A College Student’s Guide to Getting Their First Tattoo

When a teenager turns 18, the world seems to be so full of opportunities. They believe they can do anything they want, whether it’s driving without worry of a curfew, getting a piercing or even getting a tattoo. Getting a tattoo seems like the most common thing a freshly turned 18-year-old wants. If you’re like me, you think about your first tattoo from mid-high school until the day you can go out on your own and get some ink.

Tattoos may seem cool and fun, but there is a lot more that goes into getting a permanent image put on to your skin. Here is all you need to know before getting your first tattoo. 

Step 1: Picking Out the Design and Where to Put it

Your tattoo design is completely up to you, no one else. When getting a tattoo, especially your first,  it’s advised that you get it in a less painful spot, which typically means a place with a lot of body fat and little bone. But be warned, if you want a huge tattoo you may hit some painful bumps.


Step 2: Where to get a Tattoo in DC

There are several places to get a tattoo in the DMV area, but according to an article by The DCist, these are the best places:


Step 3: How to Prepare

There are several things you can do in preparation for your tattoo. According to Cosmopolitan, be sure to: 

  • Meet with the artist beforehand to map out your tattoo to make sure it’s exactly the way you want it.

  • Know tattoos can be pricey depending on the area you’re getting it and how big it is.

  • Do not drink alcohol beforehand. But do take some Tylenol to help alleviate the pain, not aspirin or ibuprofen, though, because they can increase bleeding.

  •  For support, bring someone with you. Trust me you’ll thank me later for not letting you try to be a tough guy/gal.

  • Know going in that your tattoo, over time, can possibly fade and may need touch-ups which is okay.


Step 4: What to Expect

Tattoos can range in pain levels depending on the spot where you get the tattoo. Bone areas, like your ribs or ankles, can be a bit more painful whereas, if you get a tattoo on a fattier part of your body, it will most likely hurt less. Overall, you can expect a slight stinging, burning pain that can differentiate depending on the area of your body. Sometimes an intense vibration of someone dragging a needle across your body can also occur when the tattoo is placed in a more sensitive spot with a lot of bone. After about 15 minutes, your adrenaline should kick in and help alleviate some pain. 

Step 5: You did it! Now What?

Congrats if you made it through your first tattoo! Now you’re probably wondering what’s next. The tattoo healing process generally takes time and it does varry depending on the size and placement of your tattoo. It is suggested to take showers to prevent any possible infection instead of taking baths and apply an antibiotic ointment twice daily to keep the tattoo as clean possible. Also, whenever you’re in the sun, lather your tattoo in sunscreen to protect it. 


No matter what you decide to do, it is your body, your tattoo and, most importantly, your choice! Just keep in mind the pain levels of the areas you can get a tattoo, but in the end, you will be okay. Now let’s get inked!


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