Body Art & Salons

The tools used in body art services (including tattoos, body piercing and micro-pigmentation – also known as “permanent makeup”) and salon services (including manicures and pedicures) often come into contact with blood and other bodily fluids. This increases the risk for transmitting serious infections including HIV and AIDS, hepatitis C and hepatitis B, not to mention several bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Customers and workers can take precautions to ensure these infections are not passed from one person to another.

The role of the Thunder Bay District Health Unit is to:

  • Inspect service Personal Service Settings within the city and district yearly
  • Support premise owners with information about providing safe services
  • Raise awareness about the risks to the general public and how to reduce the risks

Our role is outlined in the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Infection Prevention and Control in Personal Services Settings Protocol

See also Ontario Regulation 136/18 and the Guide to Infection Prevention and Control in Personal Service Settings.


Infection Control in Personal Services Settings

Is It Safe?

Tattooing, piercing, and other salon services can be done safely by professionals who take special safety measures to protect you from infections. Although the risk is lower for services such as manicures or pedicures, dirty tools and tiny drops of blood can still pass along infection.

Take a look around the shop and ask the following questions (the answers should always be “yes”):

  • Is the premise clean? A dirty shop increases your risk of infection, could ruin your tattoo or piercing and may affect your health.
  • Do they properly clean their equipment and disinfect their work surfaces?
  • Do they use an autoclave (a high temperature oven) to sterilize their reusable or multi-use equipment? (Some shops now use disposable tools, and therefore they may not have an autoclave.)
  • Do they have a sink to wash their hands?
  • Do they start by cleaning the skin area being tattooed or pierced with soap and water and then wiping the area with an antiseptic swab to disinfect it?
  • Do they use new disposable gloves for each tattooing or piercing?
  • Are new disposable needles used?
  • Is a new disposable razor used if the area needs to be shaved?

You can also contact a public health inspector at the TBDHU to find out which shops within the city and district have been inspected. You may also ask each shop to see the results of their most recent inspection (should be dated within the last year – many shops have this prominently displayed).

The TBDHU does not approve, license or endorse any shops. Our role is to inspect shops to ensure that they are following the proper infection control procedures.


Special Considerations for Tattoos

  • Needles must be used only once and safely discarded after each session.
  • Watch your body artist remove the sterile bar and needles from the package.
  • Only fresh ink should be used for your tattoo. Ask to see your ink poured into new, disposable ‘caps’ (small cups). A virus can survive in ink for a long time.
  • Currently, commercially prepared pigments are not sterile. Each unique pigment is placed in an individual cap/cup into which the tattoo needles are dipped.
  • All permanent skin dyes being sold in Canada must comply with the Cosmetic Regulations of the Canadian Food and Drugs Act, to ensure that the products are safe to use.


Special Considerations for Piercings

  • Needles must only be used once and safely discarded after each session.
  • Make sure you watch your body piercer remove the cork, forceps and needle from the package.
  • Some piercings can take a very long time to heal and can increase the risk of infection.
  • Pierce only “meaty” skin areas. The neck, joints, arteries and tendons should not be pierced because of severe injury and bleeding.
  • Ear piercing devices are only to be used on the lobe of the ear
  • Facial piercings should be done with extreme care and should always be done by a professional with the proper training. There is a high risk of facial paralysis.
  • Proper jewellery should be used for your piercings. This type of jewellery is usually made of surgical steel or titanium. Silver or gold contain too many impurities to use on a fresh piercing. Ask your body piercer about your options.


Special Consideration for Manicures and Pedicures:

  • Is the service provider reusing tools that are meant only to be used once?  These include: emery boards, nail buffers, credo blades, pumice stones, wooden cuticle pushers and foam toe separators.
  • Is the service provider cleaning and disinfecting reusable instruments between clients? These include nail clippers, nippers, foot paddles, pedi and credo blade holders?
  • Are all tools in good repair?  No chips, cracks, rust or other damage you can see.
  • Are both the hand bath and foot bath cleaned and disinfected between clients?


Special Considerations for Waxing:

  • Are all supplies (e.g. wax strips, wooden applicators, tweezers) stored in a way that prevents contamination (i.e. clean, covered containers)?
  • Is the service provider using a new, single-use disposable wooden applicator each time they pick up wax? See below for information on "Double Dipping."
  • Is the service provider cleaning and disinfecting tweezers between clients?
  • Is the service provider throwing away used wax into the garbage?

"Double Dipping"

Double dipping is when an applicator is dipped back into the wax AFTER it has come into contact with the skin.  Bacteria and loose hair from the skin will contaminate the wax, which is then used on the next client.  Despite popular belief, the temperature of the heated wax is not hot enough to kill bacteria.  In fact, the wax provides the ideal environment for bacteria to grow.  For this reason, applicators that are used to apply wax must never be dipped back into the wax pot and reapplied.  Each dip into the wax pot requires the service provider to use a new applicator.  All applicators must then be thrown out; they are single use only!


Special Considerations for Tanning

Legislation came into effect May 1, 2014 prohibiting youth under the age of 18 from using tanning beds.

Some of the new requirements include:

  • Signage being posted
  • ID must be requested from anyone appearing under the age of 25 ( only certain ID’s acceptable)
  • Protective eyewear must be worn by all users (must be provided by operator for use or sale)
  • Advertising limitations

Read the Skin Cancer Prevention Act (Tanning Services)


Buyer Beware

Personal Service Settings providers do not require any type of training, certification or licensing.

The Health Unit can only inspect the shops they know about.

Even if the tools and the work areas look "clean," infections can be spread if they are not cleaned according to proper infection control practice.

It is the responsibility of each owner and operator to follow Ontario's best practices that are designed to reduce the spread of infections during the delivery of personal services.


For Further Information

Call the Public Health Inspector: (807) 625-5900

or toll-fee 1-888-294-6630

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