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Everything You Need to Know Before You Get Your First Tattoo

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Manhattan chapter.

Adrianne Hutto

So you’re thinking about getting your first tattoo. While you may be stressing about after and long term care, however there are a few things you want to think about before even getting the tattoo. As someone who got their first tattoo on their 18th birthday on whim, I can attest to the fact that it is better to wait before making any hasty decisions.

Those who have never gotten a tattoo before may not know that the artist is an extremely important factor in getting a tattoo. Most artists have their own personal style or look that they apply to their art. If you are looking for simplicity and finer lines you would want to avoid an artist whose work is mostly neotraditional. Someone with this style will make your tattoo look darker and add lots of thick lines and shading. It is also important to know that when getting a tattoo from a particular artist that they may have a higher demand and therefore you may have to make appointments farther in advance than you are expecting. For instance, an artist specializing in large tattoos may have less availability since it takes several appointments for larger tattoos to be completed. This is also something to consider when deciding on the size of your tattoo. 

Before all of this however, you should think about the time of year you are getting your tattoo. In the summer it will be exposed to more sun and you may be tempted to swim while it is fresh– you should NOT do this. The winter or fall is usually best, it will be less exposed to heavy sunlight and you will likely be able to avoid activities where it could get scratched or messed up. 

Placement is another factor to consider. While you may have a spot in mind for your tattoo you must remember to be specific about what you want. Artists will place a stencil of the tattoo in your desired location prior to beginning of the process. Make sure that you like it before saying yes. This is a situation where it is okay to be picky about what you want. 

So you’ve made your appointment and chosen your desired tattoo, what’s next? Before you arrive it is important to know whether or not your chosen tattoo parlor takes cash, credit or both. You should also make sure you have your ID ready to go, as they will need to see this when you arrive. You may or may not be aware of this, but it is customary to tip your tattoo artist. Much like a bartender or server, they are providing you with a service. Tipping well can mean staying on good terms with your artists for future appointments as well as showing your appreciation. 

When it’s time for the actual tattooing process it is important to try and stay as still as possible. Moving around too much can cause the lines to be shaky or get messed up. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, let the artist know and they will allow you to take a break. Most of the time they will ask you to lay down and sit as comfortably as possible. Be aware that even smaller tattoos can take up to half an hour so you may be sitting for a while. Try listening to music or a podcast during the process to help you relax. However, DO NOT show up to the appointment high or drunk. For one, if the artist notices they will likely ask you to leave. More importantly, however, alcohol acts as a blood thinner and you will bleed during the process so you should not have any in your system 24 hours prior to your appointment. While smoking weed prior to your appointment may seem like a good idea, it can make the process feel longer and more painful for these reasons, I wouldn’t recommend it. 

 After the tattoo is finished the artist will either apply Saniderm or SecondSkin, which is a clear bandage which sticks to your skin. It will likely remain there for 3 – 5 days but it can depend. Other times your tattoo will be lightly wrapped with seran wrap and you may remove it a few hours after. 

After your appointment, the artist will likely give you a sheet explaining how to care for your tattoo. It will tell you to wash your tattoo with lukewarm water and unscented, antibacterial soap, pat dry and apply an unscented lotion or Aquaphor to the tattoo. You will want to do this with your tattoo one to two times a day until it is fully healed, which will take about two weeks. While it is healing do not scratch or pick at your tattoo and avoid getting it wet or coming into contact with shampoo and conditioner while you are in the shower.

During the healing process keep an eye on your tattoo. If you have any concern you may consult your artist or a doctor. Once healed you may find yourself wanting another tattoo, this is perfectly normal. Before you know it you’ll be a veteran in the tattoo game. 

Adrianne Hutto

Manhattan '24

Adrianne Hutto is a Senior communication major at Manhattan College with a concentration in journalism. She loves writing about fashion, animals and food. In her free time she loves to cook, spend time with her cat, Casper, and rollerskating in Van Cortlandt Park.