Meigs Health Matters… Tattoo dos and don’ts

By Dawn Keller - Contributing columnist



Tattoo artists and their shops are required to be approved by the local health department before they begin procedures. Ohio has codes pertaining to these facilities. Health departments use these codes as a checklist to ensure the safety of public health. Artists are required to prove they have had Bloodborne Pathogen Training, First Aid and a course in cleaning and sanitization. Also considered before an approval is granted is the type of equipment used and the physical facility. Equipment should be disposable, and only used on one person before being discarded or capable of being sterilized in special sterilization equipment such as an autoclave. Physical facilities need to be sanitary, provide adequate lighting and adequate space. After meeting the conditions for approval, an artist still needs to ensure compliance with Ohio codes by providing aftercare instructions to every client and keeping thorough records of each procedure. Records should include contact information for clients, serial numbers for each ink used as well as for other equipment used. This is information that could be critical in the event of a recall on inks or supplies.

Tattoo artists who perform without the approval of their local regulatory agency are known as scratchers. Scratchers, who are not professionals, will usually operate out of their homes, bars or other unhygienic settings. They operate outside of the regulation of health authorities and have higher incidences of infection and communicable disease transmission. They may advertise on Facebook or other social media and seem to be legitimate businesses. They will usually charge less, thus, they may seem like a good deal. However, because of their lack of professionalism and education, they are more likely to provide shotty work. Hence the name “scratcher” meaning the tattoo looks like it was just scratched on the skin. For these reasons, it is important to look for a current “Approval to Operate” certificate from the local health department at any tattoo shop you may visit. Here are some other Do’s and Don’ts of getting bodywork.


Only offer your patronage to “Approved” shops. The Approval Certificate is required to be posted at every tattoo shop. It signals that they have been inspected and meet state codes for health and safety.

Observe the cleanliness of facility. Employees and the studio should be VERY clean.

Ensure that Needles and “Sharps” are opened in front of you and should only be used once.

Notice that your artist wears new disposable gloves during the procedure.

Tattoo inks should be placed in a single-use cup then disposed of after the procedure. Ink should never be drawn directly from the bottle.

Follow the aftercare instructions provided by the studio.


Never get tattoos in bars, private homes or any other non-professional, unhygienic setting. Your chances of acquiring a disease like HIV, Hepatitis B or C and skin infections increase when work is performed in these conditions.

Never choose a tattoo artist based on price. In the words of the immortal Sailor Jerry Collins, “Good work ain’t cheap. Cheap work ain’t good.” Source:

Never offer patronage to scratchers. If they can’t show you an Approval Certificate, it means they don’t have one. Protect your health and save money in the long run by going somewhere else.


By Dawn Keller

Contributing columnist

Dawn Keller is a registered sanitarian at the Meigs County Health Department.

Dawn Keller is a registered sanitarian at the Meigs County Health Department.