Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Tattoo (and Never Thought to Ask)

Movies like to portray getting inked as a crazy, drunken mistake. Luckily, it’s actually very difficult to find a reputable tattoo artist who will so much as get near you with a needle if you have alcohol in your system, and for most people a tattoo is a form of self-expression and a symbol of meaning, hope, and even whimsy.

However, you can have the best of intentions and still not be fully prepared for everything that a tattoo entails. But rest easy!

Here at GenTwenty we have all the info you’ll need on getting tatted, from the basics to the questions you never thought to ask.

1. You should love your artist.

This is not to say that personality trumps talent and experience. Don’t forgo the Yelp check and Google reviews. But no five star rating can replace working with an artist you trust.

This person will be sticking needles into your skin and putting permanent art on your body. If you don’t feel comfortable asking criticizing, voicing concerns, and asking questions (no matter how “stupid” you think they are), then I advise parlor hopping until you find an artist with whom you have a personal connection.

2. Things can go wrong.

I don’t want to scare you away, but potential mistakes are something to keep in mind. This is just one more reason to find an artist you can trust with your concerns. I used to think that every tattoo came out perfectly: crisp lines, deep colors. I was wrong, and did not find that out until I got a blowout on my new tattoo.

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While I luckily got away with small blurs that can only be seen if you squint hard enough, then there are enough horror stories (with pictures!) online to make you think thrice before getting inked. Like the rest of the tattoo, a blowout is permanent.

3. There is no grace period for aftercare.

If the tattoo community had to agree on only one rule it would be this: keep your tattoo well covered and out of the sun for at least two weeks if not four to six. You cannot put sunblock on a tattoo until it is completely healed, otherwise you risk infection and possibly other nasty effects.

My own tattoo is three words and is less that two inches long, so I was fully healed after two weeks, but to be safe I did not use sunblock until four weeks had passed. This is why the middle of summer is not a good time to get tatted!

4. There is a lot of conflicting information out there — even among the ink gurus.

No two artists seem to agree on what kind of healing ointment to use during the healing period, but my own experience speaks volumes.

The artist who did my tattoo instructed me to use Aquaphor. Five days after using unscented Aquaphor, part of my tattoo had faded. I did some amateur research on the Internet, only to find that Aquaphor, vitamin E oil, and petroleum, three of the most popular ointments for aftercare, have the potential to drain color from new tattoos.

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Petroleum is the greatest offender when it comes to fading, and that includes creams that contain a high content of petroleum. After Aquaphor faded my tattoo I spoke with the artist. Unfortunately, he was not receptive to my concerns and I was very uncomfortable with how he handled the situation, so I found a new artist who eased my worries and was willing to do a touch up.

Meanwhile I checked out other options for healing lotions. After watching this video I decided to try unscented Lubriderm on my touched up tattoo. It worked beautifully and kept my skin well moisturized which sped up the healing process.

5. You will be caring for your tattoo for the rest of your life.

Caring for your tattoo is NOT a two week gig! In order to keep your ink vibrant, sunblock must become your best friend. Personally, I will not apply sunblock if I’m taking a short walk or stepping outside with my pets, but pool trips, football games, the zoo, and even barbecues require a minimum of 30 SPF.

If you are concerned about the chemical content in store bought sunblock then I recommend checking out this all-natural DIY waterproof sunblock. Unlock most DIY ‘blocks it boasts 40 SPF and you can spell all the ingredients!

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Tattoos will fade and blur with age regardless of vigilant care, but this will slow and reduce the sun damage significantly. Please don’t feel paranoid about protecting your tat, but make sure to notice when that sun is getting in in sneaky ways. For example, I always keep a medium weight long-sleeved shirt in my car to cover my inked arm while I drive.

Now you know you’ll be able to make an informed decision on getting your first (or fifth? tenth?) tattoo. But most of all, remember to enjoy the experience!

Do you have any tips to add?

P.S. Don’t forget to share your tat pics with GenTwenty on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!


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Guide To Surviving Your First Tattoo