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Written by Kieran Proctor

Avoiding Tattoo Infections When Getting Tattooed Abroad



Tattoo Abroad

When getting tattooed abroad there are some important rules that you should follow in order to avoid painful tattoo infections.

I’m someone who spends a lot time in tattoo shops all over the world. And what I’ve learned is that they’re are a few major rules everyone should follow when getting a tattoo overseas.

The rules are common to all less developed countries. Yet, I believe they should be followed even in more developed countries like the USA. And indeed I do follow these rules, even when I’m getting tattooed in the USA or Europe.

Here’s what you need to know about avoiding a tattoo infection when getting tattooed abroad

Don’t Eat Pork After A Tattoo

Pork can harbor nasty bacteria if it’s not preserved properly. And you should avoid pork for 2-3 weeks after getting tattooed.

Now, in developed countries with stringent food safety requirements, pork is frozen below [4 C (40 F)] and cooked at temperatures above [60 C (140 F)]. Below [4 C (40 F)] and above [60 C (140 F)] kills bacteria.

Yet, in parts of Latin America and less developed countries, you can’t guarantee that pork has been properly preserved. It could be harboring bacteria that will cause your new tattoo to develop an infection.

The most common infection developed from eating pork after a tattoo is staphylococcus. Including golden staphylococcus which can have serious complications for you and your new tattoo.

To relay my own experience, I had a large tattoo done on my left bicep in Peru. And my tattooist in Cusco Peru told me not to eat pork until my tattoo had healed.

The following day, I was at a barbecue in the hills surrounding Cusco with my tattooist. And my tattooist handed me a pork chop. We had both forgotten that I had a new tattoo and that I wasn’t supposed to eat pork. So, when my tattooist handed me that pork chop, I didn’t hesitate.

A day or two later, I developed a staphylococcus infection on my new tattoo. It took a month of oral antibiotics combined with antibiotic creams to kill the bacteria and heal properly.

When the infection eventually healed, a large section of my new tattoo was gone. Requiring the tattoo to be done again, during an extensive tattoo touch up session.

Don’t eat pork following a tattoo. Particularly in countries with less stringent food hygiene standards.

Wait 2-3 weeks, until your tattoo is healed properly, to eat pork

Don't eat pork in Peru after a tattoo

Never Touch Your New Tattoo Without Washing Your Hands First

When everyone goes on holiday, they seem to forget the hygiene standards that they would adhere to at home. Backpackers abroad are the worst.

If you’re backpacking through South America and reading this, because you’re considering a tattoo, then you know what I’m talking about. Go and shower you filthy animal. Just kidding. But not really.

When on holidays, regular hand washing seems to be forgotten. And it’s particularly important in less developed countries. You never know what germs you’re harboring on your hands.

We pick up germs all day every day when touching objects. In technical jargon, these things we touch are called fomite or fomes. Inanimate objects harboring bacteria and germs.

When we touch a fomite and get bacteria or germs on our hands and then touch our new tattoos, which are essentially open wounds, we risk infection.

To avoid costly touch up sessions caused by painful tattoo infections, always wash your hands thoroughly before touching your new tattoo. Particularly in the first 2-3 weeks. 

Wash hands

Always Choose A Clean Tattoo Shop With A Good Reputation

The same standards should be applied when getting a tattoo abroad. Just because you’re getting tattooed overseas, it doesn’t mean you can overlook unhygienic practices when getting tattooed in another country.

If the shop isn’t clean, using disposable needles and an autoclave for everything else, it should be a hard pass. Blood borne illnesses and infections are real.

You should always avoid unhygienic tattoo shops and tattooists. And it doesn’t matter what country you’re in. Always avoid them.

When I’m getting tattooed overseas in less developed countries, I also go a step further. I will look at what inks they’re using, the expiry dates and what they’re doing with the disposables items, like ink cups.

When I’m tattooed abroad, I want to know that the inks are in date and haven’t been left on the shelf for a few years to brew bacteria. And I want to know that the tattoo shop isn’t recycling any disposable items to save cash.

If you’ve been tattooed in your home country, you should apply the same standards when getting tattooed abroad. The same identifying markers of a clean and reputable shop, apply when getting tattooed abroad.

The last thing you want is to get an infection on your new tattoo. Or worse yet, a blood borne illness (hepatitis or AIDS)

Tattoo Shop

Always Use A Good Tattoo Aftercare Cream With Antibacterial And Antimicrobial Qualities

It’s more important than ever to use professional tattoo aftercare creams and salves when getting tattooed abroad. And to follow proper tattoo aftercare procedures.

Just because you’re traveling abroad, it doesn’t mean that you can let tattoo aftercare slide. It’s more important than ever when traveling.

A professional tattoo aftercare cream or salve creates a barrier that keeps unwanted junk out of your new tattoo. It protects against drying, cracking and infection.

If you’re planning to get a tattoo in less developed countries, find tattoo aftercare products before getting the tattoo. In some countries, they are harder to find.

If you’ve gone and got a tattoo and you can’t find tattoo aftercare products, look for creams like Bepanthen. Now, Bepanthen isn’t as good as a purpose specific tattoo aftercare cream or balm. But it will do in a pinch. If you cant find a tattoo aftercare cream, use Bepanthen. It’s better than nothing.

But, if you are planning to get tattooed overseas and you haven’t left yet, get aftercare products and take them with you. Preparation helps avoid infection

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