Niagara-based tattoo artist Destiny Rensen worries about the hidden market of inking skin in private homes during COVID-19 lockdowns.
She said there’s an “unspoken rule” about tattooing at home, that it shouldn’t be done because it is unprofessional and potentially unhealthy. City health inspectors regularly oversee businesses, including restaurants, salons, and tattoo parlors, and issue body-safe passes for clean operations.
But Rensen, who has worked in Mississauga and Toronto, suspects at-home operations most likely won’t be approved by inspectors. Indeed, for the most part, she suspects they won’t be inspected at all for compliance with health regulations.
She said a tattoo shop had to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected even before COVID-19 and now that lockdown measures are in place, many shops are deep cleaning everything as a precaution.
“I wouldn’t trust in-house people to be that vigilant, unfortunately,” she said.
The City of Toronto defines tattooing as an artist using one or more needles “attached to a tattoo machine to insert pigment under the skin’s top layer.” Those needles pierce the skin and injecting permanent dyes, resulting in a design on the skin.
The dangers in getting an unregulated basement tattoo could include contracting bacterial skin infections, an allergic skin reaction or a rash, and blood-borne diseases such as HIV or Hepatitis B or C.
“Any legitimate artist that has respect for their shop won’t work from home on the side because that is taking away business from the shop, which should be like your family,” Rensen said.
The stay-at-home order went into effect for all of Ontario on April 8, which means only required trips are permitted, including going to the grocery store, doctors’ appointments, employment, outdoor exercises, or walking a pet.
This stay-at-home order was put into the place to stop the spread of the virus, prevent hospitalization, keep children and teachers safe, and allow more time to vaccinate people in Ontario.
The City of Toronto says the protective procedures for tattooing begin with the artist having their client’s interest in mind, answer all questions, determine if the client has any allergies and deny service if the client is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The artist’s hands and the area where the tattoo will be drawn should be washed and cleaned with 70 per cent alcohol, and packages of single-use items such as razors, needles, stencils, ink caps, tips/grips, and tubes should be opened in front of the individual they are working on.
The tattoo machine and cords should be wrapped in plastic film and the instruments should be heat sanitized and all lotions and creams should be dispensed in a way that does not cause the rest of the bottle to be contaminated, according to city guidelines.
The tattoo should be covered in a non-stick bandage and the artist should give aftercare instructions to prevent infection. And Needles and razors should be thrown into a sharps container after use.