- The complete guide to tattoos
- Types of tattoos
- Possible health risks when getting a permanent tattoo
- Answers to frequently asked medical questions about tattoos
- Getting a tattoo – The who, what and how of getting that ink
- Signs and symptoms of tattoo infection (and what to do about it)
- Tattoo removal
If you've made the decision to get a tattoo, here's a guide to selecting a tattoo artist, what to expect at your appointment and how to take care of your new ink.
How to select a tattoo artist
Once you've decided to get your first tattoo the excitement of picking a design and making an appointment can be intoxicating! But where should you start looking for a trustworthy tattoo artist?
The wide range of options may be daunting, but the most important part of the process is ensuring that you're safe and comfortable.
Asking for recommendations from family and friends is a good place to start but be sure to do your own research too. Not only is important to find an artist who produces high quality work that you love, but also to find out as much as you can about where they work. Read reviews on the shop you’re considering and drop by unannounced to see the establishment for yourself to before taking the plunge.
Always ensure that the tattoo studio you're considering is clean. You should see bottles of disinfectant, clean tattoo needles in sealed packaging and new ink trays at the very least.
The tattoo artists should also wear clean gloves between each tattoo and spend some time disinfecting their hands (before putting these on and every time they are taken off), and cleaning counters and other surfaces before starting your tattoo session. Don't only look at what the person you intend to go to is doing, but also check out the other artists. If everyone is adhering to high standards of cleanliness and hygiene, that is a good sign.
Remember, just because you see latex gloves and the wiping down of surfaces doesn't mean that a studio is safe and clean. For example, some have shared stories about how their artist put on their gloves, cleaned a surface and then wanted to start tattooing them. This is not hygienic! The surface/s should be cleaned first, the artist's hands washed with disinfectant, and gloves then put on to
**MyMed Memo: Always keep a clear head and never get a tattoo while under the influence of alcohol or drugs of any kind. If you feel uncomfortable at any point throughout a consultation or appointment or simply change your mind, you have every right to leave.
What to expect when having a tattoo done
The number one question asked by all those who've never experienced getting a tattoo for is whether or not it 'really hurts' and the answer is simple. Yes.
When you first arrive for your tattoo appointment, your tattoo artist will have you get comfortable and ensure that you're ready to sit still in whichever position you choose for a number of hours. Depending on the size, detail and placement of your tattoo, it could take hours so be prepared for a long session.
Once you're settled, your tattoo artist will shave the area and wipe down your skin with a disinfectant to give him/herself a clean slate.
Depending on where you choose to have your tattoo, the pain factors can be entirely different. It's believed that the least painful places to have a tattoo done are on the forearm, buttocks, and calf. The areas that induce the most pain are those where the bone is closer to the surface of the skin such as they head and neck, the knees, and the spine. Choose your placement wisely!
How to take care of your new tattoo
Now that your tattoo is complete and safely wrapped up, your tattoo artist should explain everything you need to know to care of your new piece of artwork. In case you forget, here they are again:
- After 24 hours, gently remove the bandage placed over the tattoo and wash it with antibacterial soap and water.
- Never rub a new tattoo as it will irritate the skin, but rather simply pat it dry when needed.If recommended by your tattoo artist, use an antibacterial cream and keep the tattoo covered for the first week. Continue to wash away any plasma build-up (this is the liquid that is produced at the tattoo site, it should be nearly clear in colour) at least twice a day and keep your work of art out of the sun. Avoid over-applying lotions and creams (including sunscreen) – a small amount should be sufficient.
- Keep a close eye on your skin, but do not irritate the tattoo too much (no touching, picking scabs, scratching etc). Let it heal and keep your eyes peeled for infection.
- Rest, ice and elevation (where possible) can help to alleviate the swelling and inflammation caused by a new tattoo.
**MyMed Memo: Stay out of hot water, the ocean and swimming pools for 2 to 4 weeks (this is why it’s not a good idea to get a tattoo whilst on holiday.