The Huffington Post recently shared an opinion article from Live Sciencethat argued tattoo shops nationwide should be required by law to inform their clients of proper aftercare instructions. Before dissecting the matter, know this: If you are in a tattoo shop where artists do not go over aftercare instructions, you are in the wrong tattoo shop.
Here's the thing, 43 of the 50 states in the U.S. do not require tattoo artists to provide their clients with aftercare info. We presume many health divisions of state departments as well as tattoo artists simply understand that providing clients with aftercare information is a natural part of the process. The seven states in which that is a law are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, and North Dakota.
Massachusetts requires that every artist provides their "client with verbal and written instructions on the aftercare of the body art site." These instructions include how to properly clean the new tattoo, reasons to consult a physician, and the tattoo shop's contact info. Alabama has a similar aftercare law, as does Delaware and the other aforementioned states. Delaware law requires clients to sign and date documentation stating that they have received legitimate aftercare instructions, this is then filed by the tattoo shop.
These days, with the growing number of individuals getting inked and the great talent within the industry, rates for tattoo infection are extremely low. According to Live Science, studies show only three percent of people develop a skin infection from a new tattoo. Studies also found that four percent of people with new ink experienced short-term problems such as itching, however itchiness is almost inevitable in the days following your latest session. (You know the golden rule, no matter how bad the itch, DO NOT SCRATCH!)
If an artist does not tell a client how to properly care for their new tattoo, the tattooist is not only being careless with their client's health, but also with their artwork. Every tattoo is an addition to the artist's portfolio—how every tattoo heals matters. The final product affects an artist's credibility, reputation, clientele and eventually, their income.
The aftercare process is equally as important as the steps before and during the tattoo session. Aftercare instructions should not have to be regulated by government law, it should be a no-brainer by artists and clients alike. While clients in states like Delaware are required to sign and date documentation noting that they have received aftercare instructions, regulating this step would be somewhat difficult.
Regardless of whether or not providing aftercare instructions is required in your state, as an artist, you should always tell your client how to care for their new tattoo depending on its placement and size. As a client, you should always ask.