Before you start on the adventure of body art, here are some tips on choosing the right studio and artist and how to care for your tattoos and body piercings. 


Things to Consider Before you Make a Decision

  • Make the decision sober. If you make the decision while drunk or high, you may regret it later. 
  • Don't let peer pressure influence your decision. Your friends don't have to live with your tattoo or body piercing, you do. 
  • Consider the risk for getting a disease if tattoo or piercing needles are not properly sterilized or thrown out, you have an increased risk of contracting diseases.
  • Make sure the body art is right for you. This is a permanent decision. Consider how it might affect current and future relationships and future job opportunities. 
Be an Informed Consumer
  • Call or visit several places before choosing the studio where you will have your tattoo or piercing done. Make sure the studio is an established business. 
  • Ask to see pictures of the tattoo artists' work to get a better sense of their skill and the quality of their work, and to see if their designs match your tastes. 
  • Look at the studio to see if it is clean, well-organized, and well-lighted. Make sure that piercing is done in a separate room. 
  • If the tattoo artist or person that is piercing is not helpful, or refuses to answer any of your questions, move on to another place. Measure how the person you talk with answers your questions - are they considerate and answer all your questions, or do they seem annoyed by your inquisitiveness? 
Important Questions to Ask Your Tattoo Artist or Piercer Before Getting a Tattoo or Piercing
  • Do you thoroughly wash your hands with antibacterial solution immediately before and after each tattoo or piercing? 
  • Do you wear gloves during the procedures? 
  • Do you use one-time service materials and equipment and set up and open them in front of the client? 
  • Do you use sterile disposable needles and never use a gun for piercing? 
  • Do you have an FDA-regulated autoclave for sterilization on site? 
  • Do you sanitize your work area with a viricidal disinfectant, approved by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), before and after each client? 
  • Do you properly dispose of contaminated materials? 
  • Do you use appropriate jewelry for body piercings (see "Choosing the right jewelry" below)? 
The answer to all these questions should be yes.


  • Keep your a bandage on your tattoo for at as long as your artist tells you. Wash your tattoo thoroughly using mild fragrance free soap and water, making sure to remove all crusted material. 
  • In about 4 days your tattoo will begin to flake and peel. Do not peel off the skin or scabs that may form. The peeling will stop in about 7-10 days. 
  • No swimming, sauna, or tanning on the new tattoo during the first two weeks. 
  • Make sure the artist uses disposable needles. 
  • New ink caps and new  gloves should be used for each customer. 

Piercing should always be done with a sterile, disposable needle, NEVER a gun. Piercing guns should not be used because they cannot be properly sterilized in an autoclave, earring studs are much duller than a piercing needle, causing more tissue trauma from the force of a gun, and piercing gun earring backs are hard to clean and may trap bacteria. 

Choosing the right jewelry

  • Match the jewelry to your type of body. Jewelry that is too thin can tear out. Jewelry that is too thick can cause an abscess or keloid scarring. 
  • Jewelry should be made of 316L or LVM surgical stainless steel, 14-karat or 18-karat solid gold, titanium or niobium only. Gold-filled, gold-plated or sterling silver can chip, tarnish or degrade in a piercing. 
  • If you are sensitive to metal, monofilament nylon or Bio-flex may be used. 
  • Don't use jewelry that has nicks, scratches or irregular surfaces. 
Caring for your new piercing

General Care

  • Clean your piercing 3 times a day with a sea-salt solution ( sea salt can be purchased at Whole Foods or Publix) A pinch of sea-salt with hot water and a q-tip. Do NOT use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol to clean your piercing, this will slow healing. 
  • Do NOT touch, play, or take out the jewelry before you are healed.
  • No swimming, rough play or oral contact with the piercing during the healing period. Listen to your body when engaging in any type of activity. If it hurts, don't do it. 
  • Don't use antibacterial ointments. They are difficult to clean out of a piercing and may trap bacteria once the antibacterial action wears off. 
Tongue, lip and cheek piercings
  • Rinse for 30 seconds with a bottle filled with 1/2 alcohol free LISTERINE and 1/2 WATER after eating, smoking,drinking, or doing anything with your mouth.
  • Rinse your mouth between 12 and 24 times a day whether you are eating or not. 
  • Avoid oral sexual contact for 4-6 weeks, including French kissing, even if you are in a monongamous relationship. 

For information on the ADA position on intraoral/perioral piercings click here.

REMEMBER: infections CAN arise long after the piercing has occurred.

Typical healing times of different types of piercings:

Earlobe: 4-6 weeks
Ear Cartilage: 2 months - 1 year
Tongue: 4-6 weeks
Nipple: 2-6 months
Female Genitals: 4-8 weeks

Lip or Eyebrow: 6-8 weeks
Nostril: 2-3 months
Cheek: 2-3 months
Navel: 6 months - 1 year
Male Genitals: 3-6 months 


Health and Safety

All instruments and equipment should be properly sterilized by using autoclaving. Do not assume everything is sterile. Use of nonsterile equipment and instruments can lead to the spread of disease


Body Art: Piercing, Branding, Tattoos Division of Student Affairs, Department of Student Life, Texas A&M University. 
Taking Care of Body Piercings ETR Associates, 1998.
Go Ask Alice! Columbia University's Health Education Program. 

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