Today's post is for anyone feeling brave and thinking about getting their very first tattoo. I'm in the process of healing my third tattoo so I thought why not include some of my top tips and advice for first timers. I got my first tattoo age 18 and I fully recommend waiting until you are legally old enough. I knew at the age of 15/16 that I wanted to get a tattoo, but I also wanted a drum kit and my lip pierced - so I didn't know very much. Having a few more years to think about what I might want was important.
So I'm going to assume you're 18 or over, with a design in your head that you love and you've thought carefully about for quite some time. Perhaps you've even drawn it on your skin with a biro to see how it looks, or kept a picture of your design attached to your computer screen so you can always see it? And now you're ready to make the appointment and go for it...
DOES IT HURT?
Yes. Yes. All tattoos hurt, some more than others. I dived in at the deep end getting my first one on my foot as it's a bony area with not much flesh or fat. To me a tattoo outline feels like a sharp cat scratch. Any shading feels like the scratch being dragged back and forth across your skin repeatedly. It's not the type of pain that makes me cry, but it might make you grit your teeth a bit. All my tattoos are quite small, but the pain still varied depending on which part of the tattoo was being done. Closer to the bone, more pain. But it's worth it, and it's nothing that you can't handle. Thousands of people get tattoos everyday. Some of those people even go back for more!
WHAT CAN I EXPECT?
Your artist will have already discussed your artwork with you when you book an appointment. They will draw something up for you either before you arrive, or whilst you wait (depending on it's size, how complicated it is etc.) A stencil will be made up which is a basic outline of your tattoo and put on to your skin (like a temporary tattoo sticker) so you can see the placement and decide if it looks ok. Do not be afraid to ask for it to be made bigger, smaller, or placed slightly differently. Tattoo artists are used to this and just want you to be happy. They will re-position that thing over and over again if you need them to.
Once you're ready, you'll be able to sit or lie down in a comfortable position and your artist will start with a small line so you can feel what the sensation is like.
HOW SHALL I PREPARE?
The most important rule: eat a proper meal before getting tattooed. I have low blood pressure and get quite dizzy often, so when you're about to put your body through peculiar stress you need a good amount of food in your system. I now only ever book tattoo appointments in the afternoon because I can never eat in the morning and eating is so important so I don't feel queasy or faint. Then there are the obvious ones; don't drink heavily the night before and get a good night's sleep. If the area you are getting tattooed needs shaving (i.e. leg) you should shave the night before, especially if your skin is sensitive to a razor. Or your tattoo artist will shave the area for you.
WHAT SHALL I TAKE?
Comfortable clothing, layers, socks etc. I had my last tattoo done on such a hot day but thankfully the shop had great air conditioning. Take sugary snacks like sweets or chocolate to keep you going or act as a 'pick me up' afterwards. A bit of chocolate also helped me avoid that faint-queasy feeling on the way home. Take a bottle of water too. Take a friend if the studio allows that. Not all tattoo shops do. For your first tattoo you're probably going to want someone else there. It's Josh's job to distract me from thinking about the pain with general chit-chat. He'll show me things on his phone and make me laugh so I don't think about the process at all. Don't take someone who's going to repeatedly ask you if it hurts and if you feel ok.
Follow your tattoo artists advice. But the general rule is remove the wrapping once you get home, wash in luke-warm water with fragrance free soap three times a day and apply a light layer of Bepanthen cream after washing. Keep up this routine for up to 2 weeks, then cut down washing/moisturising to twice a day until your tattoo has fully healed. No baths, hot showers, swimming, sunbeds or time spent in direct sun. You might need to go back to the tattoo shop for touch ups if any ink lifts out. I know it can seem such a huge pain to do this when you've worked so hard to heal the thing in the first place but touch ups are usually included in the price and are so worth it in the end. Enjoy your new piece of artwork - it's yours for life!
Getting your first tattoo is never as scary as you imagine, it's an important event and should be celebrated but try not to make it too much of a huge deal or you'll become stressed out. If you're still not sure, why not try out a fake one first! If you have any questions about getting a tattoo or tips of your own please let me know...