15 Things You Absolutely Need To Know Before Getting A Tattoo

The very first tattoo I ever got was 2 days after my dad died. I was grieving, emotional, and wanted to get something to keep him with me forever. I decided to ask a few people in my neighborhood for some recommendations for a studio/artist and ended up going to a local studio.

In retrospect, I love my first tattoo. It’s something that is both meaningful and important to me. I did, however, rush into getting it done. I did very little research, barely discussed the details with the artist, and let him essentially brand me with what he “kind of” thought I wanted. While I was incredibly lucky to have the tattoo come out pretty damn good, others are not so lucky.

Tattoos stay with you for life–unless you decide to get them lasered off or covered up. When getting something that will be with you “forever,” you’re going to want to do a few things.

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15. Think about what you want–seriously.

Never go get a tattoo “just to get a tattoo.” This is something that will be with you forever. If you think that getting something at 18-years-old is a good idea, you may change your mind by 30. Having 2-3 reasons why you want to get what you want is a good idea–that way you know if it’s what you really want, or just you impulse talking.

14. Your placement matters.

Many places you get a tattoo will be visible when you go to events like weddings, funerals, job interviews, and other places you may not want your tattoo visible (or maybe you do, to each their own). Remember that you’re going to have this forever and if you end up working somewhere that’s a bit strict on tattoos, you could run into a problem. Again, thinking it over before you jump into it is important.

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13. Know your pain tolerance and know it well.

Placement also matters in terms of pain. There are places that will 150% hurt more than others. Anywhere where there is bone will hurt like a b*tch. When getting my first tattoo, the artist had to go over my shoulder blade–let’s just say I cried a bit. Artists say that the ribs, feet, back of knees and elbows are the worst places to get tattooed if you have a low tolerance for pain.

12. Think long-term when it comes to healing.

Tattoos take a while to heal and while they are, you need to be careful about covering them. Most artists want you to let them breathe when you’re applying ointments and cream. Additionally, you need to keep your tattoo out of the sun AND water when you first get it done. If you get something during the summer, it may be hard to rock a bathing suit at the beach without it fading a bit. As well, if you get something on your ribs/shoulders, wearing a bra may be hard for a while.

11. Cheap isn’t good and good isn’t cheap.

Everyone loves a good deal–we’re all broke and want to save money. And, while buying the store brand on butter may work for you, getting a cheap tattoo will never pay off. Not only do you want to make sure the shop is sterile and has good reviews (Yelp that ish, yo), you also want to make sure you’re going to get quality work done–which may cost you extra. Trust me, it’s worth it.

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10. If you have allergies to certain dyes and creams, consult your dermatologist before getting inked.

People who have sensitivities to hair dyes, coloring, jewelry, and perfumes/sprays may have allergies to tattoo ink. The last thing you want to do is get something awesome and end up in the hospital or have a bad reaction to it. If you’re someone who is prone to allergies and breakouts/hives, consult with your doctor before going to get a tattoo.

9. Use the Internet sparingly.

Don’t be the person who copies someone else’s exact tattoo from Pinterest or Instagram–how boring. Do you want to really pay all that money to have something someone else came up with? Instead, look for inspiration, but put your own twist on it. And, use social media to research artists instead of tattoos. Most good artists have huge followings and reviews online.

8. The only way to get exactly what you want is to talk to your artist.

While tattoo artists have great ideas and talents, it’s going on your body, not theirs. If you don’t like a color or design–speak up. They won’t be offended, they’ll respect what you want. You shouldn’t be paying and rocking something you don’t truly like or want. Speak up or forever hold your peace–literally.

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7. Getting a tattoo and getting a shot are not one in the same.

People often like to compare getting a shot and getting a tattoo because both use needles. However, getting a shot to administer medicine or draw blood is absolutely nothing like getting a tattoo. Tattoos usually feel a pinching/vibration that goes in/out (because the needle is going in/out) and dragging across your skin to create the color/ink. If you hate getting shots, that doesn’t mean you’ll hate tattoos necessarily.

6. The pain usually goes away quickly.

The first few minutes of getting a tattoo definitely sucks because you’re nervous and anxious. But, after a few minutes, your adrenaline kicks in and your body begins to get used to the sensation.

5. Go for a consultation first.

If you’re looking to get something major done, the best thing to do is go and meet with your artist and have a consultation before just going head-on. You want to make sure you and your artist have the same idea in mind and that they’re capable of delivering what you want. If not, there’s no harm in going to someone else.

4. You may need to go back more than once.

Artists also work in time-frames–if you’re getting something small, it may only require one session. If you’re looking for a big piece of ink, you may need to go back multiple times. Some people go first for outlines and return for color/shading another session.

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3. Tip. Your. Tattoo. Artists.

Tattoo artists work really hard to make sure your tattoo comes out perfect, so, it’s important to show you care. Many artists will go out of their way to make sure you’re happy, satisfied, and comfortable. It’s always important to tip people who are providing a service for you–especially one this meaningful and personal. I usually say 20-30% is perfect–unless you want to tip more.

2. Always follow your tattoo care instructions.

Many artists will tell you exactly how to care for your tattoo following your session. When you leave, your artist will wrap your tattoo and it should be removed within 1-2 hours of leaving the studio. When you wash your tattoo, use mild, fragrance-free antibacterial soap gently around it. Do not use any type of towel to rub it, but instead a paper towel to pat dry. Use Aquaphor or A&D ointment over your tattoo for a few weeks. Afterward, use fragrance-free lotion to keep your tattoo moisturized. Keep it out of the sun and water. Always use SPF on your tattoo to keep it from fading.

1. Eat a good meal before going to get your tattoo.

It’s always important to have food/sugar in your system to prevent you from passing out/getting sick. Some people faint due to adrenaline or pain, but with food, it can prevent this from happening. Also, avoid going to get a tattoo when you’ve been drinking/are hungover, as alcohol can thin your blood and make you bleed way more when getting inked.

Lex Gabrielle

Written by Lex Gabrielle

Lex is a writer from New York City who supports messy buns and all things covered in buffalo sauce. You can find her in your local coffee shop buried in social media and celebrity content, listening to Led Zeppelin on full volume.

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