Although getting a tattoo is generally safe, there are a few risk factors and potential problems which one should be aware of. The largest risk factor is that of acquiring a communicable disease. While more strict health regulations and most tattoo artists' compliance with these regulations has significantly reduced these risks, it is still important to be aware of them. In the distant past, lack of appropriate sanitary conditions in some tattoo parlors led to an uprise in communicable diseases, primarily syphilis, which in turn led to some locations banning tattoo parlors and making the practice illegal.
These days, tattoo artists are required to be licensed, and the cleanliness of their studios must be maintained. In the interest of keeping both the artist and the customer safe from contracting disease, ever since AIDS began to be well-known and feared, most artists have taken on the practice of wearing sterile gloves while tattooing their customers. As acquiring a tattoo does involve some degree of bleeding, wearing these gloves is an important safety-precaution for both the customer and artist alike. Preventing the spread of AIDS and other diseases is also why reputable artists use disposable tattooing needles, as well as disposing of any leftover ink which has been taken from the original tube; whatever was not used on the specific customer must be thrown away.
One risk which is always present is that of infection. Having a tattoo done only by a licensed artist is the most important way to reduce this risk. Unfortunately, the so-called "jailhouse tattoos" popular with inmates has become common amongst other people also. People who cannot afford the high cost of having a tattoo done at a studio frequently attempt to tattoo themselves. Regardless of whether they know what they're doing or not, they do not have the same sterile conditions as a licensed studio. Even more distressing is that this is also in practice amongst the younger generation-- kids who are not old enough to have a tattoo done legally at a studio attempt their own artwork, not only without appropriate sterile conditions but also without the necessary professional equipment. This practice significantly increases one's risk of serious infection, and can also lead to blood poisoning.
Not knowing the facts about proper care of a new tattoo can also cause problems. Reputable artists caution their customers to not allow a new tattoo to be saturated with water from bathing or swimming, nor to expose it to direct sunlight for a certain number of days. Many either provide their customers with special skin-care solutions or advise them to purchase and use it. Although there are products specifically designed to promote the healing of tattoos, the triple-antibiotic topical cream called Bacitracin is still one of the most widely used and effective means of protecting and healing skin which has been damaged by receiving a tattoo. The proper care of a new tattoo is not difficult, but neglecting to do so can increase one's risk of infection and permanent damage to the skin.
Although health complications would generally be considered the most important risk, many people who decide to get tattoos do not think about the potential impact on one's everyday life. Regardless of one's personal opinion on the subject and how affected one may be by it, it is a fact that having tattoos can be detrimental to a person's success in the business world, and also have an effect on one's personal or social life. In most areas, and in most lines of work, having visible tattoos can be a barrier to getting hired for a job. The common sense way of dealing with this is to simply adopt a professional attitude and wear clothing which covers the tattoos. In some locations, where tattoos are thought to be something favored only by particular groups of people, for others to have tattoos may cause them to be wrongly judged or categorized. Keeping a positive attitude is the key.
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