All I Know About Tattoos

Yesterday I got my eighth tattoo which you can hopefully see above - it is fairly boring, Roman numerals for the number thirteen but it means something significant to me. If you are attempting to work out where it is placed due to the odd angle it is on the outside of my right foot, below the ankle bone beside my heel - as awkward to describe as it was to tattoo! Anyway I thought I'd sit down and wax lyrical about tattoos and hopefully pass on a little advice - a learn from my mistakes post if you will. I do want to stress that this post is based on my experiences and is not meant to be taken as professional advice in any shape or form!

Do your research
I'm not talking about your design which you shouldn't pick on a whim anyway but where you will go to get tattooed. Tattooing is a big business now with even the smallest of towns having a tattoo parlour but just because it is local doesn't mean that this the one you must go to. Ask about, Google the shop, go in and look at their portfolio's ask questions to both the staff and yourself. Such as does the place not only look clean but smell clean, does the quality of work reflect your expectations, do they ask for I.D to prove you are of age? Basically you are marking your body for life it's not something any of us should rush into and if you have any doubts about a tattoo parlour don't go it is as simple as that. If any of your friends, family or acquaintances have tattoo work you admire ask them for a recommendation and maybe start from there. In my opinion word of mouth and physical evidence of a good tattoo is far more important than what you'll read after a Google search.

As long as the tattoo isn't offensive I can't see the problem. It is your body and if you want to get the entire cast of Sesame Street tattooed on your body for all to see I say go for it (I once tried to get a Tigger tattoo on my backside when I was 17 luckily the tattooist asked for I.D or I'd now have a cartoon character that required his own address. Damn Latina gene pool). The same goes for placement - your body, your rules but some employers may not have the same view so if you work in a profession that frowns upon tattoos I would plump for somewhere that can be covered easily if needed by clothing. I normally sit on a tattoo idea for anything up to a year - if I still want the design a good few months later chances are I'm not going to regret it further down the line. I haven't always been this cautious once on a girls holiday five years ago along with a few friends I decided to get a tattoo which I pretty much made up on the spot. Fast forward to today and I utterly loathe the design (musical notes) and where it was placed (behind my ear). Generally speaking I would go for something small as your first tattoo to allow you to a gauge the process. A good tattooist will advise against certain areas due to how they age - for example I did want my newest tattoo closer to the sole of my foot but was told that the skin there regenerates so often that my tattoo would fade within a year. 

Every tattooist is different some have set prices per design others charge by the hour - the more in demand a tattooist is typically the more you can expect to pay. Is it true you get what you pay for? Not always I have seen some pretty amazing tattoos that cost next to nothing as they were done by a lesser known artist/studio and on the flip side awful quality that cost the earth. I personally would rather pay more to secure a decent artist (my numerals cost £40 which is about average for something on such scale) that end up with something I regret also have you seen the cost of laser tattoo removal? Ouch and double ouch at the pain of a laser burning your skin.

Speaking of pain of course you are going to feel it (anyone who says otherwise is a liar) but I personally believe the waiting period before being tattooed especially when it is your first inking to be worse than the tattoo. I can recall my very first tattoo from start to end - in fact I got up and ran away as soon as the machine made that pneumatic drill noise. I was eventually coaxed back into the seat and the rest they say is history. In my experience each tattoo has its own pain level - the more tense you are the more it will hurt too.  In my opinion sometimes the process is more annoying than painful, other times  it feels like someone is scratching you (essentially what is happening to the skin anyway) and on occasion it somewhat feels like a burn. Like I said each tattoo is different. Some of my tattoos I barely felt at all others had me wincing at certain points but all were bearable as the pain is not continuous. Yes you feel it when the needle is on your skin but as soon as he/she lifts it away it stops smarting. I've never known or heard of a tattooist who won't give you a break if you need it nor has anyone ever said to me that after being tattooed that the pain was so excruciating that they would never get another. Quite the opposite. Some parlours do offer numbing cream (a local anaesthetic) but I have no experience what so ever with that.

I don't want to scare anyone but I do think you should know all the facts before being tattooed and the truth is some people do pass out during the process. I'm by no means the bravest person (I still get in a tizzy about going to the dentist) and it has yet to happen to me but sometimes nerves and adrenaline get the better of people. If you are prone to fainting let the tattooist know before hand - it will have happened to them several times before so it is nothing to be embarrassed about but that way they can prepare i.e have you on a bed rather than a chair etc. To minimise the chances of that happening eat a good meal a few hours (2-3) before your visit and wear cool, breathable and comfortable clothing.

Your Tattooist
Ensure you are happy with whoever you choose as you are trusting them to mark you for life, ask as many questions as you want both before and after your tattoo. A good tattooist will put your mind at ease and will talk you through the process which in my opinion made it far less daunting. Insist on watching them set up the machine so you can see that the needle being used is fresh the same applies for the ink well and insist they wear rubber gloves. It may sound demanding but any tattooist who is insulted by such requests isn't worth your time or money and that is the advice from an established tattooist not me!

The Healing Process
Any good parlour will give you advice from start to end but in case you are curious (I know I would be) it generally involves keeping your freshly inked tattoo covered for a few hours. Once the dressing is removed you should let the tattoo breathe for a few hours before gentle washing with warm water before applying an ointment cream - I tend to use Bepanthen, which is commonly used for nappy rash but as it is a breathable cream many tattooists do recommend it for keeping the tattoo moist. Depending on the size of your tattoo you will be told how often to apply any ointment/tattoo goo etc - I've to do it 3 times daily maximum and keep it out of water for 7-10 days. In other words a shower is fine (again dependant on the size of your tattoo) but a bath is not. Most tattoo's will scab during the healing process (the bigger the tattoo, the bigger the scab and the more prone to becoming itchy it will be) it is important to allow the scab to fall off naturally. Don't however tempting it may be pick at it as you will ruin the tattoo and will have to go back and have an area redone which is never fun. Any good studio will send you home armed with an after care leaflet and many sell any creams they may recommend on site.

Like I said I am by no means an expert but if I can help out any further do let me know below and I'll do my best to answer any questions you may have.