Your First Tattoo: Do’s and Don’ts

Tattoo.Hankins07Being away from your parents for the first time is liberating. It’s like you can do whatever you want and they’ll never find out. Many students use this as an opportunity to do something that their parents have always forbade – like get a tattoo.

Now before you rush over to Beaver Ave. and get your first ink, take a step back and really think about it.

I get it. As someone who almost got a tattoo three or four times in my freshman year alone, it’s very tempting to just go and permanently ink your body. Two years later, I did get my first tattoo, and I couldn’t love it any more. If you’re seriously considering a tattoo, remember that this a permanent decision, so please, please, please read my do’s and don’ts, because I don’t think I can take listening to another person complain about their bad tattoo.

DO really, and I mean really think about what you want to get

It’s going to be with you forever, not just for the next couple of years. I think tattoos, especially your first, should be meaningful, but ultimately it’s up to you. I suggest that you try to stay away from the “popular” ones though unless it’s always meant something to you, because you’ll probably regret it in five years. Case in point: my cousin’s butterfly tramp stamp that she got on her 18th birthday 12 years ago.

DO make sure you can easily cover it up

Especially if you have (or want) a job where tattoos can’t be visible…. A lot of employers think tattoos are unprofessional, so if you’re really aching for one, put it in a spot that can be easily covered (i.e. foot, shoulder blade, bicep, ribs, or lower stomach). I don’t condone going behind your parents’ backs, but if they’re going to freak out, it’s probably best they don’t see it for a while either.

DON’T go in without doing any research on the place or artists

Creep their shops’ Facebook pages, ask around, look up web reviews, and go visit the shop. There are a ton of things that you find you don’t like about the artists from their work (generally they have a “style”) to their personality. You shouldn’t get something like this done by somebody who makes you uncomfortable.

DO understand that it’ll probably be painful

(Especially if it’s in a bonier area like your feet or rib cage.) Tattoos aren’t for the faint of heart, so if you have a low pain tolerance, you might want to bring someone so you can squeeze their hand. Generally it isn’t excruciating pain, even on the bonier areas (my tattoo on my foot was pretty rough, but I got through it). Don’t go in thinking it isn’t going to hurt at all, though. That being said:

DON’T be under the influence of anything

First of all, most places won’t tattoo or pierce you if you appear to be intoxicated or high, so there’s really no point in being inebriated. A lot of shops make you put down a deposit to hold your appointment, and you’ll just end up losing it.

DO tip the artist

This should go without saying, but not a lot of people know that it’s customary. Think of it as you would with a server in a restaurant: 10% is the bare minimum, 15% is a “job well done” and 20% is someone who impressed you. Chances are you’ll be impressed, so leave the 20%. They deserve it.

DO take care of your tattoo

This is by far the most important part – it’s an open wound, after all. Your artist will give you after-care tips, but the basics you’ll need are an anti-bacterial soap (most artists will recommend Dial) and an unscented lotion for when the skin gets dry. Don’t pick at it when it scabs over and remember to wash it at least twice a day and you’ll be fine.

DO show it off!

It’s a beautiful piece of art – let the world see.

Photo by Tyler Hankins


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