Fun fact about me: I have 2 tattoos. Despite being told on numerous occasions that I’m one of the people you’d least expect to have a tattoo, I actually adore both of mine (and am practicing a whole lot of self-control to stop myself from getting more). Having gone through the process twice now, I feel like I at least have a little expertise to let you know what you’re getting into if you’ve made the decision to get inked (or are in the process of deciding if you want to).
1. It’s with you for life
If you’re around my age, you’ve definitely heard this one from your parents a million times. In their defense, it’s a pretty good thing to think about. Whatever you decide to ink onto your body is going to be there for a long time, so you need to think about if you’re still going to love it in another 20 years.
2. It won’t hurt as bad as you think
A tattoo involves needles, but not really the type of needle you’re probably used to. It doesn’t feel anything like a shot you may get at a doctor’s, because a) the needle is smaller, and b) it’s not going as deep. I was expecting a ton of pain when I got my first one, and the pain was so inconsequential I barely even felt it. The closer it gets to bone, the more it’ll start to actually hurt.
3. … or it may hurt more than you think
Of course, I have an almost-abnormally-high pain tolerance. Don’t use that previous point as a reason to go into your tattoo appointment expecting nothing more than a tingle. Some people are more sensitive to the sensation than others, so it’s all a matter of your personal pain tolerance. Just don’t freak yourself out over imagining you’re getting stabbed in the process, because it’s not like that.
4. Professionalism is a consideration
As much as many offices are moving into more casual environments, tattoos still appreciate a bit of a taboo in many professional industries. My tattoos are on my foot and my hip, both of which are completely covered when I’m wearing professional clothing. If you know you want to go into a career path you expect to be less-than-friendly toward visible tattoos, take that into consideration. If, however, you plan on pursuing a career as a rock star or a tattoo artist, by all means, go crazy.
5. Research, research, research
Look up your state’s tattoo parlor regulations. Georgia, for example, doesn’t regulate strictly, which means it’s up to the individual places to actually maintain a sanitary environment. If your state/country is like that, do a ton of research on the place you want to go to make sure that they’re safe and clean. Even if your state/country has strict regulations, still do some research on the tattoo parlor to make sure that you know the artist you’re getting. Particularly if you want a detailed tattoo or are going in with a vague idea of what you want rather than a perfectly made design, the artist’s skill will play a huge role in the final product. Don’t become one of those people on a BuzzFeed article about “tattoos gone wrong.”
6. Timing is key
After getting a tattoo, you’ve got certain restrictions on your activity to ensure you don’t mess up the healing process. For example, you usually can’t go swimming because the pool can cause the tattoo to get infected. You also generally have to avoid too much heavy activity right afterwards – the one on my foot required that I avoid any long-distance running for a week or so. So maybe don’t get a tattoo in the middle of summer or right before a 5K.
With these things in mind, you’re golden. Go forth and get tatted, meanwhile I’ll be living vicariously through you because I’m not allowing myself a new one.