This is a question that we hear people asking time and time again.
Getting a tattoo abroad is no different from getting one anywhere. All artists, and studios, alike should have their customers health, and keeping the integrity of their artwork, as a No.1 priority. This refers back to our previous post as well with regards to getting a tattoo and doing your research. You should always ensure that the studio and artist you decide to use are working to strict health and hygiene guidelines. For most artists health and hygiene matters are second nature but, as with most things, there are always exceptions to the rules so please make sure to check it out first!
Ok, so, you need to check that the guidelines are being adhered to, but what are they? Hopefully this post will help you to better understand the protocols that should be in practice.
Lets start with the studio.
The studio should be clean and well presented. The floors should be free from dust and dirt and all work surfaces should be wiped down and clean. As you enter a studio you will quite often be able to smell the cleaning products that have been used as you go in. A little like the dentists room smell that we all remember as a child. You should be able to see how clean a studio is by simply stepping inside.
All studios should also have a separate sterilisation area, or room, that is cordoned off from the tattoo area so as to ensure that there is no risk of cross contamination. The artists should be happy to show you this area, and the sterilising equipment, if you ask.
Right, so the studio is clean and tidy, what else should you expect to see?
When a tattoo is being performed there are many things that you should look for. If a tattoo is not being carried out at the time of your visit you can either hang around so that you can watch your artist in action, or, ask them in person what their procedure is. Most artists will be more than happy to talk shop with you and explain hows things are done if it means helping a client to feel more at ease and comfortable with their surroundings.
Take a look at the artists work station as well. It should obviously be clean and free from dirt or mess. Watch how the station is prepped for a tattoo. You should see the artist spray and wipe down all the work surfaces and areas around them. You should also see them lay down a surface wrap, or cover, on any areas that may come into contact with their equipment or the area of the body that they are tattooing. They should have brand new ink caps to hold the ink they will be using which will then be disposed of after use. They should have a disposable cup with fresh water in which will be used to clean their needles whilst working. They will also have an amount of, single use, vaseline or similar, and finally they should have brand new, in the packet, needles. If you do not see brand new needles, request them, or run! Needles should never be used on more than one person! This is extremely dangerous and can lead to all sorts of complications, many that are life threatening!
You many also see that an artist is using disposable tips on their machines. These are often used, not only for cleanliness, but also for ease of clean up afterwards. Another item that may be used is a plastic cover on the power lead for the tattoo machines, although this is normally only required when there is a risk that it may come into contact with the area being tattooed, for example, on a larger piece where the artist may be required to lean over you.
So, what else might you witness?
Artists will also want to ensure that their canvas is clean and free from possible contaminants and will therefore clean the area of skin that they will be working on. This is usually a disinfectant spray of some kind which will also help with the ease of applying a stencil or skin marker when marking out your design. Depending on the exact placement of a tattoo the artist may also shave the area (with a disposable razor), or ask the customer to shave in advance. Please dont be offended if they shave you. We all have very small, fine hairs covering our bodies that may hinder the application of a tattoo, they are not insinuating that you are overly hairy.
During a tattoo the artist will refrain from touching anything other than their customers skin and their equipment and will wear gloves at all times. If for any reason the tattoo is halted and the artists leaves their station you should see them remove their gloves and then replace them with new ones when recommencing their work.
When the tattoo is completed you will then see the artist clean the tattooed area and apply a wrap over it. This will protect it once the customer has left the studio and will allow time for their skin to settle and to start to form its own protective layer.
As a customer leaves a studio they should also be given aftercare advice, either verbally, or printed. This advice will give guidelines that they should follow to help their new tattoo to stay clean and heal correctly. It is important that an artist makes their customer aware of how to care for their tattoo whilst it is going through the healing process, not only for health reasons, but also to ensure that their artwork remains a quality piece that shows their skills as an artist, and, that their customer will be proud to wear.
If you want to know a little more about the aftercare side of things you can read our guidelines here.
We hope that this post has answered a few questions and has helped you to understand a little more about the precautions that artists, and studios, take to help keep you safe and keep your tattoos looking awesome!!