Before you go under the gun

So you’re thinking about showing that special someone how devoted you are with some life-long body art? Or maybe you just want to become one with your favorite masterpiece. Here’s a list I’ve compiled containing tips from Karen L. Hudson, author of “Living Canvas: Your Complete Guide to Tattoos, Piercings, and Body Modification,” as well as from the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department Web site. Consider this advice before going under the needle.

Pre-tattoo Awareness:
Spend adequate time mulling over the design you would like tattooed, and where you would like it tattooed. Being impulsive and getting some random tattoo after having had too much to drink will most likely lead to regret the next day.

Ensure that the artist is registered with the county health department. Every state has different regulations, but in California, Assembly Bill 186 requires county health departments to set specific safety and sanitation standards to be followed by every tattoo shop. The county health department also performs annual inspections to enforce regulations.

Be sure to eye over some examples of the artist’s finished work, not just the art you see on the tattoo shop walls. Ask the artist to see his or her portfolio, and when you are flipping through it, look at the designs closely for straight, smooth lines, circles that should look like circles and well-blended colors that create even forms of shading, depth and dimension.

Make sure the equipment is clean by checking that the shop has a steam autoclave sterilizer. If you want to be extra safe, check out the results of the latest biological spore test, which confirms the autoclaves are sterilizing properly. The artist should be wearing medical latex gloves.

After-tattoo To-do List:
Leave your bandage on for a minimum of two hours. The whole point of having that bandage is to protect your wound from airborne bacteria. If your artist for some odd reason covered your tattoo in some kind of plastic wrap, remove it immediately; it’s better to have no covering at all than to smother it.

After removing the bandage, wash your tattoo with lukewarm water and either a mild, liquid antibacterial or antimicrobial soap. Refrain from using a washcloth or towel as this will be too abrasive; just use your hand. After the area has been thoroughly washed, pat dry with a clean towel until completely dry and apply a meager amount of antibacterial ointment.

For the first three weeks, stick to showers and avoid submerging your tattoo at all costs! You will also not want to let your tattoo get any soap or shampoo on it.

Peeling and scabbing are to be expected a few days after the procedure. If you are experiencing peeling, apply lotion. To get rid of scabs, apply a warm, damp compress to the area for five minutes, three times a day. This will soften them and allow them to come off on their own in due time. You might also try slapping the skin if it begins to itch; just don’t pick or scratch at it. Your tattoo is susceptible to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which can harm and fade your tattoo, so be sure to use sunblock for the rest of your tattoo’s life.

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Before you go under the gun