Thoughts on options for skin cleaning prior to body art procedures.
If a product is not labeled for surgical preparation, it really doesn’t matter how good of a hand and body soap or cleanser it is. It would only be a really strong hand wash product, or possibly aftercare for our purposes. Choose a product that has claims as a “surgical skin preparation” because “scrub” alone is only the first step, pre-cleaning. A two step “scrub then paint” process that involves a detergent scrub first, then the surgical antiseptic second to reduce contamination is appropriate. I’ve been using FDA approved skin PVP, CHG or alcoholic CHG, or alcohol depending on the area, and keep looking for other safe, appropriate options. I’m still looking for a similar surgical preparation agent, and I have not found anything on the market in proven and FDA approved other than the iodine and CHG based products and alcohol. I really don’t want to recommend anything unless it is tested and labeled for the purpose.
Common perioperative skin preparation antiseptics
CHG (chlorhexidine gluconate – with or without linear alcohol)
Effective, but possibly hazardous for mucous membranes, or around eyes and ears.
PVP (PVP-I, polyvinylpyrrolidone iodine)
Effective, but possibly not safe for people who are allergic to iodine, in some cases.
What do I think is better: Betadine scrub and Betadine (PVP) or Hibiscrub and Hibitane (CHG)?
Either of the two ingredients can be used for skin prep, and these are familiar, proven brand names. I’m primarily using PVP, and CHG as an alternate for individuals concerned with iodine sensitivity. The scrub is only the first step for cleaning, followed by the antiseptic. A scrub can also for hand washing and for bathing prior to major surgery, or for aftercare after major contaminated surgery, but should not be used for body piercing aftercare.
Some comparison points:
- CHG products kill faster and last longer, but are more toxic to the client and the environment.
- CHG does not leave a stain like iodine
- In regards to the use of CHG solution for piercing skin prep, a representative from the Hibiclens brand manufacturer implies that it should be safe for use for piercing site prep (which is backed by evidence based medical studies):
- since we are not prepping people who are under anesthesia,
- eyes self-flush with tears,
- and the risk of ear damage is minimal since
- clients are usually aware that they have a perforated eardrum
- it is difficult to push the liquid through the eardrum
- I have asked the manufacturer to confirm this, and to provide a protocol for body piercing skin preparation.
- PVP products may cause allergic reactions, but these reactions are very uncommon.
- PVP leaves a brown stain on skin, which is helpful to visualize the area that has been cleaned, but should be rinsed after the procedure.
- PVP can stain clothing and surfaces if spilled.
The best choice is to just follow the package labeling. Some PVP [povidone iodine prep] products dry very quickly [30 seconds to 1 minute] and only require two applications, one for cleaning, degreasing and removing debris, the second for antisepsis. I find they work well enough that by the time I’ve prepped, cleaned my hands and donned sterile gloves, when I return to the site they are dry. With prep agents, especially PVP, is that they must be allowed to dry before you pierce/mod.
Why not remove residue before working?
PVP is only active while it is on the skin, once wiped off, there is no residual antiseptic effect. Some people use PVP by multiple applications, letting each dry, then before the procedure rinsing with sterile water or sterile saline and patting dry with sterile gauze. The area should not be rinsed before the procedure as it reduces or negates the desired prolonged germicidal effects. After the procedure, many clients don’t want an iodine stain on their new piercing. I suggest you leave it on for the procedure, and wipe off after with sterile water or sterile saline wipes to remove the stain and soothe the pierced area. I make my own as well by moistening a 2×2 gauze pad with a few drops of distilled water, and sterilize it along with the jewelry in my Statim autoclave cassette tray.
Here are images of some of the ones I’ve used. (PDI is only one of many brands.) I like sterile swab sticks best, so that they can be used with a no-touch technique, but swab pads can be used effectively, and tend to be the economical choice.
The FDA held a hearing to inquire into contamination of antiseptic products. 12-12-12 FDA HHS Public Hearing on the Sterility of Antiseptic Patient Preoperative Skin Preparation Products:_Full Transcript
The specifics of this event were to determine if the need for antiseptics that were free from contamination was being met.
02/07/2013 APIC responded to a request from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide input on how to address microbial contamination of preoperative skin preparation products, following an FDA hearing on the same subject. View APIC’s comments.
Note: Some Triad brand products of these types were recalled in 2008 FDA reminds health care professionals about safe use of non-sterile alcohol prep pads
“Health care professionals should always check the labeling on a prep pad to determine if it is sterile or non-sterile,” said Karen Weiss, M.D., director of the Safe Use Initiative in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Non-sterile pads are not intended to prep patients prior to procedures requiring strict sterility measures and should not be used on patients with a depressed immune system, to prep patients for catheter insertion, or to prep patients prior to surgery.” Weiss said many patients in hospitals are particularly susceptible to infections, and the FDA recommends sterile antiseptics (including chlorhexidine gluconate, alcohol or iodine applicators, pads, and swabs) in that setting. Manufacturers often package a prep pad with an injectable drug, selling them as a kit. But not all marketed pads are sterile. Some are marketed as non-sterile alcohol pads. If a pad does not state “sterile” on the label, health care professionals should be aware that they are using a non-sterile pad. Health care professionals and consumers should check the label to confirm that the product is sterile, and may also want to consider washing the area with soap and water prior to using the antiseptic for skin surface preparation. For more information:
Alcohol (Isopropyl alcohol)
Standard of Practice III
Alcohol is an accepted antiseptic agent; however, it should not be used as the single agent but as part of the skin prep regimen.— AST Recommended Standards of Practice for Skin Prep of the Surgical Patient
octenidine dihydrochloride (Octeniderm®, OCTENSEPT®)
I got samples of alcoholic octenidine dihydrochloride products from Schülke and Mayr a while ago. it seems like a decent antiseptic for preparation of puncture sites, and has some advantages and disadvantages  [Care-Tech Laboratories, Inc.
Techni-Care was labeled for surgical skin preparation, had specific written protocol, and they claimed it was tested for FDA approval. It was removed from the market in 2009. The manufacturer claims that their process will pass FDA, and time will tell. If it ever comes back on the market, it will have to undergo another testing review for the FDA.
Agents not labeled for surgical skin preparation
I believe in suggesting people only use products for skin preparation that have FDA and EPA label claims for that. Problems could arise if we use hand care products for skin prep.
I’m not sure how Opti-scrub has been labeled, tested or presented for purpose. I’d like to know more, for what it’s worth it appears to be a decent hand (and foot) wash product. Opti-scrub seems reasonable for hands and for showering but using it for skin prep would be an off label use. It’s not proven for that as far as I can tell. Ryan Ouelette wrote an article describing his experience with it for The Point, the official journal of the APP
I looked into this and I like the hand sanitizer, an alcohol free foaming quaternary ammonium based product, labeled for tattoo and piercing skin prep. The company has been forthcoming with information and discussed FDA label claims and efficacy data. I am following up with them now.
Microsanrx® is a health care professional anti-microbial skin cleanser that is effective in killing 99.999% of susceptible organisms in 30 seconds or less. Its high potency and fast action make Microsanrx® ideal for use in areas where frequent hand washing is important. Microsanrx® Health Care Professional Skin Cleanser is a liquid soap that, not only disinfects, but also leaves the skin feeling clean and moisturized. Use of Microsanrx® by healthcare workers significantly reduces the spread of nosocomial infections such as MRSA and VRE. Simply wash the hands with 1-2 pumps of Microsanrx® Healthcare Professional Hand Wash. Rinse and dry the hands.
Ryan Ouelette wrote an article describing his experience with it for The Point, as well. However, I don’t see anywhere in the product literature any claims that Microsan RX is an FDA approved skin prep as he mentioned here:
Microsan RX has also been formulated and tested to be a safe and effective skin prep for both oral and genital mucosa. Ryan Ouelette, The Point, issue 56, page 16
It seems that it could be used safely as a scrub to clean the area prior to using another FDA approved surgical skin prep antiseptic. Companies are trying to market Opti-scrub and Microsan to the body art industry as Techni-Care replacements, but they seem closer to the CareTechLabs Satin hand and body wash aftercare product.
I don’t believe that this will be a solution. It is not a surgical skin prep, it is a hand/body washing agent.
Not really effective as a germicide, more of a detergent. Incompatible with PVP iodine. Techni-Care was tested and labeled for surgical use, as are Betadine, Hibiclens [and the generics]
Not yet available labeled as a skin preparation agent in the US, but sold in Canada, Australia and New Zealand
- A promising product based on PCMX, with some similarities to Techni-Care. A written protocol for use in body art is a plus.
- However, I strongly disagree with the use of a non-sterile bulk product for lubrication of a sterile needle as described for the PurKlenz and the complementary product PurTect. That could be a source of contamination, and further cross contamination as it is not a single use product.
- I have discussed at length the need for single use sterile applicators with the manufacturer, and look forward to them being produced.
- Manufacturer information and BodyArtPro distributor
- A presentation on skin prep antiseptics:
- Here are the AST Recommended Standards of Practice for Skin Prep of the Surgical Patient
- Here is a bit from AORN about using skin prep products off their label direction:
QUESTION: What is AORN’s recommendation about using a product contrary to its label warnings?ANSWER: The perception that a special dispensation can be acquired from the FDA is erroneous. According to the FDA, there is no mechanism for providing waivers for using products contrary to the label warning. (1) AORN recommends following the label on the skin preparation product just as for any other medical product. (2) Any decision to use a product in a manner contrary to the product’s label warnings should be carefully and thoroughly considered by a multidisciplinary group that includes surgeons, perioperative RNs, anesthesia care providers, a risk manager, and an infection control professional. The health care facility may be assuming liability if a decision is made to use a product in a manner contrary to the label warning.In addition:QUESTION: A surgeon at our facility has requested a specific skin preparation agent. He believes the product he is requesting is a superior product that has an excellent microbial kill rate with good residual persistence. The product literature instructions direct the user to use a back-and-forth or side-to-side motion to apply the prepping solution. The manufacturer’s suggestions for performing the skin prep conflict with AORN recommended practices. Has AORN changed its recommendations for performing surgical skin prep?ANSWER: AORN continues to recommend starting the surgical skin prep at the incision site and progressing to the periphery. (2) This is congruent with the CDC’s “Guidelines for prevention of surgical site infections, 1999″ statement: “The patient’s skin is prepared by applying an antiseptic in concentric circles, beginning in the area of the proposed incision.” (3) This practice standard is supported by theoretical epidemiological rationale for preventing microbial contamination from the periphery from being introduced onto the prepped incision area. When back-and-forth or side-to-side motion is used, the tip of the prep applicator may become contaminated from the peripheral linen and towels. AORN’s recommended practices state that the sponge/applicator “should be discarded after the periphery has been reached.” (2(p604)
- Also, a really helpful presentation from the FDA about surgical skin preparation
- Why the next skin prep fad will hurt body piercing a useful analysis by Jef Saunders
- Pre-Piercing Skin Prep (or What To Do When You Run Out of Techni-Care) by Elayne Angel
- The APP still states: “Any skin prep product selected must be used according to manufacturer’s guidelines.”2005 Procedure Manual, Page 29
More information on oral preparation
- “Controversy exists as to which agents provide the best antisepsis for the oral cavity prior to invasive procedures.”