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Livingston Families

Teens and Tattoos

04/22/2013 20:12 ● By Rick McGarry

Darl Papple, who owns The Shop, a tattoo parlor in Fowlerville, has a policy that he does not tattoo on minors, with or without parental consent. He offers this advice for parents who are discussing tattoos with adolescents who are interested in acquiring a tattoo.

Parents who engage in a discussion rather than an authoritative dismissal often find they have a better chance of having their child remain tattoo-free for longer. Here are some discussion points to consider:

  •  Try to dissuade them from choosing an easy-to-come-by “tattoo flash” design. Most people want a unique tattoo when they realize that’s an option. If your teen is encouraged choose a design that is personalized, they may realize that extra thought should be put into the design. Hopefully, encouraging this critical thinking will allow them to realize that their tastes change too regularly at this point in their lives to get a permanent piece of body art. 
  • Ask your teenager if they can see the design still being important to them into adulthood. If they feel it will be, ask them to explain. The maturity level of their answer may help you judge the degree of consideration they put into their tattoo.
  • Ask your teen about tattoo placement. Have them consider important events in their lives and if that placement would be acceptable: sports, dances, court, wedding, pregnancy, childbirth, summertime boating with future in-laws, job interviews. This may help them see that they won’t always be the teenager they are today in a way that doesn’t chastise them.
  • Tell your teen to get a final design made and put it on their mirror. Have them look at it for a few months. Usually when people do this, they find changes or new designs they want instead. It helps teens understand how easy it is to pick apart a design that is simply not good enough. The result is usually that a person decides to hold off until they find something perfect for them resulting in less tattoo-regret. 
If You Decide to Consent

I have been to all of the shops that are still open in Livingston County and feel that they are all extremely sanitary, but here are some things to look for if you shop for a tattoo outside of Livingston County:

  • • Needles- Only new needles should ever be used. Needles should be disposed of after each tattoo into a biohazard “sharps” container. 
  • •Single Use Markers and Stencils- Unless your artist is free-handing the design, he will use either transfer paper or markers to draw the design onto your skin. These should not be reused. 
  • • Ink Caps- All ink should be placed ink caps on his work tray for the tattooing process before it begins. Once the process has begun, if the artist has to add ink from the ink bottle into the caps, he/she is supposed to wash and re-glove before touching your child again.
  • • Gloves and Hand Washing- The artist should use proper hand washing technique prior to putting on disposable gloves. The artist will dry his/her hands with paper towel and use it to shut off the water, not the just-washed hands. 
  • • The Machine’s Cord- If there’s a chance the artist’s tattoo machine cord will touch the area to be tattooed, a disposable cord cover should be used.
  • •Paper Towel- Paper towel should be on a dispenser so that the artist’s hands never touch the rest of the roll or the inside of the roll. 

Make sure your teen understands that following “Aftercare Instructions” is paramount. Your adolescent might not be concerned about infection, so you can explain that aftercare is also important for ensuring that the tattoo looks good for a long time. The MDCH instructions are located here. The Shop’s after care instructions are a bit more strict and detailed. Those can be found here.

Darl explains more about his policy for tattooing on minors in the May issue of Livingston Parent Journal.

Some of Darl's work:Baby Tattoo

The Shop

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