For many people, body art is a fun, beautiful, and sometimes radical form of self-expression. But when it comes to tattoos, there's one potential downside that's often overlooked: the risk of contracting a hepatitis C virus infection.
is a serious viral infection that can cause liver damage and other health problems. Transmission of Hepatitis C typically occurs through contact with blood, and because tattoos involve tiny needles that inject ink into your skin, tattoos done in conditions that are less than ideal can be a potential source of HCV infection.
At , we want our community to be fully educated on how to make informed decisions about their body art and safely choose a tattoo artist without risking chronic infection. Additionally, if you have been diagnosed with Hep C, we want you to know that a cure is available, and that there are safe options for you to receive the tat of your dreams.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help you avoid contracting Hepatitis C while seeking tattooing services:
Understand How Tattoos Spread HCV
How can you get Hep C from tattoos? Hepatitis C is primarily spread through contact with infected blood and bodily fluids, making it what's known as a 'bloodborne virus.' Because of this, any procedures in which tiny needles puncture the skin -- including injection drug use -- are considered risk factors for HCV transmission.
Like these other risk factors, because tattooing requires injection, there is a potential for transmission of the virus if another person's blood is still on the equipment while it is being used on you.
While the risk of HCV transmission from a professional tattoo parlor is low, it's important to be aware that the risk does exist. The best way to reduce your risk is to choose a reputable artist who takes proper precautions to prevent the spread of infection.
Get Informed About Your Tattoo Artist's Safety Practices
When considering getting a tattoo, take some time to learn about the artist or shop you're thinking of visiting. Many professional tattoo parlors will have proper infection control procedures in place to ensure the safety of their clients. This applies to blood-borne infections like Hepatitis C infection, but also to bacterial risks like methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
A safe tattoo parlor will have adequately sterilized all of their tattoo instruments using an autoclave. If you're unsure, don't be afraid to ask to see the shop's autoclave or other sterilization equipment. The artist should also use fresh, disposable needles for each client.
This sterilized equipment should also be kept in a clean and sanitary environment. The shop's floors should be free of debris, and all surfaces should be wiped down with a disinfectant between each client.
If you're unsure about a shop's policies, don't hesitate to ask questions. Good, professional tattoo artists should be happy to answer any questions you have about their safety practices.
Expect Proper Hygiene Techniques From Your Artist
In addition to using sterile needles and proper sterilization techniques, your tattoo artist should also practice good personal hygiene while tattooing people. This includes washing their hands thoroughly before starting work on each client.
The artist should also wear gloves (usually latex gloves) while working, and avoid using any lotions or oils on their hands that could potentially contaminate the needles or ink. If you see the artist not following these basic hygiene rules, it's best to find another shop.
Make Sure the Ink is Fresh
In addition to using sterile needles, your tattoo artist should also be using fresh ink for each client. This may surprise you, but tattoo ink itself can be a source of HCV infections. If tattoo dyes have been used by more than one person, they may be contaminated with HCV-positive blood, making them a serious health risk for Hepatitis C transmission.
When in doubt, ask to see the ink the artist will be using on you. Any inks they use should be sealed in sterile containers, and the artist should open them in front of you as part of the tattooing process. If possible, try to choose an ink color that will be mixed fresh for your tattoo (rather than one that has been sitting out already mixed).
Be Wary of 'Street' Tattooing
Tattoos done in less-than-sanitary conditions -- often called 'street tattooing' -- are a major source of HCV transmission. Street tattooing includes any tattoos done outside of a professional setting, such as at house parties, in prisons, or by unlicensed artists.
These types of tattooing are often done with reused or improperly sterilized needles, which increases the risk of HCV transmission. If you're considering getting a tattoo in a non-professional setting, we strongly advise against it. The risks simply aren't worth it.
Get Tested for HCV Before and After Getting a Tattoo
If you're considering getting a tattoo, and you feel you may have been at risk for Hep C, it's a good idea to get tested for HCV beforehand. This way, you'll know if you're already infected and can take steps to avoid infecting others.
If you do get a tattoo, you may opt to get tested again afterward. Even if the artist followed all of the proper safety precautions, there's always a small risk of infection. Getting tested can give you peace of mind and help you catch any infections early.
Can I Get a Tattoo If I Have Hepatitis C?
If you have Hepatitis C, you can still get a tattoo -- but there are some things you need to keep in mind. First and foremost, it's important to let your artist know that you have HCV.
You may even want to do your research and find someone who has experience tattooing people with HCV. These artists often have additional safety protocols in place to protect both you and their other clients.
In addition, if you have any open cuts or sores, you should avoid getting a tattoo until they have healed. And finally, be sure to get tested for HCV before and after getting a tattoo, just to be on the safe side.
Long story short: With the right transparency and precautions, people with Hep C can have multiple tattoos if they want them.
Get a Hep C Cure Online Today
Ultimately, you deserve the choice to express yourself with body art, regardless of your Hep C status. And with the right precautions, you can safely enjoy tattoos -- without putting yourself or others at risk for HCV infection.
The best way to give yourself peace of mind? Knowing there's a cure. If you've tested positive for Hep C, we can help. offers online treatment for Hep C in PA and OH, giving patients an accessible, affordable way to meet with a specialist, get a prescription, and get started on the road to recovery.