We probably don’t need to tell you this but, tattoos are considered to be a permanent decision. While it could be a great story to get a tattoo the one night you and your friends dared you to get one, because some college party ran too short and the night was still young, it’s far better to prepare ahead of time when getting a tattoo.
So if you’re new to tattoos here’s everything you need to know before getting one.
Understand your design style
The first step to any tattoo, unless you’ve had that one crazy night in college (not recommended) is to choose a design that you’ll love for the rest of your life. Comb through images and styles that speak to you—even letters have endless ways of being written. Pick an image and style that you know will not only speak to you now but for the rest of your life (read that line again). If you go into a shop and say you want a phrase you need to pick a size and a font. If you want a bird, what kind and what is it doing? Choosing a design style isn’t as easy as picking an image rather the thickness of lines, the color, the movement, and all other creative decisions can be up to you. It’s also good to know that if you flip through a tattoo book and see something you like, but don’t love, you can request design changes to fit your exact style.
Know where you want to put it
The location of your tattoo matters as much as the tattoo itself. As you decide where on your body this permanent piece of art will be you should learn about the different pain points as well. Anything with bone—like your ribs or collarbone—will be more painful than let’s say your arm or leg, areas with more fatty tissue. If you’re someone that handles pain well this may not be a big issue, but if your tolerance is low you might reconsider certain areas of the body for your new work.
Carefully choose your tattoo artist
Those in the profession are called tattoo ‘artists’ for a reason. They are drawing onto your skin. Except instead of paint, they’re using ink inside of a needle that will show up very specifically dependent on your skin type. You need to pick an artist whose work resonates with you and you’ve seen how that work also holds up after months and years later. This decision is so important that people oftentimes fly across the country or around the world just to land work by the tattoo artist they trust. Remember, you’ll want to love this artwork forever.
Understand how many sessions you might need
Depending on the size and location of your new tat, you may need more than one session to complete the work, especially if there’s a lot of detail. Consult with your tattoo artist about the length of the process and the healing time between sessions.
Keep numbing cream on hand
When you first get a new tattoo it will feel itchy. It will become red. And it will feel sore—whether you have sensitive skin or are tough as nails. To help ease you through this discomfort,
use Tattoo numbing cream to reduce irritation and inflammation. It’s a good idea to have numbing cream bought before you even get your tattoo because you’ll need it no matter what. The way the cream works, thanks to lidocaine, it is able to block nerve endings so that the pain centers don’t transmit the pain signal to your brain. All you have to do is apply a thick layer of the numbing cream to your tattoo area and then apply plastic wrap as it absorbs (usually about an hour or so).
Look for numbing creams with the following ingredients:
- Aloe extract, which, just like the way you apply it to sunburns or minor scrapes and burns, contains soothing properties that will reduce inflammation of the skin while simultaneously boosting the production of collagen. Plus, it’s cool to the touch.
- Comfrey, which comes from the Symphytum flower, aids in the production of new skin cells which give your skin a softer feel
- Water that isn’t ionized, which is purified to reduce the toxins that come into contact with the skin
- Calendula, is an ingredient extracted from the marigold flower that will naturally support your skin and its healing by lessening redness
- Chamomile, is used in numbing cream to help expedite tattoo drying and healing
- Green tea, which comes with a host of antioxidants
- Lidocaine, is used to block the nerve endings from sending your brain the signals of pain that it’s experiencing
Finally, as you look into your new tattoo make sure that the parlor has the proper licensing and follows all of the required regulations—that includes health inspections. The last thing you want is an infected tattoo that has to be laser or surgically removed for any reason. So as you do your research ask to see all of the health and safety requirements to ensure your tattoo will be one that you’ll not only love but will last, safely, for the rest of your life.