by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 11th March, 2019
When I went to get my first tattoo, nearly a year ago now, I went in pretty much completely blind. I'd done my research on the parlour and tattoo artist, and I knew what I wanted, but other than that - I was a complete tattoo newbie.
In some respects I think this was beneficial because there was much less fear, but I definitely wish I had known some of this stuff before I sat down on that chair. For starters, I had no idea how painful the inside of your upper arm could be and spent a good part of the two hours biting on my lip. So rather than heading in blindly - here are 10 things you must know before getting your first tattoo.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to thoroughly research the tattoo parlour and artist you are planning to go with. Unfortunately, there are a lot of shady, dirty shops out there that will offer lower prices but you'll end up paying for it later with infections and faded ink. Take your time, there is no need to rush here.
Look up reviews on the place, and go and see if for yourself. Make sure you know that it's clean and reputable firstly, and then decide if the style of tattoo parlour is for you, and if the artist you are thinking of going with suits the style of tattoo you want.
You may also want to look into what kind of inks they use - especially if you are vegan or vegetarian, as many tattoo inks contain animal products, which is not something you want to find out after you've got the tattoo.
The first thing you should know when it comes to actually getting your tattoo is that who you are and where you get your tattoo will greatly influence the pain you experience.
As someone with a pretty high pain threshold, I wasn't expecting it to be that bad, but didn't realise that the soft tissue on the inside of your arm is more painful that on the outside and thus when it came to get a tattoo, the part that was done on the inside of my arm was pretty painful - but definitely manageable.
Your tattoo artist will be able to advise you, but ultimately it's up to you to suck it up and deal with the pain if you really want a certain tattoo in a painful area. You're going to have this tattoo for the rest of your life, so it's worth a little pain.
Truthfully, there is very little you can do to make a tattoo hurt less. Some people try to use numbing creams, but most say that they don't work very well, if at all. A tattoo needle has to puncture through the top layer of skin and into the epidermis in order to work, and so there's very little that most creams can do.
Over the counter pain medications are also unlikely to work very well, so it's best to just grin and bear it, and try to bring a distraction (i.e download netflix onto your phone).
If you see a price for a tattoo that looks too good to be true that's probably because it is. When you're paying for a tattoo, you're not only paying for a permanent piece of artwork on your body, but you're also paying tattoo artist for their years of experience and artistic ability, so you really do get what you pay for.
If you're going cheap, you're more likely to get a tattoo that will fade, looks odd or may even get infected.
Tattoo's don't come cheap, and most tattoo parlours don't advertise their prices simply because it's very difficult to estimate the price of a custom tattoo, as it depends on size, shading, placement etc. Tattoo artists need to live too - so be prepared to need to save up a bit of cash.
Not to sound too cliche but a tattoo quite literally is for life, so you need to be sure about it before you go ahead and permanently mark your body.
If you don't have a specific design in mind or are still wondering whether you'd really like it, press pause for a while and come back to the idea later, you don't want to be making any decisions that you'll eventually regret. This also gives you more time to come up with a tattoo that you really love, and make any changes you might want.
You'll often find that from your initial starting design to your final piece, you'll make a lot of changes and may even completely throw away your original idea in favour of something better - so do not be afraid to take your time and make as many changes as you want.
A common misconception about getting a tattoo is that you'll walk into a scary looking shop full of hostile, intimidating tattoo artists, sit down in silence for a few hours and come out slightly emotionally traumatised with a tattoo on your arm. However, I am here to tell you that this doesn't need to be the case.
You don't need to be best friends, but you should at least like your tattoo artist - enough to trust them to tattoo you at least.
The length of time you spend in a tattoo shop will vary depending on the size and complexity of the piece you are getting. Aside from the normal pain of getting the tattoo, you will also need to be prepared to get a bit uncomfortable.
Sitting or lying in one position for hours can lead to stiffness and cramp, and since your tattoo artist will be trying to concentrate, they might not be the most chatty. Make sure to bring entertainment with you, be it a phone or a book or a friend.
Placement is key when you're thinking about getting a tattoo, not only will it affect how the tattoo looks and the amount of pain you'll feel, but it may also affect others perceptions of you.
Make sure to consider the placement of your tattoo very carefully, especially in potentially risky areas like your hands, arms, neck and shoulders. If you work in a profession that frowns upon tattoos, it may be best to keep them hidden in an area that isn't normally seen.
As much as you'll want to rip the cling film off and show off your new tattoo to the world, the aftercare of your tattoo is much more important. Risking an infection is not worth it, so keep your tattoo covered up and clean.
You can take the pictures you want after it's healed.