What You Should Know Before Getting Your First Tattoo

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  • What You Should Know Before Getting Your First Tattoo

    So, you’re considering getting your first tattoo. Awesome! And who could blame you? Tattoos are a great means of self-expression that can accurately reflect a piece of yourself for others to see in an aesthetically interesting way. If this sounds appealing to you, you aren’t alone; over 35% of adults in the United States between ages 18 and 25 have at least one tattoo, and the phenomenon of permanent body art is becoming more commonplace and widely accepted every day.

    There are many reasons to decide to get a tattoo, but there are also a few things to think about before you decide to sit in that chair and go under the needle. Whether you already have a bit of knowledge about the tattoo industry or if you’re brand new to the entire concept of body art application, hopefully these tips will leave you mentally prepared and confident in your decision to get a tattoo!

    1. Tattoos Are Permanent.

    I know this might seem like a no-brainer, but impulsive decisions can be hard to resist in the moment that we decide we want to get a tattoo, and we can forget the long-term implications of a decision. Ask yourself, why do you want to get a tattoo? Will the tattoo have some kind of meaningful significance to you, or is it simply for aesthetic purposes? Is this something that I will still like in five, ten, and twenty years? If the design no longer suits me, will I end up regretting it? Choosing the perfect tattoo design is the most important part of the tattoo process, so make sure to put some thought into it!

    And, most importantly—is this something I want to do right now, or will I still want to get a tattoo a couple weeks from now? Often, potential clients will say to their tattoo artist, “If I don’t get this done right now, I don’t think I’ll ever do it.” Tattoos are a permanent change to your physical appearance, and chances are that if you wouldn’t ordinarily get the tattoo outside of the very specific circumstances where you’re now deciding to go through with it, you’ll regret getting it in the future.

    1. It Will Hurt No Matter What.

    Do tattoos hurt? Of course they do! After all, a needle is injecting ink into your skin repeatedly at a rate of around 1,000 times per minute. Such a procedure won’t feel like a picnic in the park, of course! However, it is true that certain parts of the body hurt less than others, and a few places are notorious for being painful. This kind of talk often becomes the center of the conversation about getting a tattoo for the first time.

    Despite what you’ve heard, don’t think about the pain, and as tempting as it may be, don’t ask around about how badly it will hurt. I know it’s counter intuitive because you’ll want to mentally prepare yourself for the pain to come, but unfortunately, some people are so turned off by the potential pain of getting a tattoo that they end up making themselves very uncomfortable by the time it’s time to get in the chair. Some people back out altogether because they think the pain will be too much!

    The most important thing to remember is that while your tattoo is permanent, the pain is only temporary, and it’s bearable enough that tattoos are as prevalent as they are today. Keep this in mind, and don’t let the fear of physical pain keep you from getting a tattoo in the place that you really want it just because you were told that it will hurt more.


    1. Relax!

    There are countless horror stories out there regarding personal tattoo experiences, if you look for them—stories of bloodborne infections, staph, scars, people passing out and waking up with a multitude of stars tattooed on their face—they’re everywhere, and they can be very scary. These stories are intended to inform people about the possible dangers of the tattoo process, but they make these adverse events seem much more likely than they really are and can put newbies to the industry into an unnecessary panic!

    Let’s alleviate some of your fears: did you know that, according to the CDC, you’re more likely to contract HIV or hepatitis from your dentist’s office than from a tattoo shop? In fact, since the center started tracking such data in 1985, there hasn’t been a single incidence of HIV contraction from a tattoo shop! According to the NCBI, the incidence of severe adverse reactions due to tattoos is .02% of all cases.

    Are you nervous about feeling light-headed or woozy during your tattoo? This is actually a relatively common occurrence, caused more by our adrenaline response to getting one rather than the pain involved. There are are a few things that you can do to make this event less likely: make sure that you have eaten within 3-4 hours prior to getting your tattoo to stabilize your blood sugar levels, be sure to stay hydrated, and above all, make sure you relax! Anxiety greatly increases your chances of feeling not so good during the tattoo because your body is already flooded with cortisol and is affecting your blood pressure, blood sugar, and nervous system (which can make the tattoo actually hurt more!).

    1. Have Realistic Expectations

    There are many misconceptions regarding tattoos that can lead to an unrealistic perception of what the process will be like. First, let’s examine some common unrealistic expectations:

    I don’t need to make an appointment. Tattoos don’t always require appointments, especially if they’re small, but it should never be assumed that this is always the case. It’s best to make an appointment, or at least call ahead, to reserve a spot, just as you would for a dentist or doctor’s appointment.

    My design is really simple, so it shouldn’t take long to do. Setting up a tattoo station, as well as having you fill out a consent form, applying the stencil to your body, doing the actual tattoo, and then explaining aftercare procedures to you takes more time than you think! No matter how easy the tattoo seems like it’ll be, remember to give yourself plenty of time to get your tattoo done. Try not to squeeze it into your schedule between work and your dinner date, otherwise you’ll just stress yourself out—and probably stress out your artist too! Tattooing is a precise art form, and it takes time to be done right.

    Why are tattoos so expensive? A lot of work goes into the tattoo process. It usually takes years to learn the craft, and even longer for an artist to refine their technique to provide you the level of quality that they charge for. When you are paying for a tattoo, you’re paying not only for the ease of mind that your tattoo will be applied safely, but you’re paying for their talent and their ability to give you something permanent that you are happy with. Tattoo artists also have to either pay a monthly rent for their space, or they pay a percentage of their earnings towards the tattoo shop, so they aren’t keeping all of what they charge. Consider these factors when asking about price quotes—and if you like the result, also consider factoring a tip into the overall cost of your tattoo to let your artist know that they did a great job!

    I want my design exactly as shown with no changes. Sorry, but some designs that look amazing on paper or online just don’t transfer well as tattoos! If a design has too much detail in too small of a space, it will blur together and become unreadable over time. Similarly, if a design doesn’t flow well with the part of the body that you’ll be placing it, it will look strange on the skin. Try to be open to artistic interpretation and trust that the artist has your best interests at heart if he/she has to change your design around a little bit to make it work.


    So, do you think you’re ready to get that tattoo? Hopefully we’ve prepared you mentally by telling you a few important things to know before you get your first tattoo; the only thing left now is to go schedule that appointment!