Ah, tattoos. They are a very permanent form of self-expression. They allow us to display our individuality, showcase our personality and remember our histories. I don’t personally have any tattoos (I have a crazy and irrational fear of needles), but I have many friends that do. Some of these friends spent months, even years, thinking and planning for their tattoos. They researched everything from artwork, to meaning, and the artist. On the other hand, I have friends that walked into a tattoo parlor one day, sat down, and walked away with a brand new and spontaneous tattoo. There’s no right way to get a tattoo, but after extensively bugging my tattooed friends for advice, I discovered that there are a few things you should know before you consider getting inked.
Don’t be afraid to start small.
You’re brand new to tattoos, so there is absolutely no shame is starting with small and simple. You have no idea how your body will react, how your skin will take the ink, or how your body will heal. Take it slow, play it smart. You can also start with a fun temp tat or henna to get used to seeing a foreign design on your skin.
Know your pain tolerance
Respect your body’s limits. Some are better with pain, some really aren’t. If you are extra sensitive, you should try to avoid getting tattooed on your ribs, backs of your knees or groin area. These areas are notoriously the most painful. Easy thing to remember is if there isn’t little “padding” or muscle/fat in the area, it’s going to sting a lot more. Think the tops of your feet for example.
Avoid getting tattooed in the summer, as sun exposure and water submersion can damage a new tattoo. You might also want to avoid the coldest winter months, as heavy clothing can irritate a new tattoo. The most practical times to get inked are in the spring and fall.
I can’t emphasize this enough. Remember those friends I mentioned that got spontaneous tattoos? These friends are all seasoned tattoo veterans. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with a little spontaneity, your first tattoo should be very carefully thought out. You are altering your body for life. If that isn’t worth a bit of research, I don’t know what is.
Take the time to research your artist. Make sure to choose one at least a week in advance, and look at their portfolio before committing. Make sure they’ve done something similar to what you want before. You can also use Yelp or Facebook to read reviews and make sure that you are completely comfortable.
No boyfriends’/girlfriends’ names. NO.
I don’t care if you think they are “the one.” This is a choice that you will live with for the rest of your life. And, because of that, this tattoo should be a reflection of who you are, not your S.O. Whatever you choose, make sure it reflects exactly what you want, and never alter your body because you think it will make somebody else happy.
So as long as it is beautiful, awesome and meaningful to you…then that’s just all anybody else needs to know.
Bring a friend
Anxious? Then don’t go alone. If you can, bring a friend who’s been tattooed before (and had a good experience!). Having someone to talk to, and someone you trust to walk you through the process as it happens, will work wonders. It’s especially helpful to have a friend if you’re getting a tattoo done on an area you can’t see, so they can keep you informed on the progress!
Pack a small bag with: bottled water or juice, a fully charged cell phone (with headphones if you want to listen to your own music or play games), snacks (particularly ones high in carbohydrates and protein like granola bars, nuts, crackers, or fresh fruit), and a pillow or small (clean) blanket. You could be there for a while, and you need to remain absolutely still. So, the more comfortable you are, the better!
Don’t drink caffeine
Don’t drink a bunch of coffee or energy drinks before your appointment. It will not only thin your blood (making you bleed more), but will make it harder for you to sit still. No alcohol should go without question, as any ethical tattoo artist should not allow it. Regardless, it can cause excessive bleeding if consumed within 24 hours of the process.
Don’t wear nice clothes
You might bleed a little or could get ink on your clothes. Make sure to wear something comfortable that you wouldn’t mind getting stained.
Make sure it’s right for you
You’re the one that has to live with this tattoo. So as long as it is beautiful, awesome and meaningful to you…then that’s just all anybody else needs to know. It’s your body and your choice. Enjoy!
Just a reminder that your body is beautiful, and yours to do whatever you want with it (as long as it doesn’t do any harm to you or others). Express yourself and enjoy every moment!
For even more tips and advice on tattoos, check out our friend Jen Miller’s piece: 42 Tattoo Tips for Beginners here.
Cover image via Pinterest
Also published on Medium.