To tattoo or not to tattoo? It's not a question taken lightly. Tattoos represent many things. To some people, they are simply for aesthetic purposes. For others, they signify an important life event. However you look at it, getting a tattoo is a very important decision.
Young or old, hip or traditional, there are several things to think about before you go under the needle.
Tattoos should be considered permanent. They can be removed, but it is an expensive procedure and a real hassle. Will you enjoy the tattoo for the rest of your life? (You may get bored with it.) Are there times you may feel embarrassed? One must consider the impact it will have on a current or future job. For example, some work places do not allow visible tattoos. Thus, placement is crucial. Do you plan on becoming pregnant? A tattoo on the abdominal area may stretch and alter the design. Other tattoos may be affected by weight gain or loss.
Another factor is your pain tolerance. Some tattoos are more painful than others. Nonetheless, they are created with needles. If you have a fear of needles, a tattoo may not be a good idea. Also, consider the expenses. For example, an armband will cost much less than a sleeve. The larger and more detailed the tattoo, the more expensive. Also, be prepared to pay for touch-ups.
Know the risks. Remember, your skin will be affected permanently, this means forever. (Even tattoo removal will leave scars and discolorations.) You may experience an allergic reaction or infection and a large doctor bill to go along with it. Although uncommon, you can suffer swelling to any area that has a tattoo or permanent makeup during a MRI. Contaminated needles can transmit blood-borne diseases. Do diligent research on tattoo parlors and artists. (More on that later.)
If you're still not sure, try a temporary tattoo. There are several different options. One is an airbrush tattoo. These are painless and usually last up to a week. The artist uses an airbrush and stencil to create the design. Another option is a henna tattoo. These generally take longer to apply than airbrush tattoos but can last for weeks. Unfortunately, some people experience allergic reactions to the ink. Another drawback is that the ink is limited to a brownish / red tint. Still, if you buy a beginner's kit and follow the instructions accurately, you may be very pleased. The last option would be a decal tattoo. These are easy to apply and last up to a few days.
After you have decided that you want a permanent tattoo, you will need to find a good design. Some of the most popular tattoo designs include symbols, initials, stars, angels, dragons, flowers, hearts, and butterflies. Some are religious, celtic, or tribal. Every tattoo studio has design choices. Other places to look for ideas are at pictures in tattoo magazines or through the internet galleries.
If you want something completely original, you may design your own. If you're not artistic, talk to your tattoo artist. He or she may design a custom one for you. Keep in mind, this may cost extra.
Tattoo Artist & Studio
The next step is finding a good, reputable tattoo artist and studio. Don’t be reluctant to ask questions. It would be a good idea to ask him or her for examples of their work, where they did their apprenticeship, and how long they have been doing tattoos. If you're not visiting the salon due to a recommendation, ask for references and check them.
Learn about cleaning techniques. Does the studio use an autoclave for sterilization and re-use needles, or do they use new, "single use" ones each time? Many believe that the single-use needles are the only safe ones because there is much doubt as to whether or not autoclaving kills prions, which are implicated in a number of diseases. Nowadays, most tattoo parlors use disposable, single-use needles.
Has the studio had any violations? Do they give free touch-ups? How much do they charge? (Remember to calculate in a tip for the artist.) Ask about his or her training. The requirements for a tattoo license vary from state to state. Depending on the experience and talent of the artist, he or she will directly affect the quality of the tattoo, how it heals, and how long it takes to tattoo you.
You should be prepared for your tattoo. This means absolutely no alcohol consumption the day before or of getting your tattoo. Don’t take any painkillers. Both alcohol and painkillers thin your blood. This will make it harder for the ink to set. Eat and drink water before you arrive. Try to relax. The more nervous you are, the more likely you will be to faint or get sick. When you enter the studio, pay attention to the overall cleanliness. Watch the artist and make sure he or she uses gloves and clean needles. Ask more questions if necessary.
*This page is provided as an information resource and is in no way intended to be a substitute for professional or medical advice.