Artistic ability is usually the first thing that comes to mind, when deciding what tattoo shop to go to, but there a number of other factors to consider as well.
Tristan Squire-Smith is the manager of the Infectious Disease Control Team at London Health Unit. His team is in charge of inspecting all personal service settings including hair and nail salons, and tattoo parlors.
Squire-Smith says ensuring all tattoo parlors are up to health and safety standards is imperative to a customers health, “because of the higher risk associated with the act of tattooing – you’re purposely breaking the skin barrier, so you’re exposing yourself to blood, and therefore [the potential for] blood born pathogens.”
One of the first things the team looks at upon inspection, is the equipment. Typically, shops should be using disposable equipment, as reusable equipment can be very expensive and inefficient to take care of.
As a customer, he says one thing to watch for, is the artist opening and disposing of the equipment right in front of you, to ensure it is single use only, “if the operator is operating well, they should be opening needles and any ink right in front if the customer.”
He adds that asking a lot of questions is a good way to make decisions, “have a conversation with the person who would be doing your tattoo. Have a conversation in terms of their process, what sort of equipment they’re using, and you want to be comfortable too, that they’re giving you the proper after care instructions as well.”
He says infractions can range in severity. From something as small as not labeling a bottle, to something critical like not sterilizing something, or reusing something that should not be reused.
Shops in London are inspected every year, and Squire-Smith says by and large, many local shops are excellent. Smaller infractions, like not labeling a bottle, are typically fixed on site at the time of the inspection. More severe infractions, like reusing something they shouldn’t, would lead to closer followups, and possible suspensions and closures. He adds situations like this in London, are very rare.
Sammy DeCaen is a tattoo artist at Legacy Tattoo and says it’s best to always be prepared for inspections, “we clean the shop relentlessly all day. We have a log that we do, that shows our sterile cycle, and makes sure that everything is working properly, and we do a spore test every two weeks to make sure that the spores are taken care of and killed.”
He adds as well, to make sure that you’re asking a lot of questions, and to make sure that all equipment is single use only, “if you go to a shop that’s reputable, they won’t have any problems showing you and answering these questions.”