Tattoo Parties: BAD Idea

“You pay for what you get”, a common quote in a tattoo shop when a customer complains about the price.  A lot of people have skewed view on what goes into a tattoo, the skill, the tools and the environment.  Some don’t want to pay the prices that shops and professional artists offer, so they think they can take the cheap road and have some “friend” do it in his kitchen, not accounting for the lack of experience and sterile room.  There are many risks that go into getting tattooed in outside of a licensed shop, like tattoo parties for instance.

Here’s great excerpt from tattoo and body piercing expert, Karen L. Hudson from (read the full story here)

“On the surface, a tattoo party does sound fun. Imagine it – a room full of friends, hanging out, laughing at each others’ expressions of pain, showing off their new tattoos once finished. A beautiful woman with pearly white teeth smiles lovingly at her equally handsome boyfriend as he shows everyone the tattoo he got bearing her name. The ruggedly attractive and colorfully tattooed artist does one gorgeous tattoo after another, grinning ear to ear as everyone in the room sings his praises and promises to tell all their friends about him. And to top it off, he doesn’t have to report the tattoos to the boss man at the shop, who would normally want a piece of every dollar he makes. It’s a win-win situation. Good money and having fun at the same time; why not?

The problem is, that isn’t a really accurate picture of most tattoo parties. The romantic imagery we connect with the idea of a tattoo party is the same thing advertisers have been able to appeal to for years when selling products they know aren’t really good for us. Well, I’m no advertiser and I’m here to give you a reality check about tattoo parties.

Let me start off by saying this does not apply to all tattoo parties. But most of them are held for one or all of the following three reasons:

  1. The clients are just looking for the cheapest tattoo they can get
  2. The clients are minors and can’t get tattooed legally
  3. The tattooist isn’t licensed or legal and has to do his/her work underground

The real scene usually involves the use of cigarettes, which obviously isn’t conducive to a clean and sterile environment), alcohol, or even drugs. The alleged “artist” rarely follows any kind of safety protocols; when you’re trying to bang out several tattoos in one night, you’re not going to do your best work and you’re not going to take extra time to make sure every tattoo is clean and sterile. [From the Body Art Regulation of the City of Boston: 5.9 Sterile Conditions. A body art practitioner shall only conduct body art activities under sterile conditions] . 

Most basement artists don’t even have autoclave sterilizers for their equipment and seem to think boiling them in water is sufficient. [From the Body Art Regulation of the City of Boston:  5.13 A body art practitioner shall only conduct body art activities within a facility with a current valid Body Art Establishment permit, and only if such establishment is in compliance with all provisions of the Body Art Regulation]. Even if they use single-use needles, which is the typical line of defense for many of these tattooers, that doesn’t mean you’re safe. When a person is tattooed, microscopic blood and body fluids spray and fly everywhere; everything around the client and the tattooer is contaminated. The only way to kill the germs, bacteria and blood-borne pathogens that go along with every tattoo is to make sure every inch of the artist’s work station is cleaned and sterilized thoroughly between clients. All surfaces must be non-porous like tile floors and vinyl seats; anything porous should be protected by being covered with plastic, and then that plastic must be discarded after every client. You think the person running the tattoo party cares about doing all of this? In most cases, no. Also, if a tattooist doesn’t mind breaking the law by tattooing minors, I seriously doubt they care about any other rules they might be breaking. It should also be noted that in some states, the tattoo party itself is illegal.”

[From the Body Art Regulation of the City of Boston: 5.12 Body art activities are only allowed in a permitted body art establishment].

badtattoo     bad-flower-tattoo

^Examples of tattoo party tattoos^


[Below] Professionally done in a licensed shop (L: By Devin Coley, R: By Mat Park)

goodflower_devin     matflower

With all that being said, even if you walk away from a tattoo party without an infection, you’ll most likely be walking away with less than stellar work.

[Below] Example of what an infected tattoo could look like if done at a tattoo party


City of Boston: Body Art Regulations

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