Once you’ve got that appointment on your calendar to get your new ink, there are a few things you to keep in mind in the time leading up to that important date. While you may think that getting tattooed is no big deal (or perhaps you’re a nervous wreck), you need to understand that getting inked is very similar to getting a simple medical procedure done.
When you schedule an appointment with a medical professional, they will generally give you a list of things to do prior to your upcoming procedure. Of course, you follow these guidelines and find yourself with a successful procedure upon completion. Most often, medical laws dictate that the doctor has to provide you with these lists prior to your appointment.
Tattooing is essentially the addition of ink into the dermis through small punctures created by a grouping of needles. In other words, it breaks the skin and creates an open wound of sorts. When it comes to tattooing, it is very similar to some in-office medical procedures. However, unlike the medical profession, it isn’t nearly as heavily regulated. In this case, it is not required for a tattoo shop to give you the hints and lists of things to do before getting your tattoo.
Now, that isn’t to say that some shops don’t offer them. Some do. My shop, for example, discusses what to do before your appointment during our mandatory consultation appointments and we reiterate these factors in our appointment reminder email. We are lucky in the fact that we have a front of house point person (which would be me!) who can handle all that.
Of course, not every shop is lucky enough to have a designated shop manager and for a small shop with limited staff, there just isn’t enough time in the day to handle those conveniences. Some shops just simply don’t care. Either way, it’s best for you to do your own research and know what to do, what to be careful with, and what to expect before you head in for your appointment.
To help make things a little easier, I’ve compiled a list of pointers to help you prep for your next tattoo appointment! Check it out.
Know Your Price
Before you get up to the appointment date, it is important to verify the overall cost of the tattoo. Some artists price by piece or session while others price by the hour. Be sure you have enough money on hand to pay for the session you have scheduled. Keep in mind you may want to purchase some aftercare products, such as Saniderm or AfterInked, directly through the studio. You’ll also want to throw in a little bit of a tip for your artist, as this is a service industry, after all.
Verify the time and date of your appointment well in advance. Some studios, like mine, will send you a reminder email or text in advance—but not all do. Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time before and after the appointment to rest up. Tattooing is an exhaustive procedure for some, so you may find yourself feeling tired or sluggish after the fact. You also want to be sure to leave your artist some play room. On occasion, tweaks need to be made to the piece once they have laid the stencil on and you may not get started immediately.
Avoid the Sun
In the week or so leading up to your appointment, it is best to avoid the sun as much as you can. Tattooing over sunburned skin is just not pleasant—for you or your artist—and should be avoided at all costs. Some shops will outright refuse to do it, whereas some shops just don’t care and will take your money regardless. However, tattooing over sunburned skin can be extremely painful and can actually cause damage to the tattoo itself.
When you get a sunburn, your skin becomes inflamed and damaged. When you tattoo, it creates more inflammation and damage to the skin. During the healing process of a sunburn, excess blood circulates around the area as the body begins to repair the damage. When you then proceed to puncture this afflicted area and insert ink, the ink can actually become diluted by the extra fluid and your design will not appear as crisp and detailed.
Not to mention, sunburned skin can bleed more which can make things a little harder for the artist. More bodily fluids leaking from the tattooing area means more wiping from the artist… and let’s face it, wiping is one of the worst parts of getting a tattoo as it is. It’s worse when the skin is already enraged from a nasty sunburn.
In other words, just don’t do it.
Take Care of the Skin
Another thing to do in the weeks leading up to your appointment is to be cautious with injuries. Try your best to avoid getting any cuts, scratches, or bruises to the area in which you will be getting tattooed. These can make it very difficult for the artist to tattoo the piece. Depending on the severity of these marks, the artist may even require you to reschedule after the damaged portion has healed.
Keeping the area well-moisturized with a lotion (either with a regular, over the counter lotion or tattoo moisturizers such as AfterInked) for at least a week or two prior to your session is also helpful! Keeping the area hydrated with lotions will make the skin more supple and give the artist an easier time.
Okay, I can’t stress this one enough. It is vital to be well-rested immediately before your tattoo appointment. I have seen clients who typically sit well for their sessions end up squirming and tapping out after staying up late before an appointment. When the body is tired, it has less tolerance for pain and trauma. Try to get at least 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted rest the night prior to your appointment. Wake up refreshed and take it easy in the hours leading up to your appointment. Don’t go running or working out just before your appointment or anything else that can tire the body excessively.
Hydration is Key
Drink plenty of water in the days leading up to your appointment. This will help keep your skin fresh, hydrated, and healthy, but it will also help you to feel more alert. Make sure to bring a drink with you to the appointment. Try to avoid overly sugary drinks like heavy sodas or energy drinks as you don’t want to have that energy crash during the middle of your session.
Don’t Drink and Ink
Okay, this one should go without saying…but, alas it has to be said.
Don’t drink and ink.
Drinking the night prior can actually cause mild dehydration. It can also lead to a potential hangover. Both of which are bad news for you the next morning. Again, you want your body to be at its best before undergoing the tattoo procedure, so it’s best to just avoid alcohol. It’s one night, it won’t kill ya.
Drinking the day-of is a big no-no. Most artists will refuse to tattoo someone they know has been drinking for several reasons. First of all, having alcohol in your system can often lead to spur of the moment, rash decisions. It can also lower your tolerance for the procedure and, worst of all, can thin your blood and make the process harder for the artist. Similar to the sunburn, having thinned out blood can cause the ink to be diluted or pushed back to the surface while the artist is attempting to apply the tattoo. This can lead to poor quality saturation, line work, and overall appearance of the tattoo—especially if the artist isn’t accustomed to dealing with thinned blood.