Tattoos and piercings: making a safe choice
We recommend not getting tattooed or pierced if an artist will not or is unable to answer all of your questions.
Procedures must be done by professional artists who are careful to protect their customers and themselves from infections. Improperly administered tattoos and piercings can be a source of life-threatening illnesses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, and a host of other bacterial and viral infections.
If your tattoo or piercing becomes sore, red, swollen or oozes pus, you might have an infection.
Check Before You Go! Make a safe choice when you’re getting a piercing or a tattoo.
Know the risks when it comes to:
- Needles should be used only once. Reusing needles for piercing is like sharing injectable drug needles.
- Make sure you watch your body piercer remove the cork, forceps, and needle from the package.
- Some piercings can take a very long time to heal and can increase the risk of infection.
- Pierce only meaty skin areas. The neck, joints, arteries, and tendons should not be pierced because of severe injury and bleeding.
- Facial piercings should be done with extreme care and should always be done by a professional with the proper training. There is a high risk of facial paralysis.
- Proper jewelry should be used for your piercings. This type of jewelry is usually made of surgical steel or titanium. Silver or gold contain too many impurities to use on a fresh piercing. Ask your body piercer about your options.
- Needles should be used only once, never reused.
- Make sure you watch your body artist remove the sterile bar and needles from the package.
- Currently, commercially prepared pigments are not sterile. Each unique pigment is placed in an individual cap/cup into which the tattoo needles are dipped.
- Only fresh ink should be used for your tattoo. Ask to see your ink poured into new, disposable ‘caps’ (small cups). A virus can survive for a long time in ink.
- Sterile needles, which have been dipped into pigments, pierce the tissue below the surface of the skin to create the permanent marks forming the tattoo. All permanent skin dyes being sold in Canada must comply with the Cosmetic Regulation, ensuring that the products are safe to use.
Being vaccinated against hepatitis B is strongly recommended before getting a tattoo or a piercing. Never tattoo or pierce your own body. Don’t let a friend do it. It is not worth the risk!
Look around . . . ask questions:
The answer to the questions below should always be “yes”.
- Is the shop clean? A dirty shop increases your risk of infection, which could ruin your tattoo or piercing and affect your health.
- Do they sterilize their equipment and disinfect their work surfaces to remove blood and body fluids?
- Do they use an autoclave to sterilize their equipment? An autoclave is like a high temperature oven.
- Do they have a sink to wash their hands?
- Do they start by cleaning the skin area being tattooed or pierced with soap and water and then wipe the area with an antiseptic swab to disinfect it?
- Do they use new disposable gloves for each tattooing or piercing?
- Are new disposable needles used?
- Is a new disposable razor used if the area needs to be shaved?
A reputable body artist should answer all of your questions—just ask them!
Is body piercing and tattooing safe?
Tattooing and body piercing can be safe when it is done by a professional artist who is careful to protect customers and themselves from infections.
Touching the new tattoo or piercing area without washing your hands can also cause other infections. Tattooing or piercing can increase the risk of getting blood diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
Choose the location of your tattoo or piercing carefully.
- Some skin sites can become infected more easily than others.
- Some sites on the body are more sensitive to pain.
- Think about how you might like (or not like) your choice of tattoo or piercing and the location in 5 or 10 years from now?
- In the future, will you want that tattoo to always be easily seen by others?
Choosing a body artist
- Take the time to find a professional before you get a tattoo or piercing. Ask how long they trained and how long they have been a professional body artist.
- Shop around before making a choice. Get all of your questions answered.
- The body artist should not be smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs while working on you.
- You should be sober, too.
Tattoos or piercing can take up to 6 weeks to heal, following proper aftercare instructions is very important.
Body art salons and parlours should ensure that proper infection control practices are followed at all times to reduce the risk of blood-borne infections. These establishments are inspected regularly by public health inspectors to ensure the safety of the public.
Check Before You Go! Inspection and enforcement information
For inspection and enforcement information, visit Check Before You Go! or contact 705.522.9200 ext. 464 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200). Check Before You Go! has information about required and follow-up inspections, infractions, convictions, as well as orders imposed by Public Health Sudbury & Districts.
You can find information related to:
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- licensed child care centres
- public pools, spas, and splash pads
- public beaches
- drinking water
- recreational camps
- tobacco and electronic cigarette vendors
This item was last modified on July 15, 2021