What’s getting a tattoo really like? There are probably as many individual tattoo experiences as there are…well, tattooed individuals. For people who do proper tattoo preparation and aftercare, the final result is almost always worth it. But there’s no denying that a little pain and itching is often part of the cost of your permanent ink.
In this article:
- Things To Do Before a Tattoo Appointment
- What To Do Before Getting a Tattoo
- What Does Getting A Tattoo Feel Like?
- Tattoo Aftercare and Things You Can’t Do After Getting a Tattoo
Getting A Tattoo for the First Time | Things To Consider
Tattoos seem to have been with us from the earliest days of humankind. At its most basic, a tattoo marks you as a “tribe” member. In modern times, that might mean that you’re proclaiming yourself part of the Harley brotherhood or as die-hard Deadhead.
Of course, visible tattoos can also set you apart. Even when you choose a common design, placement and coloring help underscore its personal meaning to you. An original design can commemorate a special person or moment in your life.
Best of all, a tattoo is wearable art. We’re currently living in a Renaissance of amazing tattoo parlors. Even if you don’t live in a big city, you can probably find a staggering array of great artists with unique aesthetics within easy driving distance.
Things To Do Before a Tattoo Appointment
Of course, something as permanent as body art requires no small degree of introspection. Check in with yourself and make sure you’re getting inked for the right reasons. Do your research, as well. Make sure the design you’re envisioning doesn’t have any problematic connotations.
If the tattoo you want is complex, it’s best to meet with the artist for a consultation first. There, you can go over all the costs involved, as well as pick out or design the tattoo with the artist.
This pre-appointment visit is also a good time to get a sense of the tattoo parlor and to ask the artist or owner any questions. Scope out their online portfolio and read reviews, too. Once you’ve met them, ask to see more of the artist’s previous work and the parlor’s licensing certification. Requesting a brief rundown on how long the artist has been in business and what types of ink and design they specialize in is also a good idea.
Most importantly, make sure you have a good sense of how the shop sterilizes equipment and disinfects skin. If you have any known allergies to ink or latex gloves, now is the time to make sure the shop can accommodate you.
On the day of the appointment, bring any documentation the shop requires, including proof of age. Don’t forget to bring your forms of payment for both the fee and the tip. Speaking of payment, bear in mind that good tattoos don’t come cheap. This isn’t something you want to skimp on. It’s a good idea to come early, in case there are permission forms you need to fill out and sign.
What To Do Before Getting a Tattoo
Be extremely careful about what painkillers you take in the day or so leading up to your appointment. Ibuprofen and aspirin products have a blood-thinning effect. That means that you could bleed or bruise much more quickly when your skin is pierced with a needle repeatedly. If you do feel the need to prepare yourself for the pain with an OTC painkiller, go with Tylenol or another acetaminophen product.
If the area in which you are getting tattooed has any hair, shaving it off with a razor is a good idea. (The artist will do this if you haven’t.)
Also, pick an outfit that doesn’t cover the area you’ll be tattooing. If that’s impractical—or likely to lead to a public exposure arrest — wear loose clothing that can be rolled up or removed at the parlor. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be intoxicated when heading in for your appointment. Being high or drunk won’t help make the pain any easier and will actually make the experience worse (for you and your artist).
What Does Getting A Tattoo Feel Like?
Does getting a tattoo hurt as much as people say it does? Exactly how much pain are we talking about it? Much depends on where the tattoo will be, how large and complex the design is, and your own pain threshold.
If you want visible tattoos but know yourself to be extra sensitive, there are specific areas to avoid. These include your hands and fingers, feet and ankles, neck, and face. Spinal areas can also be painful. That still leaves plenty of real estate on your legs, knees, arms, chest, and stomach. Fleshy areas are the most pain-free. For most tattooed people, that means bum, hip, or belly.
No matter what kind of detail work, you’ll probably experience a bit of a burning sensation at the outset. This eventually turns into a duller pain. Work near bony areas might give you an unsettling sensation of your bones actually rattling from the needle’s vibration. If there will be a lot of detail work, expect some stinging pricks of pain. Shading some of the image is a cool look—but be prepared for the scratching sensation that comes with this kind of needlework.
If you have reason to suspect your intricate tattoo design is going to be an ordeal for you, make arrangements to do it in stages. Even during the session, it’s not unusual for clients to request breaks. Remember that getting inked is a way of showing your personality—not your superhuman endurance! There’s no reason not to make accommodations for any discomfort you feel.
Tattoo Aftercare and Things You Can’t Do After Getting a Tattoo
It’s important to follow tattoo aftercare instructions carefully after it is completed. If you don’t get specific instructions from the tattoo parlor, ask for tips before leaving. In general, it’s wise to think of your tattooed area as injured skin—which it basically is. Treat it with the same care you would a burn or a wound.
Keep the dressing the artist applies intact, at least until bedtime. Wash your hands before touching the skin or the dressing. Liquid, non-detergent soap is the best cleanser for the tattoo itself. Pat your skin dry with a clean cloth. Obviously, avoid letting anything dirty come in contact with a fresh tattoo. Artists will also advise you not to swim in chlorinated water or expose your fresh ink to the sun, which can affect the healing and vibrancy of your tattoo.
What about the dreaded itching? Unfortunately, itching is fairly common during the healing process. A gentle ointment or lotion—again without any irritants—can work wonders. If the itching is unusually bad, talk to your doctor about oral antihistamines. Most importantly—don’t scratch!
Have your heart set on getting an awesome first tattoo? Watch this video from How To Adult for more tips:
The best advice of all? Take your time. Even when you’re sure you’re ready to take the tattoo plunge, it pays to find the artist you “click” with, and to spend time on the design and placement. After all, you want your tattoo to be a lifelong blessing —not a permanent consequence!
Did this article take you one step closer to getting a tattoo? Let us know in the comments section below.