If you’re a fresh canvas, meaning you currently have no tattoos, then I’m betting you’ve got some questions. The industry is complex, with many technical terms and unique style names, and it can be quite confusing to someone who hasn’t had any previous experience with the process. There are different methods to apply tattoos, different types of machines, and specific aftercare procedures. As someone who is highly involved in the industry, I get asked a wide range of questions regarding the industry on a weekly basis. I thought maybe it was time to write a few of these down—you know, to make it a little easier for the newbies.
I’ve gone ahead and created a list of the most frequently asked questions. Go ahead and check them out!
How Much Will it Cost?
This is a tricky one to answer as every shop and every artist charges differently. Some charge by the hour, some by the piece. Some offer sessions, some offer specials (like All You Can Take or Two for One), but there is one thing I can tell you for sure… Good tattoos aren’t cheap. You’re going to get what you pay for and since this is something that will be permanently embedded into your skin, it’s important that you know what you’re getting. Settling with the cheapest quote will most likely end up costing you in the long run when you walk out with a shoddy tattoo and horrible line work. Cover-ups are even more expensive, so keep that in mind when planning your budget. If you can’t afford a high-quality artist the first time around, you probably won’t be able to afford the cover-up you will require to fix the disaster you so cheaply paid for.
Will it Hurt?
Okay, this is probably the most common question and generally one of the first. This is yet another hard question to answer as pain is relative. I have an extremely high tolerance for pain and can sit for long periods of time during sessions. I have seen someone get a tattoo in the exact same place as one of mine and squirm and scream and have to tap out, whereas I managed to sit quietly, calmly, and read a book from start to finish. When you get a tattoo, you’re being poked repeatedly with a set of needles. So, is it going to hurt? Well, it’s not going to feel pleasant, that’s for sure. But, how much it will hurt and if you can stand it or not will depend on your personal pain tolerance level and the area in which you are being tattooed. Just don’t count on it feeling like a tickle. But is it excruciating? Probably not.
How Hard are they to Care For?
Tattoos are an investment. You need to invest money and time into caring for them. While the major haul of caring for your tattoo occurs right after application, you will need to continue some minor aftercare habits to prevent your tattoo from any long-lasting damage. When you first get your tattoo, you will need to wash it several times a day with antibacterial soap and make sure you keep the area clean. Clean bed sheets, towels, and clothes will all help, as well as washing your hands before touching it. You’ll need to avoid direct sunlight, prolonged hot showers, hot tubs, swimming pools, and bathtubs until your tattoo is fully healed. Try not to itch, scratch, or rub the tattoo during the healing process, and avoid any clothing that might do the same, as it can cause scabbing or even ink loss. You’ll need to apply an aftercare product of some sort, such as Aquaphor or AfterInked, to help keep the tattoo from drying out during the healing process. Of course, there is a fine line here, as you don’t want the tattoo to be over-saturated, either.
Once you’ve made it through the healing process, you’ll want to keep the tattooed area hydrated and apply sunscreen before being in direct sunlight to help keep the ink from fading.
Is it Sanitary?
Tattooing, although categorized as a cosmetic practice, is actually similar to a medical procedure. The needles used during the process puncture the skin, depositing ink into the secondary layer—the dermis. For this reason, all tattoo artists are required to complete certification training on bloodborne pathogens as well as each shop has to be checked and certified by the health department or other state-run agency. They are required to have a medical waste disposal and use sterilized equipment for each and every client. There are so many rules to owning a shop that you might not even be aware of (like how close the hand sink has to be to the tattooing area or how the flooring cannot be made of porous material) that ensure that the space is a hygienic, sanitary environment. All of these certifications should be proudly displayed in a conspicuous place within the shop. If you don’t see these, ask. If they refuse to show you, leave.
When it comes to the equipment, everything is sanitary. Anything that touches the skin is disposable and comes prepackaged and pre-sterilized. Stations are all sanitized after each client and before the next one. Ink caps allow for small amounts of ink to be poured into sanitary containers and used as needed without contaminating the ink bottles. Clip Cords are covered with disposable plastic wraps and the artists are scrubbed (meaning their hands and arms are washed) and gloved up before they come near you.
So, simple answer…yes, it’s very sanitary.
Do I have to Stop my Medication before Getting Tattooed?
This is another complicated question. Every medication is different and every medical condition is unique. They all have different side effects. It’s always important to discuss your condition with your tattoo artist and to be upfront about what type of medications you are on in order to get the best outcome. It’s also important to discuss getting a tattoo with your doctor before booking an appointment.
When it comes to certain medications that are known to cause a problem, there are few. Blood thinners, such as Warfarin, can cause you to bleed out during the tattoo, which can make things quite difficult for your artist. Not to mention, the ink will tend to bleed out with you and can lead to missing line work or shoddy shading. Healing is also complicated while taking this type of medication. There are some antibiotics that can cause issues as well. Antibiotics can’t tell the difference between the bug they are meant to be fighting and the foreign substance that has been put into your skin and may attempt to fight off the ink… leaving patchy or scarred areas in the tattoo.