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Tips for Your First Tattoo

Tattoos are permanent. That idea alone is enough to scare many people away from getting their first tattoo. Thought like Will I regret this? and What if I can’t handle the pain? can make the decision process particularly scary. If you are debating whether to take the plunge, or already know you want to get one but are still facing some fears, here’s a few tips and guidelines to help with your first tattoo:

Choose wisely (but don’t worry too much!)

To avoid having your tattoo removed someday (a more painful and expensive process than the initial tattoo), you want to choose what tattoo you get wisely.  Look through tattoo websites, books, and portfolios. Try making a Pinterest board of tattoo ideas to narrow down your choice to something you’re happy with and to get the input of friends if you want it. Forget the idea that your tattoo has to have significance… initials of a loved one or a flower for all of your spiritual growth in your twenties… if you take your time looking for a design you really love, that is significant enough.

Plan the location

Think about where the best place is for your first tattoo. Do you want it to be small and hidden? Big and noticeable? If you know a tattoo is not something you want to showcase at work or on your wedding day, think twice about a large forearm tattoo or something equally showy.  Consider any factors that might make your tattoo uncomfortable for you in the long run.

Also keep in mind that different locations on your body have different sensations. A tattoo in one place may be much more painful than in another. A great way to determine how painful an area on your body might be is to run your fingers lightly over it. The more ticklish and sensitive it feels, the more painful the tattoo will likely be.

Think about size

You’ve determined the location, now think size. Smaller may be better for your first tattoo if you’re not entirely sure about the design or the location. Also keep in mind that larger tattoos often taken more than one sitting with the tattoo artist. You may be going back two or three times to finish a larger or more intricate design.

Be picky about the parlor and ask the price

Besides you, no one is better equipped to help you determine the design, location, and size of a tattoo than a tattoo artist. You want to be sure that the artist you work with is open to discussion and to helping you pick wisely. A good tattoo artist will not be bothered if he has to try a drawing for a second time or change the location of his tracing for you.

You also want to make sure that a tattoo parlor is clean, friendly, and has good reviews. Ask friends for recommendations and check online reviews of parlors and individual artists. If it doesn’t feel right to you, leave.

Tattoos can be expensive. It’s okay to ask the artist for an estimate of cost based on your tattoo size and color. Most tattoo parlors will not do anything for less than $50, no matter how small. Be sure you have an idea of how much your tattoo will cost so you’re not shocked at the end when it’s time to pay. Remember, you’re paying for permanent artwork by an artist.

Don’t drink beforehand!

You might think it will calm your nerves, but it will actually thin your blood and make the process that much more painful. On that note…

Yes, it will hurt

It’s a needle going into your skin to leave permanent ink and, yes, it will hurt. There will also be some blood. But, if your tattoo is something you really want and you’ve thought wisely about its location and design, the pain is worth it… and is certainly not unbearable. You can always ask the tattoo artist for a break if you feel like you need one. Oftentimes, while getting tattooed you will find yourself zoned out after the first five or ten minutes… that’s your body’s endorphins kicking in! Bring music to listen to in headphones as a distraction, avoid caffeine and alcohol beforehand, and eat a full meal that day.

Follow the aftercare instructions

We repeat, follow the aftercare instructions. You will be given a piece of paper with all of the information for caring for your new tattoo once it is finished and you should be sure to follow these instructions. Don’t remove the protective bandage before you are supposed to, use the soap they recommend for cleaning, and have patience as you heal. If anything seems wrong, be sure to call the tattoo parlor and ask for advice.

Most important, don’t be too nervous. Tattooing has been practiced for centuries around the world as far back as 6000 B.C. so you’re in good company!  Consider bringing a friend or family member with you if you’re particularly nervous.

Happy inking!

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