Tattoos may be more popular and less taboo than ever. Our favorite celebs like Kylie Jenner, Rihanna and Ed Sheeran, among many others, have been seen with some head-turning ink. Professional settings are becoming more open about having tattoos exposed at work, meaning from a social standpoint — there’s a lot less risk involved in the decision to get tatted up. Tattoos are an awesome way to express yourself, curate art on your body and can be fun just to have.
But, getting your first tattoo can be a bit intimidating. Knowing what to expect and how to go about the process can help you feel more confident in getting inked for the first time. So, if you’re considering going under the needle — using your body as a canvas for some sweet new art, that is — these are the most important things one should know beforehand so the first time can be as painless (mentally and physically) as possible.
It’ll hurt more/less depending on your pain tolerance
Tattoos are painful, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. They kind of feel like getting scratched over and over again. However, some people can handle pain better than others. If you don’t have a high pain tolerance, start with a smaller tattoo so that you know that you can handle the pain. Knowing what kind of discomfort you can tolerate may also determine where you decide to get your tat as different parts of the body hurt more or less than others.
…but the pain will probably subside after 15 minutes
Even though they do hurt, don’t let it discourage you. Know that the initial pain will subside pretty quickly. The pain is only temporary, but the tattoo is forever. If it’s a design you love then it’s so worth it.
Placement is one of the most important things to consider
Some places on the body hurt more than others. Ribs, feet and wrists are some of the most painful places to get tattooed. It’s probably best to go for a less painful spot for your first tat. Basically, anywhere where the skin is basically stretched directly over a bone is gonna feel a bit more uncomfortable. Body parts with a bit extra fat on them, like arms and legs, tend to hurt a bit less. Another thing you must consider is whether you want your tattoo visible to others all the time. Behind your ear or the back of your neck will almost always be covered in professional settings — which might sound like a bonus or a negative, depending on your preference.
Think long and hard before getting a hand or foot tattoo. Skin regenerates quickly on your hands and feet because you use them so often, which is why these tattoos tend to fade the fastest. If you’re tattooer is a good one, they will warn you about what a risk a hand-tattoo is. If it’s what you want then you should definitely do it — but beward that you’ll probably need to get it touched up a lot to keep it looking good.
Avoid getting a tattoo in the summer if you can. After getting tatted, you have to stay out of any body of water for two weeks and you have to stay out of the sun. And once your tattoo is healed, you’ll always have to be sure apply lots of sunscreen to prevent the colors from fading. This makes the winter ideal for fresh ink since you won’t typically be dealing with beach trips where you’ll want to take a dip or stretch out in direct sunlight.
It’s not going to be cheap (and it shouldn’t be!)
There’s an old saying that goes, “good tattoos aren’t cheap and cheap tattoos aren’t good.” Prices vary depending on the size, area of the body, and the artist. A small tattoo will usually be around $50, but large pieces can get pretty pricey. You should save up and be willing to pay for your ink. Even if you think it’ll be inexpensive because it’s “so small,” most tattooers have a minimum price anywhere from $50 to $100.
You must research the artist
Look up artists on Instagram, as that’s how a lot of artists display their most recent work. Find an artist whose work looks like what you want to get. You can also ask friends with cool tattoos what parlor they went to. Always check the Yelp reviews. I can’t stress this enough. You do not want to be stuck with sh*tty artistry on your precious body for the rest of your life. If you’re in your twenties when getting your first piece of ink — that’s a heck of a long time to live with something you don’t like. Sure, you can get it removed or covered eventually but what a waste of your hard-earned cash.
…And the tattoo parlor
Even if the tattoo artist does good work, you’ll want to be in an environment where you feel comfortable. Tbh, a lot of tattoo parlors can be a little snobby if you’re not already tatted up — so you’ll want to avoid those. You should look up and visit the shop before you commit to your tattoo. Be sure that the place looks clean, that the staff is friendly, and you feel at ease there. Schedule a consultation with the artist to talk about the price and get any questions answered. Stress only makes the pain worse, so this is an essential step in preventing unneeded discomfort during your first tattoo session.
You’re allowed to ask as many questions as you have
When you do have a consultation, be sure to ask any and all questions you may have. Even once you commit and are about to get inked, don’t be afraid to ask about anything. This will be on your body forever, so don’t hold back.
If you don’t like the artist or feel uncomfortable, you can leave at any time
After visiting, if you come back and don’t feel comfortable, don’t hesitate to leave. Some tattoo parlors can be intimidating for newcomers and some artists don’t like to tat first-timers. The thing about tattoo parlors is that they can totally deny you of service, so they aren’t always worried about being inviting even though they should. If the vibe isn’t right, find a new place to go.
Ink allergies are something to be cautious of
If you’re someone who tends to have allergic reactions to make-up products like lipstick or eyeshadow, it’s possible that you could also be allergic to tattoo ink. To be safe, visit your dermatologist to have them run some tests to see what kinds of ink you should avoid.
Bring your own visual to a consultation
Rather than just coming in with an idea in your head, bring some visuals for your artist to go off of. It’s best when they can see a visual so that they can get your vision just right. You don’t want to be overly swayed by their artistic vision, either, so having a pretty concrete plan in your own head will make sure that your tat is one you’ll want for a lifetime.
Pay close attention to the sketch design
Before you start getting inked, the tattoo artist will make a sketch. The sketch will then be transferred to your skin like an outline. So, if you have an issue with the sketch, speak up. This is exactly what you tattoo will look like on your skin so it just might be the most important part of the process to make sure you’re happy with the end result.
You can always get a touch-up
If you tat heals wonky or fades over time, you can always go back in for a touch-up. Some artists will even do free touch-ups for life, so be sure to ask about their policy before you leave!
Look out to make sure your tattooer is using brand new supplies
Once you find yourself in the hot seat, be sure that the tattoo artist is using new, clean supplies. The artist should open the needle package in front of you, use a new, disposable ink cup, and wear fresh new gloves. If any of these things don’t happen or seem off, get out of there fast. You do not want to risk a nasty infection or lifelong disease over this.
The healing process can be nasty
The healing process is honestly kind of gross. You skin will start to dry out after a few days and peel like a sunburn. It may also scab up, but avoid picking it because it will HONESTLY, SERIOUSLY ruin your tattoo. It should be all healed after about two weeks as long as you’re moisturizing properly. Your tattoo artist should give you step-by-step instructions on after-care. Follow them.
…And if one day you change your mind, laser tattoo removal hurts worse than any kind of tattoo
Tattoos are forever, but if you’re willing to pay (literally and physically), you can get them laser removed. This is a pricey and painful process, but should you change your mind one day, it is possible. You can also just take a page from these celebrities’ book and get it covered up.