For as long as I can remember, I’ve always known I wanted to get tattoos.
As of writing this, I have four tattoos; one on either wrist, one on my left forearm and one on my back. One of those (the rose on my wrist) is technically a coverup of my first ever tattoo, so in total, I’ve had five so far.
I also have three other designed (one for each thigh and a sternum piece) which I’m saving up to get, with two more that I’m working on – one for my other forearm and the other for the back of my right calf.
While I’m by no means an expert on tattoos, I wanted to write a post about my experiences getting tattooed, and just give a few basic tips for anyone who’s thinking of getting their first tattoo, but might be scared or uncertain of what to expect.
One of the questions I get asked quite regularly is “how much do they hurt?”, and the answer is that they all had different levels of pain to them.
Both my wrists were quite easy, and even the cover-up didn’t really hurt more than a 3 – although it did start to get a little tender towards the end of the session.
The next would be the butterfly on my upper left arm, which at the beginning was only a 3, but it moved up to about a 5 once he was doing the colour.
Not because having colour hurts more (I honestly think the outline was more painful in that sense) but because the longer I sit for a tattoo, the more my body swells up and gets irritated.
Which obviously causes it to hurt more.
The tattoo that hurt the most, probably around a 6/7, was the lotus on my back.
I actually got this one done at a charity event for the animal rescue charity that my mum works for, and that my regular tattoo artist was raising money for.
It took less time than both of my colour tattoos, but as it is on your spine and vibrating onto the bone, it hurt a lot more than the others.
Even then the pain wasn’t unbearable.
I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to pain, to if I can sit for it, there’s a good chance anyone else can too!
Tattoo Tip #1: Make sure you eat before you go
This is especially important if you’re someone who struggles with needles or blood and might start to feel lightheaded while having a tattoo done, especially if it’s your first time.
Don’t overstuff yourself as that could make you feel nauseous, but just make sure you’ve had a sandwich or something similar and that you won’t be getting hungry any time soon.
There’s nothing wore than your belly rumbling every 5 seconds, and knowing you still have an hour of your sitting left!
Tattoo Tip #2: Stay Hydrated
Obviously I’d encourage you to make sure you’re drinking as much water throughout the day as possible anyway, but this is especially important when getting a tattoo.
Having well-hydrated skin can help your body absorb the ink, and can make the whole process smoother and easier, not just for you but for the artist as well.
As far as I know, it’s advised to start increasing the amount of water you drink around 12-16 hours before you’re scheduled to get the tattoo, so it has time to make a difference.
Downing 8 glasses of water 5 minutes beforehand won’t really do much, except guaranteeing you’ll have to interrupt your sitting for a toilet break!
Tattoo Tip #3: Don’t be afraid to ask for a break
When I first started getting tattoos, I was too embarrassed to ask for a break. I thought my artist would think I was a wimp and be mentally rolling his eyes at me.
Now I take one whenever I start to feel uncomfortable, even if it’s just to stand up and stretch for a few minutes.
Sitting in the same position for hours at a time is uncomfortable, so don’t feel embarrassed at needing to take a few minutes to shift position, wake up muscles that have gone to sleep, and give your skin a quick break from being tattooed.
Considering your artist is probably bent over in an uncomfortable position as well, I’m sure they’ll be grateful for a chance to stretch too!
Tattoo Tip #4: Pack some snacks
Snacks are a great way to keep your sugar up and make sure you don’t get hungry.
Being tattooed speeds your metabolism up and burns quite a few calories apparently, so having something to snack on (especially if you’re going to be getting tattoed for a few hours) is a smart idea.
Tip #5: Don’t drink alcohol or do drugs
Do I even need to explain this one?!
Alcohol and drugs can not only change your personality, possibly making you aggressive or difficult to work on, but they also make your blood thinner.
This will make you bleed more while you’re being tattooed, and make things harder than they need to be for your artist.
Tip #6: Try to avoid taking painkillers
Similar to drinking alcohol or doing illegal drugs, taking painkillers can also thin your blood, so try to avoid taking them beforehand if possible.
Obviously some people take painkillers every day due to chronic pain, like my dad does, so when he got his tattoo he just made sure to tell his artist beforehand.
Tip #7: Wear comfortable clothes
This one is a must-do for me, especially if I know I’m going to be sat in the same position for a long time.
I’ll usually make sure I’m wearing a sports bra rather than a regular bra, as they restrict my breathing quite a bit at the best of times, and I don’t fancy having an asthma attack halfway through getting a tattoo!
It’s also a good idea to consider where you’ll be getting the tattoo, and make sure you’re wearing something that will make it easy to get to that spot.
For example, if you’re having it on the top of your thigh, shorts or a skirt/dress might be a better option than skinny jeans…
Tip #8: Distract yourself
At the end of the day, no matter how high your pain threshold or the position you’re getting it, having a tattoo will hurt to some degree.
If you can’t take someone with you to keep you distracted, and you don’t feel comfortable talking to your artist, you could read a book or listen to some music/a podcast/audiobook instead.
What are your top tips for getting tattooed?