Know before you go and prep for your tattoo experience with these top tips

Tattoos have been trending up in recent years. Though difficult to determine just how many Americans are permanently inked, some research puts the figure around 40 percent. Getting a tattoo has become a rite of passage for numerous graduating high school seniors, and both young and old choose symbolic images to mark births, deaths, loves, faith and more.

However, many visit a tattoo establishment eager for the experience but naïve to the expectations. There are rules and required documents. For anyone getting a first tattoo, the process may be less daunting with a little knowledge.

How to prepare

Most tattooers have a website with to-do/to-bring lists. Or, visit the tattooer first, pick up a checklist, and have a discussion about the design, size, color and cost. Planning a tattoo outing with friends and family only to realize it needs to be rescheduled for unpreparedness is disappointing.

From a practical perspective:

— Google your state’s regulations regarding licensing, safety, age limits and restrictions on body parts or offensive images or messages.
— Make an appointment and show up a little early to fill out paperwork.
— Bring required documents, mainly a valid ID.
— Check ahead to learn accepted form of payment.
— Shower and clean the area to be tattooed well.
— Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
— Eat and drink something ahead of time.
— Learn the approximate time necessary to achieve the tattoo and build in extra time, just in case.
— Expect pain, especially sensations of scratching, stinging and burning.
— Plan to tip 15 to 20 percent.

From a medical standpoint, in December offered:

1) Make sure the tattoo artist is licensed properly.
2) Read reviews about the artist and the shop.
3) Peruse the shop beforehand and note cleanliness standards.
4) Make sure all gloves, needles, bandages, swabs and other items are new and single-use.

Generally, a tattoo artist will warn against taking aspirin or ibuprofen 24 hours or less before the tattoo process as these medications will thin the blood. Cites, “This applies to consumption of alcohol as well.” Many states, in fact, prohibit tattooing for those under the influence.


Your tattooer will advise on care for the tattoo while the skin heals, but in general a fresh tattoo will be covered in petroleum jelly or moisturizer then wrapped in plastic or a bandage.

This should stay on for at least five hours to protect the open skin from bacteria, sunlight and rubbing against clothing, according to Medical News Today.

After that the skin can be washed gently, patted dry and left uncovered. The tattoo may weep fluid or ink, but that’s generally normal. The area will be red for a few days and may scab. Moisturize the area — using an unscented, hypoallergenic jelly or lotion — when clean and dry. 

Scabbing and itching may continue for two or three weeks. It’s important to moisturize the tattoo and protect it from the sun during this time, both to help the skin heal and to protect the tattoo’s colors. Pick up a tattoo after care kit to keep your new tattoo bright and clean. 

If a rash develops around the tattoo, see a doctor.

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