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How to prepare for your first tattoo

By Rodrigo Verney, May 27 2022—

Tattoos are great. The centuries-old practice has conquered the hearts of many as a form of self-expression. Those who have tattoos can’t get enough of them, and those that don’t have any certainly thought about getting some. Tattoos and tattoo art have evolved over the years — and it’s definitely here to stay.

However, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the tattoo world. When it comes to something that can be on your skin for life, information has to be readily available. Whether you’re thinking about getting one or already have one, it is necessary to understand how to take the best care of your tattoo. 

It is important to note that these are only tips on how to make sure your tattoo heals properly and how to extend the life of your tattoo. If you feel like there’s something wrong with your tattoo, you should first go talk to the tattoo artist that gave you your fresh ink — they will know what to do. This is not to kickstart your anxiety though. The percentage of people who experience a complication after getting a tattoo is very low and you can minimize those chances by taking proper care of your art..

Doctor Dailhung Do, a former instructor in dermatology at the Harvard Medical School, said in an article for Harvard health that “Tattoo-related infections aren’t common, but they do happen.” This is the perfect Segway into the most important topic to consider prior to getting a tattoo — always search for a neat, reputable, and well-recommended studio. Chances are you might know someone who already had their tattoo done at the same place you’re considering going. Ask them for their opinion on the studio and crosscheck their information with a quick online search to understand the best place to fit both your tattoo style and your expectations.

It always pays off to think with your wallet. However, tattooing is no saving matter. It is crucial to understand that you’re paying for something that’s probably going to be on your body for the rest of your life. Most importantly, it can only be done right once. Get to know the repertoire of your tattoo artist. Match their styles to see if the artist is the best fit for your specific tattoo. Take the time to understand their rates. They might be a little higher than you would expect, but most of the time this pays off by itself. Tattoo removal is still a very expensive procedure and it can lead to nasty scars. The price that you’re paying right now will save you from paying a bigger price later.

Once you’ve found your artist, it’s time to really decide exactly what your tattoo will look like. This is a hard choice, but it doesn’t have to be as stressful as it’s usually thought to be. Choose your tattoo based on what makes sense for you. A lot of people that believe first tattoos should have meaning behind them — but this is not true. If you love an image for the sake of that image then it is as valid as if it had an intrinsic meaning behind it.

Now it’s time to decide placement. If you don’t know where you would like your tattoo to be, a rule of thumb is to do it in a place that won’t be very visible, such as on your triceps and obliques.  They are easy to forget about and provide enough area so that if you want to continue tattooing, you can fill up the surrounding area. Other areas like your back or your legs is also common for those who wish to hide their tattoos. After all of this is said and done, the next step is just to relax as much as possible and enjoy the experience — it’s not as painful as people make it out to be.

Congratulations! You just got your first tattoo done — but now comes the most crucial part. The real struggle is having to take care of your new tattoo. You have to remember that your tattoo is technically an open wound on your skin and it has to be treated like such. Firstly, don’t remove the protective seal unless instructed to do so by your artist. They are the most experienced with this process and can help you during this phase of your healing process. If you can’t contact your artist, the general rule is to wait around a week if you have a tropical protective seal. However, if you have a regular seal, three to five days can get the job done. This protective seal will soak up the extra ink and protect your open wound from infections. 

During this time it is possible that your tattoo starts to itch a little. That is not a problem, but you should not scratch it. This can damage the healing process and deteriorate your tattoo in the long run. The same preservation mentality applies to sunlight. It is best to avoid direct sunlight during the period that you have your protective seal on. Depending on the placement and how big your tattoo is, you might also have to let go of physical activities for around a week. It may seem like a problem now, but avoiding sunlight and exercise can actually help your tattoo look its best for a longer time as it protects the tattoo from undesirable effects like fading. It is also best to wait around one or two days before resuming your normal activity. Once your piece is healed, it is best to rub a coat of sunscreen over the tattoo every time you put yourself through an activity where sunlight will be directly over it.

Depending on the size, colour amount, and placement of your tattoo, scabs can start to form. Do not worry, this is a very common and natural part of the healing process. Picking the scabs is actually one of the most common ways to put you and your tattoo in danger as it opens up the wound to bacterial infection. If you picked on your tattoo, seek advice from your professional and observe for possible puss — that is the most common sign of infection. You also might find that the area you got tattooed feels very dry. This is also perfectly normal, but it can be good to rub some moisturizer over it.

It may seem like a lot now, but in practice, getting a tattoo is a joyful process. A tattoo can mean so much. It speaks to your character. It is a true demonstration of identity and uniqueness, so be sure to have fun with it. Do it because it comes from a place of truthfulness with yourself. Only proceed once you’re comfortable with the idea and sure of the execution. That feeling of excitement and realization, once it’s done, is so gratifying that you will wish you could have done it all over again. If you’re ready, go get tattooed. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

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