Glossary of Industry Terms

The purpose of this glossary was originally to assist those who have English language difficulties to better understand some common terms used in the US that may not have clear translations into other languages. These definitions have since been expanded and can also serve as a study aid for candidates preparing for the CPCP examinations who wish to review terminology.


Acute:   The rapid-onset, short-term initial stage of disease. Contrast with chronic.


AIDS:  Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome


Alcohols:  A group of organic compounds derived from the alkanes by the substitution of one hydroxyl radical for one hydrogen atom. In some benign forms, they are glycols used as humectants that help deliver ingredients into the skin as in skin moisturizers. There are many: ethanol, denatured alcohol, ethyl alcohol, methanol, benzyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, and SD alcohol. These alcohols are frequently used in tattoo pigments.


Analgesic:  1. Relieving pain. 2. A drug that relieves pain.


Antibacterial:  Destroying or inhibiting the growth of bacteria.


Antibiotic:  Any variety of natural or synthetic substances that inhibit growth of or destroy microorganisms. Used extensively in treatment of (and prophylactic prevention of) infectious diseases.


Antimicrobial:  Destructive to or preventing the development of microorganisms. Also refers to an agent that destroys or prevents the development of microorganisms.


Antiseptic:  A mild disinfectant used on the skin and mucous membranes to lower the count and inhibit the growth of bacteria; an agent capable of producing antisepsis by preventing or prohibiting the growth of causative microorganisms.


Areola:  A circular area of different pigmentation around the nipple of the breast.


Asepsis:  Sterile, a condition free from germs, from infection, and any form of life.


Aseptic (Technique):  Method used in surgical procedures to prevent contamination of the wound. All instruments are sterilized.


Asymmetric:  Lack of symmetry or balance.


Autoclave:  Apparatus for sterilization by steam pressure usually at 250o F. (121o C.) for a specified length of time.


Autoimmune Disorders:  Disorders or diseases in which the body produces a disordered immunological response against itself. Normally the body’s immune mechanisms are able to distinguish clearly between what is a normal substance and what is foreign. In autoimmune diseases this system becomes defective and produces antibodies against normal parts of the body to such an extent as to cause tissue or organ injury.


Bacteria:  Any microorganism of the class Schizomycetes. If they live on living organisms, they are called parasites; if their food is from nonliving organic matter, they are called saprophytes. If bacteria produce disease in their host, they are pathogenic.


Barrier Film:  Plastic disposable surface barrier with low tack adhesive for use with items that may be touched, such as lamps and arms of chairs.


Bilirubin:  A yellowish pigment released when red blood cells are broken down. Normally, bilirubin is processed and excreted by the liver. Hyperbilirubinemia (an excess level of bilirubin in the blood) indicates liver damage and can lead to jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), pale-colored stools and dark urine.


Bloodborne:  Transmitted thorough direct blood-to-blood contact, such as sharing needles or through blood transfusion.


Bloodborne Pathogens:  Pathogenic microorganisms present in human blood that can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).


Canthus:  Corner of the eye; the angle at either end of the slit between the eyelids, may also be referred to as inner canthus or outer canthus.


Carbon Black:  Carbon Black, Pigment Black 6 and 7 – color index # 77226 is the generic name given to the product resulting from the partial oxidation or thermal decomposition of liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons. Variation in the process control conditions and the combustible hydrocarbons will result in the production of a wide variety of carbon blacks. Such differences yield carbon blacks described as lamp black, bone black, channel black, acetylene black, thermal black, and furnace black. Thermal and furnace are the carbon blacks mostly used in permanent cosmetics.


CDC:  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Chalazion:   A small sebaceous cyst of the eyelid resulting when a Meibomian gland is blocked, often easily confused with and misidentified as a stye.


Chronic:  Long-term or persistent disease. Contrast with acute.


Cirrhosis: A chronic disease of the liver characterized by formation of dense perilobular connective tissue, degenerative changes in parenchymal cells (the functional cells of the organ),  alteration in structure of the cell cords of liver lobules, fatty and cellular infiltration, and sometimes development of areas of regeneration; may be due to various factors such as nutritional deficiency, poisons, or previous inflammation caused by a virus or bacteria.


Coil Machine:  A tattoo machine consisting of three systems that must work together for the machine to function properly. The three systems of a coil tattoo machine are mechanical, magnetic, and electric. The mechanical system consists of the springs, the armature bar and the machine frame. The magnetic system consists of the coil cores, the yoke or base of the frame, the coil shims, and the armature bar. The electrical system consists of the coil windings, the capacitor, the binding posts and contact point screw and the springs. The objective of proper coil machine set-up is to achieve synchronization of the machine’s three systems while controlling the speed and force (function) of the machine.


Cold Sore:  Herpes simplex of the lips and face. Synonymous with fever blister caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1.)


Color Additive:  Color additives for food, drugs, and cosmetics encompass many colorants of both natural and synthetic origin. Color additives come from a multitude of organic and inorganic chemical classes, as reflected in the broad range of hues, physical-chemical properties, and other characteristics they possess. Color additives include both dyes and pigments.


Color Wheel:  A circular diagram in which primary and usually intermediate colors are arranged sequentially so that related colors are next to each other and complementary colors are opposite.


Complementary Color:  A color directly opposite another on a color wheel and providing the greatest chromatic contrast to it.


Conjunctivitis:  Inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the mucous membrane that lines the inner surface of the eyelid and the exposed surface of the eyeball.

  • Acute contagious. Commonly known as Pinkeye 
  • Catarrhal.  Can be due to a variety of causes such as foreign bodies, bacteria, or irritation from heat, cold, or chemicals.
  • Granular.  An acute contagious inflammatory conjunctivitis with granular elevations on the lids which ulcerate.


Contagious:  Communicable; transmitted readily from one person to another either directly or indirectly, with reference to the organism which causes disease.


Contaminate:  To render impure; to soil, stain, or pollute; to render unfit for use through introduction of a substance that is harmful or injurious.


Contaminated: The presence or reasonably anticipated presence of blood or other potentially infectious material (OPIM) on an item or surface.


Contaminated Sharps:  Any contaminated object that can penetrate the skin including, but not limited to, needles, razors, scissors, broken glass, etc.


Cornea:  The clear, transparent anterior portion of the fibrous coat of the eye comprising about one sixth of its surface; composed of five layers.


Corneal Abrasion:  An injury to the cornea from an outside source or irritant; a scraping away or denuding of the corneal surface resulting from external forces physically applied to the corneal surface.


Corneal Burn:  Can be through thermal or chemical agents. In particular, chemical burn severity relates to the solution pH, contact duration, solution quantity, and solution penetrability.


Cross Contamination:  The passing of bacteria, microorganisms, or other harmful substances indirectly from one person to another through improper or non-sterile equipment, procedures, or products.


Decontaminate:  The use of physical or chemical means to remove, inactivate, or destroy bloodborne pathogens on a surface or item to the point where they are no longer capable of transmitting infectious particles and the surface or item is rendered safe for handling, use, or disposal.


Dermatitis:  Inflammation of the skin evidenced by itching, redness, and various skin lesions.


Dermatologist:  A physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the skin.


Dermis:  The sensitive connective tissue layer of the skin located below the epidermis, containing nerve endings, sweat and sebaceous glands, and blood and lymph vessels. Also called corium, cutis, and derma.


Diabetes:  Any of several metabolic disorders in which the body is not able to regulate levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood, resulting in too much glucose being present in the blood; characterized by excessive discharge of urine and persistent thirst, especially one of the two types of diabetes mellitus.

  • Brittle Diabetes   (Also known as unstable or labile diabetes.) An unpredictable variation in a person’s glucose level and the inability to tolerate or function safely due to the extreme changes
  • Bronze Diabetes  A genetic disease of iron metabolism characterized by enlargement of the liver, pigmentation of the skin so that it takes a bronzed hue, and can progress to kidney failure leading to symptoms similar to Diabetes Mellitus.
  • Diabetes Mellitus  A disorder of carbohydrate metabolism, characterized by hyper-glycemia and glycosuria and resulting from inadequate production or utilization of insulin. Commonly classified as Type I or Type II Diabetes Mellitus.


Disinfect:  To cleanse something by physical or chemical means so as to destroy or prevent the growth of disease-carrying microorganisms.


Disinfectant:  A chemical or physical agent that kills vegetative forms of microorganisms.


Disinfection:  A process capable of destroying pathogenic microorganisms, but not bacterial spores.


Dry Eye Syndrome:  A condition associated with inadequate tear production and marked by redness of the conjunctiva, by itching and burning of the eye, and usually by filaments of desquamated (shed or pealed in scales) epithelial cells adhering to the cornea.

Eczema:  Acute or chronic cutaneous inflammatory condition of the skin. Eczema is more the description of a symptom than of a disease. This word has become synonymous with dermatitis caused by a number of external and internal factors acting singly or in combination.


Encephalitis:  Inflammation of the brain. It may be a specific disease entity caused by an arthropod-borne (arbor) virus, or it may occur as a complication following influenza, measles, German measles, chickenpox, smallpox, or other diseases.


Engineering Controls (regarding bloodborne pathogens):  Controls that isolate or remove the bloodborne pathogens hazard from the workplace. Examples include, but are not limited to, sharps containers, handwashing facilities, eyewash stations, labels, etc


EPA:  Environmental Protection Agency


Epidermis:  The nonvascular outer protective layer of the skin, covering the dermis. It consists of four layers or strata and is formed from within outward.


Ethyl Alcohol:  see Alcohols


Exfoliation:  Detachment and shedding of superficial cells of an epithelium or a tissue surface; scaling or shedding of the horny layer of epidermis.


Exposure Incident:  A specific eye, mouth, other mucous membrane, non-intact skin, or parenteral (see glossary) contact with blood or other potential infectious material (OPIM) that results from the performance of job duties.


FDA:  Food and Drug Administration


Fever Blister:  Synonymous with cold sore caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1).


FTC:  Federal Trade Commission


Germicide:  A substance that destroys microorganisms.


Glycerin:  A simple polyol compound. A polyol is an alcohol containing more than one hydroxyl group (OH). It is a colorless, odorless, viscous liquid that is widely used in pigment formulation.


Hand Tool:  see Manual Device


Hand Washing Facility:  A facility specifically for hand washing purposes, providing an adequate supply of running potable, water, soap and single-use towels or hot air drying machines.


HAV:  Hepatitis A Virus


Hazardous Waste:  A substance, such an industrial byproduct that is potentially damaging to the environment and harmful to humans and other living organisms.


HBV:  Hepatitis B Virus


HCV:  Hepatitis C Virus


HDV:  Hepatitis D Virus


Herpes Simplex:  An infectious disease caused by herpes simplex virus. Characterized by thin-walled vesicles that tend to recur in the same area of the skin, usually at a site where the mucous membrane joins the skin. Two types exist: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 is traditionally associated with orofacial disease, while HSV-2 is usually associated with genital disease; however, lesion location is not necessarily indicative of the viral type.


Herpes Zoster:  An acute infectious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is limited to man and is characterized by inflammation of the posterior root ganglia of only a few segments of the spinal or cranial nerve. The incubation period is from 7 to 21 days. The total duration of the disease from onset to complete recovery varies from 10 days to 5 weeks. The virus which causes reactivation to herpes zoster is the same as that which causes chickenpox.


HEV:  Hepatitis E Virus


HIV:  Human Immunodeficiency Virus


Hydrate:  A compound or complex ion formed by the union of water with some other substance. In tattooing, it is often called a hydrator, and refers to a substance used as a liquid “vehicle” to make a tattoo pigment a solution for tattooing into the dermis.


Hygienic Swabs: Cotton-tipped swabs that are clean and untouched or sterile.


Hypertension:  A condition in which a person has a higher blood pressure than that judged to be normal.


India Ink:  A black pigment composed chiefly of lamp black mixed with a binding material. Lamp black is the soot or amorphous carbon produced by burning elements rich in resin, petroleum, and tar. By controlling the air in chambers, the smoky flame creates rich deposits of soot. Heating in closed vessels then purifies the soot.


Immune System:  System of the body that protects from or resists a disease by the development of antibodies.


Immunization:  Becoming immune or the process of rendering a person immune; to produce immunity in, as by inoculation.


Incubation Period:  The period of time between initial exposure to an infectious microorganism and the development of disease symptoms.


Inorganic Pigment:  Inorganic pigments are those that are composed of insoluble compounds. Some examples of inorganic pigments are Iron Oxides, Chromium Oxide Greens, Ultramarines, Manganese Violet and Titanium Dioxide.


Interferon (IFN): A naturally occurring protein in the human body produced by the immune system. Interferon interferes with viral replication. Genetically engineered products based on this natural protein have been developed by several pharmaceutical companies and are approved for the treatment of chronic HCV infection.


Invasive Procedure:  A procedure that requires entering the body or puncturing the skin.


Iron Oxide:  Iron Oxides hold a very important place in the pigment market because of their wide range of colors, stability and nontoxic nature. The most common and stable element is iron. Each iron atom has shed three of its outer electrons on to neighboring groups. This transfer of electrons from oxygen to iron accounts for all the ochres, rusts, browns, and reds in our rocks and sand. Iron Oxides are separated into four major classifications: reds, yellows, browns and blacks.


Isopropyl Alcohol:  see Alcohols


Lab Coat:  A light-weight coat worn to protect clothing from substances used while working in a laboratory; most commonly worn to greet clients for a professional appearance; however not acceptable to wear during procedures as it is not disposable.


Lachrymal Gland:  Gland that secretes tears.


Lachrymal Sac:  Either of the two dilated ends of the lachrymal ducts at the nasal ends of the eyes that fill with tears secreted by the lachrymal glands


Linoleum:  A durable, washable material made in sheets by pressing a mixture of heated linseed oil, rosin, powdered cork, and pigments onto a burlap or canvas backing. Linoleum is used as a covering especially for floors.


Manual Device:  a non-machine implement used for tattooing


Melanin:  The pigment that gives color to hair, skin, the substantia nigra of the brain, and the choroids of the eye. Exposure to sunlight stimulates melanin production. It can be prepared chemically. It is present in cancers such as melanoma.


Meningitis:  Inflammation of the membranes of the spinal cord or brain.


Microorganism:  Minute living body not visible to the naked eye (bacteria or protozoa).


Migration:  To move from place to place; passage of cells from one position to another.   In the case of cosmetic tattooing, an undesirable displacement of pigment to areas not originally tattooed.


MRI:  Magnetic Resonance Imaging


MRSA Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type (strain) of Staphylococcus bacteria that does not respond to some antibiotics that are commonly used to treat staph infections


Mucous Membrane:  Membrane lining passages and cavities communicating with the air. Consists of a surface layer of epithelium, a basement membrane, and an underlying layer of connective tissue. Mucus-secreting cells or glands usually are present in the epithelium but may be absent.

NIH:  National Institutes of Health


NIOSH:  National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health


Non-invasive:  This describes procedures that do not require entering the body or puncturing the skin.


Nonporous Surface:  A surface that does not have the ability to be crossed or penetrated by gas or liquid.


Occupational Exposure:  Reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious material that may result from the performance of an employee’s job duties.


Other Potentially Infectious Material (OPIM):  Human body fluids including, but not limited to, semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, amniotic fluid, any body fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood, and all body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids.


Ophthalmologist:  A physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the eye.


Optometrist:  A person specifically trained and licensed to examine the eyes in order to determine the presence of visions problems and to prescribe and adapt lenses to preserve or restore maximum efficiency of vision. The optometrist’s professional degree is Doctor of Optometry (O.D.)


Organic Pigment:  Organic pigments are intensely colored, particulate organic solids. They are essentially insoluble in, and physically and chemically unaffected by the vehicle, or substrate into which they are incorporated. The substrates are usually colorless and either alumina hydrate or a barium sulfate. The U.S. International Trade Commission characterizes organic pigments as either TONERS or LAKES.

  • A TONER pigment is an organic pigment that is free of inorganic pigment or extenders. It is undiluted organic pigment with maximum tinting strength. Organic TONER pigments are insoluble.
  • A LAKE pigment is an organic pigment composed essentially of a soluble dye that has been combined with an inorganic or organic extender – then, LAKE pigments become insoluble.
  • DYES, on the other hand, are essentially soluble in the dispersion and therefore lose their crystalline features. Example: dye colorants in soda.


Organisms:  Any living thing, plant, or animal. May be unicellular (bacteria, yeasts, protozoa) or multicellular (all complex organisms including humans.)


OSHA:  Occupational Safety and Health Administration


Parenteral:  A “route” into the body by piercing of mucous membranes or the skin barrier through such events as needlesticks, human bites, cuts, and abrasions.


Pathogen:  A microorganism or substance capable of producing disease.


Percutaneous: Through the skin


Perinatal Transmission (Vertical Transmission): Transmission from a mother to a fetus or newborn. Vertical transmission may occur in utero (in the womb), intrapartum (during birth) or post partum (e.g., via breastfeeding).


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Specialized clothing or equipment designed for use by a healthcare professional in order to minimize, reduce, or eliminate the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens and other hazards. Examples include, but are not limited to, disposable latex or nitrile exam gloves, disposable sleeves, disposable aprons/gowns, and face and eye protection.


Pointillism: A type of painting characterized by the application of paint in dots and small strokes; developed by Georges Seurat and his followers in late 19th century France and sometimes mimicked in the application of a tattoo design.


Porous Surface:  A surface that has the ability to be crossed or penetrated by gas or liquid.


Punctum:  The lachrymal punctum is the opening in the corner of the eye through which the tears drain into the nasolachrymal duct. If the lachrymal duct does not open at the punctum or becomes blocked, excess tearing may be noticed. Surgical punctile occlusion may be performed with the insertion of tiny plugs for the treatment of severe dry eye.


Regulated Waste:  Any liquid or semi-liquid blood or other potentially infectious material (OPIM); items that would release blood or OPIM if compressed; contaminated sharps; items that are caked with dried blood or OPIM and are capable of releasing these materials during handling.


Ribavirin (Copegus, Rebetol): An antiviral medication that is used in combination with interferon for treatment of chronic Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection.


Rotary Device: In describing a tattoo instrument, it is a mechanical device that utilizes a rotary mechanism for operation, either by electrical current or with batteries.


Sanitize:  Measures taken to reduce the number of microbial contaminants to a relatively safe level, though it does not necessarily result in the complete destruction of any particular microorganism.


Sebaceous: Containing an oily, fatty matter secreted by the sebaceous gland.


Sebaceous Gland:  Oil-secreting gland of the skin.


Sepsis:  Pathologic state resulting from the presence of microorganisms or their poisonous products in the blood stream.


Sharps:  Any object that can penetrate the skin. Including, but not limited to, needles, razors, scissors, broken glass, etc.


Sharps Container: A specially colored and marked container that is filled with used or otherwise contaminated sharp objects such as tattoo needles, toothpicks, and razors. The contents of these containers are considered to be regulated waste and must be disposed of according to local, county, or state regulations.


Single-Use:  Disposable; referring to an item used only once and disposed of appropriately.


Source Individual: Any individual, living or dead, whose blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) may be a source of occupational exposure to employees or contractors. Examples include – but are not limited to hospital and clinic patients; clients in institutions for the developmentally disabled; trauma victims; clients of drug and alcohol treatment facilities; residents of hospices and nursing homes; human remains; and individuals who donate or sell blood or blood components.


Spores: (Endospores) Reproductive cells, usually unicellular, produced by plants and some protozoa. Bacterial spores are difficult to destroy because they are very resistant to heat and require prolonged exposure to high temperatures to destroy them.


Standard Precautions:  A widely recognized and utilized method of infection control. Under “Standard Precautions” all blood, all other body fluids, secretions, excretions (except sweat), non-intact skin, mucous membranes, dried blood, saliva, and any other body substance are considered contaminated and/or infectious.


Sterilize:  The use of a physical or chemical procedure to destroy all forms of microbial life, including highly resistant bacterial spores.


Stratum Corneum:  The outermost horny layer of the epidermis.


Stratum Granulosum:  A layer of cells containing deeply staining granules of keratohyalin found in the epidermis of the skin and lying between stratum germinativum and stratum lucidum.


Surgical Attire:  This typically describes what one would wear for surgical procedures. In the operating room, they are sterile garments, otherwise clean. Disposable surgical attire is often worn by technicians while conducting cosmetic tattoo procedures or by clients that are having body procedures performed.


Surgical Scrubs:  Generally a two piece outfit that is worn in surgery under sterile garments. If a cosmetic tattoo artist chooses to wear these, they must be covered with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as disposable aprons or disposable surgical attire for each client.


Symmetry:  Correspondence in shape, size, and relative position to parts on opposite sides of the body.


Syphilis:  An infectious, chronic venereal disease characterized by lesions that may involve any organ or tissue.


Tarsal Plates: Two strong dense fibrous connective tissue plates that are elongated and about 2.5 cm in length and form the supporting structure of each eyelid. They directly abut the lid margins. See Wet Line.


Tear Duct:  Any of several small ducts that carry tears from the lachrymal glands.


Titanium Dioxide:  Pigment White 6 –Color Index # 77891 is the most important white pigment currently produced commercially. This inorganic pigment is used in a wide range of applications including inks, textiles, paper, paints, food, and pharmaceuticals. Pure titanium dioxide (TiO2) is stable, nonvolatile, and largely insoluble.


Trichotillomania: The unnatural impulse to pull out one’s own hair; in the permanent cosmetics industry we most commonly see the pulling out of eyelashes and eyebrows.


Tuberculocidal:  An agent capable of killing mycobacterium tuberculosis.


Tuberculosis (TB):  An infectious disease that is chronic in nature and commonly affects the lungs, although it may occur in almost any part of the body. The causative agent is mycobacterium tuberculosis (the tubercle bacillus). The most common mode of transmission is the inhalation of infected droplet nuclei (airborne spread).


Universal Precautions: An approach to infection control. According to the concept of Universal Precautions, all human blood and certain human body fluids are treated as if known to be infectious for HIV, HBV and other bloodborne pathogens.


Vector:  A carrier, usually an arthropod or insect that transmits the causative organism of disease from infected to noninfected individuals.


Vermilion Border:  The junction of the pinkish red area of the lips with the surrounding skin; the lip border.


Virus:  A microscopic, infectious organism that invades a living host and makes copies of itself (viral replication).


Vitiligo:  An acquired skin disorder characterized by patches of non-pigmented skin, sometimes surrounded by heavily pigmented borders (hyperpigmentation.)


Wet Line:  The edge of either eyelid (the junction where the front and back sides join together) is called the eyelid margin and often referred to as the wet line. The eyelashes are located on the most forward edge of the lid margin. With regard to cosmetic tattooing, wet line tattooing is usually performed on the lower eyelid margin although some report doing it to the top when it is widely exposed.


Window Period: The time between exposure to a microorganism and the production of sufficient antibodies to be detected in a test.


Witch Hazel: (also, Wychhazel):  An extract derived from the bark and dried leaves of the shrub: Hamamelis virginiana. It is found in some tattoo pigment preparations since it has an alcohol content of 14-15% Witch hazel also has a high tannin content (tannin is a potent antioxidant), which can also be irritating when used repeatedly on the skin, though when used for initial swelling from burns, can reduce inflammation.


Work Practice Controls: Controls that reduce the likelihood of exposure by altering the manner in which a task is performed (e.g., prohibiting recapping of needles by a two-handed technique).