Tattooing - What I need to know - What should I ask

Where do I go to get a tattoo? - Go to a licensed studio

Do not get a tattoo done by a friend or neighbour. Go to a licensed studio. Going to a licensed studio reduces the chances of getting an infection as a result of the tattoo. The shop will have been inspected by the local council for compliance with the legislation, including an assessment of the infection control practices at the studio. All equipment used will be clean and sterilised.

Tattooing is becoming an increasingly popular trend in body art. A tattoo can be for life. You should make an informed choice about getting a tattoo and where you get it done. Think about the studio, is the tattooist a tattoo professional, do they know what they are doing, and are good infection control practices in place at the studio.

What is tattooing?

Tattooing is the process of inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to make a permanent mark, pattern or design on the skin. It also includes cosmetic tattooing and applying semi-permanent make-up.

What is the legislation?

Tattooing is a high risk personal appearance service. The Public Health (infection Control for Personal Appearance Services) Act 2003 covers this and other personal appearance procedures. The tattooist requires an infection control qualification before they can tattoo anyone - HLTIN402C - Maintain Infection Control Standards in Office Practice Settings.

Can I get a tattoo?

You need to be 18 before you can get a tattoo - (Summary Offences Act 2005). A tattooist may refuse to tattoo you if they are concerned you may be under 18.

Why is tattooing a high risk personal appearance services?

Tattooing involves piercing the skin. Contaminated equipment, unclean premises, unsafe procedures and a lack of infection control knowledge may potentially contribute to the spread of blood-borne disease such as hepatitis C, hepatitis B, HIV (the virus that can lead to AIDS) and a range of bacterial infections.

Infection control guidelines

Tattooists and beauty therapists (who provide a cosmetic tattooing service) must comply with the infection control guidelines. This means that good infection control practices are in place at the studio to reduce the likelihood of infections being transferred by an operator to a client or from a client to the next client. Instruments, equipment and surfaces are cleaned between clients, instruments contaminated with blood or bodily fluids are cleaned and sterilised in accordance with the infection control guidelines and the operator washes their hands between clients. Where operators use single use equipment it is disposed of after use.

What should I ask the operator?

  • You should ask any question that allows you to be informed and comfortable with a decision about getting or not getting a tattoo.
  • Is your premises licensed by the local council? When was the last inspection?
  • Do you have an infection control competency? Is it HLTIN402C - Maintain Infection Control Standards in Office Practice Settings?
  • How long have you been tattooing? Any photos of clients with your tattoos?

A tattooist will operate from a licensed clean and hygienic studio and should:

  • answer any questions about their experience and infection control procedures in the studio
  • ask you about any personal health matters which could indicate that you should not be tattooed
  • outline any potential risks, complications and healing times
  • wash their hands and put on new disposable gloves before starting your procedure, and following any interruption in the procedure where gloves may have been contaminated
  • open sterilised, packaged needles and instruments in front of you
  • clean and disinfect the tattoo site
  • provide you with information on aftercare requirements.

After care instructions (how to look after your tattoo while it heals)

Listen to the advice the tattooist gives you about caring for your tattoo in the next few days. It will assist in the healing process. The advice may be along the following lines:

  • Two to three hours after being tattooed, wash the tattoo with clean running water and a mild soap. Rinse and pat dry.
  • Don’t rub, pick or scratch at a new tattoo as this can lead to infections and extend the healing time.
  • Avoid swimming until after the tattoo has healed.
  • Use a cream recommended by the tattooist for frequent contact with water, to prevent premature drying. Do not overuse the cream.
  • Do not wear tight or dirty clothing.
  • If the tattoo becomes infected, itchy or sore talk to the tattooist who did the tattoo and consult your doctor.
  • Any other concerns contact your local council Health Department.

Cosmetic tattooing

Cosmetic tattooing, micro-pigmentation and permanent make-up are treated the same as tattooing. Although the skin is not penetrated to the depth of a tattoo it involves the same processes. The beautician applying the treatment will possess the required infection control qualification and provide you with after care instructions.

More information

For further information in Queensland contact your local council health department or the Public Health Units in your area or the Communicable Diseases Branch

Healthy body art – Pull-out brochure for consumers on Healthy Tattooing and Piercing

Information sourced from NSW Health, Dept of Health Victoria and SA Health.

Related Content

Queensland Health fact sheet: