maybe this is a dumb question
January 27, 2021 9:05 AM   Subscribe

I have two tattoos (out of several) that I intended on getting more work on last year but didn't for obvious reasons. Is it safe to look into getting this done now? Elaboration within.

I live in an area where COVID infections are low.

One tattoo I got about four years ago and I wasn't very happy with how it turned out (I will never go to that shop again). I know what needs to be done to revise it. The other one I got in late 2019 and is 90% complete but I need to schedule a third sitting to finish it.

I know tattoo shops are open. My two favorite shops, where I am friends with many of the artists, reopened late last year and are posting photos of new work on Facebook and Instagram. I would go to the shop where I need a third sitting for the revision of the earlier tattoo as well, and I know they are adhering to my state's requirements to be open safely - no unmasked customers, masks and additional PPE for the artists, and no more than two artists and customers in the shop, with stations at the opposite ends of the floor. Customers are not allowed to bring guests.

Given all that, my Google skills are failing me and I'm not finding a lot of info on how safe tattooing is right now, given that needles and plasma are a part of the tattooing and healing process. I have resumed getting my hair done and my nails done because my salon is also following state rules for safety to a T, but manicures and haircuts don't involve needles. Is it ok to see if I can get these two tattoos handled right now, given that I live in an area with a low infection rate and the shop I'd go to is being safe (and has always been hygenic - I've gotten three tattoos from them already with no infections or complications)? Or is this just a bad idea?
posted by nayantara to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
My two cents: Once we got out of lockdown here, I got three tattoos this year. My reasoning, which may or may not help:

1) Shops I used were open and clear about COVID policies in place.
2) Shops I used (2 of them) were open and clear about limiting the number of people in the space, fewer appointments, etc.
3) Tattoo artists are already (or should be if they are good) well-versed in dealing with the fact that they're using needles on a person - so blood-borne pathogen did not concern me given that I knew these shops and artists already and I was comfortable there pre-covid on those terms.

At either of the shops I went to, there were most definitely fewer people in the building than say, anytime I went to Target. FWIW I do not even go to Target anymore, but I would probably get another tattoo if I wanted one. In my opinion, as someone who does get her hair done now but has not resumed manicures and who has gotten tattoos: as far as risk goes, it is IMO on par or less than going to the store. I am not an expert, though.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:15 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]

You can capture the general risk level of the interaction using (I made some guesses for you). Covid isn’t considered a blood-borne pathogen, so that’s probably not the risky part.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 9:16 AM on January 27

Just wait a bit. It's not worth the hassle or the potential dangers imho. Book now and put a down payment on getting a tattoo next year, perhaps. That way you can support your local tattoo artist in the short term.
posted by 0bvious at 9:23 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]

I am not the most COVID-cautious person, got a tattoo a few months ago at an excellent shop that I trust a lot, and will not get one again until after COVID because it didn't feel safe enough for me. I'm not at all concerned about blood-borne disease, but I realized that when you get a tattoo you're likely:
1. very close to the tattooer, often with your face inches from theirs (depending on where you're getting the tattoo, of course) for a long period of time
2. breathing heavily, because you're in pain
3. not in a well-ventilated space, because tables tend to be placed for privacy rather than air flow

Without perfect-fitting medical-grade PPE, it was just a little too much contact for my comfort. On the other hand, it's not a LOT more contact than getting your nails and hair done, so your CCMV (COVID-comfort may vary)
posted by EmilyFlew at 9:34 AM on January 27 [6 favorites]

If you're in the state of New York, it's unlikely that infections in your area are actually low (see this NYT map). I wouldn't do it.
posted by wintersweet at 9:48 AM on January 27

Personally, I wouldn’t get a tattoo right now unless I could have the whole appointment outdoors, or possibly in a room with several big windows all the way open and a HEPA filter running. I would still wear a mask (n95, surgical, or 3-layer cloth) and only do it if I trusted the tattoo artist to also keep their mask on properly for the whole appointment.

On the other hand, I don’t think getting a tattoo is meaningfully riskier with regards to covid than a hair or nails appointment; the main risk with covid comes from breathing the same air. I personally wouldn’t do any of those, though.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:51 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]

I got one in October and will not do it again until we are back to whatever is normal. From what I've read the risk has nothing to do with the needles and the blood but the proximity to another person, ventilation, amount of people, etc., as others have stated above. It was the coloring of a piece I got outined right before COVID blew up in the U.S. and I waited and then rationalized myself into thinking it was OK. The shop I go to is clean and followed all of the guidelines, and did so quite seriously, but it was a chest piece and the artist was masked but so close to my face for hours. I had my own N95 mask on and luckily I was fine but for 2 weeks after I walked around anxious that I made a mistake and every sniffle was causing me concern. The anxiety I experienced from the guilt I placed on myself for going is not worth it. I have more work scheduled and I've already cancelled it and will wait until I am not going to feel so anxious about it. I have my second vaccin dose in 2 weeks and I don't know that I'll feel safe even after that.
posted by archimago at 10:07 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I had much the same experience as others - I got a tattoo last year, but I wouldn't get another one right now, but not because of needles/blood, just due to the regular interaction/breathing risks. At the time, I was able to quarantine for two weeks ahead of and after my tattoo so that I didn't risk infecting either my artist or anyone else, but with hospital capacity the way it is in most places right now, even just getting yourself sick could be a risk/impact to others. I would mayyyyyybe do it if cases and hospitalizations were low, my tattoo was only going to take 1-2 hours tops, and the weather was such in my area that I could ask them to leave a window open (and of course both of us wearing double masks/masks with filters/n95s, no one else in the same shop, 2 week HARD quarantine before and after).

But even then, I don't think I could justify it so close to vaccine rollout - although haircuts and manicures are things that do require maintenance over time, you can see them constantly/can have a direct impact on your job, etc, a tattoo feels like a level of indulgence beyond that. So if it were me, I'd wait. I agree with others to see if you can buy a gift card from your artist, or maybe see if they're scheduling really far out - that would at least give you something to look forward to and get excited about, without risking infection.
posted by jouir at 11:53 AM on January 27

Best answer: I'm an epidemiologist in the US with an unfinished tattoo. Unless you're in, say, New Zealand, please just hold off for now. Pretty please.

It's not the needles and plasma that are the drivers of concern, it's the sharing of air between multiple breathing respiratory systems of the multiple people passing into and out of a tattoo shop. There is no way to safeguard this kind of duration of exposure right now in the US. Period.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 3:06 PM on January 27 [5 favorites]

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