- If you're thinking about getting a tattoo, there is one very important thing you have to keep in mind — getting it done safely. Although it might look a whole lot cooler than a big scab,
a new tattoo is also a wound. Like any other slice, scrape, puncture,
cut, or penetration to your skin, a tattoo is at risk for infections and
- Make sure you're up to date with your immunizations (especially hepatitis and tetanus shots) and plan where you'll get medical care if your tattoo becomes infected (signs of infection include excessive redness or tenderness around the tattoo, prolonged bleeding, pus, or changes in your skin color around the tattoo).
- If you have a medical problem such as heart disease, allergies, diabetes, skin disorders, a condition that affects your immune system, or infections — or if you are pregnant — ask your doctor if there are any special concerns you should have or precautions you should take beforehand. Also, if you're prone to getting keloids (an overgrowth of scar tissue in the area of the wound), it's probably best to avoid getting a tattoo altogether.
- Think of a design you want to get. Make sure it is something you feel comfortable showing off, and that you want on your body until you die.
- Make a rough sketch of your design. It doesn't have to be perfect. Tattoo artists are just that: artists. If you can give a good idea of what you want, your artist can really fly with it.
- Find the location on your body that you want to put it. Make sure it fits. Not too big, and not too small.
- Touch up your design. Smooth out the lines, add a basic color scheme, and make it fit to your desired location.
- Find an artist. The recommendation of a friend who has a tattoo you like a lot can help. Consider a few locations that are near where you live. You don't want to travel too far.
- Pick a few and check them out.
It's very important to make sure the tattoo studio is clean and safe,
and that all equipment used is disposable (in the case of needles,
gloves, masks, etc.) and sterilized (everything else). Some states,
cities, and communities set up standards for tattoo studios, but others
don't. You can call your state, county, or local health department to
find out about the laws in your community, ask for recommendations on
licensed tattoo shops, or check for any complaints about a particular
studio. Professional studios usually take pride in their cleanliness.
Here are some things to check for:
- Make sure the tattoo studio has an autoclave (a device that uses steam, pressure, and heat for sterilization). You may be allowed to watch as equipment is sterilized in the autoclave.
- Check that the tattoo artist is a licensed practitioner. If so, the tattoo artist should be able to provide you with references.
- Be sure that the tattoo studio follows the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Universal Precautions. These are regulations that outline procedures to be followed when dealing with bodily fluids (in this case, blood).
- If the studio looks unclean, if anything looks out of the ordinary, or if you feel in any way uncomfortable, find a better place to get your tattoo.
- Have a bit of knowledge of the overview. Here's an example of what to expect:
- The tattoo artist will first wash his or her hands with a germicidal soap.
- The to-be-tattooed area on your body will be cleaned and disinfected.
- The tattoo artist will put on clean, fresh gloves (and possibly a surgical mask).
- The tattoo artist will explain the sterilization procedure to you and open up the single-use, sterilized equipment (such as needles, etc.).
- Using the tattoo machine (with a sterile, single-use needle attached), the tattoo artist will begin drawing an outline of the tattoo under your skin.
- The outline will be cleaned with antiseptic soap and water.
- Sterile, thicker needles will be installed on the tattoo machine, and the tattoo artist will start shading the design. After cleaning the area again, color will be injected. A new bottle of ink should be opened for each individual.
- Any blood will be removed by a sterile, disposable cloth or towel.
- When finished, the area, now sporting a finished tattoo, will be cleaned once again and a bandage will be applied.
- Choose the artist whose work you like best and tell him or her you want a tattoo. Tell your artist everything you know. What it is, where it's going, how big, etc.
- Negotiate your price. Ask how much it will cost; that way you can get the money the day of the tattoo, or transfer it from account to account, however you want to do it. Once you discuss the tattoo you will usually be asked to leave a deposit ($50 or so) and make an appointment. The deposit goes to the total price of your tattoo, so don't worry. Leave the rough drawing with them so they can improve upon it, and make it unique, just for you.
- Pay attention to the location where you will be tattoed. The tattoo artist will shave the location where you are getting the tattoo. You may want to shave the area yourself, before you go.
- When you get there, go over the new and improved picture, and make sure it's OK. Remember, this is forever inked into your skin. If there's anything - any little thing - about it that isn't what you want, stop right there, and let your artist know. You don't have to have a fit about it, or get panicked. Just say, "Hey, this part right here? I'm not crazy about it. I would like a little more/less...." whatever it is. The artist will probably not get upset or take it personally - after all, he/she is trying to read your mind a little bit, and if it's not exactly the thing, he or she is a pro who knows it can be easily tweaked. If the artist does get defensive, angry, or belligerent about the changes you want, thank him or her and go elsewhere. You are the one who will wear this image for life, and if the artist isn't willing to make it wonderful for you, he/she's not the one for you.
- Relax. You are going to be nervous, but calm down as much as you can. The tattoo artist will make sure it doesn't hurt a lot. When you get in the chair, sing something to yourself in your head, or talk to the artist. Make sure you do everything he/she says, move this, sit back, etc.
- Take a final look when it's finished. Make sure they didn't miss anything. They'll be happy to touch it up, if they need to.
- Take care of your tattoo as instructed.
Follow all of the instructions the studio gives you for caring for your
tattoo to make sure it heals properly. Also, keep in mind that it's
very important to call your doctor right away if you see or feel any
signs of infection such as pain, spreading redness, swelling, or
drainage of pus. To make sure your tattoo heals properly:
- Keep a bandage on the area for up to 24 hours.
- Avoid touching the tattooed area and don't pick at any scabs that may form.
- Wash the tattoo with an antibacterial soap (don't use alcohol or peroxide — they'll dry out the tattoo). Use a soft towel to dry the tattoo — just pat it dry and be sure not to rub it.
- If you don't have an allergy to antibiotic ointment, rub some into the tattoo. Don't use petroleum jelly — it may cause the tattoo to fade.
- Put an ice pack on the tattooed area if you see any redness or swelling.
- Try not to get the tattoo wet until it fully heals. Stay away from pools, hot tubs, or long, hot baths.
- Keep your tattoo away from the sun until it's fully healed.
- Even after it's fully healed, a tattoo is more susceptible to the sun's rays, so it's a good idea to always keep it protected from direct sunlight. If you're outside often or hang out at the beach, it's recommended that you always wear a sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 on the tattoo. This not only protects your skin, but keeps the tattoo from fading.