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How Tattoos Work

Finding a Tattoo Parlor
Reputable tattoo parlors are clean and organized.
Reputable tattoo parlors are clean and organized.

Other than the use of universal precautions and laws requiring minors to have parental permission, few regulations cover tattooing.

Licensing usually involves completing a health department course on infectious disease transmission and passing an exam, but no governing body inspects tattoo businesses. Laws allow anyone to buy a machine, get a license and start tattooing whether or not they have any artistic ability -- a situation that professional tattoo artists object to -- so it's a good idea to do your homework before rolling up your sleeve.

Here are some basic steps for choosing a safe tattoo parlor:

  • Look around to see if the studio is clean and professional.
  • Ask questions: Is there an autoclave? Are the needles and other materials single-use? Are EPA-approved disinfectants used? Do the tattoo artists wear gloves? Professional artists won't mind the questions.
  • Watch the artist and pay attention to health and safety precautions.
  • Watch the artist open all needles before beginning work.
  • Ask about the staff's professional memberships. These are not required, but artists who participate may have the most current information about trends, innovations and safety issues.

Next, we'll explain how to properly care for your new tattoo.