Everything You Should Probably Know Before (& After) Getting A Tattoo
We’re going to hit you with some quick stats on tattoos. According to Dalia Research, a Berlin-based tech startup, approximately 38% of people in the world have one, with Italy, Sweden, the USA, and Australia ranking in the top four. That’s shocking in itself, but here’s the real kicker. While most people don’t regret their ink at all (72%), that leaves a surprisingly high 28% of people who are either kicking themselves over their tats or are questioning their decision.
To ensure you don’t end up in the “maybe I shouldn’t have…” category, read through these tattoo FAQs. From how to choose the best tattoo artist to post-tattoo care, we’ve got you covered.
How Do I Find a Good Tattoo Artist?
This isn’t like trying to find a great place for happy hour! Ink is forever, so choosing a high-quality tattoo parlor is non-negotiable. Most importantly, take your time to research different artists and studios instead of walking into the first parlor that comes up in a Google search.
Ask friends or acquaintances for their best recommendations, then spend time researching each of those establishments. Look at their reviews on Google and Yelp, read through their tagged posts on Instagram, and look through their gallery online or on social media to get a feel for their style and artistic abilities.
On that note, even if a tattoo artist is amazing, it’s still important to make sure they can create the type of tattoo you want. Some artists are masterful when it comes to doing portraits, others excel in delicate floral or watercolor tattoos, and some are king when it comes to splashy colors and designs.
Finally, once you’ve found a potential tattoo artist, reach out for a quick consultation. This can be in-person, on the phone, or over FaceTime. You don’t have to be best friends with your tattoo artist by any means, but vibing with them will make the experience way better.
How Can I Make Sure I Don’t Regret My Tattoo?
In addition to researching the best tattoo artists, we recommend thinking long and hard about the idea of getting a tattoo in the first place. Also important: committing to a specific design. Live with the idea for as long as it takes before you feel 100% confident that this permanent art belongs on your skin! Some people know right away, especially when the tattoo has deep meaning to them, or it brings them joy to look at it.
What Does it Feel Like to Get a Tattoo?
Everyone has a different experience when getting a tattoo, but we will tell you this: it’s not a comfortable experience! That said, it’s also not the worst pain. Many describe the feeling of getting a tattoo as a prickly, stinging sensation while others describe it as razor-sharp pain. This depends on your body, your pain tolerance, and the location of your tattoo. Bony areas and locations with more nerve endings will likely hurt more, like shins, wrists, rib cage, inner thighs, chest, fingers, and nipples.
When Does Tattoo Pain Go Away?
After your tattoo is finished, you’ll likely deal with a dull sunburnt sensation and dry skin. It will also likely be very sensitive to the touch, and you may even experience some scabbing. Within a few days, most of the pain should go away, but it can take a week or two before all swelling and sensitivity is gone.
How Do I Care For A New Tattoo?
Although each artist may have slightly different recommendations, there are a few key steps you can take when caring for your new artwork. For help on that, we enlisted the expertise of Dr. W. Elliot Love, a board-certified dermatologist who has a few tattoos himself.
“Immediately following the tattoo work, the artist will typically apply a moisturizer such as Vaseline or Aquaphor. Sometimes an antibiotic ointment is used or recommended, but I encourage individuals who are recently inked not to because you can develop an allergic reaction to it, even if you’ve used the product before,” says Dr. Love. “After you remove the bandage – typically the next day – it is imperative that you keep the area moist. If it dries out and scabs it can lead to a suboptimal appearance.”
His favorite product is Mad Rabbit Repair Soothing Gel, which won’t make your skin feel greasy and allows for oxygen to get through for a faster recovery. He recommends applying it to your new tattoo at least three times a day. Continue application until your tattoo is completely healed.
Do Tattoos Fade?
Yep, tattoos do naturally fade to some extent as time goes on.
“This is due to two main factors. The first is the immune cells (macrophages) that store the tattoo pigment naturally turn over. All cells in the body break down and new ones are constantly made to replace them. When this occurs, there are minute amounts of pigment absorbed and degraded,” explains Dr. Love. “The second main reason for tattoos to fade are UV rays. UV rays from the sun denature the collagen in superficial layers of skin where the tattoo pigment is deposited and maintained.”
While you can’t do a whole lot about the cell turnover thing, except to maybe avoid exfoliating ingredients such as retinol and AHAs on tattooed areas, you can be diligent about reducing your sun exposure. Make sure to apply sunscreen liberally and routinely to your tattoos. Dr. Love adds that moisturizing your tattooed skin can help, too.
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How Often Should You Touch-Up Tattoos?
After your tattoo is complete, you’ll probably want to go back in after about six months for final touch-ups. From there, when you’ll need a touch-up depends on the stuff we mentioned above, along with personal factors and the colors used in your tattoos.
“It’s common to need a touch-up in seven to 10 years on an average healthy realism tattoo. For traditional tattoos, you can usually wait 10 or more years due to the focus on heavy contrast,” says Carmen Vanderheiden Brodie, vice president of clinical operations at Removery, the largest specialized provider of tattoo removal services in the world. “Cosmetic ink applied with a microblade is generally touched up after eight weeks and then again every year, depending on how dry or oily the skin is. Machine shading or nanomachine can last from two to five years.”
What Happens If I Want My Tattoo Removed?
If, at the end of the day, you find yourself in that 28% of people who aren’t so happy about their tattoos anymore, you do have the option of removal. It’s not a simple one-and-done deal, but technology has greatly improved.
“Tattoo removal uses the body’s natural fading mechanism to complete the work. The laser breaks down the ink particles small enough for the body to metabolize and carry those particles away through the lymphatic system,” says Vanderheiden Brodie. “It usually takes around 12 to 18 months for most people to complete the process, with treatments happening every six to 12 weeks between. Again, all the variables that affect natural fading also affect laser-assisted fading and removal.”
Each visit is only about 15 minutes long, with the time of actually lasering only about five minutes, and they’re not exactly a walk in the park. Vanderheiden Brodie says it feels like rubber bands snapping due to the friction created by the laser pulses. Fortunately, the pain dissipates quickly, and it just feels like a sunburn by the time you’re back at home. Each appointment fades the tattoo gradually, which is why a series of treatments is required for full removal.
Let us know if this tattoo guide was helpful before your upcoming tattoo – and don’t forget to share pictures with us, too!