The Customer and the Fresh Tattoo

The customer should remove the bandage in about two hours and rinse it in cold water to remove whatever blood there is and gently blot it dry. Two hours is about the average time it takes for blood to start clotting and scabbing. If it has not clotted by that time, the cold water will close up the pores in the skin and hold the rest of the ink in. It is the cleaning process while it is healing that makes a tattoo look nice and sharp. Tell them to rinse it off with their hands. A washcloth or towel could really feel rough and it might start it to bleed, which you do not want to happen. It should then be blotted dry with a clean paper towel. No wiping or scrubbing, just blotting. The towel should be a white one, unscented and have no designs on it. Some people are allergic to the scent and dye in the towels. They should use the smooth side of the paper towel to keep from irritating it as little as possible. Fresh tattoos are very sensitive. When it is rinsed off, apply a little Bacitracin to keep it from drying out too much. (If it is a black tattoo, a little rub of alcohol on it first, before the ointment, will keep it clean and sharp. Black tattoos heal faster than colored ones.) The ointment should then be blotted dry after a fifteen minute wait. Again, use the smooth side of a white unscented paper towel. The tattoo will absorb as much ointment as it needs in that amount of time. If they don’t blot it dry, the excess ointment will collect unwanted bacteria. Blotting up a tattoo means blotting it dry to the touch. If you feel your hand over it and it slides across, there is too much ointment on it. If it is rough or crusty, the ointment was not on long enough.
Don’t keep it covered with a bandage. A tattoo is on the skin and it must be exposed to air to breathe, which speeds up healing. The only exception is when straps or certain articles of clothing rub against it. Tight clothing should be avoided and clean loose fitting clothes should be worn until the tattoo heals.
The ointment and blotting treatments are to be applied four times a day. Make sure that this is understood. As a tattoo heals, it feels smooth and velvety. A tattoo has healed when a scab falls off by itself. A black tattoo heals in about four days and a colored one takes about a full week.
Water is the worst thing for a healing tattoo to be exposed to. When in the shower, the customer should cover it up with a good layer of ointment. This will act as a protective barrier. Don’t get water on it until the scab falls off. Try not to put it directly under the water and work around it. When a scab gets too soaked with water, it swells up and peels off too early, messing things up. Drill these procedures into the customer. It only takes a few days of good care and they will get a great looking tattoo, if done right. When not done right, it will look faded, weak and not very bright. It will be worth it to them to take good care of it, because they are going to have the tattoo for the rest of their life.

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Bandages for tattoos

After finishing a tattoo, it is your responsibility to prevent it from getting infected, at least during the first few hours until the body can close up all the holes that were just put into it. While tattooing, you have plenty of time to talk to the customer about after care and how they ought to treat the tattoo. Later, you can give them a care sheet to take home with them. A big poster outlining the healing process and the care of a new tattoo, located near the work chair, also acts as a double reminder. This is a very important step because how good a tattoo looks afterwards depends upon the healing, and it can either make or break you.
Right after finishing, you should clean the whole tattoo area with a green soap spray and a paper towel. Next, spray alcohol directly on that tattoo and place a paper towel right over it. (The towel is now totally absorbed with the alcohol.) Apply pressure on the towel with your hand and hold it on there for a few seconds before you wipe it off. (A word of warning here: This procedure really smarts, so you might want to hold the customer down with your free hand while you are wiping with the alcohol.) As you are wiping, clean an area a little larger than the actual tattoo, which will make a clean space for tape to stick onto later.
The next step is to apply a nice thin even coat of Bacitracin on the cleaned tattoo with a tongue depressor. Do not use Vaseline on a fresh tattoo. Bacitracin ointment should be used. A fresh tattoo will have a fever under it and feel hot to the touch. Cold water several times a day the first two days will take care of this. Explain this to customers and advise them to use Bacitracin after showering.
Some people use Bacitracin (a triple antibiotic ointment) on a fresh tattoo. You should know though, that certain customers may have a bad allergic reaction to the antibiotic in Bacitracin. Since you have no way of knowing who does or who doesn’t, you should be careful with its use. Antibiotics should be avoided as preventatives. If you have a clean shop and use sterile equipment, there is no reason why any tattoo should become infected. When an infection does take place (if ever), it is usually because of the customer’s neglect of instructions to properly care for it. They should not use antibiotics on their own. Instead, they should see a medical doctor who will prescribe one for them.

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After the tattoo

Place all machines used in a rack and set it in the ultrasonic cleaner for 30 minutes to be cleaned. Mix a 5.25% sodium hypochlorite solution and put on your plastic apron and rubber gloves. Fill 2 glass or stainless shallow pans with straight bleach (must be puncture proof) and begin to wipe down everything that was handled during the tattoo procedure (ink bottles, machine rack, transformer, clipper cord, sink faucet handles, table top, spray bottles, etc.). Turn off ultrasonic cleaner and break down machines. Remove needle bars and place them as a unit in one of the pans clearly marked “Sharps”. Pull the glass tubes from the machine rack and place them in the other pan marked “Glass Tubes”. Continue to clean the machines by throwing the rubber bands away and wiping each machine off with the bleach solution then place them in your drawer. Mop the floor and carry the 2 pans to the cleaning area. Wipe out the trash can and replace the liner. Staple the trash bag closed and autoclave it. Recover your table. Pour your bucket of used bleach solution down the drain, this is acceptable.

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The Sterilization

In the year 1650, a doctor named Lewanouke opened up the gates to a whole new world as he viewed a drop of pond water through his latest discovery… a microscope. As crude as this monocular magnifying device was, it introduced him and his “little animals” to the rest of the world. He spent his remaining years studying and classifying these “little animals” and earned the title of “The Father of Bacteriology”. Through the years as the listing grew in numbers, these “little animals” were divided into Genus, Order, Family and Species. Their association with disease and disease processes was not suspected for many years after their existence became known.
Dr. Joseph Lister, an English surgeon, developed a device he called the “Lister lamp”. When lit, it put a mist of carbolic acid into the air that he believed would control infections. At this particular time, this is where they believed infections came from, the air. Diseases, so named, bare this point to be true, e.g., malaria: “mal-” meaning bad, and “aria” meaning air.
Dr. Lister had these lamps in his office and he required them in any operating room suite where he performed surgery. In addition to his lamp, he employed strict hand-scrubbing techniques, spotless linens, and cleansing of the operation site. Infection in Dr. Lister’s patients was reduced considerably if his precautions were strictly adhered to. He became known as “The Father of Antiseptic Surgery”.
Mankind is plagued today by some 400 diseases, 375 of which can be transmitted by a tattoo needle. Does that sound fantastic? Well, I should say it does, especially when that came from a newspaper article back in 1958.
You see, we’ve known about the problem for years, and it’s about time that we, as professionals, put infections and disease out the back door of the tattoo studio where they belong.

With the above thought in mind, this writer will lead the horse to water. We will cover just a few of the more common organisms that we confront every day in the tattoo shop. Most of these organisms have a particular place on the body where they are more prevalent than others, but as we all know, 1.) bacteria do not read the books, and 2.) add two scratching hands, and we can grossly re-arrange that pattern.

Most bacteria live on hair follicles, the superficial layers of skin and in the sebaceous glands. Most, but not all sebaceous glands have hair follicles associated with them (see figure 1). Many pack themselves into the ruts and cracks of the cornified or surface layers of the skin.

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Pay attention on this information about tattoos and places

In areas where the skin stretches and moves, the scabs are easily torn off before they are ready. If this happens, the area where it was still attached will bleed. In doing so, it will bleed the color right back out. That particular area will revert back to skin color. Every minute the area is in its healing process, it is susceptible to problems. The shorter the healing time, the better.
Try to guide women away from getting tattoos on their arms because many employers won’t hire women who have visible tattoos, but once they are aware of the situation, if they still want one, go ahead and do it.
Try to guide people away from getting their lover’s name on them. It’s sure to change with time. You’ll find yourself covering a lot of them up anyway, ones that other people did. If you must tattoo names on, do them in red or light blue so they can be easily covered up in the future.
Skin is an important matter in tattooing. It is your canvas for art work. Please pay attention to all that has been said, and your tattoos will look pretty and heal with no problem on any type of skin.

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Check the skin before tattooing

If the skin is slippery, put a clean paper towel down first, it will help keep your hand from slipping. Plus, you can always use the paper towel in your free hand for wiping, if necessary.
If a stencil is put on while the skin is stretched, it will look different when it isn’t stretched. So, check the stencil after it is on while the customer is standing in a natural position to make sure it looks right before you start. Even if you have to make a new stencil print, do it until it’s right. If the stencil print isn’t correct, the tattoo isn’t going to look right. Paper stencils are much easier to use for large back designs than are acetate stencils. Also, the print from the hectograph ink used on the paper stencil will not smear as does stencil powder used on the acetate stencil.
To put a stencil on the back, have the customer stand straight up and fully relaxed. After the stencil is on, you can put them in any position you like, to do the actual tattooing.
If it’s a large tattoo, you may want to enlist the help of a friend to help stretch the skin. If so, have them wash up good with soap and hot water. Then spray their hands good with nibbing alcohol before starting. Make sure they are wearing clean clothes, and a pair of latex gloves also. Keep it “professional.”
Give your helper a paper towel. Have him sit across the bench from you and hold onto the other side of your customer’s skin. To do this, have him spread out the fingers on both hands to cover as wide an area as possible, about six inches from that side of the tattoo. Have him toward you from below the tattoo, giving your machine hand plenty of room to maneuver. Most of the time your helpers will tire out easily in this position. Another “hold” is to have him sort of lean on the customer and use his entire forearm to hold the skin while the arm is bent at a 90 degree angle at the elbow.

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