Aside from how the end “product” will look, the biggest concern people have prior to (and after) getting a tattoo is the risk of infection. In an effort to gain peace of mind you want to learn as much as you can about how a tattoo gets infected so that you can take preventative measures. Below is a look at everything you need to know.
5 Ways a Tattoo Typically Gets Infected and Practical Steps You Can Take to Keep it from Happening
1. Unsanitary Tattoo Shop
Dirty needles, workstations, seating, and a generally unsanitary environments are to blame for most cases of tattoo infection. You’d think such a thing would not exist anymore, but it does. There are tattoo shops (we won’t name names) in Vancouver, Toronto, and other cities and towns across Canada that continue to violate health and sanitation requirements. To avoid this risk please reference our guide for how to choose a tattoo shop near you.
2. A Mistake in the First 24 Hours
If the tattoo studio met or exceeded mandated health and safety requirements, and the tattooist was highly qualified and professional, then you will have significantly reduced your risk of infection. From here, the rest is up to you. The next 24-hours are extremely important, so like your parents told you – make good decisions. Mistakes are often made in the first day as newly tattooed people forget or outright neglect to afford their tattoo the immediate aftercare instructions provided by their tattooist. These missteps often occur when one goes straight to work, and/or hangs out with friends at the local bar. Alcohol will especially make one forgetful about cleaning, bandage changing, and avoiding things that can introduce harmful bacteria into the exposed epidermis. Do yourself a favor and schedule some chill “alone time” for the 24-hours after getting tattooed.
3. Not Explicitly Following Your Tattooist’s Aftercare Instructions
Even if you “behave” in the first 24 hours, you must still follow the aftercare instructions provided by your tattooist to the tee for at least three weeks. Don’t reference online materials instead, or take the advice of friends and family members. Follow what the expert who gave you your tattoo has to say. They know how the initial process went, how your skin adapted (bleeding, etc.) throughout the procedure, and will have an idea for how well you digested everything they told you. And when they ask you to schedule a followup inspection, actually do so. Use the aftercare cleaning solution/s they have suggested, which will be sold in the studio itself. They may have also recommended certain moisturizers and skin care products to apply in the weeks ahead. All of the instructions they provide you intend to not only protect the aesthetic integrity of the tattoo, they are instrumental in staving off infection.
4. Activities Too Soon
Even if you’ve followed the rule to relax for 24-hours after getting tattooed, you should still avoid certain activities, namely those that invite sweat (yours, or especially from others), dirt, debris, and other bacteria-transporting elements into your skin. Contact sports are off-limits for at least a week, but also avoid solo exploits that can make you wipe-out and aggravate a new tattoo, such as snowboarding, skateboarding, and so forth. Even activities like jogging should be done with care (wear loose fitting gear, etc.). And what about sex? Read this for bedroom advice.
5. Traveling Too Soon
Vacations have a way of making you forget all of the day to day responsibilities you have in life. Honestly, we’re all for neglecting to check emails or respond to phone calls and texts. Heck, you can even forget to leave the neighbors a key to feed the goldfish and it won’t really matter (they’re cheap). However, one area you cannot neglect when traveling is a new tattoo. Outside of an unclean studio environment, negligence in immediate aftercare, and excessive activity too soon, travel is the next biggest culprit that drives the risk of post-tattoo infection. When you travel you are exposed to all sorts of foreign bacteria. It can exist in planes, trains, boats, and automobiles along with unsanitary hostels, hotels, and even resorts. And don’t get us started on lakes and other waterways which can harbor all sorts of bacteria-carrying amoebas. If you must travel after getting a tattoo, or you plan on getting tattooed while on your travels, please reference the following guides:
- Getting a Tattoo Before Traveling (what you need to know)
- Can You Fly After Getting a Tattoo
- How Soon Can You Go in the Ocean After Getting a Tattoo
To circle back to the beginning of this article, please remember that they best way to avoid getting an infection from a tattoo is to choose the right studio in the first place. If you live within or are visiting the Greater Vancouver BC or Toronto ON area schedule a consultation at an Adrenaline Studios tattoo shop near you.