Are Tattoos Safe?
Yes, as long as you go to a reputable artist that
is following all recommended safety precautions. Find out what
these recommendations are by going through our Safety
Checklist. Remember that no matter
how good or bad an artist may be or how bad you really want a
tattoo, improper sterilization is NOT WORTH THE RISK.
There are blood borne diseases like HIV, Hepatitis and syphilis
that are life treatening and can spread without adequate precautions.
Getting a tattoo can be COMPLETELY SAFE as thousands of people
have tattoos applied each year. Professional tattoo studios have
been in the forefront in implementing proper sterilization techniques
for years, long before it was cool to get a tattoo.
Does Getting a Tattoo
Pain is really relative. Everyone has a different
tolerance to pain. I'm not going to kid you, though - it does
hurt. It’s just not that much. Some have compared it to
a "hot scratching feeling". But, people would not be
returning again and again for tattoo after tattoo if it hurts
that bad! Most of us are not into pain, but the beauty of the
tattoo and the pride associated with wearing it far outweighs
a little pin-stick here and there.
What should I expect when
I go to get my tattoo?
Once you have decided on your tattoo design and
your artist, you will be required to show valid identification
for proof of age. You may also be asked for your address and phone
number, so your artist can contact you in the future if necessary.
In most studios, payment must be made before services are rendered.
It is up to each studio to decide which methods of payment they
After the paperwork is sortedout,
you will be seated in the tattoo chair. Sometimes this is in an
open work area, and sometimes a private room depending on the
location of your tattoo. If you are shy and don't want others
to watch, you can request a private room, but be sure you have
done this in advance. A lot of studios use dentist-style chairs,
some use regular table chairs, and some use benches. Your artist
will do his or her best to make you comfortable for the tattoo
you have chosen.
Now it is time for the preparation.
The area of your body you have chosen for your tattoo will be
cleaned, usually with rubbing alcohol. Then, any hair will be
removed from the area by shaving it with a new disposable razor
which will be discarded after being used. It will be cleaned again
to make sure it is smooth and ready for the transfer.
Most studios today use a thermal-fax
to make their stencils. This saves hours of tracing time by simply
inserting your tattoo design into the machine, and it transfers
it onto a special thermal paper in seconds. Once your stencil
is ready, it's time to create the transfer onto your skin. Some
artists will use soap or water to moisten the skin, and some will
use stick deodorant. This aids in making the design transfer onto
your skin. When the paper is pulled away from your skin, it will
leave you with a bluish outline of your future tattoo.
Then your artist will start preparing
their tattoo machine. The inks will be placed in little tiny cups
called "ink caps", and the needles and tubes will be
removed from their sterile pouches and placed in the machine.
Clean, distilled water will be poured into a cup for cleaning
the needles during the tattoo process and to change from one color
to the next. Some A&D ointment or Vaseline will be placed
on a clean surface for your use only.
Now it is time to get down to
serious business! A little ointment will be placed over your transfer
design for a few reasons. One is that it helps keep the transfer
on longer without accidentally rubbing it off, and it also helps
the needle to slide along the skin more smoothly, which is certainly
going to be more comfortable for you. After the ointment is applied,
it is time for the first line. If you're nervous, don't hold your
breath. Some people have passed out during a tattoo, and trust
me - it wasn't the pain, it was the panic! Take a nice, slow,
deep breath and try to relax. The first minute or so will be the
roughest. After that, your skin will kind of get used to it and
the pain will begin to subside.
Once all the line-work is done,
it's time to get creative with a little shading and possibly color.
Depending on the size of your tattoo, your artist may switch to
a different type of needles called magnums (or mags) which are
designed for coloring and shading. They may even switch tattoo
machines altogether. The shading and coloring can go along quite
quickly, and before you know it...you've got a complete tattoo.
Your artist may like a picture
of your tattoo for their portfolio. They'll clean it up real good,
and sometimes even apply a hot towel to it first. Then they'll
take a picture, and this is a good time for you to get a shot,
too, if you brought a camera along. Taking a photo after the protective
ointment is applied causes a glare, so it is best to do it now.
If for any reason you do not want the artist to take a photo,
just say so. You are not under obligation to let them.
Now that your tattoo is finished
and clean, it needs to be treated just like a wound. A protective
layer of ointment will be applied to the tattoo to prevent invasion
of airborne bacteria that can cause infection. Then a bandage
will be applied, and it will be taped up to make sure it is secure.
It is important that you keep this bandage on for the amount of
time your artist instructs, which brings us to our last step:
Your artist will now give you
aftercare instructions. These should be given both verbally, and
on a piece of paper for you to take home with you. It is important
that you listen and follow the instructions you are given. From
this point on, it is your responsibility to make sure your tattoo
is well taken care of. The artist cannot be blamed if you get
an infection because you didn't follow directions.
How Can I Find Pictures
of a Specific Tattoo?
If you're getting a tattoo, especially as an expression
of your individuality, why would you want a tattoo just like someone
else's? Instead, find other pictures of what you're looking for
and have your artist draw up a custom design for you. Example:
If you want a tattoo of a penguin standing on a glacier, find
real photos of penguins and glaciers. If you want a tattoo of
a blue rose wrapped around a cross, find pictures of real roses
and crosses that you like. If the pictures don't show exactly
what you want, just take them to your artist to use them as guidelines
and tell them what changes you want made to the original pictures.
A real artist will welcome the challenge of a custom piece.
How Much do Tattoos
Cost? Why are they so expensive?
When it comes to tattoos, you get what you pay
for. Prices are established according to a "sterilization
fee" or "base cost" - each studio has to cover
the cost of medical supplies like disinfectants & autoclave
disposables, and are also dependant on the size, color and amount
of detail of the tattoo. If any studio does it dirt cheap, they
are probably using RECYCLED needles and EQUIPMENT on you. BEWARE.
Yes, there are plenty of people tattooing out there that will
ink you real cheap, and you'll be crying to a real artist to have
it covered up. And not forgetting the health issues that may crop
up several months or years down the road. Look for quality, and
be willing to pay for it. NEVER haggle over the price of a tattoo.
It is disrespectful to the artist. If you can't pay for quality,
don't bother. This is not a bargain bin. It is a piece of art
you will wear for life. Remember this "The bitterness
of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price
Are Tanning and Sunbathing
OK with a Tattoo?
THE SUN IS YOUR TATTOO’S WORST ENEMY
It’s no secret that tanning isn't really
good for your skin anyway, but it's even harder on your tattoos.
Ultraviolet rays, while adding a nice bronze tone to your skin,
drain the life out of a tattoo. The more you tan, the more the
ink fades and slowly goes from brilliant to boring.
Does that mean your tanning days are over? Well, I guess that
depends on how much you love your tattoos and want them to stay
bright and looking their best.
If you absolutely must go soak up some rays, at least be sensible
and use sun block. Find the highest SPF level you can find and
re-apply often if you're going to spend a lot of time outside.
If you just can't accept having pasty white skin and your goal
is to go out and get some color, make sure you at least protect
your tattoos with as much sunscreen as possible.
What Tattoo Should I Get
and Where Should I Put it?
This is all a matter of personal taste. You can get whatever you
want, and whatever your artist is willing to do. But bear in mind
that tattoos should be chosen for a lifetime. You can choose a
picture off the wall, or you can have them create a custom piece
just for you. Your only limit is your own imagination. As far
as where you should get it goes, just keep in mind what you do
for work and the type of social circles you are in. You might
want to consider placing your tattoo where it can be easily covered
up with normal clothing.
Can I Still Get
a Tattoo if I'm Sick?
Getting a tattoo when your immune system isn't
at 100% isn't a good idea. You're going to need your strength
and your white blood cells to heal your tattoo, something your
body won't be able to do if it's already doing battle against
virus and bacteria. Not to mention the fact that it's very inconsiderate
to bring your illness into the tattoo studio and risk passing
the germs onto others, particularly your artist. If you have an
appointment, call and reschedule for when you're feeling well
Is my Tattoo Infected?
If you think your tattoo might be infected, don't
sit around waiting for it to get worse! Signs of infection are
severe pain, hot redness, swelling and/or a puss discharge (with
or without the presence of blood). Infection that is not properly
tended to can result in serious health consequences and even death.
It is not something to be taken lightly. Contact your artist immediately
and ask for his advice.
Can a Mole be Tattooed
Although moles are usually benign and we go through
life ignoring them, there is always the possibility that a mole
could serve as an indicator of cancer. This makes the preservation
of a mole important. One of the ways a mole can indicate a problem
is by changing color. If it has been tattooed over with pigment,
it may hinder your ability to spot any color differences. For
your safety, it is best that a mole not be tattooed over.
However, a mole can be tattooed around. Sometimes moles are even
incorporated purposely into the design to serve an artistic purpose.
Be sure to keep an eye on your mole for any changes in size or
color, and see a doctor immediately if it does.
Why is my Tattoo
Peeling and Flaking Off?
Peeling and flaking of a new tattoo is perfectly
normal. Before it actually begins to peel, the tattoo will look
like it's covered with a whitish, cracking film. Then you'll see
white or translucent flakes of old, dead skin start to peel off
and some of the flakes may even contain some ink. Sometimes you
can actually see a duplicate image of part of your tattoo peeling
off - it's rather disconcerting, but it is also perfectly normal
and there is no need to panic. It's a lot like a snake shedding
its skin. Just add a little lotion (a LITTLE) to the tattoo to
help keep it moist and encourage those flakes to come off. Do
NOT scratch, pick or peel them. It will all be done in a few days
and the color of your tattoo will start to return to normal.
How do I chose Tattoo
Studios or Artists?
Your first impression of the studio should
be it looks and smells clean. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
The artist should be fully knowledgeable on the subject of tattooing,
sterilization and able to answer any other questions. You need
to judge the artist on their skills, training and knowledge in
the work they are presently producing. Once you have inspected
the studio, have spoken with the artist and feel comfortable that
they meet your expectations for quality, the only decision you
have left is to decide on the tattoo.
Does a Tattoo Restrict
Physical activity (non-contact sports) is usually
OK to continue when you get a new tattoo as long as you take extra
good care of it. If you get sweaty, take a shower and clean it
as soon as you can. If you're a body builder, just avoid lifting
weights with that particular muscle for a few days so you don't
stretch it too much. Keep it covered if it has to come in contact
with any tight clothing that may rub during movement, but remove
any covering as soon as your workout is completed.
Contact sports like football and wrestling, however, are much
more potentially damaging for a new tattoo. In this case, a tattoo
would really not be a wise choice unless it was possible to avoid
the sport for at least a couple of weeks.
Is it Disloyal to
Change Tattoo Artists?
Changing to a different artist that just happens
to work in the same studio as your other artist can be really
touchy. So, what should you do if you find yourself in this situation?
If you're not happy with the results you are getting, then by
all means you should find an artist that you can feel comfortable
with. We're talking about ink you will no doubt be wearing for
the rest of your life, and you should never settle for less. But
if they are a nice person and you are concerned about their feelings,
here are some words of wisdom from some experienced forum members:
• "Collectors do just that. Collect, sometimes from
one artist, sometimes from many. Besides, why would you give money
to someone who you feel isn't doing their best?"
• "This is your body forever; if the artist isn't doing
what you want you have every right to switch."
• "A short term regret is much better than a long term
one, meaning an unwanted tattoo."