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If you’ve googled, “least painful place to get a tattoo,” or “cool tattoo designs” recently, you’re reading the right article. I started when I was 16 years old. I was raised by a mother with a full sleeve and many other tattoos, so we were both itching to make my first appointment when I was old enough. Also, I wanted to overcome my fear of needles, and I figured getting a tattoo was one of the best ways to do that. I’m nearly 21, and so far I have six tattoos. This includes a few small ones and two pieces that took hours for my artist to complete. Despite the excitement, there are some concerns nearly everyone has before they get their first ink.

How Badly Does It Hurt?

Stop googling diagrams of the human body where supposedly the tattoo will be the “least painful.” You know your body better than anyone. What helped me during my journey was to stop thinking of any sensation caused by the needles to be pain. Rather, I started thinking of it as discomfort. That’s what it is — it’s just discomfort. If you’re starting small, the tattoo won’t even take long. My first tattoo was my zodiac sign on my wrist and it took the guy less than 10 minutes. I promise the temporary discomfort is worth it if you have your mind set on a special piece. 

What Does It Feel Like? 

Let’s also get one thing straight — the artist picks up the tattoo gun often, just as you would a pencil if you were drawing. They will also be constantly wiping away ink in-between tattooing to get a good look at their work. So, the feeling is not constant.From my experience, I’ve always felt the buzz of the tattoo gun combined with a light scraping. Honestly, the buzz is kind of soothing after a while, I even fell asleep during the outline of my back tattoo.[bf_image id="q7k2eh-169068-a5wn8s"]The needles in the gun do not make you visibly bleed, because it’s not going deep into your skin. This is why it is not as painful as you would anticipate. Remember, it’s discomfort. 

How Does the Process Work?

Always call ahead before you come in — I cannot stress this enough. Most artists will want to meet with you, talk about what you want, and set up an appointment from there. This is not to say that some artists do not accept walk-ins, but it’s more courteous if you call ahead. In my experience, I’ve never brought a sketch into the shop. However, I have had pictures saved on my phone with general ideas of what I’ve wanted. From there, my artist helped me find outlines online, we’ve made edits together, then at the appointment he printed them out to put the template on my skin. From there it was onto the tattooing![bf_image id="fwnfqh4hr4xkc3m5s9j48z7h"]

What Should I Ask My Artist Before We Begin?

Always make sure they know your budget, if you want color, how big you want the piece, and if they have any room for creative freedom. 
With my hip tattoo, I told my artist to do whatever he wanted, but make it look beautiful with a sunflower being the main focus. He did just that — artists like when they have creative freedom. If you’re getting a tattoo in an area where you may have to remove clothing, ask your artist what you could bring to make it an easier process. For my hip tattoo I wore loose shorts I could roll up so I wouldn’t have to wear only my underwear.

How Do I Take Care of My Tattoo?

Aftercare is crucial for ink. Your artist will stress this, especially if it’s your first tattoo. Buy some Vaseline or Aquaphor (I prefer Aquaphor) and apply a light layer a few times daily to keep the skin hydrated. You don’t have to keep your tattoo covered — that’s a common misconception. Your skin should be breathing, so keep it open. For the first few days to clean it, let soapy water run over the tattoo. Make sure the soap is scent-free and do not scrub it. You should never pick at your tattoo, especially when it starts to peel. Yes, your skin will peel. Don’t worry if your tattoo starts to look a little ugly before it’s healed. It’s completely normal for your skin to replenish itself by peeling. After a few days, you can use lotion instead of the aquaphor, but still try not to use any products with fragrance until your skin is healed. The healing process can take a couple of weeks, give or take the size and shading of your tattoo. [bf_image id="q7k39g-20209c-7d6mlu"]

Should I Tip My Tattoo Artist?

This is an easy one – yes!Tipping hairdressers, nail technicians, servers, etc. are all similar to tipping a tattoo artist. Artists keep some of the money for their work, but some is also delegated to the cost of supplies. 

Final Thoughts

Tattoos are a great way for me to decorate my body, but they don’t all mean something to me. They don’t have to mean anything at all, they are personalized to who you are and what you like. Permanent ink is a beautiful way to express yourself, so if you’re contemplating getting your first tattoo or just another one in general, go do it! From the wise words of Johnny Depp, “My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story.”I couldn’t have said it any better.
Alyssa is a Senior at Penn State University studying Psychology with a focus on life science. Following graduation, she plans to attend graduate school to pursue a career in counseling for adolescents. In her free time, Alyssa enjoys making a Spotify playlist for every occasion, binging thrillers on Netflix, and spending time with her kitten, Penny.
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