Thinking About Getting a Tattoo? 9 Things to Consider Before Getting Inked

Kristen Bousquet

In the past, tattoos were relegated to certain fringe “types” like punk rockers and bikers. These days, however, it seems like pretty much everyone—even seemingly wholesome celebrities—are getting inked. There’s no denying that the right tattoo can look incredibly cool, whether it’s a small symbol on your foot like Lea Michele or Nicole Richie, or on your neck like Vanessa Hudgens. Of course, very visible arm art in the style of Lena Dunham, Megan Fox, or Angelina Jolie can also add a certain amount of edge to your look.

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But, while ink can look fierce and fearless, there are some things every girl needs to know before they hit the parlor, including safety risks, price comparison, and the best of time of year to under the needle. Here, we’ve rounded up 9 factors to consider befoer getting inked.

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Vanessa Hudgens (Getty)

Whenever you’re injecting a substance into your skin, there’s a risk of infection. Some risks include hepatitis, staph, or warts. Using unsterilized tools such as needles, guns or ink can lead to infection, so you’ll want to make sure that your tattoo artist is following safety rules (see below) to keep you healthy and infection free. This risk of infection is why the American Association of Blood Banks requires a one-year wait to give blood after you get your tattoo. The first week after  is the most important time to take all the precautions suggested to guard against infection.

celebrity tattoos

Pop star Iggy Azalea’s ink. (Getty)

According to WedMD, There’s also a small chance that you could be allergic to tattoo pigment. If you are, it can be troublesome since the pigments are so hard to remove. It’s even possible to have an allergic reaction if you’ve had your ink for years. Granulomas—nodules that may form around material that the body sees as foreign—are also a risk. Keloids (scars that grow beyond normal boundaries) may also form anytime you injure or traumatize your skin. If you’re prone to them, you can be at risk that they might form after you get inked.

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You should make sure that you’re going to a reputable tattoo parlor with experienced artists because chances are they know the correct safety procedures for tattooing. Your tattoo artist should have an autoclave and sterilization certification (don’t be afraid to ask to see them!). You also need to make sure that your artist is wearing gloves. Ointment, ink, water and other items should be returned to a universal container after it has been removed for use on a client.

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Lena Dunham (Getty)

Tons of people make a decision to get their tattoo on whim or when they’re young and then regret them. This is where tattoo removal comes in. Tattoo removal can be painful—like the snap of a rubber band followed by the feeling of a sunburn. Depending on the size of your tattoo, getting your tatt removed by lasers can cost $250-$850 per session and you could need anywhere from 1-10 sessions to get it completely removed.

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The level of pain that you’ll experience during your tattoo can vary from person to person. If we’re being honest, it hurts. But it’s not the type of pain you’re probably thinking of. It doesn’t feel like you’re getting stabbed or anything that extreme. It’s more of an annoying pain—like a hot scratching feeling. Also, depending on where you’re getting ink, it could hurt more where there’s less skin separating the needle from your bones or nerves.

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Studio Nicholson Spring 2013

With tattoos, it’s not really the time to skimp. Make sure that you do your research into cost, and be wary if an artist charges substantially less than others around him or her. It’s obviously better to pay more for a legitimate artist rather than the guy with the tattoo gun down the street. Also, you never want to bargain with your tattoo artist—they see it as disrespectful, and let’s face it: You don’t want your tattoo artist to be on your bad side when they’re putting permanent ink on your body.

Tipping is also essential for your tattoo artist—20% is customary, just as it is for a nail technician or a hairstylist. Of course, you can tip more if it’s a huge, time-consuming job.

Time of Year
Some experts say the best time to get inked is during a time when your tattoo will have ample time to heal and be covered. Summer is an iffy time for a visible tattoo, since your skin gets more abuse during the warmer months with things like swimming, tanning (even inadvertent tanning), and the fact that we simply wear less clothing.

It’s not the best idea to get your tattoo if you’re sick—you’ll need your immune system to be at 100%. Your white blood cells are what help heal your tattoo and if your body is busy battling against virus and bacteria, your cells won’t be able to work as hard or as fast. If you already have an appointment and then get sick, call and reschedule.

We all know that tanning is already a bad idea, but tanning with tattoos is an even worse. Ultraviolet rays essentially drain the life out of your tattoo, and the more you tan, the more your ink will fade and slowly lose it’s color and shape. If you really have to catch some rays, then make sure you wear sunscreen with the highest SPF level that you can find.

When you get a tattoo, the area will be completely shaved before your tattoo is applied, so you’ll be starting with a smooth canvas. After a few days, stubble may begin to grow and you’ll feel the urge to nix it, but shaving can be incredibly brutal on your tattoo. Since your wound is still fresh, it raises the risk of damaging your artwork. It’ll be safe to shave again once your tattoo is done with the peeling stage, so be sure to ask your tattoo artist for a time frame.