Tattoo artists in New York state are scrambling to comply with a new law mandating the use of single use needles and ink. While the use of single use needles is the industry standard, single use ink is currently a rarity. In order to understand how this would effect artists within New York before the law goes into effect in December we turned to an insider, Tattoo Lou. As the owner of World Famous Tattoo Ink and multiple tattoo shops Tattoo Lou understands the point of view of both the artist and the ink provider.
A bit of the truth for everyone about the new law—it’s not as bad as you all seem to think! I will say as a tattoo artist in this business for many years and a manufacturer of tattoo inks that I knew one day this would come up.
We are living a world of single use disposable items. The issue is there are a lot of people who don't know what they are doing starting up ink companies and having mold and bacteria growing inside their inks. The recent FDA recall of mold growth in an ink and the one last year of the guy upstate New York is the cause of the push to get this done. Plus [to combat] the counterfeit tattoo inks coming in from China that people buy just to get cheaper.
Right now [the law] is just in New York but I promise you it will quickly travel across our country and to Europe. Europe has been talking about doing this for many years now, but have not pulled the trigger. I am sure once they get wind of this it will soon happen there also.
In all honesty it really is not a bad thing. Their argument is once you open a bottle of ink to the air that it’s no longer sterile. Yes and no is the answer to this. Professional ink companies will use a preservative in your ink [to prevent mold]. We use a food grade preservative to keep any growth from happening as this is the safest for the body, but foods are not on the shelf for 3 years in completely different environments, being opened and closed like tattoo ink is.
Other options are hard chemicals and I will tell you that some companies are actually using hard chemicals to keep your ink from growing mold. Thank God we have never had mold issues with our inks but even some big ink companies have had mold issues a few times. We retain samples from every batch and check them after time to be sure our customers are safe.
I hate be the one to say it but [single use inks] really are safer and guaranteed sterile with each and every customer, even three years down the road since there is no contact with air until opened. We even send our inks out for Gamma Radiation to be even one more step ahead to be sure your ink is sterile. Trust me, your ink can have mold and bacteria growing in it wayyyyyyyyy before you would ever see it. You would never know it and it can make your clients very sick!
I made a single service product about 10 years ago and it failed on the market as no one was ready for it. Now, unfortunately [tattoo artists] will have no choice. It’s all how you portray it and how you sell it to the customer. I think the customer will be happy to pay a little extra for this. Let’s not overreact and think about this and figure out how we can make it work. Also let’s be sure we are all very educated on the reasoning for this so that we can explain to our clients everything happening here.
It would have been nice if we all knew before it was signed off on and could argue our points on it then, the shame is that no one knew. I even spoke to my local department of health and they said they had no idea until the law was signed.
I also promise you that all ink companies are working on a resolution at this time. So you understand the position of ink companies on this law—it doesn’t give us much time to prepare and it changes our entire course of business, our filling equipment and process. We will have to get new very expensive equipment or to start outsourcing, which is also very expensive. When you add in buying a ton of single service packages this law will cost ink companies a TON of money to prepare, especially on such short notice!
Please show some appreciation for the ink companies who are going to have to spend a fortune and change everything so that you can comply. It’s not just us, every important ink company will be forced to come up with a solution. In preparation for Europe eventually doing this I have contracted with an FDA Certified and ISO Certified facility who will be filling our inks to make this do-able when it comes. Well, it’s here and we are prepared. Never in a million years would I have thought it would be New York first!