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What to Know Before Getting a Tattoo

Read through 9 things you should know before you get a tattoo.

Read through 9 things you should know before you get a tattoo.

1. You Are Making a Lifelong Commitment

No matter how you change, your tattoo will always be there, saying the same things about you that it did when you first got it. Your opinions, philosophies about life, choice of music and style will mostly likely change considerably over time. Try to choose a tattoo design that you are certain will stick with you. Getting a new tattoo is like getting married: You are choosing something that you will spend the rest of your life with, so choose wisely.

When you get your tattoo, do it for yourself. It can be a beautiful, meaningful peace of art that you cherish for the rest of your life, or it can be a terrible mistake that causes you to blush whenever someone points it out. Making the right decisions and planning carefully can help you to avoid the second scenario.

2. You Are Scarring Your Skin

Essentially, a tattoo is a scar with a special kind of ink inserted into it in order to create an artistic effect. It is a wound and will take time and proper care in order to heal. As it is a wound, there is a risk of infection. This risk is small and will be minimized to almost nil if you choose your artist carefully.

3. Know the Artist

Tattoos artists should be trained in blood-borne pathogens and first aid, and they should always use new sterile needles that they take out of plastic packaging in front of you. Before you pick the artist and shop, ask to see the room where the tattooing is done. Make sure the artist wears gloves and obeys all cleanliness and safety standards. If the artist or shop owner refuses to show you the needles or the room where the tattoos are done, move on to the next shop.

4. Know Their Style

Everybody who wants a tattoo has an image in mind. Unless you are bringing in the exact image and you simply want them to copy it onto your body, take the time to research your chosen artist’s style. Ask to look at their portfolio or browse their online gallery. Research their name to make sure that other clients have had good experiences and had quality work done.

5. Your Skin Will Change Over Time, and so Will Your Tattoo

It will age with you. It will fade and will need touch-ups to stay fresh-looking. It will also wrinkle and sag as your skin wrinkles and sags. If you gain or lose weight, it may or may not affect the look of your tattoo, depending on the elasticity of your skin and where on your body the artwork is. Pregnancy, health, sun exposure and lifestyle may all have an effect on the look of your tattoo. It’s not always going to look the way it does when you walk out of the shop.

6. Getting a Tattoo Hurts

Though there is the odd person who enjoys the experience, for the majority of us having a needle pierce your skin over and over again (sometimes for hours) is fairly painful. The longer the session, the more raw your skin will become. It also hurts more over areas with less flesh, such as your feet or ribcage.

Though many people will try to describe the sensation as akin to an insect bite, sting or burn, the fact is that getting a tattoo feels like getting a tattoo. It’s difficult to find a comparable sensation. After the initial experience, the area may begin to burn, then it will itch. For me, the itching is by far the worst part. Whatever you do, DON’T itch your tattoo. Slapping it will relieve some of the discomfort, as will cool water.

7. While Healing, the Tattoo Will Most Likely Flake and/or Peel

This is normal and is not cause for concern. Excess ink may come off onto clothes for the first few hours after the art is done, but your tattoo will probably be covered up for that period anyway by bandages and cellophane.

8. Some People Will Judge You and Your Tattoo

If your tattoo is visible, people may see it and form judgements before they know you. Though this kind of discrimination is not nearly as much of a problem as it once was, it does still occur. Consider this especially when positioning tattoos that others may find offensive, such as controversial symbols like skulls, etc.

9. While Your Tattoo Can Be Removed, It Is Expensive, Painful and Leaves a Scar

In short, it is not recommended.

Getting a new tattoo is not a decision to make in haste or under pressure. It is a personal commitment. If you remember these important points before getting your tattoo, your experience should be a positive one, and hopefully you will have a cherished piece of art on your body for the rest of your life.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Joni on December 14, 2014:

Shiver me timbers, them's some great innomratiof.

Elouise on December 13, 2014:

I think you've just captured the answer peltecfry

Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on September 17, 2012:

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Glad to hear it DRG!

Felix J Hernandez from All over the USA on September 16, 2012:

I got tattoos and am now fully aware.

Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on September 05, 2011:

Maddy it sounds like your making your decision very carefully and for all the right reasons. I'm glad to hear it.

There are far too many people now getting tattoos without thinking about it. I think that tattoos and other body art becoming so mainstream is having the dual effect of making tattoos seem safe and therefore people are jumping to decisions.

Congrats on your decision and your commitment. I hope it turns out beautifully!

Maddy on September 04, 2011:

Wonderful advice. I'm getting my first tattoo soon, and have thought through it for literally years. I started planning when I was 15. The fact that I've stuck with the same design for this long was the biggest indicator for me that I was making the right choice. I'm just getting a small dreamcatcher on my hip to represent me and my siblings, from a family friend who's done several wonderful tattoos for people I know over the last several years. Tattoos have to be thought through carefully, as it's a major, practically permanent decision.

Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on August 21, 2011:

What a vague quesstion. I'll do my best to give you the least vague answer possible.

That depends on which implications you're worried about. A tattoo is a lifelong commitment and if you're concerned that you won't love you're tattoo forever it's probably a good idea to wait and reconsider.

If you're concerned about the pain, I'd say go for it. If you're concerned about covering it up put it somewhere that's easy to cover.

Only you can know whether or not you're ready for a tattoo. If you can ask yourself that question honestly than you should be able to come up with the only answer that really matters.

cesca on August 17, 2011:

hey i think im about to get a tattoo tom but im scared for the implications that might come with it, should i go through with it?

Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on May 11, 2011:

Most reputable tattoo artists won't work on you if you're intoxicated anyway. They have a waiver to sign saying you are clear of mind.

Pain is a tricky little bugger, ecpecially when it comes to tattooing. I had a virtually painless one done on my neck. Then a low-pain outline on my arm, and the colour was insanely painful.

Deep breathing is great. But so is good old fashion distraction. Bring a friend to chat with or chat with the artist. Don't bring a book though. It's hard to focus on those words with constant needle pricks.

It's also important to remember that getting a tattoo will hurt at least a little no matter what. But different parts of your body will feel different, different artists, different ink, different times of the month etc.

You've got to go in prepared for the pain. And if it's too much you can always ask the artist to stop and come in to finish later.

deblipp on May 10, 2011:

It's important to know that pain sensitivity is variable. A woman's pain sensitivity changes with her monthly cycle. Pain can be managed through meditation and deep breathing, but drinking before getting a tattoo is a BAD idea.

Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on February 26, 2011:

Thanks Ella, glad you enjoyed it. Getting hideable tattoos does seem to be the best choice for most people.

I can't hide mine but I also can't work outside my home. It was a huge decision, and one not made lightly.

Ellarose92 on February 22, 2011:

This was very well said I have two tattoos but I'm able yo hide them at any time!

QHuman from Ontario, Canada on February 07, 2011:

I'm still thinking but If I get one it will probably just be a small one. It's still fun to think about. If I get one it won't be right away but it is something I have been contemplating.

Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on February 07, 2011:

So Q, what have you decided? I love to hear about people making the leap to their first tattoo. It's such a wonderful form of creative expression.

OK az, I won't.

aznzar on February 03, 2011:

I like weird tattoos, I'm joker do not believe me

QHuman from Ontario, Canada on February 02, 2011:

I've been wondering for a long time if I should get a tattoo and this is a great article for deciding that!

Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on February 02, 2011:

I have a friend who chose a tattoo in similar way, and got in on her chest. The story made me cringe.

I used to have to cover up my neck tattoo when the boss came in at my old job too. It's very silly in 2011.

Nell Rose from England on February 01, 2011:

Hi, I have a dreamcatcher on my upper right arm, and it took me until I was 40 to get it! lol so by any means, get one, but think it through first, I have seen people just go into a tattoo place and after five minutes decide what they want! the only time I have had to cover it up at work was when the big bosses turned up, apart from that it was okay, great advice though, cheers nell

melanie_leigha.xo from Melbourne on January 23, 2011:

Very well said :)

Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on January 16, 2011:

You definitely have to ask yourself about your future career if you choose to get any kind of visible tattoo but those that might stir up controversy especially.

I know I've been asked to cover mine before and I can't imagine anyone being offended by a peacock or a ship's helm.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on January 16, 2011:

This is good advice. As a former career placement person at a business school, it was more difficult to place job applicants who had visible tattoos that might be considered controversial.

Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on January 13, 2011:

Thanks a lot Kim, glad you enjoyed it :)

kims3003 on January 13, 2011:

Very well thought out and written information that anyone considering a tattoo can benefit from. Very nice work indeed.

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