I’m not going to lie, getting a tattoo is very scary. I made my mom come with me to get my first one when I turned 18 because I had no clue what to expect. And even though she has a tattoo as well, she couldn’t remember what the experience was like. While the wait leading up to the actual tattoo is horrendous, I’ve come to find that it’s so worth it afterwards.


Before getting your tattoo, it’s important to remember a couple of things. The first is make sure you absolutely love what you’re getting. It’s going to be on your body forever, so think over the design for a couple months, and if you still want it after that waiting period, get it. If for one second you find yourself doubting it, then that tattoo is not for you.

Also, think about the placement. You may love your design but have no idea where it is you want it. Unfortunately, you still have to worry about employers, even though more are slowly coming to accept tattoos. If you don’t want a future employer seeing that tattoo, maybe don’t get it in that spot. It’s also important to remember that weight gain or loss and skin sagging with age will distort the image, so choose a place where your tattoo won’t get disfigured.

Find a clean and reputable tattoo shop! I cannot tell you how many different shops I went to, how many reviews I read, and how many times I changed my mind because I was scared I would get some disease from unclean needles. But then, I finally found a place! They had amazing reviews and the shop was super clean. Well worth the amount of time it took for me to find a place. Finding a place like this is crucial because infection and disease are very common when it comes to tattoos that are done under less than desirable conditions.

                                                                    Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Next is money. Yes, money. Sometimes you’ll see people walking around sporting full arm sleeves and it seems like tattoos are affordable, but speaking as a college student, they are not. Base price for most reputable tattoo parlors is going to be around $100 for small tattoos, and only goes up from there when you factor in size, detail, and color. Most shops will do black Friday deals in which small tattoos are much cheaper, but it's walk-in only and most people spend all day waiting in line. Also, you must tip your artist! I cannot stress this enough. I think tipping is very important and your artist is spending a lot of time focusing carefully to ensure every detail is included. They deserved to be tipped. I typically tip 20% but I really love my artist, so I tend to give him a little more to show my appreciation.

Please, please, please, if nothing else, remember to eat and drink beforehand. Every tattoo parlor will tell you this and it is because they do not want you passing out from the pain. I don’t want to say never forget to eat before getting one because everyone is different and maybe people don’t need to eat, but I would advise to avoid missing that meal before the tattoo. Don’t overeat though either. Most artists don’t want to see you vomit.

This last one might seem weird, but it helps so much. Lotion and/or moisturize the area you are getting tattooed starting a few days to a week beforehand. Having dry skin is going to cause more pain than normal while getting tattooed, so moisturizing before helps. Even if it doesn’t work, it made me feel like my tattoo was less painful than it could have been.


So, it’s going to hurt. I’m not going to beat around the bush and say it might not. No. It is going to hurt. I have two tattoos currently and I’m planning for a third, and all have varying levels of pain. The one on my wrist hurt the worst so far because the needle was going over my veins and my bone and it felt like the bone was vibrating, which is a weird sensation. The one on my ankle was the least painful. Not saying it didn’t hurt, because it did. My foot spasmed a few times. My next tattoo is planned for my ribs and is going to be the most painful because there is very little skin covering the bone.

While getting a tattoo, it is important not to move. Any kind of movement can result in a slight of hand and thus a slight wavy line that is now an unintentional addition to the design of your tattoo. I don’t have the unintentional line, but I did clench my hand while getting the one on my wrist and my artist scolded me for doing so. I was scared to move any part of my body for the rest of the session.

                                                                         Photo courtesy of Pexels

There is no one way to describe the feeling of a tattoo. Before getting mine, I did research and some people claimed it felt like bee stings or cat scratches. I personally thought it felt like a cluster of needles repeatedly scratching over already irritated skin, with an increase in heat. Which is essentially what it is happening, minus the heat part. That feeling comes from the irritation of the skin. If you're at all uncomfortable during the process, you can ask the artist to stop for a moment in order to take a break. Most often, they are going to understand.

Be prepared to be there for a while. I have very small tattoos that didn’t take over 30 minutes, but some can take hours or span over multiple sessions. Sitting there for a long time can be very boring, so I would advise bringing your phone or a book or something to do- if you can. If you can’t because of where the tattoo is located, strike up a conversation with the artist. I never did that because my artist wasn’t particularly chatty, but I’m not a fan of talking to people I don’t know very well either, so it wasn’t a problem for me. I was also fascinated by watching the tattoo be done, so that’s an option to help pass the time as well.

                                                                        Photo courtesy of Pixabay


So now, you’ve gotten your tattoo! Yay! There’s still more you have to do. You’ll be told this at the parlor as well, but do not submerge your tattoo into a pool, hot tub, bath, or ocean for the recommended 2 weeks. I usually wait 3 to be safe. They say this because a tattoo is an open wound and is a great place for infectious bacteria to set up camp. Showers are totally okay, but for me, they always hurt the area for the first week or so. It’s not an unbearable pain though, just slightly unpleasant.

I can’t remember if this is a tattoo rule, but I would advise but keep your new tat out of sunlight. I found that it was extremely uncomfortable and caused unnecessary pain, so I avoid exposing my new tattoo to sunlight for the same amount of time I wait to go into pools and such.

                                                                             Photo courtesy of Pixabay

There are a bunch of different products that are recommended for aftercare, but I love Aquaphor. I swear that stuff is magical. I would put it on in the morning before leaving my house and at night before sleeping and it helped the healing process so much. Once that tattoo starts peeling, it becomes itchy and it cannot be scratched, so rubbing Aquaphor on it is definitely relieving. Also, it is important not to peel your already peeling tattoo. That can lead to the tattoo not fully healing and that isn’t desirable.

Your tattoo is going to scab. It is going to look weird. It is completely normal, so don’t freak out. If you find that it hurts longer than it should, or it isn’t healing in the recommended time, then check back in with your artist.

Once your tattoo is fully healed, you will have a beautiful piece of artwork that is meaningful to you and I find this to be one of the best feelings.  And a few weeks after that, you’ll forget what the pain felt like and want another one. Tattoos are addicting, but they sure are fun.