Advice for people thinking of having a tattoo - what to look for when you pick the artist or operator who will do the tattoo. A professional artist practices good hygiene and follows infection control guidelines for sterilisation of equipment.

Many people think that the hardest decisions when deciding on a tattoo are the colour and design and where the tattoo should go. The most important decision is who you get to do your tattoo. A good tattooist or skin piercer knows the potential risks to themselves and their clients from infections.

Good hygiene

Hygiene and infection control are an important part of making sure you do not contract any infection such as Hepatitis, HIV or bacterial infections. The greatest potential risk for transmission of infections comes from operators who avoid the notice of professional bodies or the Council. A good operator will be happy to discuss any concerns and fears with you. Many operators are also happy to show you the hygiene procedures they use to make sure you are safe and answer any questions you have about infection

What to look for

These are signs of a good operator:

  • Clean premises and facilities are maintained
  • New needles are used for each client
  • New disposable gloves are worn each time
  • Strict attention is paid to safe hygiene practices at all times
  • They are pleased to answer any queries.

Looking after your new tattoo

Personal cleanliness is a must:

  • Use an anti-bacterial soap and warm water to wash the area at least twice a day
  • Pat tattoos dry with a clean cloth - do not rub
  • Do not pick or scratch the area
  • Always wash your hands before touching the tattoo.
  • Swimming is not recommended until a tattoo has healed
  • Keep tattoos out of direct sunlight as they may burn
  • Occasionally use salt water and a cotton bud if there is a slight infection as this helps the healing process
  • Do not wear dirty clothing as this may transfer germs and cause infection.


If you develop an infection, seek medial advice. Signs of infection include:

  • Inflammation or ‘redness’ of the site
  • Unusual soreness or pain
  • Continuing discharge of pus or matter

If in doubt, consult your Doctor.