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The day that I got my first tattoo was probably one of the scariest of my life, and I now know that the nervousness was very unnecessary. I heard so many different things from different people, and had absolutely no idea what to expect. It definitely did not help either that everyone who I told that I was getting my first tattoo on my ribs had the same look on their face of, “not a good idea”. I was also very concerned about the aftercare of my tattoo, which again proved to be unnecessary. In order to help you guys avoid this, here is everything I wish I knew before and after getting a tattoo.

It probably will not be the worst pain you have ever experienced

In my opinion, everyone made it seem like the pain of getting tattooed was much worse than I felt it was. I remember asking every person I knew who had a tattoo how bad it was, but no one could really pinpoint the sensation. It is really hard to describe, but I promise that you will survive.

The hardest part is keeping still

My tattoo only took around 30 minutes to complete, but the pain was not my biggest issue at all. I don’t know if it was just because I was getting tattooed on my ribs, but I found it so hard to keep still and felt like I had to breathe a certain way the whole time. It is definitely easier if you try not to talk and just think about something else, but if it helps ease your fear at all, this was without a doubt one of the most annoying parts.

If you get a sticker or any cover for it, keep it on

If you have TikTok, I’m sure you have seen people’s “ink sack” videos. Your tattoo artist will most likely give you some kind of cover to put over your tattoo, and if it’s clear you will be able to see the leftover ink moving around under it. While this is funny to see for about 1 hour, it gets annoying when you want to see the finished product and show off your new ink. My tattoo artist said that it was fine to take off after 2 days, but that if I left it on for 5 days, it would be healed. I was too antsy to wait, so I took it off as soon as I realized it had been 2 days. After I did, I immediately felt everything that brushed into it, including shower water. Luckily, this feeling went away after a few days, but I would definitely recommend keeping the cover on for as long as your artist recommends in order to avoid this.

Follow your artist’s instructions for moisturizing

Take whatever advice you are personally given by your tattoo artist, and be sure to not over moisturize. For some reason, myself and a few other people I knew were under the impression that new ink had to be moisturized as much as physically possible. Some tattoo artists may recommend a different amount, but twice a day is usually the standard and it is nothing to stress about. You do not need to purchase anything fancy either, Aquaphor worked just fine for me. 

Make sure to schedule it at a good time

Most tattoo artists will suggest not getting your tattoo wet (other than in the shower), for 2 weeks, so if you’re a huge summer person like me or have a vacation planned, definitely schedule accordingly. You also have to avoid allowing your tattoo to be exposed to direct sunlight, so summer might not be the best time unless you are ready to commit to these rules. Overall, follow whatever your tattoo artist tells you and do not take their guidelines lightly.

In the end, I think that my fear leading up to getting a tattoo helped me out, because the pain was definitely not as bad as I was expecting. Pain is subjective, but don’t let anyone try and talk you out of getting a tattoo or placement that you want because you will be fine! I hope this guide can help ease some of your fears and provide you with some information that you may not have known before. 

Of course, always be sure to follow your artist’s instructions and consult professionals for advice!

Carly Cataldo

St. John's '23

20 Fashion Business Major and Public Relations Minor at St. John's University
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