Our teenage son is getting a tattoo. How can we be sure it will be safe?
I don't know how old your son is, so I'm going to assume one or more of these things are true: He has your permission to get the tattoo; you are paying for it; you are driving him to the tattoo parlor. As much as getting a tattoo is a symbol of independence, if he needs your permission, a ride or your money, he's not all that independent. You have some leverage and I encourage you to use it to ensure that he follows important child safety precautions and has a successful experience.
You might begin by telling him that there is some information both you and he need before you can agree to his wish. Then be sure you are satisfied with the answers before you say OK. These questions are quite specific and require a pre-appointment visit, not just a phone call:
- Ask if the proposed tattoo artist has an autoclave to sterilize his instruments and if it is FDA-regulated. If he doesn't, find an artist who does. Do not negotiate on this point.
- Does the tattoo artist wear protective latex gloves? Again, this is non-negotiable.
- Has the artist been vaccinated for hepatitis B? Ask for proof and if he can't provide it, find a tattoo artist who can.
- Ask to see the artist's system for keeping ointments, inks, water and other items from being shared with other customers. If the artist can't do this or looks at you like you are from another planet, it's time to go.
- Stick around and watch the artist work on a customer. At the start, does he open a new needle? Each time he works on someone, he should.
Going through this process will send your son the message that getting a tattoo is a responsibility and a commitment. If your son balks at doing his part, perhaps postponing the tattoo makes sense for now. If not, welcome to the world of body art!