Skin Deep: A Crash Course On Your First Tattoo

Tattoos are more popular than ever before: a staggering 47% of millennials have ink.  Of that remaining 53%, there’s a fair amount who are contemplating getting their first tat.  For first timers with questions, it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out where to begin. After all, nobody wants to sound stupid, especially in front of all those cool kids with tattoos. If you fall into that category, here’s a bit of helpful advice to demystify the process and keep that tattoo looking new for years to come.

Is It Safe?

Tattooing is perhaps the most trendy surgical procedure.  A tattoo is created via thousands of injections of ink, which opens the skin and can, potentially, lead to infection.  To prevent this from happening, licensed, reputable tattoo shops sterilize their equipment and use fresh needles for every client.  Tattoo shops use autoclaves–essentially a hospital-grade pressure cooker–to wipe out every last microbe and bacteria on the guns.  As nearly every state has laws pertaining to tattooing, the industry takes compliance and cleanliness very seriously.  

What’s The Healing Process Like?

For the first few weeks after getting a tattoo, the skin will be irritated, itchy and scabby.  In the first few days after the procedure, rub the tattoo with a light layer of a petroleum-based ointment such as Aquaphor, coconut oil, or whatever your artist recommends.   After about three days, switch over to Lubriderm, Eucerin or another high-quality, fragrance free lotion.  Some essential oils have been found to help with the healing process, particularly lavender and myrrh. Do not scratch the tattoo or pick at the scabs, lest you risk infection and ink pulling.

Will My New Tat Fade?

All tattoos will lose their luster with time, but there are ways to mitigate the damage.  Generally speaking, darker ink will hold its color longer.  Placement can also affect the longevity of your tattoo.  Tattoos on the hands, feet, elbows and knees tend to fade faster as the skin is thinner and more flexible in those areas.  Softer parts of the body, such as the backside, belly and thighs, tend to stretch and sag over time, which may distort the image. The sun will fade and blur tattoos, so be sure to apply sunblock liberally when going outside.  If you’re unsure about the placement, chat with your artist to see what they think is best. Your artist has spent thousands of hours tattooing other people; be sure to listen to their input. Ultimately though, it’s your body, so place your new tat wherever you like, just be prepared to put in more maintenance in certain spots.

The most important thing to remember when getting a tattoo is permanence.  There’s no going back without expensive, painful laser procedures or a cover up, so be sure to carefully consider if this is a piece you will be happy with in the future.  By picking out a reputable shop, following all after care instructions and taking care of your skin, your new tattoo will bring you a lifetime of color and joy.

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