Whether you’re completely for them or against them, you most likely know a handful of people donning tattoos. From a tiny zodiac sign on your wrist to an intricately designed sleeve, tattoos are a way of expression for many. They seem to have become more common and accepted over the years, as shown by successful artists like Kat Von D and tattoo-loving celebrities like Ruby Rose, and their popularity is undeniable amongst the millennial generation.
No matter what your opinion, one thing is for sure, tattoos are a lifelong commitment. We’ve all seen pictures of regrettable tattoos and felt pity for the person who got them. They can be beautiful pieces of art, but they can also be messy mistakes. To avoid making your own poor decisions about tattoos in the future, here are our tips for the best tattoo experience.
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1. The post-tat care might be more work than you expected
When getting a tattoo, especially if it’s your first one, your main focus is typically on the design and placement. It’s important to realize you will have to take care of your tattoo, even months after it is finished, to ensure it heals properly.
Alicia Thomas, a known tattoo artist at The Boston Tattoo Company, tells about the basics of tattoo care. “General rules are; stay out of the sun for two weeks, don't soak your tattoo - of course showers are fine we certainly encourage keeping your tattoo clean but you want to avoid submerging it so baths are off the table. You also want to avoid open bodies of water such as pools, beaches, hot tubs, etc.”
These tips may even alter your decision to get a tattoo in the summer as opposed to the winter - it’s not easy to willingly give up your beach days! As far as cleaning and tending to your tattoo when it peels and itches, Alicia recommends using a plain unscented lotion to moisturize the area and an antibacterial soap to keep it clean.
2. It helps to come prepared with some sort of distraction
Whether this means listening to your favorite playlist or squeezing your friend’s hand, you’ll want a way to give your mind a mini-escape. The repetitive buzzing noise from the tattoo machine definitely isn’t pleasant so it’s helpful to bring some headphones along. As far as friends go, it’s always great to have support during memorable moments in your life. And if they’re your best friends they’ll be sure to keep the atmosphere upbeat for a more positive experience. Some tattoos can take hours to complete depending on their size, so these are both great ways to help the time pass too!
3. Tattoos can make you feel different, in a good way
We can all relate to learning to love our bodies and embracing our unique qualities. Many collegiettes believe tattoos are one way to make women feel empowered. Meggie Cliff, a graduate of the University of Southern Maine, shares how her forty tattoos have given her confidence to be herself, “Having tattoos has helped me feel more beautiful for the stories they tell, my story. All of us have a story to tell. For me, choosing artwork to display mine has helped me become proud of the person I always have been and the person I am constantly growing into. It can take a lifetime for a woman to feel sexy in her body, and we all feel sexy for different reasons. Tattoos are just my way of feeling that.”
Who doesn’t love to feel sexy and confident? Maybe tattoos will be your way to feel fierce about who you are.
4. Some tattoos will hurt more than others
Depending on placement, pain tolerance, and your past experiences, some tattoo sessions will feel more painful than others. Olivia Gagnon, a 23-year-old with twelve tattoos, tells about her more painful experience, “I would say the most painful tattoo I've ever gotten was my tree trunk armband because it runs around the inside of my arm near my armpit. It's very sensitive in the axillary region of the body. You'll notice that a lot of people who are covered in tattoos skip that area.”
Of course, everyone has different opinions about which tattoos hurt the most, Alicia further explains, “It shouldn't really matter if it's a more painful area or not. The pain is temporary and then once it is over you have this beautiful piece on your body forever. The location of it is much more important than the temporary pain, she expresses. Places that are considered a little bit more sensitive are ribs, top of feet, inner bicep, lower back, etc.”
Placement seems to be the crucial decision when getting a tattoo. Pain aside, this should be your focus when deciding on what you want to get.
5. A good tattoo isn’t cheap
Which means a cheap tattoo won’t be good. This is a permanent marking on your body, why wouldn’t you want to pay for a job well done? Mariah Hebert, a senior at St. Joseph’s College, explained her tattoo experiences in regards to pricing, “A good tattoo definitely isn't cheap. You could get a tattoo done anywhere but you want to get someone just as invested in your tattoo as you are. Good tattoo artists usually cost more because they know what they’re doing; they went to school for it and are considered true "artists" in my eyes. Thinking about it in that aspect, you could pay $30 for an ordinary design or you could pay $150-$200 for a better, more detailed one that you're most likely going to genuinely enjoy.”
Don’t be afraid to search for the best artist. Your body is worth a beautifully executed tattoo
6. You should always tip your tattoo artist
Going along with pricing is the tip, which is not included. Tipping is very important and not everyone realizes this. Most tattoo artists will work closely with you to design your tattoo. They will listen, adjust and give suggestions depending on your desires. You are in this process together so it’s common courtesy to tip them out after your final session is done.
How much do you tip? Alicia shares, “As a tattoo artist, talking about tips is a difficult subject matter. I can't say that we expect a tip, however, we certainly appreciate them. There is not a defined percentage that you can go off. When we receive a tip we take it as we did an exceptional job and our client truly appreciates the work and effort we put into the tattoo not only during the actual tattoo time but during the prep time, and the behind the scenes time, where you can find us spending hours drawing up a tattoo.”
Be sure to tip your artist, it’s clearly the respectful thing to do.
7. You’ll get asked, “what it means” a lot
You know that saying, “diamonds are forever?” Well, tattoos are forever too, and you should only get one if you’re fully invested in it. Sure, you may be tempted to get a random one with your friends, but ask yourself first if you truly want it. People will definitely ask you about your tattoos and more often than not it’s a proud moment when you get to share the stories behind them.
Justine Bouthot, a senior at the University of Maine Orono, opens up about what having tattoos means to her: “Personally, both my tattoos have a special place in my heart,” she says.
“Tattoos give you the opportunity to take a piece of your soul and put it outside of your body, on your skin. Tattoos let people inside your heart if it represents something that means a lot to you. When my grandmother died, I got a bible verse tattooed on my back that carried me through the horrible time of her passing. Now I can wear that as armor. I have a part of her with me forever, and that's why I put the words in the shape of a heart.”
Whether your tattoo is a remembrance of someone you love, a symbol for a turning point in your life, or a beautiful piece of art you can carry with you, be sure to get tattoos that you’re proud to have.
One thing is for sure - when deciding to get a tattoo, there are plenty of factors to think about. But if you go into your appointment prepared and aware of the inking process, you'll be sure to love the result.