Tattoo You: 5 Things You Should Know About Getting Inked
If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed some fresh new ink pop up about a week ago. Yep…I got my first tattoo!
I’m hardly unique or rebellious, here, even though my tattoo does say “Rebel Rebel.” (It’s a Bowie tribute.) In fact, according to a recent article in Cosmopolitan, nearly half of millennials have at least one tattoo, including lots of celebrities and bloggers. Heck, I got this tattoo with my younger sister Emma and it’s her eighth!
Here’s the thing, though: I’m completely Type A and I have no chill, which means I was obsessively googling things like “tattoo aftercare,” “how to shower with a new tattoo,” “tattoo healing process” and “can you work out with a new tattoo” pretty much as soon as I got mine. If you’re thinking about going under the needle, here are a few things I learned from Google and a very handy Cosmo article:
ONE. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT & MAKE IT MEANINGFUL.
Some people are into spontaneity and totally fine with a spur-of-the-moment decision to permanently ink something on their bodies. I am so not one of those people. In fact, full disclosure, the day after I got my tattoo, I did start to have some doubts. Like…oh my god what have I done this is really, truly permanent.
I told you. No chill.
Those feelings have subsided, but I have to imagine they’re pretty common. After all, you’ve just added something to your body that’s going to be there forever. I was very, very sure about my tattoo going in, thrilled as soon as it was done, and I still had a couple doubts the day after. Now, however, it makes me smile every time I look at it. And then Rebel Rebel gets stuck in my head. (Which is fine, because it’s my second-favorite Bowie song of all time and I don’t think I will ever tire of it.)
TWO. GO TO A GOOD ARTIST.
Instagram and Yelp are great places to scout the local tattoo scene. Above all, make sure that you’re comfortable with your artist and that the studio is safe, clean and follows all necessary regulations. You should definitely have to sign a release form, and check for any state-mandated certifications that might be required.
Also, not to beat a dead horse, but tattoos are permanent, so you definitely want to work with someone who makes you comfortable. Do NOT be shy about this process and if you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable or not ready, leave. It’s way less awkward to bail than it is to end up with a piece you don’t love.
THREE. GETTING INKED.
The scariest part for me was the anticipation of pain. I’d never gotten a tattoo before, so I had no clue what to expect and that freaked me out more than anything. My artist likened it to a cat scratch, did one line so I could feel it (and chill out), and then we were on our way. It stung a little, but nothing terrible. I think the fact that my sister was there and kept me distracted during the process really helped.
You may be tempted to take Tylenol or Advil before your tattoo appointment to help with the pain, but don’t. They can actually cause heavier bleeding.
Once your piece is finished, your artist will bandage it up. You should leave this on for at least two hours following your session. And definitely tip! Like at a salon, 15-20% is standard.
FOUR. TATTOO AFTERCARE.
So here’s the thing about aftercare: there isn’t really a hard-and-fast guide. Get three tattoo artists in a room and you’re likely to get three different recommendations.
Most tattoos take about two weeks to heal on the surface and a month to heal completely. As pretty as they are, you’re basically creating an open wound in your flesh with a new tattoo. Taking proper care of it will help it heal properly and prevent infection.
For the first two weeks, always make sure your hands are clean before touching your tattoo, and do not let anyone else touch it. Use a fragrance-free soap (I used Dove, my sister uses Method) to wash it two to three times a day, and follow with a super thin layer of healing balm or aftercare lotion. I went to Insight Studios, which provided a small bottle, but many artists recommend Skinfix.
Whatever you do, don’t itch your tattoo or pick at any scabs that form! Itching and scabbing are a normal part of the healing process, but scratching or picking will completely mess with your tattoo, leave you more open to infection, and possibly warp the design. No bueno.
FIVE. WAIT, CAN I SHOWER WITH MY NEW TATTOO? WHAT ABOUT WORKING OUT?
You can shower (I mean, please do), but avoid soaking your new tattoo in water for the first two weeks. That means no baths, swimming, hot tubs, etc. Keep it out of the sun as much as possible, and even after it’s healed, make sure you’re always using an SPF of at least 30 — the sun can cause the ink to fade!
Some people return to their workout routines as soon as a day after, but my artist recommended taking a week off. Sweat + ink = way higher chances of infection. And since I tend to enjoy super-sweaty workouts like heated CorePower Yoga classes and SoulCycle, I figured better safe than sorry. Soul can wait a week!
So there you have it: A Little Leopard’s Guide to getting your first tattoo. Let me know in the comments: do you have any tattoos? Would you ever get one? I feel like I need one on left side, now, to balance myself out!