Tattoos are an artform and are consistently rising in popularity. They can range from the smallest design on a finger, done on a whim to a complete body piece done over a period of years. The process of getting a tattoo, however small, should be treated as more of a medical procedure than an art. The work area needs to be sterilized after each client, there should be no food consumed during the process, and the tattooist must use single use needles in sterile packaging, new ink pots for each tattoo, and disposable gloves.
Many tattooists prefer black, powder-free nitrile disposable gloves. In some places, these gloves need to be medical exam grade, while other areas allow for industrial use disposable gloves. Medical exam gloves are designed for touching a patient during non-surgical medical procedures and are held to specific FDA standards to do so. (Industrial gloves are designed for more general purpose; all our industrial gloves are approved for food contact but are not specifically designed for tattooing.)
Tattoo artists need to be able to make extremely fine movements with their hands to get tattoos just right. Nitrile gloves allow for dexterity in a way that vinyl gloves do not. Nitrile is also less likely to tear or puncture. Latex gloves are an option, but they come with the risk of causing allergic reactions to customers. If latex gloves are used, every client needs to be asked specifically if they are allergic to latex. No one wants to turn away a customer because of an allergy risk that is easily preventable. All our nitrile (and other non-latex) gloves are completely free from latex, making them a safe option for the widest audience.
What Color is Best?
There is no difference in quality between colors of nitrile gloves. Black nitrile gloves are the most popular choice for tattoo shops. This is for a few reasons. The black color disguises the ink that inevitably gets on the gloved hand. This is less distracting to the artist than if they can see white or blue nitrile gloves stained with ink while they are concentrating on a small area.
Black gloves also camouflage any blood that the tattooing process may produce. Some customers might not do well seeing any amount of blood, even if they are not hurt. If the artist is wearing black gloves, the client is less likely to see any blood.
For artists with light to medium skin tones, black nitrile gloves make it easier to see when there has been a rip or puncture in the disposable glove. Gloves need to be changed as soon as a tear or rip is noticed.
How Often Should Gloves be Changed?
A tattooist will go through many disposable nitrile gloves in a shift. A new pair of gloves is needed after each time hands are washed. A pair needs to be worn when they are first sanitizing the work area before the first appointment of the day. A new pair is needed to tattoo the first client, and for each tattoo the artist does. Gloves need to be taken off, thrown away, and a new pair donned if:
- One of the gloves tears or punctures
- The client or artist needs a break from the session
- The artist is starting a new tattoo on the same client
- The artist touches a non-sterilized item
- The gloves feel too tight or too loose
Find the Right Fit
Gloves should feel like a second skin to the tattoo artist. The gloves should fit snugly, but not so tight that they are uncomfortable and likely to tear. Loose gloves pose a danger of the artist not providing the dexterity and precision of movement that they need to create great tattoos. Find the right size by referencing our sizing chart.
The Importance of Gloves
Tattoo artists need to wear disposable gloves to protect themselves and their clients from germs, bacteria, and, blood borne pathogens like HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) and hepatitis. Not wearing disposable gloves or not changing them frequently enough poses a large public health risk. The gloves need to be single use; they can’t be reusable/washable no matter high quality they are.
Gloves are just one way to protect the tattoo artist and client; there are lots of safe practices to be aware of and followed. By following safe practices, we reduce the risk of infection, disease, and public health concerns. When tattooing is done safely, we can all appreciate the artwork that tattoos are.