each artist wash his/her hands with antibacterial soap before and after each client?
  6. What papers need to be signed? Will the shop tattoo someone your age?
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Parental Consent

Be sure to check the rules for getting a tattoo in your state and your town. In a lot of places, you need to get consent from a parent to get one.

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Other Considerations

It's important to use a shop—and a tattoo artist—that make you feel comfortable and invite your questions about the tattooing process and tattoo aftercare procedures. Your health, safety, and happiness come before their desire to make money.

See how the shop's staff reacts when you ask questions. Are they annoyed or indifferent, or are they polite and reasonably friendly? Remember, a tattoo is permanent, and getting one can hurt: You want to be sure you're in capable hands, and that you're comfortable and taken care of each step of the way.

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