7 Questions You Must Answer Before Getting a Tattoo

Updated: Feb. 10, 2017

Whether you're contemplating a tattoo for the first time or planning to go under the ink gun again, consider these seven things you must know before getting a tattoo.


Is the tattoo studio a good one?

Choosing the tattoo art you want is important, but so is doing the research in selecting a shop that can make your vision a reality. Ian Simon, artist and owner of Bitter Hearts Studio in Youngstown, Ohio, recommends thoroughly searching for a studio that fits your needs and artistic style. “Most major studios will have reviews on Google and Facebook,” he said. “Find a well reviewed shop and search through the artist portfolios. ” Once you’ve found a studio, pay an in-person visit. While you’re there, Simon says to look for current health permits, blood-borne pathogen certifications, and awards, all of which signify a clean and safe studio. Be wary of a studio that isn’t comfortable showing you around or answering your questions, Simon warns.


Does the tattoo artist’s vision allign with yours?

Each artist has a different style and approach to the tattooing process. Find an artist with a style that really captivates you, suggests Simon. This means sitting down with the artist and going through their portfolio. While you’re perusing their designs, Simon has a few things to look out for: “The artist should have a well-organized portfolio that has lots of work. This shows you that the artist takes pride in his or her work,” he says. “Most good artists do custom designs, so look out for smaller portfolios with trendy designs. This show that the artist isn’t just replicating the same work that’s popular on the internet and copying others’ work, which is usually a red flag regarding quality.” Lastly, ask how long they’ve tattooed, what their preferred styles are, and what plans they might have for your piece.


Do you have your doctor’s OK?

In the excitement of choosing a tattoo, don’t forget to check in with your doctor or dermatologist to ensure your skin will tolerate the procedure. Three Rivers Dermatology in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania advises any of their patients with skin conditions like eczema against getting a tattoo. Complications including an allergic reaction or infection could occur. (Related: Here are 10 home remedies for eczema and psoriasis relief.) It’s also imperative to make sure that any current medical conditions or medications won’t affect the tattoo or healing process. If you have any doubts or concerns, Three Rivers Dermatology encourages patients to ask their doctor. Allergic reactions to the dye are possible after the tattoo is completed and you should seek medical attention for unexpected complications.


Will you really want it forever?

When considering a tattoo keep in mind that the design you choose will be there forever, unless you undergo a removal process, which can be costly and time consuming. Take your time in deciding what artwork you wish to have tattooed on you. Julia Washington of California wishes she would have treated her tattoos more like an investment. She’s come to regret five of the six tattoos she has, as the designs she chose at a younger age are no longer a reflection of the person she is now. “The tattoos are quite beautiful pieces, but I’ve grown and changed so much over time,” she says. “The five tattoos I do regret are from a time in my life I wish not to remember, and now I have permanent markings that people ask about.” On that note, Simon also advises against the name of boyfriend or girlfriends, unless you’re absolutely positive they’ll be in your life forever.


Where do you want it?

Once your appointment date is set, it’s time to select the placement. Whether it’s your first tattoo or a brand new piece, artists are happy to offer advice on where to put your tattoo. Simon notes that people typically choose shoulders, upper back, legs, and biceps for a first tattoo because of the visibility. With all the advancements in the industry and tattooing technology, any spot shouldn’t be more than minimally painful. Before you go under the gun, double and triple check any lettering in your tattoo for spelling and the image to ensure it’s exactly as you hope. “Ultimately the tattoo will be your call, so find an image or design that really feels like you,” Simon said. “Work with a talented artist and design something unique together. Be patient and humble and let the artist you like do their job.”


What is the recommended aftercare?

The tattoo process isn’t over once you leave the shop. According to the Mayo Clinic, proper aftercare is an important step in ensuring your tattoo’s longevity. The type of aftercare is dependent upon your tattoo and it’s likely your tattoo artist will provide information and aftercare products. However, the Mayo Clinic recommends removing the bandage after 24 hours and applying antibiotic ointment to the tattooed skin during healing. Keep the area clean with plain soap and water, and pat dry. Allow up to two weeks for healing and during this time, don’t pick at any scabbing and avoid clothing that may stick to the area. During and after the healing period contact your doctor if you become concerned about infection or if the tattoo isn’t healing properly. Once your tattoo is healed and ready to show off, here are 11 secrets to keep your skin healthy and clear.


Know that removing an unwated tattoo may not be possible

The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) advises that although there are multiple options for tattoo removal, some newer inks and pastel colors can prove difficult to remove entirely. Removal processes include dermabrasion, laser surgery, and surgical excision, and are completed as an outpatient procedure. Even though the tattoo may disappear after the removal process, scarring is possible and in some cases, complete tattoo removal is not always possible. If want to remove a tattoo ASDS recommends selecting a trusted dermatologist you’re comfortable with, and discussing the costs of the procedure, what to expect afterward, and any concerns you may have. (Related: Here are skin care tips that dermatologists follow.)

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest