Before you tattoo, what you should know first

“Think before you ink!” Rae Schwarz could not have said it better in his article “How is a tattoo done?” Tattoos are not something that someone should just go get. There are many things to consider before getting inked. Depending on your age and current health will give you an idea just how much you should know. Now days you can look at just about anyone and find a tattoo. Tattoos come in many different designs and can be located on various parts of the body. Getting a tattoo has become a great deal more common than it used to be. But even though people get tattoos everyday, there are things needed to know before you get a tattoo because tattoos can hurt and are usually permanent.

One of the first things that you should find out before you get a tattoo is, are you up to date on your immunizations. Having all your shots will insure that your body will help fight off infection. A MayoClinic article states that “complications are relatively uncommon [but that] skin infections and skin reactions are possible.” Another thing to think about before you tattoo is what, if any medications are you currently taking. Depending on the medication could be a good indicator that you just do not need to get a tattoo at this time. Certain prescriptions can thin out your blood and since getting a tattoo involves penetrating the skin that would not be a good idea. Before you get the tattoo done you have to fill out a confidential paper regarding your health. It is best to be honest when filling out this form and if you have any questionable answers it is best if you wait to get a tattoo until a later time.

Allergies are something that is also very important to think about before you get a tattoo. Check with your family or physician to find out if you are allergic to any of the equipment that is used during the tattoo process. Ask the tattoo shop for a complete list of products that are used to make sure you will not have a reaction to any of them. If you find out that you are allergic to one or more of the products you can check to see if there is a way to use something else in place of it. Chances are though a tattoo is not right for you. However, if you decide to get a tattoo anyway it would be in your best interest to have someone with you in case of an emergency. No matter your situation you should always know where to go and what to do if medical treatment is needed.

Now that you have gotten through the medical stuff you can start to look for the right shop. There are so many places where you can go and get a tattoo. Your job is to find the right one for you. The best way to do that is to talk to friends and family who have received tattoos and ask where they got theirs. What did they think of the shop? Was it clean? Would they return to that same shop is a good way to know a great deal about the service they received? Another way to find out is to go look on your own. Go check out the various tattoo shops in your area. Your first impression is usually the best judge. If you do not like the way the shop looks or if you feel uncomfortable when you are standing there, then leave. Tattoo shops need to be clean and you should be able to find multiple bio hazard containers for the used needles. Many shops also use an autoclave. That is a device that is used to sterilize the equipment between uses. Use that same gut feeling when you are talking with the tattoo artists. If you would not want this person to touch you, chances are they should not be putting a tattoo on you. Do not hesitate to ask the tattoo artist for references or pictures of work that he or she has done. The more experience that the artist has the more at ease you will feel about getting a quality tattoo.

You have the right shop and the tattoo artist you want. But, do you know how the tattoo will be done? According to Rae Schwarz your skin has many layers, each with a different cell structure. The top layer known as the Epidermis is constantly refreshing itself, healing from a scratch or even a sun burn. The second layer is the Dermis that is where that tattoo ink is injected. “If tattoos are done to deeply, into the subcutaneous layer they often loose clarity as the inner layers also don’t hold the ink, absorbing it instead of sloughing it off.” (Schwarz 2008) A tattoo gun penetrates through the first layer of skin and injects the ink into the second layer, only about 1/16th on an inch. (Hudson, 2008) This machine consists of multiple needles attached to a tube and is electronically motorized. The tattoo gun can penetrate your skin thousands of times per minute. The artist will usually first draw the outline of your tattoo. This for some is the hardest part of the process. The artist will then color in the outline; this feels like a continuous scratch or gives a burning sensation. After the initial shock of getting the tattoo done it does not seem to hurt as much. Depending on the location and size of your tattoo will determine just how long the tattoo process will take.

Anyone who has a tattoo can tell you how much it hurt to get. If anyone tells you otherwise they are crazy. I guess it all truly depends on your pain tolerance and where the tattoo is located. The best place to get a tattoo if you are concerned with the pain is a more fatty area. Getting a tattoo near or around a bone will hurt more because your skin layers are not as thick to tolerate the pain. For some people the hardest thing to overcome is the needle itself. An article that Hudson wrote says, “to get your tattoo somewhere on your body where you will not be able to watch the work going on. This helps some to overcome the apprehension, by not actually seeing the needle.” I know from personal experience that the right places for my tattoos are on my back. I could not see them getting done and it was easy for me to sit still,

Ultimately getting a tattoo is something that no one should jump into. There are many factors that need to be considered, from your health to the experience of the artist. But once you have decided to get that tattoo be sure the tattoo is something that you will not regret getting later in life. “Tattoos are meant to be permanent, so their complete removal is difficult. Several techniques exist, but regardless of the method used, scarring and skin color variations are likely to remain.” (MayoClinic 2008) Different tattoo removal methods include: laser surgery, dermabrasion and surgical removal. These methods are very costly and can cause more pain than the original tattoo itself. So be sure that the tattoo is something that you are willing to have for the rest of your life.

Therefore, if a tattoo is something that you are considering; I ask that you take a few extra days and really think about it. The tattoo shop and artist will still be there in a few days. The most important thing you can do is to consider your health. A tattoo is not something to get sick over because you did not know about your health history. Think about what kind of tattoo you want and were you might want it; because after the tattoo is done you cannot just wash it away if you do not like it anymore. Do research on the tattoo shops in your area and find the one that is right for you. Just remember that tattoos are meant to be permanent so make sure you will be happy with the tattoo you get now and also in the future


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Kettle, S. (2008, June 1). How to Pick Your First Tattoo. Retrieved September 6, 2008,

Schwarz, R. (2008). How is a tattoo done? Retrieved August 24, 2008, from BellaOnline
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Tattoos-How to have them done safe and how to remove them. (2006-8). Retrieved
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Tattoos: Risks and precautions to know first. (2008). Retrieved September 6, 2008,