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What to Do Before You Get a Tattoo

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A list of things to do to prepare for getting a tattoo.

A list of things to do to prepare for getting a tattoo.

Getting a new tattoo is like having a minor medical procedure done. Your skin is penetrated by rapidly moving needles that deposit ink beneath the top layer. Once completed, your tattoo is in fact an open wound, prone to infection and requiring care.

Nobody in their right mind would turn up for a medical procedure without having followed the doctor's recommendations of pre-care. And they certainly would follow all further aftercare instructions to ensure the wound will heal well and not require any further medical intervention.

Considering you're about to spend quite a fair amount of money on your new piece of body art, it's smart to learn how to:

  • prepare yourself and your body for your tattoo—the more comfortable and prepared you are, the longer you will be able to sit.
  • look after your tattoo once you've had it done; help avoid infections so you'll heal without any damage.
  • invest in aftercare lotions and an anti-bacterial wash.

Proper pre-care and aftercare will help with the entire tattoo healing process and help prevent fading and loss of ink.

Leg skeleton tattoo, dot tattoo on male

Leg skeleton tattoo, dot tattoo on male

Pre-Tattoo Consultation With Your Artist

Arrange a pre-tattoo consultation with the artist you have chosen. Your meeting should be at the studio where you will get your new tattoo done.

This appointment gives you the opportunity to check out the studio itself. See where you will be sitting, learn what their infection control procedures are, and ask any questions you may have.

One of the main reasons for your pre-tattoo consultation is to discuss the design of your new tattoo and its positioning on your body. Your artist may possibly draw a quick outline of the shape of your limb on a large piece of paper for a size reference. This may be done if they want to pre-draw your design on a stencil for when you arrive.

Describe to your tattoo artist the feel or theme you wish your tattoo to have. Express color, size, and placement choices. Bring along any reference material you may have, including pictures, colors, and examples.

Remember, this is your tattoo. Do what you want with it, but take into consideration the artist's professional suggestions and opinions. That is what you are ultimately paying them for: their skill, knowledge, and previous experience with tattooing.

Once you have discussed your design, make sure you ask all the following questions.

  1. Approximately how much will this tattoo cost?
  2. How long do you estimate it will take to complete?
  3. How long will each session last?
Girl shoulder tattoo

Girl shoulder tattoo

What to Eat and Drink Before and After Your Tattoo Appointment

When a tattoo is being inked, many tiny needles pierce the skin many times. This can create unwanted bleeding. To avoid excessive bleeding and potential damage...

  • do not drink alcohol 24 to 48 hours before your session,
  • do not consume coffee, and
  • do not take aspirin for pain relief.

Alcohol, coffee, and aspirin are commonly known blood thinners and could result in additional unwanted bleeding.

Drink a lot of healthy fluids, such as...

  • water
  • soup
  • juices
  • herbal teas

It is extremely important to maintain your fluid levels while being tattooed, as dehydration will intensify the discomfort, give you a headache, and make you feel ill.

The night before is not a party night. You will need to get a full night's sleep.

Food: Increase consumption of foods that contain vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and sweet vegetables like sweet potato, cauliflower, and broccoli. This naturally occurring medicine from Mother Nature aids the body's tissue repair and tissue recovery processes.

Do not skip the meal prior to attending your appointment. Provide your body with plenty of sustenance and fuel to last a good few hours on the tattoo table.

Once you've received your tattoo, increase your consumption of garlic and onion. Many naturalists believe they assist in healing due to their anti-microbial properties.

Resist consuming...

  • dairy products: milk, cheese, cream, etc.
  • processed foods
  • sugar

This is due to the belief that they slow down the body's healing process.

Steampunk, clockwork, 3D tattoo

Steampunk, clockwork, 3D tattoo

What to Wear and Bring to Your Tattoo Session

  • Wear comfortable clothing that offers easy access to the body part getting the tattoo.
  • Take an extra pair of clean socks to wear. Make sure they're washed and not full of holes.
  • Have an extra jacket or sweater for when you start to feel the cold. Sometimes, especially when you're having a long tattoo session, your body will begin to shiver. This is an indication that your body is going into shock. Keeping warm will help minimise your discomfort.

Some other items to consider putting in your bag:

  • music and earphones
  • tic-tacs or breath mints
  • water bottle
  • snacks and nibbles
  • change of clothes
  • tattoo aftercare cream
  • a support person (if your studio allows one)
  • camera

How to Prepare Your Body for a Tattoo

During your session, you and your artist are going to be getting right up in each other's personal space for quite a few hours. This includes getting your naked bits out and breathing each other's air.

Make the effort to be a considerate and hygienic client. Don't be the funky-smelling customer of your tattooist's nightmares. So before you leave home, make sure you...

  • brush your teeth.
  • shower with soap.
  • wear fresh, clean clothes.
  • bring Tic-Tacs or breath mints.
  • don't overdo deodorants, perfumes, or colognes.
  • tie your hair up in a ponytail.
  • if your feet smell like death, don't take your shoes off.

You wouldn't think I'd have to put this paragraph in, but ask your tattooist about the foul-smelling people they've had to work on!

Full Chest tattoo on male

Full Chest tattoo on male

Tattoo Aftercare Procedures and Products

Next to actually getting your tattoo, effective tattoo aftercare is the most important aspect of the process. The healing of your tattoo can take up to a month, sometimes more.

Follow the aftercare steps below.

  1. Purchase a good aftercare cream or lotion prior to your appointment.
  2. Ask the artist to use your provided aftercare cream once they have completed the tattoo.
  3. Keep your tattoo wrapped from when you leave the tattoo studio, until you get home and into a clean environment.
  4. Wash all plasma and ink off, with an antibacterial soap, within one to two hours.
  5. Apply aftercare cream sparely.
  6. Wrap your tattoo when you're wearing irritating or tight clothes that may rub and damage your tattoo. Also wrap the tattoo for bedtime for the first three to five days.
  7. Ensure there is plenty of time where your tattoo is not wrapped and is exposed to clean, fresh air.
  8. Avoid dirt and infection.

For more aftercare information and tips, read How to Clean and Treat My New Tattoo?

Chest tattoo on girl

Chest tattoo on girl

Here is where you consider that tattoos are for life and all that other jazz, I don't need to go over that, you should have already considered this fact.

Tattooing your face, hands, or neck can really be a job-breaker. Some artists will not tattoo those areas for a reason, but that's your deal if you're going there.

Now, tattoos hurt. Yes, a heap of needles are being repeatedly scraped over your skin, it is really not a joyous occasion. There are products available that will help with minimizing your pain and discomfort. If you're curious about numbing products, consider reading How to Get a Tattoo and Not Have it Hurt: Tattoo Numbing Cream and Dr Numb.

Good tattoos aren't cheap and cheap tattoos aren't good. Make sure you Find a Good Tattoo Artist Anywhere in the World if you want the tattoo of your dreams.

Good luck with your new tattoo. Hope it all goes well and you love your newly acquired piece of body art!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


dinah on March 28, 2019:

I’m your fan

Anne (author) from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS) on January 03, 2014:

Many thanks dragonflycolor! finally have gotten it back to the right numbers and back up to the 90's! PHEW :)

dragonflycolor on January 03, 2014:

This hub is definitely NOT a 1!