Getting a Tattoo
By Sam, age 19, Massachusetts
Sweet Designs Staff Intern
Sweet Designs Featured Writer
Tattoos are usually a hit or miss subject. Some people love them. Some people hate them. In our passing generation tattoos have become increasingly more common. However, this does not mean the trouble they cause has decreased. The main issue of getting a tattoo is time. Tattoos are permanent, and yet the desire to get a tattoo usually occurs when we're teenagers. Blame it on wanting to be independent or unique, but young adults look for ways to express themselves, and a tattoo is one way to say something ... loudly.
I've known I've wanted to get a tattoo since my senior year of high school. I think they're beautiful. But even in high school I knew the consequences of getting one. I wasn't yet a fully mature person. I still had the majority of my future ahead of me. What if my personality suddenly shifted in twenty years? Would I still like the same things I like now? What kind of message would a tattoo send to my family? To a potential boyfriend? I was, and still am, afraid of what getting a tattoo could mean for the future. But I didn't let that doubt get in the way of what I wanted.
I had originally planned to wait until I was 25 to get a tattoo. I would be out of college by then and out in the real world for a few years. I had already researched the design I wanted and had it saved on my computer. I planned where I would get it and what size it would be. I had everything planned out. So all I had to do was wait.
But then, in the middle of October, my friend got her first tattoo, and my friend is not the kind of girl you usually see getting a tattoo. She wants to be a librarian, for goodness sakes! But, there it was. A cute little dove on her shoulder. And that was just the push I needed to get mine.
One of the important things about getting a tattoo is where you get it. "Where" meaning both the location of the tattoo parlor and the location of the tattoo on your body. Sketchy, cheap tattoo places are not the places you want to go. If you feel up to it, scout out a few different places first. Find somewhere you feel comfortable. I went to the same tattoo place my friend went because she highly recommended them.
Where you want your tattoo is also important. If you get a tattoo that is in a highly visible location, it can affect future employment. I chose to get a tattoo on my wrist. Knowing that having a tattoo on such a visible part of the body could possibly lead to future problems in society, I made sure my tattoo was small enough that I could cover it with one large or several small bracelets.
Now, actually going to get a tattoo is scary. VERY SCARY! I was so nervous I could barely bring myself to open the door to the shop. Would it hurt? Would I still like it? Would this be a mistake? But the artist I had was very nice. He could tell I was about ready to start shaking in my boots, so he smiled a lot and assured me that everything would be fine.
After I gave him a picture of my design, he drew his own copy of it on a special piece of paper. He then disinfected the area where I wanted to get my tattoo (my wrist) and then shaved away any stray hairs that might have gotten in the way of the needle. He then placed the special paper onto my wrist, padded it gently with a wet cloth, and peeled it away. What was left was a purple copy of my tattoo. We changed the place of the tattoo three times before I found the exact spot I wanted.
The next part was definitely the scariest - the needle! I hadn't exactly been afraid of needles before. Sure, I hated shots like any other person, but I'd given blood a few times, so I didn't think it would be too terrible. But sitting in that chair, watching the needle going into the ink, is the scariest thing I think I've ever seen.
Thankfully, the tattoo artist said he would only start with a small line first. I asked him if it was better to look or not look. He said it depended on the person. So, I gathered up all the courage I had and watched him draw the first line. And it didn't hurt. The sensation is more like a buzzing along your skin. It pinches every now and then, but overall it isn't that bad. The only time my tattoo really hurt was for the first hour after it was finished, and even then it was only a strong stinging.
Taking care of your tattoo is very important. (After all, you went through all that trouble to make it look good, right?) Aftercare instructions will vary from studio to studio, but most will follow similar guidelines. If your tattoo artist doesn't tell you how to treat your tattoo, you can treat it the same way you would treat a minor cut or wound.
Here are the guidelines the tattoo parlor I went to offered:
1. Remove the protective dressing 1-2 hours after receiving your tattoo.
2. Gently wash your tattoo with lukewarm water and mild soap. Pat dry and apply a thin layer of either Bacitracin ointment or A&D antibiotic ointment. Avoid ointments that contain pain relief. Neosporin works well but may tend to draw color out (varies from person to person).
3. Do not re-bandage your tattoo.
4. Keep your tattoo clean at all times!
5. Avoid covering your tattoo. Whenever possible expose your tattoo to fresh air, as it will heal faster when it can breathe.
6. Keep your tattoo out of direct sunlight, and avoid tanning beds.
7. Keep your tattoo out of chlorinated water (pools/hot tubs/swimming parks), lakes, and oceans. When bathing simply allow water to run over your tattoo and pat dry.
8. After 2-3 days a light crust (scab) will form. DO NOT PICK AT OR SCRATCH YOUR TATTOO! This is nature's way of healing, and doing so can alter the way your tattoo will look once it has healed.
9. Continue to use the antibiotic ointment until the crust (scab) is gone; after that a vitamin rich skin moisturizer may be applied.
10. Your tattoo should be completely healed within 7-10 days; however, healing may vary from person to person. To keep your tattoo looking good, a good sunblock is recommended to protect it from harmful UV rays.
Getting a tattoo is a serious decision. If you do decide to get one, please be dedicated to the idea and prepared for the consequences. Best of luck, fellow tatters!