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Needles should be sterilized in an autoclave before inking begins. Needle reuse in tattooing is illegal.

Getting a tattoo can be dangerous, but it's fairly easy to make sure you stay healthy with this safety check list. 1. Is the tattoo artist licensed? In the state of Texas, tattoo artists must be licensed by the Drugs and Medical Devices Group, which is part of the Texas Department of Health Services. To be licensed, tattooists must comply with all safety and health codes and have a tattoo parlor separate from their homes. Separate licenses are required to perform piercings. Tattoo artists must use antibacterial and germicidal hand soap and single-use disposable gloves. Needles and ink must be sterilized. If there's no autoclave — a heat sterilization chamber for equipment — walk away. 2. Is the tattooist vaccinated for hepatitis B? Although not required, vaccinations against hepatitis for both you and the tattoo artists are the only way to protect against what can be a fatal disease. Any time a needle punctures your skin, you run the risk of contracting a blood-born pathogen such as hepatitis B or C or HIV. The hepatitis vaccine involves a series of three shots given over four months. If you can't handle that, can you handle the thousands of shots it takes to get a tattoo? Don't be a wimp! Protect yourself before the inking begins. 3. Where and how does the artist store and use supplies? Most of the supplies used — ink, water, needles — in a reputable shop are only used once and thrown away. Make sure your artist is not taking leftover ink and returning it to a universal container. It should be thrown out. Reused ink can be contaminated with disease. Water and ointments should follow the same rules, especially if your tattoo artist uses deodorant to darken the initial outline. Do not let a deodorant stick directly touch your skin. Deodorant must be transferred from the stick to your skin with a sterile pad or tissue. 4. Can you see and guarantee the needles used are new and sterile? The only way to ensure a needle is sterile is if you see it being removed from a sealed or sterile bag right before your eyes. New needles are usually bright silver with no stains or discolorations. If you don't like how a needle looks, ask for different needles or go to a different shop. 5. How is equipment disposed of? All needles should be disposed of after use in a sharps container, which is usually marked with a red top and a biohazard symbol. Be sure your shop of choice has one and uses it.

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