CBD: Volume 1

CBD. Those three letters, when strung together in that order, make up the hottest buzz-term in holistic healing this side of the 21st century. Since Sanjay Gupta’s 2012 CNN documentary, Weed first aired, the market for the THC’s more straight-laced sibling has virtually exploded. “Flooded” might be a better word. Thousands of companies specializing in the compound have popped up, with more showing up every day, offering CBD in almost any form imaginable; gummies, tinctures, e-liquids, even in treats for your pets.

It was only a matter of time the stuff would start showing up in tattoo aftercare products. In fact, it’s almost surprising it took as long as it did. But not everyone is convinced of its application here—and that even holds true of many among us who partake of the good herb.

“I say it’s hype!” responded one prominent tattoo artist. “I recommend the old-fashioned way: keep it clean and dry out for two days and then start with unscented lotions. No oily stuff or anything of that nature.”

“We have not used any CBD products officially in the studio,” another artist replied, this one a shop owner out of Spokane. “I have used CBD gummies when getting tattooed once but didn’t really notice it being more effective than Advil.”

Interestingly enough, both artists quoted here are self-described believers in cannabis, be it medical or recreational. Yet, neither are rushing to jump on the CBD bandwagon. Pragmatically speaking, it’s probably a wise choice, at least initially. There’s always a trial and error period when a new product comes to market, even for prescription meds.(1) Besides, why roll the dice on new healing methods when you’re a seasoned veteran who already has the process on lockdown? Ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But if this is our conclusion, are we missing out on something?

First, let’s go ahead and establish that within this discussion, cannabis as viable medicine is a foregone conclusion. Even cannabis-derived topicals are nothing new, and while the scientific community has largely ignored the potential therein, the success of these applications is well documented, with patients hailing its efficacy for anything from a minor scrape or burn to full-blown melanoma. That sounds crazy, but the testimonials are out there, and science is quickly catching up. Combine these with the thousands more who have successfully used the plant to cure a myriad of internal afflictions and it’s hard to deny that there’s more to cannabis than munchies and a better concert experience.

But the question we’re asking here isn’t about whether cannabis can be medicine. It’s specifically about whether hemp-derived CBD products work, a question still being debated in the most die-hard of pro-cannabis circles. We’re not doctors, so we can’t give you hard-fast medical advice here. But we can sift through the information out there and maybe help clear the haze on some of it.

Does it work? Here’s what we know:

“CBD or whole plant salve, is hands-down the best use for tattoos,” says Sharon Letts, a research writer and cannabis advocate of over three decades. Sharon is not a doctor, but her knowledge on cannabis as medicine is practically unrivaled in the space. She’s been studying and advising on the subject for longer than many of us have been alive, often under the advisement of scientists and health professionals. She also once cured herself of breast cancer through a regimen of cannabis leaves and an extract made through an alcohol reduction process (AKA, Rick Simpson Oil.)

“When I suggest using a cannabis salve for cuts, infections, et al.,” she continues, “I say it replaces Neosporin or any other anti-bacterial or steroidal creams much more efficiently, as the healing compounds in cannabis, or just CBD, not only quell inflammation and infection, it actually regenerates tissue growth, promoting faster and more efficient healing.”

Though she’s been touting this for roughly thirty years, the scientific community has only recently caught up, relatively speaking. One major breakthrough came in 2009 when a formal study was released on the presence of the Endocannabinoid System in the epidermal layer. The ECS was first discovered in the 90s and is credited with the reason the human body responds so positively to the plant. More than just a couple receptors in the brain that allow us to get high, it’s an essential regulatory system with implications for the entire body, responsible for a litany of bodily functions, from maintaining bone density to regulating fertility, pregnancy, appetite, pain-sensation, mood—the list could fill up the entire publication—to naturally preventing diabetes. With the ECS now officially recognized as also existing in the skin, we have the science to back up the anecdotes that have been pouring in for years.

So, generically speaking, yes, CBD salves have been shown to have amazing healing and protective qualities on the skin. The compound’s natural antiseptic qualities work on the surface, but it also penetrates and interacts on a cellular level to promote quicker healing and regeneration. Ultimately, this should hold true, whether you’re discussing derivatives of marijuana or hemp as they are essentially the same thing. Per the Farm Bill of 2018, the only legal designation between the two is the level of THC (under 0.3% is defined as hemp and is therefore legal.) Now, there is a massive amount of variation in the quality of the extract as well as the grade of hemp being sourced. Not to mention, there’s still a high degree of legal ambiguity on the subject, and finding a reliable manufacturer can be an overwhelming task to say the least. We’ll get into all of that in the next issue.

(1) In the past year alone, the FDA has recalled 86 prescription medications.

Your Chairside Manner Matters

4 Tips for Creating a Positive Client Experience

Coverup specialist, like Ernie Rojas, at Arizona’s Top Rocker Tattoo, fix just as many bad tattoos as they do good ones that were ruined by negative experiences.

“Not everyone wants to wear an asshole’s art,” Rojas says. “There’s more to it than just the image — it may be a nice piece or work, but (the person’s perspective of it can be ruined) if it’s not done by somebody who truly cares about what they’re doing for their client.”

Putting yourself in your client’s skin (literally and figuratively) and displaying a genuine empathy for them as individuals is a powerful tool for creating confidence for them in your abilities and an emotional attachment through likability and trust.

With this in mind, here are 4 tips to improve communication between you and your client so that you can deliver a unique and exceptional experience.

Keep Clients Informed

Doing a tattoo or piercing may be routine to you, but there’s a good chance it could be a first for your client. The unknown fuels fear so clients need to be kept in the know. Rather than waiting to give your client aftercare instructions, a good way to ease their nerves about getting a tattoo or piercing is to give them a pre-appointment checklist to help them plan ahead for the day of the visit, know what to expect while they’re in the chair and understand what the healing process will involve. Keep your terms simple and easy to understand, otherwise you risk raising their anxiety level when they see a flurry of technical jargon with which they’re not familiar.

Involving clients from start to finish is not only considerate, it’s the right thing to do. It may be your art, but it’s their body, their anxieties and their concerns that they’re having to deal with.

Make Your Client Comfortable

Remain confident, but be mindful of your body language and avoid defensive poses, like crossing your arms or habits of boredom such as tapping your feet or fiddling with a pen. Defensive body language can be seen as a sign of egotism, impatience, or worse, indifference. Instead of giving into one of these undesirable habits, make eye contact, smile and try to nod and express a genuine interest in what your client is saying.

Watch your client’s body language, too. If your studio is an open space where others are getting tattooed or pierced, and your client appears nervous or uncomfortable discussing something in public (which might be the case with more exotic piercings or tattoo placement), offer to speak somewhere more private, like a consultation area to make sure he or she feels empowered to speak more freely.

Really Listen

It’s important to validate your client’s concerns and limit your assumptions. Use the active listening technique to facilitate better understanding and communication — listen closely, then repeat what the person said, checking to ensure you are on the same page. Ask open-ended questions to help uncover more information; “Yes” or “No” questions are impersonal, and the one-word answers won’t give you much insight from the patient’s own perspective. For example, asking “How does this feel” instead of “Does this hurt” opens the door to a lot more useful information.

Follow Up

Good chairside manner doesn’t end when your client leaves your shop. It’s not enough just to hand them a piece of paper with aftercare instructions and hope for the best. People want to feel like you’re truly invested in their well-being, so personally reaching out shortly after their visit adds an extra element of caring and concern. Taking five minutes to call a client to see how they’re doing and address any questions they may have is a personal touch they won’t forget.

No one appreciates being made to feel like a number. If a person doesn’t feel like they’ve been treated with respect and compassion, it’s possible they’ll write an online review warning others to stay clear of shops and artists they deem to have a venomous attitude.

Even when it isn’t necessary, following up is a smart idea because people want to return to a shop that makes them a priority. If a person has to choose between two artists of equal skill, they’ll likely opt for the one with the better chairside manner.

The Tax Man Cometh: Are You Ready?

It’s that time of year, folks. The annual doomsday countdown for the self-employed has begun. Tremble and weep, oh ye procrastinators, for the Taxman cometh to take what is his.

It doesn’t have to be all wailing and gnashing of teeth, though. In fact, it is actually possible for April 15th to be relatively painless. All it requires is a little foresight and attention to detail. Suddenly, it won’t feel like you’re keeping one and giving 19. Obviously, if you’re just thinking about this now, there’s not much to do for this year’s bill. Just take that box of crumpled receipts to your accountant and hope to hell he’s also a magician. But for next year, there are a few things you might want to consider. Keep in mind, though, that we’re constrained by a word count. This is a mere starting point; a handful of topics covered in the broadest strokes possible.

Business expenses: Deduct. Deduct. Deduct.

I have a customer who drives to my business every week to buy tattoo supplies, 30 miles each way. I couldn’t believe my ears when he told me he’d never thought to log his mileage. If you’re a tattoo artist working with pass-through income, a supply run absolutely qualifies as business travel. And in 2019, every mile you drive for your business is 54.5 cents you get to subtract from your taxable income. Let’s put it simply: If my buddy were to log that one trip he takes each week and report it to Uncle Sam, he would be looking at a tax savings of up to $400.2 That’s over 500 cans of PBR.

Deductions are scary because they require that you keep meticulous records; not exactly a prominent strength in the art world. But if you’re not taking them, you’re basically giving your money away to Uncle Sam for no good reason. Take what’s yours. Save every damn receipt, log every mile, and watch your tax bill shrink.

Reach Above the Line

If you’re making any real money, above the line deductions are crucial. Not familiar with the term? You should do some research. However, put simply, “above the line” means it goes directly against your taxable income, dollar for dollar. Examples are qualified retirement accounts, health savings accounts, and health insurance premiums. This section is equally important to your long-term financial security. I think it goes without saying that you should have opened a retirement account by now, and if you haven’t, get on it. Bending over the chair isn’t going to be nearly as fun at 65. But what you might not have considered is that you should also be paying into a health savings account. You have to spend money on healthcare anyway, but if you take a high deductible/low premium plan and pay the difference of your monthly bill into an HSA, you not only get that above the line deduction, you also get to collect tax-free interest. Best of all, if by some miracle you stay healthy and disaster free, you can pull that cash out for whatever you want at retirement with no additional penalties.(3)

Don’t procrastinate! File quarterly.

The adage comparing procrastination to masturbation goes double when it comes to dealing with Uncle Sammy. Quarterly payments are technically required of all businesses, whether it’s a giant corporation or a mom and pop pass-through scenario. Obviously, the reduced stress of not having to pay a lump sum at the end of the year should be motivation enough. But you should also keep in mind that when you fail to file quarterly, the IRS will take that lump sum, split it among the four quarters and tack on a compounding interest charge. So once again, you’re leaving money on the table that should be in your pocket. Stop it.

Don’t Cheat.

It’s your right to take every dime off the table that’s yours. That much, we’ve established. But don’t take a dime more. It’s tempting to skim cash, or even keep cash payments off the books entirely, but all you’re doing is opening yourself to a world of trouble. That code you enter on your tax form to indicate your trade is the IRS’s gateway to a wealth of information. They have determined what your credit card/cash ratio should be. If the ratio you report is significantly off, you’re at a high risk of triggering an audit. Don’t think you’ll fall through the cracks; the algorithms don’t lie. Besides, if you don’t report it to the IRS, you can’t report it to a bank, either. A little extra beer money isn’t worth screwing yourself out of a mortgage.

Optional Disclaimer: This article is for entertainment and informational purposes only. For real tax advice, consult a tax professional.

(1) Yes, that was a Beatles reference. Good catch.
(2) This number is obviously dependent on his tax bracket and the number of trips he actually took.
(3) For a better idea of what you’d save and accrue, check out hsacenter.com and try out their Future Value Calculator.

About the author:

Chris Black is the founder and owner of Munson’s Emporium, a wildly successful smoke and adult novelty shop in Belton, Texas, as well as the former owner of Mr. Nice Guy’s Tattoo in Bell County, Texas. His favorite pastimes are overseeing his adolescent baseball camp, hanging out with his wife and five kids, working on his classic Porsche, and viciously trolling people of lesser intelligence on social media.

PAINMall: 2020 Vision

Your future is bright. We know because we just found a crystal ball and even better, we’ve figured out how to use it. All it took was a day’s worth of Youtube tutorials. Want to see for yourself? Just stare into the glowing orb . . .

It’s March of 2020. You roll out of bed around 8am feeling refreshed after a deep, restful night’s sleep, rich with vivid dreams of an Instagram post with a million shares. Yes, 8am. You’ve stepped up your game.

After guzzling down a tasty, hemp protein smoothie, you hop in your car, ready to face the day. Hemp protein smoothie? Yes. We did say that you stepped up your game, right? It doesn’t taste nearly as bad as you had assumed. Besides, your gut’s half gone and your shirt’s fitting a little tighter around the shoulders. By the way, kudos on the new wheels.

The new car still doesn’t fly, so we’re now officially five years behind the predictions of Back to the Future II. But at least you finally have XM, Bluetooth and functional AC. Plus, it’s a hybrid. You’re going green(ish). As you turn the engine over and roll backward out of your driveway, you catch a few snippets of President Pence’s speech from the night before. You can’t help but sigh and wonder if a Bible thumper is really any better than a Reality TV host.

After a solid thirty minutes at the gym, you roll up to the studio at 9:30 sharp, marvelling at how short the commute was and thanking the traffic gods for Elon Musk’s underground highway system. From the outside, the place is beautiful; spotless storefront windows that generously reveal the now-empty, gleaming chairs, as well as the canvasses lining the walls. You painted four of them yourself in the past six months. Where the hell did you even find the time? We’ll get to that momentarily.

As you walk into the shop, you pause just for a moment to take it all in. The space has never been cleaner. There’s not a speck of dust discernable to the naked eye and everything is in its right place. This, after the busiest year of your career. All five chairs have been booked three months in advance for months now without any sign of letting up, despite the four new street shops that popped up downtown at the tail end of 2019.

Your office manager is sitting behind the front desk, smiling between sips from his mug of matcha. He informs you that all the orders for the week are done, he’s found a great new source for organic, vegan ink (the demand for that hippie shit has been sharply rising), and just landed an amazing deal on a new ultrasonic.

“All of that before 10am?” you reply, incredulously. “How in the good fuck is that even possible?” you add, immediately stuffing a few crumpled bills into the swear jar.

“Remember when I got us registered on PAINMall?” he smiles. “You’re welcome. By the way, Ink Masters called. They want to know whether they should bring out the camera crew on Thursday or Friday.”
“Still too busy,” you answer with a sigh. “Tell them to push it back another week.”

Oh, yes, you think to yourself. PAINMall. When your assistant first brought it up, you weren’t even interested. You still remember the argument. We’re already on Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, Twitter, Yelp, FourSquare . . . Hell, we even still have a MySpace account. MYSPACE. Why do I need another account on yet another website?

You’ve learned a lot since then. Lesson number one was that PAINMall isn’t just another website. It’s a platform. And not just any platform—it’s an all-in-one digital meet and greet for the industry that covers every aspect of your business and then some. It’s a web-based convention. It’s an e-commerce portal tailored specifically to your needs. It’s a constant source of information; what’s selling, what’s trending, what’s on special, what’s new—everything. Thanks to PAINMall, ordering no longer involves a stack of catalogs and a dozen or so phone calls. Savings are up because you’re always in the loop on the best deals. Those upgrades you’ve made have been a cinch. Why? Because you logged onto PAINMall and in minutes, made the choices that would have previously required hours of crawling Google. You’re on top of your game like a ninja and it’s all thanks to the PAINMall.

Life is good in 2020, and while you know that you and your team were the ultimate reason, you also know that it wouldn’t have been nearly as easy without your now-favorite digital platform. Signing up was your “Butterfly Effect” moment.

And trust us; we’ve seen the alternate. You want none of it. We’re not sure how it happened, but Bill O’Reilly is the lead anchor for NBC. Meanwhile, you’re driving an ’03 PT Cruiser, running a street shop with walls covered in flash art. You spend your days scrawling out tribal arm bands and endless variations of the word “princess” intended for the lower back while your piercer performs almost nothing but Prince Alberts on frat pledges desperate for acceptance. Also, your cellphone provider has signed an exclusive deal with BlackBerry and all they offer are the old models with the shitty, push-button keyboards. The Butterfly Effect is weird, man.

Don’t get stuck using a BlackBerry in 2020. Sign up for PAINMall instead and solidify your future.

(Disclaimer: we don’t really have a crystal ball and can’t really see your entire future. We have seen the future, though. How? By creating it. PAINMall is the future. Register now and find out for yourself.)

Of (Tattooed) Mice and Men

What the Latest Science is Teaching Us About Tattoos

Fun fact: You are currently eating your tattoo. You’re also puking it back up. Well, not you, exactly. You’d probably notice if you were chowing down on a patch of ink-soaked flesh and ralphing it up like a Victoria’s Secret model about to take a runway jaunt. Set the fava beans aside. But on a cellular level, that’s what your body is theoretically doing.
This little nugget of likely fact was discovered accidentally earlier this year by a group of French immunologists who were getting their usual jollies from torturing mice. Initially, they were studying skin cells in black mice for god-knows-what purpose, when they noticed something peculiar. When transferring skin cells from one mouse to another, they observed that the macrophages1 of the recipient mouse were eating the melanin released by the dying cells of the donor mouse. This aroused some curiosity, so they took a detour from their initial research and explored further.

First, they tattooed green strips on the tails of albino mice and observed the reaction under a microscope. They would have used the original mice, but they’d learned from Ink Masters that lighter canvasses are easier to work with (yes, that’s biting sarcasm.) From their observation, they were able to confirm the part of this that was already known; that macrophages store the ink of tattoos in their bellies. But then, when they killed off those macrophages, they observed that the tattoo wasn’t altered. When the ink-gorge macrophage died, it regurgitated its contents, which another immediately lapped up.

Next, they removed the tattooed skin from one mouse and grafted it onto the tail of another. Immediately, the second mouse became cooler, but less employable (fake fact). After six weeks, the tattoos were still intact, but the macrophages that were holding the ink were all from the recipient and not the donor. Don’t you fucking love science?

What’s the point of this knowledge? Not sure, exactly, but at least you learned something. The scientists who made the discovery are suggesting they can apply it to improving tattoo removal methods, but that doesn’t exactly help us. But, to tie this piece off with a nice, after-school special-style ‘moral of the story,’ consider this report’s implications about our knowledge of our bodies and how they interact with tattoos. It’s 2018 and we apparently still don’t know everything.
So, it turns out that the ink we use isn’t just hanging out under our top layer of skin in static suspension. It’s moving, continually interacting with our cells. What else don’t we know? Maybe more than even the known, it’s the unknown that should drive us to ensure that we’re always using the best materials available to us, always eschewing cheap ingredients. Maybe it’s one more reminder that we should be reaching for non-toxic, organically sourced inks like Kuro-Sumi or Papillon’s Hemp Ink. After all, this is our bodies we’re talking about. Let’s keep them pretty, outside AND in.

What the hell are macrophages? Yeah, we didn’t know either. We should have all paid a little more attention in Biology. From Wikipedia: “Macrophages are a type of white blood cell . . . that engulfs and digests cellular debris, foreign substances, microbes, cancer cells, and anything else that does not have the type of proteins specific to healthy body cells on its surface in a process called phagocytosis.” Neat!

Papillon Spotlight

What would Tattoo Artists do without their supplies? Where should they go to buy these supplies?

Papillon Tattoo Supply is where everyone should go. This Supply Shop always gives you the best experience. They give you the best service possible and treat everyone like family. They’re open 12 hours, 9a.m to 9p.m everyday 7 days a week to work for their customers. The owner Carl Basile always tries to make time to come out to talk to his customers and see how they are doing, he always makes an appearance when he is not traveling visiting shops around the country. Papillon’s tries their best to satisfy their customers. If they no longer hold a certain brand for whatever reason that someone prefers they will order it. If you are a local shop and cannot find time to pick up an order they can deliver to you, just let them know. If you need it shipped across the world or county they do that too. Just call or go on their website and order. You need anything they have it. Papillon Tattoo Supplies even makes their own ink. Papillon is the original manufactures of Starbrite Colors, Papillon Hemp Ink, Established, Papillon Pigments and much more. Papillon’s is always inventing new stuff for their artists. Soon they will be selling these new needles called “Just the Tip.” People are already raving over them. To keep yourself up to date with Papillon Tattoo Supply you should go follow them on Instagram and Facebook. Carl Basile is always posting stuff about his sponsored artists or new items coming out. Papillon Tattoo Supply is also having their 1st Annual Tattoo Convention. If you sign up before 2019 you will get a Free 18″ by 36″ banner with your shop logo and image on it. Papillon Tattoo Supply are the true makers, not the fakers.


Pain Favorite: Pink Rhino Tattoo

I started a piercing apprenticeship some 8-9 years ago. I then dove into the realm of tattooing when I found out that I was going to be a father to my son Vlad Dracul. This was a move that came natural after years of watching many talented artists in my industry. Now with Vlad being my biggest inspiration, I’ve evolved myself as a father, body modification artist, & manager of Pink Rhino Tattoo.

Piercing Specialties: Decorating clients’ unique anatomy with proper placement of jewelry.

Tattoo Specialties: Single session fully rendered color of retro/80s/pop art, and erotic genitalia trash-toos

Randy Candy – Pink Rhino Tattoo
Web: RandyCandyLand.com
Insta: @RandyCandyMan
FB: RandyCandy

Inking the Deal

6 steps for selling yourself and your tattoo services

One of the rewards of being a tattoo artist is being able to do what you love. But here’s the hard truth: all the talent and skill in the world won’t bring you success if you can’t close the sale. Given the growing acceptance and popularity of body art, means more competition, and more choices for potential clients. Selling tattoos can be just as hard if not harder than creating them, so here are a few tips to get you master the art of (pardon the pun) inking the deal.

Know your client

Along with knowing your art form comes knowing your client. Is this their first tattoo or do they have their entire body covered with ink? Why have they come to you for their tattoo? You should know their what motivates their choice and understand how you and your shop fit into the decision. When you know the “buying habits” of your client, you can use that info to develop a more comprehensive plan—that means repeat business. Put yourself in the best position to get a “yes” by focusing on what most concerns your prospective client.

Believe in yourself

It’s an age-old sales maxim that believing in your product or service is essential. It’s the same whether you’re selling toasters or tattoos. You will never be effective selling something you do not believe in — and that includes yourself. When you exude passion and confidence — without being an a-hole rockstar — you break down the wall of doubt and earn the trust of your client. It is your ultimate goal to have a client believe in you, trust you, and see that you’re coming from some place much deeper than just making money. Once you achieve this, you will absolutely, positively be more successful.

Sell the relationship

It’s especially true in the tattoo community that relationships are more valuable to both you and your client than a one-time session. For the artist, relationships bring repeat business, the ability to explore a wider variety of projects, increased referrals, and the ability to charge a premium because of the higher perceived value of your work. For the uncertain client, relationships help build trust and let them know they will not be abandoned after the tattoo is finished. Tattoos are for life, and ultimately, the client is buying a unique relationship with you and your studio, not something they can get from every other shop in town.

Stick to your price

There is no perfect formula for pricing your work, but one rule to remember is don’t cheat yourself. Charge what you feel comfortable charging, but err on the high side. Low pricing often signifies to clients that the artist doesn’t have confidence in their work. Prices can go up, but they should never go down.

Offer options

No too clients are alike in regard to what they want and what they can afford. Keep your prices consistent, but offer options that fit their budget with sacrificing quality. Maybe a different size, style or less detailed design. Instead of giving your clients a choice between you and a competitor, you’re allowing them to choose between you and YOU. People are going to price shop; it’s unavoidable. You want to ensure they’re price shopping in your shop only.

Don’t seem desperate!

Everybody has their slow days, but do yourself a favor and never appear as though you’ll do ANYTHING for a buck. Smart customers avoid used car salesmen willing to say or do whatever it takes make a sale. So, don’t make a deal just to fill the chair or offer some cheesy tattoo at a next to nothing price simply to stay busy. Remember that you’re giving your client something special that will make their lives better, and your attitude ought to reflect that. Make your client feel like you’re helping them — not that they’re helping you!

No Ragrets (Not One Single Letter!)

The Experts Weigh in on Tattoo Remorse

“You’re going to regret that when you’re older.” It’s catechism number one of the tattoo industry’s detractors. But is it true? If you sit in at an afternoon bridge club or hang out in the stands of a high school soccer game, you’ll likely hear enough anecdotal evidence to solidify the statement as gospel. But anecdotes are why people try to cure cancer with castor oil. What does the actual data say? Is there any on the subject? As it turns out, there’s plenty. Academia is watching.

To cut through the speculation, we sifted through 15—yes, 15—peer-reviewed, academic articles, plus a public poll on tattoos, covering their evolving social status and their psychological effects on those who obtain them. The process was illuminating, but mind-numbingly tedious. Academia has a real knack for sucking the life out of otherwise interesting subject matter.

So, how much merit is there in the fearful mutterings of child-rearing suburbanites? Statistically, not much.

First, we have the numbers from a national poll conducted by Harris Insights and Analytics in late 2015. Of those surveyed who had tattoos, only 23% expressed regret over their choice. Of that 23%, the most common regrets were what you would expect. They got it too young, their personality has changed, it’s an ex-lover’s name, it’s poorly executed, it lacks meaning; basically, all the textbook faux pas actively avoided by self-respecting artists.

It should be noted, however, that tattoo regrets have risen by 9% since 2003. But considering the rapid growth of the industry during that period, it should be expected. In 2003, the percentage of the populace with one or more tattoos was at 16%. By 2015, that number had jumped up to nearly one in three. Among the youngest demographic (18-24) the rise took an even steeper climb, from 13% in 2003 to 35% in 2015. No, we’re not mixing up proportions with raw numbers. We are merely suggesting that the intense spike in the numbers, especially among the young, suggests a hastiness in the populace, perhaps recklessly so, which again, leads to the reasons for regret cited by the survey.

Equally compelling is a 2011 academic study conducted by Viren Swami of the University of Westminster in London. Swami recruited 82 clients from a London tattoo parlor and conducted three surveys, one preceding the tattoo, one immediately following, and one three weeks later. The surveys focused on the overall confidence of the subjects, self-esteem, body image, etc. The results extensively erode the authority of the conventional wisdom on the subject, if not directly contradicting it.

“Indeed,” he wrote, “the present study found that obtaining a tattoo resulted in a significant improvement in self-esteem over a three-week period among both men and women. This finding is notable because it highlights the positive impact of obtaining a tattoo on an individual’s overall sense of self.”

Tattoos and the Self, a 2012 study that focused specifically on women with tattoos, further illustrates a low recipient-to-regret ratio. Of the women surveyed, 87% stated that they were happy with their choices and planned to get more tattoos in the future. Those that did express regret gave reasons largely analogous to those previously cited, which as already noted, can be largely avoided through the current existing practices of quality parlors.

But not even academia is completely capable of pure objectivity. There was more than one study in which the authors seemed to rely heavily on residual cultural bias. One article from South Korea, for example, viewed the growing comfort with tattoos as cause for alarm, based purely on previous unsavory associations the trade has now largely shed.

“Continuous attention to, and interest in, the increased incidence of tattooing and piercing are necessary, especially in terms of public interventions for health education and health promotion, as these forms of self-adornment are associated with behaviours that pose a risk to health,” they concluded. Somewhere within the thought process was an arguable confusion of correlation and causation, as well as use of outdated metrics.

Overall, however, even the most biased of studies failed to prove any significant negativity associated with getting a tattoo regarding the internal state of the recipient. There is still more ground to cover on the external perceptions—meaning other people’s view of a tattooed person—but even there, the numbers are moving in a positive direction. For example, according to the Harris Poll, 58% of Americans now say they are comfortable with having someone with tattoos in the Oval Office.

Given the topic of the discussion, these trends will be difficult to reverse. Tattoos, by their nature, aren’t a fad that can just fade away like a style of jeans or a brand of shoes. So long as quality artists continue to wrest control of the industry from the scratchers, honing their craft and exercising cautious responsibility, we will likely see an end to the remaining stigmas on tattoos in our lifetime.

Years ago, your parents were right. But now they’re wrong.

Don’t Call It a Clean Room!

And Other Thoughts on Clean Room Safety

“Is my shop clean enough?”

Rule Number One: If you have to ask, the answer is always no.

Rule Number Two: Repeat Rule Number 1.

Rule Number 3: Your studio should be cleaner than a hospital. Say what? Yes, you read that correctly. Stop rubbing your eyes.

Especially if you’re still wearing dirty gloves. Gross.

We’re serious about the hospital thing, for a couple reasons. First, hospitals have a disturbingly high record of MRSA outbreaks. Unless you consider a Zombie outbreak a legitimate threat, MRSA is just about the last thing you want to have floating around in your studio. Second, and more importantly, hospitals are backed by an obscene amount of money, with insurance packages that make your annual income look like your college beer fund. They can afford the problems. You can’t.

Consider this column a PSA of sorts, a reminder that you’re at constant war with microscopic killers and troublemakers; MRSA, Staph, HIV, Hepatitis C, et al. We’re not teaching you anything new here—you’re a professional for, god’s sake—but we’re talking about a battle with an invisible adversary. Sometimes it’s easy to forget they’re still there.

For brevity’s sake, we’re going to focus on heart of studio sanitation: the clean room. However, whether you’re dealing specifically with this space or shop sanitation in general, a lot of the concepts are the same, so we’re going to start wide and narrow it down as we go.

See red. Yes, get angry at those germs! No, that’s not really what we mean here. We’re suggesting a simple mental exercise. When at the studio, always imagine that everything that is even potentially dirty is covered in wet, red paint. Now, imagine what happens when you touch that wet, red paint and then touch something else. Now, it’s on your chair. Now, it’s on your tools. High-fived your customer? Now it’s on them. If you haven’t figure it out yet, that red paint represents all the germs that you’re trying to avoid spreading. Don’t spread the paint.

See black and white. Wait, what about red? Yes, life is complicated. Focus. In tattoo shop cleanliness, there are no gray areas. It’s clean or it isn’t. If there’s a question, well, refer to Rule Number One.

Be narrow-minded. No, we’re not suggesting you attend a Unite the Right rally or start praising the morals of a certain chicken sandwich franchise. What we are suggesting is that you always view everything in one spectrum that goes in one direction, no takesies-backsies:

Sterile → Clean → Dirty

Sterile represents everything that’s been through a sterilizer, steam or chemical, which is mostly tools and tubes. If using a traditional autoclave, tools & tubes should be wrapped in sterilization pouches that fit the size of the tool or tube. You can touch clean and dirty after touching sterile, but once you’ve touched either, you can’t go back to sterile. One direction.

Clean represents everything you want to have clean to the touch but can’t run through the autoclave, basically, most of the stuff in your general area. Once you’ve touched clean, you can’t touch sterile, but it’s technically ok to touch dirty.
Dirty is exactly what you’d expect; sharps containers, trash cans, used tray setups, etc. Once you’re here, there’s no going back. It’s washup and sanitize time.

Change your name. That was incomplete. Don’t change your name; change your name for the clean room. Unless you have separate rooms (one for the sink and ultrasonic and one for the autoclave), using the term “clean room” is confusing and sends the wrong message. It can lead you to make common but horrible mistakes—like using it as a storage space for paper towels and bathroom tissue. Yes, people do that. No, they shouldn’t. Consider calling it the “bio room.” Mindset is everything.

Remember: you gotta keep’em separated. As alluded to in the previous point, you can obviously keep the sink and ultrasonic close, but the autoclave needs to be separate, ideally, in a separate room. If you don’t have the extra space, you should at least keep your autoclave covered when using the other utilities. Before we switched over to disposables (which, seriously, why haven’t you done that yet?) we maintained a plexiglass divider to ensure there was no cross contamination. You should also keep the ultrasonic covered whenever it’s in use. It’s obvious that washing at the sink can produce a lot of unwanted micro-sprays, but what people often don’t realize is that the ultrasonic can do a hell of a lot of spraying of its own. There was once an experiment conducted on an ultrasonic in which they injected the machine with gentian violet to track its spray pattern. They were finding traces of it on the walls and surrounding the machines for months.

Make the autoclave your Ark of the Covenant. If you grew up religious, you get that one. If not, forget about Indiana Jones; that’s the wrong depiction. In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was where God rested. It was so holy and so clean that if a priest touched it with unwashed hands, God would strike him down instantly. That is your autoclave. Treat it as such.

Here are your rituals:

First, have your machine spore tested weekly. Most states only require once a month, but top tier artists aren’t where they are from doing the bare minimum. Go weekly.

Next, don’t be sparing with the gloves. Consider them a sacrifice to your Ark. Switch to clean gloves before uncovering or moving the barrier to the autoclave. Discard those gloves. Put on new clean gloves to open the door to the machine. When putting the dated and wrapped tools on the tray, make sure you don’t touch anything else (those tools aren’t clean yet.) Then, discard your gloves one more time, put on new ones and close the door. Yes, you should be that obsessive every time. You don’t want to anger the tattoo god.

Cowritten by Shandra Swilling (Studio Manager and Piercer, Mom’s Custom Tattoo and Piercing, Spokane, WA) and David Pogge (Staff Writer, PAIN Magazine).

Also in “B2B Features”

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