So — you’ve decided to get your very first tattoo! The decision to get a tattoo is a big one and not something that should be taken lightly.
However, if you’re taking the time to read up on what to expect, you are likely to take the process seriously. Researching ahead of time what to expect and learning more about the process can help you avoid making a decision that you regret.
Here’s what to expect before you head to the shop.
You’ll need a consult first
Most good tattoo artists will require a consultation with you before they’ll give you a tattoo. This is when you’ll discuss the design of the tattoo you want and where you want it. This will give the tattoo artist an idea of how long the process will take, so they can schedule you for the appropriate amount of time. If you haven’t already, use a site such as The Style Up to look at potential tattoo designs before going to the consultation.
Make sure the shop is clean
The consultation process is also a good time for you to ensure the cleanliness of the salon. If you get to the shop and the floor is grimy and needles are lying around, you might want to go to a different shop! You should also ask questions to gauge the professionalism of the artist, such as how long they’ve been in practice, what brand of ink they use, if they offer touch-ups, etc. A good artist should answer all your questions.
Know your pain tolerance
You need to be prepared for pain — however, the intensity of that pain will depend on where the tattoo is located and what your pain tolerance is like. The most painful areas to get a tattoo include the top of your foot, your lower ribs, your fingers, your biceps, and other areas where you have thin skin, such as your kneecaps. If you have low pain tolerance, consider getting a tattoo on your upper shoulder, your forearm, or your thigh.
Treat your skin well
On the days leading up to the tattoo, make sure to treat your skin very well. If you’re sunburnt, the tattoo artist may turn you away. This is because damaged skin can be hard to ink. You will also want to be careful not to get a cut or scratch on the area that will be tattooed. Some tattoo artists may even require you to moisturize a week before getting a tattoo, to ensure your skin is as smooth and healthy as possible.
Check health the day of
You want to be in the best possible health when you get your tattoo. Don’t drink alcohol or take aspirin before getting a tattoo, as they can cause thin blood, which can cause excessive bleeding. You also want to eat beforehand so that you don’t faint or feel nauseous due to low blood sugar levels. You might even want to bring a snack with you to the parlor, in case you need to boost your blood sugar level during the tattoo process.
There will be a lot of ink
During the tattoo process, the tattoo artist will use a tattoo needle to repeatedly pierce your skin. When your skin is pierced, capillary action will cause the ink to draw into the dermis layer of your skin. Your skin then begins a healing process that allows the ink to become permanently part of the skin. It is also very likely that some of this ink won’t actually make it into your skin and may temporarily distort what your tattoo looks like.
Aftercare will be required
After you get your tattoo, you’ll need to provide it with some aftercare to ensure that your skin doesn’t get infected. Your tattoo artist should go over all the appropriate aftercare steps with you. This could include changing a bandage, washing your tattoo with soapy water, applying antibacterial cream, and more. You’ll also be expected to keep your tattoo covered from the sun to avoid sun damage. The tattoo artist will also go over warning signs of infection, such as yellow pus leaking from the tattoo site.
You’ll probably feel a mixture of nervousness and excitement about getting your tattoo — and that’s okay! Just focus on finding a tattoo artist you feel comfortable working with and make sure to take your consultation process seriously. If at any point in the process you feel hesitant, consider holding off on getting a tattoo.