Tattoo Industry Gloves – Protect Yourself and Your Clients

A tattoo business needs to consider cleanliness and safety for themselves and their clients, just as much as they consider artistic skill and abilities. Tattoo shops need to be as clean as any medical clinic or doctor’s office. From changing the needle to spraying down the chair, everything needs to be kept free from contamination. We will be discussing why tattoo artists are required by law to don gloves as well as the reasons these artists need this protective gear.

The Law:

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the production and marketing of disposable gloves in the medical and food processing and service industries. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates the production and marketing of industry grade gloves. OSHA standards developed in 1970 were passed to protect employees from harmful work conditions. The bloodborne pathogens (BBP) regulation was added to OSHA standards in 1993. It reads, in part: “The bloodborne pathogens standard applies to all employees with occupational exposure to blood and/or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM), even if no actual exposure incidents have occurred.” Occupational exposure is defined as: “Any reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood (and/or OPIM) that may result from the performance of an employee’s duties.” This law covers those who provide piercings and apply tattoos.

The Protection:

Fresh tattoos and piercings are essentially open wounds. The act of applying the ink through a needle requires repeated perforations. Bleeding is a common occurrence in most tattoos, especially larger ones. OSHA requires all tattoo artists to complete Body Art Industry specific Bloodborne Pathogen training each year, which covers bloodborne pathogens, modes of transmission, universal precautions, engineering and work practice controls, exposure control plans, hepatitis B vaccinations, and other information needed to the safety of the tattoo artist or body piercer. Additional topics on infection control, aseptic techniques, and prevention of disease transmission are also included in this course.
In the United States there are estimated to be between 600,000-800,000 accidental needle sticks every year, most in the healthcare industry. However, disposable piercing needles, tattoo needles, and razors must be discarded into a sharps disposal container to prevent needle sticks within the tattoo industry as well. The number of times an artist’s hands are in contact with a sharp should be reduced if possible and when handling or disposing a used sharp, tattooists and piercers should use a tool instead of their fingers to pick up or hold the sharp.
An accidental needle stick puts the artist at risk for many different bloodborne diseases. T​​hese are HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Others are malaria, brucellosis, and syphilis. In fact, a 2013 study by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases found a significantly higher risk of hepatitis C transmission if a person had at least one tattoo. Studies show that 4.4 million Americans live with hepatitis B and C viruses and approximately 1.5 million people become newly infected each year with both Hepatitis B and C.

In addition to protecting both the tattoo artist and their clients from bloodborne pathogens, donning gloves can also protect the tattoo artist against getting ink on their hands. Gloves also protect the wearer’s hands while doing other tasks such as mixing colors or cleaning equipment.

Types of Gloves Appropriate for the Tattoo Industry:

Vinyl Gloves

Vinyl gloves, on the other hand, will keep you safe from exposure. A much heavier material, vinyl gloves are the best solution when safety is more important than movement.
As an artist, though, limited finger flexibility is a massive hindrance. Unless you’re doing large fill-ins, vinyl gloves should be disregarded. Even then they’re overkill.
These gloves do have a place in the tattoo shop, however, as they offer excellent resistance to the assorted chemicals used in maintaining proper hygiene in the work space. Legacy Medical Sales has great Gloveworks Synthetic Vinyl and X3 Vinyl gloves in clear or blue at amazing prices.

Black Nitrile Gloves

Here’s the ‘just right’ of medical gloves. Much thinner than vinyl gloves but stronger than latex gloves, black nitrile gloves offer the best balance between safety and freedom of movement.
Our BX3, black nitrile gloves, are strong enough to last long sessions while offering three to five times the resistance to puncture as latex gloves. They have lower friction than latex and therefore are much easier to put on and are also completely non-allergenic.

The Bottom Line:

Gloves are extremely important to the safety of employees within the tattoo industry. Using a thick latex or nitrile glove can protect artists from cross contamination, accidental needle sticks, and ink exposures. Legacy Medical Sales provides many options for this industry at great prices. Check here for all of your glove options: Not sure which glove protection is the best fit for your shop? Simply contact a sales representative at Legacy Medical Sales for a custom solution at or 1-800-446-7310.