South African Council for Piercing and Tattoo Professionals
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This advice is compiled using common sense, empirical and anecdotal evidence as well as internationally accepted advice issued inside of the international body art community - In no way is this a substitute for medical advice.

The first step - in caring for a tattoo or piercing is making sure you only get one from a reputable and hygienic studio/artist that offers detailed after care instructions and are accessible for the whole duration of your healing process.

Recommendations - Avoid listening to often confusing and silly advice from friends, dubious sources and posts made on the internet. Listen to the advice of the relevant professionals and when in doubt seek the advice of a competent dermatologist. That being said often studios and pharmacies recommend over the counter antibacterial ointments, rash creams, skin care and wound care products that are designed to heal or sooth rashes, cuts, burns or abrasions. Although very small selections of these products work well as generic aftercare, there are subtle differences that need to be taken into account before just choosing just any product. Tattoos need to heal while retaining ink. Piercings need to heal while retaining a healthy fistula through which jewellery can be located.

Ingredients - Because something contains ‘natural’ ingredients it does not mean that it is better for you. Some natural ingredients are as toxic or reactive as there chemical counterparts. Likewise commonly used chemical ingredients do not make the product safer either. Studies into the safety of both chemical and natural substances are ongoing and information changes rapidly as science and long term safety testing progresses. Today a substance used in aftercare is considered safe tomorrow it is on a banned list.

Over the counter products that may be considered unsuitable for tattoo or piercing aftercare are ones which contain (what is a commonly shared belief in the industry) - the following unsuitable ingredients.

-Petroleum or petroleum based oils
In tattooing - Petroleum or ointment based products may cause leaching of ink from the tattoo, clog pores, excessively prohibit absorption of oxygen and the expulsion of toxins.
In Piercings - Petroleum or ointment based products may block a piecing (the fistula) which in turn may lead to an abscess if puss and fluids are not permitted to drain sufficiently.

The use of soap in tattooing may lead to drying of and the removal of natural oils from the skin - However unless one is prepared to ‘dry heal’ the use of a soap is used to clean the old and excess moisturiser from the skin. Conversely if one uses soap it may be required that they use a suitable moisturiser to combat the dryness caused by the soap. It is accepted in the industry that only mild (PH Balanced), fragrance free and anti-bacterial liquid soap is used.

Vitamins, minerals and oral supplements - We are not aware of any clinical trials that have been conducted that can verify the success of any particular oral supplement in the healing of tattoos of piercings. Unless otherwise directed or required a healthy diet of suitable fruits and vegetables should be a sufficient means of obtaining your required intake of vitamins and minerals which in turn benefits your immune system and the ability of your body to help heal tattoos and piercings.

Specific Aftercare products - Professionally manufactured specific tattoo and piercing aftercare products can help take the guess work out of choosing a product for your tattoo or piercing but it does not guarantee success or suitability in all persons.. Should you choose to use one of these aftercare products make sure it is a reputable product , contains an ingredient list on the packaging, batch number, expiry date, directions for use, manufacturers name and contact info.

-Tattoo Goo©
-Easy Tattoo ©

(Medical Body Art©)
-Easy Piercing©

(Medical Body Art©)

-Black Cat ©
-Tattoo After Care™
-Piercing After Care™
-Ink Fixx©
-Tattoo Lube©

Over the counter skin care that is often recommended and accepted by the body art industry as acceptable for piercings/tattoos.

-A & D Cream©

(Beware of fake versions sold throughout the world)


-Sterile Saline Solution
-Mild Fragrance free liquid  antibacterial Soap
-Gentle Antibacterial Mouth Wash (oral piercings)

Over the counter skin care that is sometimes recommended and NOT generally accepted by the body art industry as acceptable for piercings/tattoos.


-Zam Buk©
-Petroleum Based oils
-Preparation H©
-Soaps that are:

Non liquid soap
Harsh Soap
Fragranced Soap
Tea Tree


-Surgical Spirits
-Soaps that are:

Non liquid soap
Harsh Soap

Fragranced Soap

-Benzalkonium Chloride
-Benzethonium Chloride
-Hydrogen Peroxide
-Tea Tree

Infection and Risk Assessment

Skin and body piercing can be carried out for cosmetic purposes (eg tattooing, ear piercing, piercing other parts of the body and electrolysis) or therapeutic purposes eg acupuncture. On the basis of the number registered in Edinburgh it is likely there is in excess of 200 skin piercing businesses in Scotland. These range from fixed-site premises in the form of specialist clinics, tattoo parlours, jewellers, hairdressers and beauty salons, to individuals operating alone at home. In the absence of specific hygiene requirements, standards may be variable.

If skin and body piercing is carried out by a competent practitioner using sterile equipment and hygienic procedures, there should be little risk of infection, unless the customer contaminates the pierced area afterwards by touching it with dirty hands. However, if proper hygienic precautions are not taken, there is a risk of transmission of serious infections like hepatitis B or C and of localised bacterial wound infections. There have been no reported cases of HIV infection resulting from skin and body piercing, but the potential risk cannot be ruled out. Tattooing has caused several cases of hepatitis B infection (which is particularly easily transmitted). Infections in the upper cartilaginous part of the ear may heal with difficulty because of the limited blood supply there, and could lead to deformity of that part of the ear. Infections are more likely with nose piercing because of the bacteria contained in the nose. There can also be other non-infectious and usually not serious complications directly resulting from the procedure, such as swelling around the piercing, scarring, bleeding, jewellery embedding in the skin, allergic reactions to jewellery metal and antiseptics, and tooth damage from biting on tongue jewellery. It is also important that piercers discuss clients’ medical history prior to piercing their skin since certain conditions would make piercing risky and potentially dangerous. And if operators provide customers with good after-care advice, this will enable them to care for any wounds appropriately at home.

Tattoo shop Hygiene If your tattoo artist does not practice all of the following. You might want to ask yourself, "Is this the right guy to do my tattoo?"

Autoclave - The preferred method of sterilizing equipment is by autoclaving. The process uses pressurized steam to kill bacteria. Needles and ink tubes should be in sealed pouches with an indicator strip and should be opened in front of you.

Gloves - The tattoo artist should use gloves at all times. Gloves should be removed every time the artist walks away or reaches for non-disposable items to prevent cross-contamination,

Cross-contamination - Although the HIV/AIDS virus dies within several minutes of contact with air, the Hepatitis B virus can live up to two weeks. Cross-contamination can occur when an artist touches an unsterilized object with his gloves (telephone, uncovered spray bottles, dropped items) then returning to work on you.

Ink cups - Ink for your tattoo becomes contaminated through the tattooing process and should be poured into small plastic cups prior to you getting tattooed. These then get thrown out after your tattoo is completed. If the artist needs to replenish his ink, the gloves should be taken off prior to refilling.

Needles - Needles should be taken out of a sterilized pouch in front of you prior to your tattoo. After your tattoo is completed, it should be properly disposed of in a 'sharps' container.

Overall cleanliness - Counters should be clean and a new setup done for each new tattoo. All disposables should be properly disposed of after the tattoo. The artist should wash his/her hands prior to and immediately after your tattoo. The shop floor should be clean and the artist's clothing should be clean and neat. Non-disposable items used during your tattoo should be covered with plastic and then disinfected or sterilized after the tattoo.

Blood borne pathogensFor people who do not know much about the body art industry, tattoos and body piercings appear as permanent markings and decorative metal. But this industry is actually a unique form of art. Tattoo artists can honor people or memories that were an important part of a person's life. Body piercers intricately place each piercing to express a person's individuality or culture.

The body art industry is unique because its artists express themselves through living art, but in doing so, artists may also come in contact with their client's blood. Because of this, tattoo artists and body piercers may also be exposed to a bloodborne pathogen such as hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

These bloodborne pathogens are viruses that are spread by coming in contact with the blood of an infected person. Body artists may be exposed to a bloodborne pathogen by getting stuck with a used needle or if blood splashes into their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Bloodborne pathogens can be dangerous and may cause permanent illness. Not only are artists at risk, but so are their families. If an artist gets one of these viruses, he or she may become ill and not be able to support his or her family, or may possibly expose family members to the virus.