Since I have recently joined the ranks of those with ink, I decided to write an article on some tips when thinking about getting their first tattoo. First of all, and you will hear this from everyone you know, is make sure that you want the design on your body for the rest of your life. Think about the design and what part of the body you want it on, and if possible, hang a picture of said design on your mirror. The point being, look at that design every day for six months to a year to make absolutely certain you can handle seeing that in tattoo form day in and day out.
To my very great surprise, it did not hurt as badly as I’d feared. As I said, it’s more of a burning, stabbing sensation in your skin. It hurts, but it is tolerable. I recommend bringing a music player like an iPod or a good book to distract you from the pain. Also, if your shop allows this, ask to see if you can bring a close friend to talk to you as another distraction.
Third, do your homework. You tattoo is going to be a stunning piece of artwork that will be on your body for the rest of your life. You want to make sure that your tattoo artist is a professional and knows how to properly tattoo someone.
The Yellow Pages and Google.com are your best bet to find local shops. Go in, let them know that you’re shopping around to see what their prices are; as many charge by the hour, talk to the artists about the design you want, and check out their portfolio so you can get an idea of the style you want. Make sure you talk to them about if they use an autoclave or not and if they follow proper sanitary protocol before and after the tattoo. You want only the best for your ink and you don’t want to risk your health!
Once you’ve found the perfect shop and the day comes when you are going to get your tattoo, eat a full meal two to three hours beforehand. You don’t want to feel faint or dizzy while the artist works. I also recommend bringing some snacks, like candy, and water or soda to munch on so that you don’t feel sick during the tattoo process.
Before the tattooing starts, your artist will wipe the area, usually with rubbing alcohol, and shave it to make sure nothing gets in the way of the needles. After they prepare by putting out the ink in ink caps, they will put ointment so the line work stays on and then begin the tattooing process.
Once the artist is finished, your artist will put a bandage over the tattoo and give you an aftercare sheet. Aftercare for tattoos varies from shop to shop, so what you read online may contradict what your artist tells you to do. Follow your artist’s instructions and make sure to take excellent care of your new tattoo by washing it and either using anti-bacterial soap, A&D ointment, or something like Bacitricin to keep it from getting infected. You’ll be washing and applying ointment for the first three days. Then on the fourth day you will be told to switch over to washing and then applying moisturizing lotion; the reason being that the peeling and flaking part of the healing process now takes place and your skin will feel very dry and itchy. Don’t pick it or scratch it, as you don’t want to lose any color from your artwork.
Here is a handy list of what to do and what not to do regarding aftercare:
Dos and Don’ts of Tattoo Aftercare
DO wash and apply ointment or moisturizer three to four times a day depending on which day of healing you’re on.
DON’T soak your tattoo in a bath, shower, Jacuzzi, or pool for the next two to three weeks. It’s an open wound and therefore prone to infection.
DON’T pick or scratch at your tattoo; it’ll lose ink.
If you start having a reaction or fear you have an infection, see your artist and then your doctor right away. However, as long as you take good care of your tattoo and went to a reputable, professional shop, you should be fine and will have gorgeous ink for the rest of your life.
If you want further reading on tattoos and tattoo aftercare, I’ve compiled a handy list:
If you want to see my tattoo, here’s a link. It was done by “Old School””Alex at Brooklyn Ink.
My tattoo, right after I had just gotten it done.