Getting your first tattoo

Everything You Need To Know If You Want To Get Inked

Two years ago, I got my fifth tattoo, a large red and black crown on the back of my neck. I went home to visit my parents and was stunned by the lack of commentary. Eventually, I just had to ask.

Getting inked for the first time

“Mom, did you see my new tattoo?”

“Yes. It’s … big.” Clearly, she’d made an uneasy peace with the idea that her daughter loves ink.
I’m not the first to say it, nor will I be the last: The decision to get tattooed is big and important, and should not be taken lightly.

But in years past, my mom had actively lamented my choices, saying, “Oh, Sal. What will you do when you’re 90 and living in a nursing home?” And I thought to myself, Blend right in. My peer group is practically soaked in ink, and if tattoos continue to increase in popularity, I have to imagine that when I’m old and infirm, those without tattoos will be the sore thumbs.

Does that mean I think you should run right out and get inked? Oh, hell no. The “everyone’s doing it” argument is, hands down, the dumbest rationalization known to humankind, and choosing to get tattooed just because it’s become a common practice is most unwise. The clothes you wear may broadcast how you feel today, but the images you have drawn on your skin broadcast information about your inner self every day of your life.

I’m not the first to say it, nor will I be the last: The decision to get tattooed is big and important, and should not be taken lightly.

Now, before you decide I’m a stodgy killjoy, let me say this: You’re a grown-up and grown-ups can make their own decisions. If you want a tattoo, you’re going to get one no matter how much finger-wagging and sage-advice-dispensing I do. Nevertheless, here are a few things to consider before you hand over your MasterCard and prepare to go under the needle:

If You Don’t KNOW, Don’t Go.

Tattoos are expensive, painful, and permanent. Tattoo removal is expensive, painful, and often ineffective. If you have doubts – and I mean any niggling, tiny, whispery, itty-bitty baby doubts – just wait. Wait until you know exactly what you want permanently inked onto your skin, why you want it, where you want it, and exactly what it means to you. What’s your rush, friend?

Think About Placement.

The folks who choose to get tattoos on body bits that are absolutely impossible to conceal with clothing are making choices about their careers and lifestyles by altering those body parts – and they know it. Face, hand, and throat tattoos are relatively uncommon for this reason. But arm, ankle, wrist, and neck tattoos can also be challenging to mask, and the vast majority of tattooed people will want to disguise or downplay their ink under certain circumstances.Your placement choice should make sense in conjunction with your chosen art, but consider your potential concealment-related work-arounds if you put an image on some fairly public skin.

Understand Your Art.

Asian language characters are very popular tattoos with non-Asian-language-speakers, because the characters themselves are beautiful. This is true of Hebrew, Arabic, and several other languages with elegant glyphs. But unless you read and speak a language that utilizes logograms, you may be unaware that some characters represent several words or ideas depending on context. If you don’t read or speak Japanese, how do you know that the Japanese character for “truth” doesn’t also mean “chicken pot pie”? And if you don’t read a given language and are choosing a character from a wall of flash art, how do you know it means what the parlor says it means? You can’t control how people will interpret your tattoos, but you can control what those tattoos are. At the very least, make sure that you understand your own art.

Do A Background Check.

There are crappy, sloppy, irresponsible tattoo artists out there, so do your research. You can get scarred and/or infected if you end up getting work from a sub-par artist, so it’s worth your while to do some digging.

Ideally, you should get a recommendation from a friend or acquaintance who’s had a positive experience working with a local artist. Otherwise, consider group review resources like Yelp where you can read about the experiences your peers have had in great and gorey detail. Play detective for a while before calling around or making appointments.

Be Patient, Be Collaborative.

Most artists insist on a consultation before the actual tattooing begins, and if that initial meeting isn’t offered up front, insist. You want to talk with this person, see if you click, discuss your art, placement, the artist’s plan for execution, the amount of time it will take, the fee. If you only have a vague idea of what you want, you need to brainstorm. If you’ve got an image or word already selected, you still need to consult with the artist about color, shading, and any alterations to it. You’re going to be eager to dig in, but try to be patient. You want this done right, and that means careful planning.

Insist On Seeing Sterilization Equipment And Sealed Gear.

Now that you’ve found a great artist, planned out your piece, and shown up for your appointment, your final dealbreaker should be equipment cleanliness. You may have noted overall tidiness (or lack thereof) during your initial meeting, but you need to get more in-depth before the inking actually begins.

Most artists will offer up this information without being asked and in some states, tattoo parlors are required by law to walk their customers through the facility’s sterilization equipment and procedures. Regardless, before your artist digs in, you need to be shown that the tools are completely clean and safe for use. You don’t need to know all of the nitty-gritty details involved in prepping a tattoo station, but you do need to be shown an autoclave, sterilized needles, fresh latex gloves, and all necessary ink and equipment laid out on a clean work area. The artist should remove all sterilized equipment from its packaging in front of you. If that doesn’t happen, ask. If you’re refused, or feel uneasy about what you’re shown, walk away. Not worth the risk.

Yes, It Will Hurt.

How much it will hurt will depend on placement, size, complexity, and your own personal pain threshold.

Tattoos placed over bones and tendons (spine, neck, back of ankle), on body parts with relatively little padding (feet, hands, joints), and anywhere with loads of nerve endings (nipples, fingers, face) will be the most painful. Your decision about placement is on par with your decision about art, so don’t chicken out just because your chosen area is a sensitive one. The best tattoos are the ones that work organically with the contours of the body. Just be aware that some bits will be more pain-prone than others.

Obviously, larger pieces will hurt more since they will take longer to execute. As you may have heard, the outlining process is generally more painful than the filling/shading process. Most tattoos are outlined in black, and the initial process of setting the outline down will, inevitably, make you grind your teeth.

Everyone has different levels of tolerance for pain, and yours will play into how difficult it will be to endure the tattooing process. In my opinion, the pain of receiving a tattoo is unlike any other pain. It’s not sharp, but it’s not dull either. It’s a bit like getting an absolutely epic sunburn on a very small area of your skin. And then letting someone take a toothpick and poke around on the sunburned area for a while. It’s tolerable, as pain goes, but decidedly not fun.

Leave It Alone.

All five of my tattoos were done by different artists in different studios and I have received five different sets of care instructions for healing — everything from keep it covered for several days to unwrap it after several hours, rub with ointment twice a day to keep it clean and dry. But the common thread: leave it alone. Do not poke, pick, soak, or otherwise molest a healing tattoo. It is a wound and needs to be dealt with gingerly. No matter how much it itches, don’t scratch. No matter how much you want to fondle it, don’t touch. It’s yours for life. Don’t mess with it while it’s healing, and remember you’ll have until the end of your days to admire it.

Now that you’re sufficiently terrified, allow me to say this: I love my tattoos. I love them as much as I love my carefully-curated wardrobe, and for many of the same reasons — they make artistic, visual, highly personal statements about my inner life. I tell people things with my tattoos before I ever tell them anything with words, and that gives me such a thrill. But I think it takes a certain personality to commit to and adore something as permanent and statement-making as a tattoo. Piercing holes heal and hair can be re-dyed, but tattoos are just about as “forever” as it gets, so be sure before you bedeck your bod. But if you’re ready to get inked? You’ll have access to a rich, unique, and highly addictive vehicle of self-expression.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my plans for tattoo number six.

Tattoo Removal

Home Remedies for Tattoo Removal

Looking for home remedies for tattoo removal after a break up with a partner whose name you had tattooed on your hand, a change of your views, or workplace code? This guide explores some alternatives to tattoo removal creams and medical treatments (such as dermabrasion, laser, and surgical excision), including natural remedies, that you can use at home.

Removing ugly tattoos with home remedies

It often happens that you outgrow or fall out of love with a tattoo that meant a lot to you a while ago due to factors such as changing times, e.g. having a new girlfriend whereas the tattoo bears the name or picture of your ex, getting into the corporate world, etc.

Laser treatment, dermabrasion, and surgical excision remains the three most potent ways to remove a tattoo as the Mayo Clinic says. On the downside though, these specialized treatments and can be a bit costly for some people. Fortunately there are numerous home remedies for tattoo removal. Below is a breakdown of how to remove a tattoo at home:

Salabrasion

Salabrasion is without doubt tops the list of home remedies to remove tattoos, with a long history of use since it was first developed in the Middle East.

The term salabrasion is derived from “salt” and “dermabrasion” since the essence behind this –home procedure is the use of salt to perform dermabrasion; physically scrub off the tattoo with an abrasive pad that has be soaked with salt

The idea is to use an abrasive salt scrub to gradually wear away the epidermis (upper layer of skin) until the dermis (where tattoo ink lies) is reached.

Here is how to approach salabrasion for tattoo removal:

  • Get the area of skin to be worked on ready by shaving any hair present. This helps to make the process less painful as well as more fruitful.
  • Wash the skin with antibacterial soap or an antiseptic solution to ensure that it is free of bacteria and other microorganisms.
  • Get a gauze sponge wet by dipping in water and then wring out the excess water. Ensure that the sponge is a bit wet, yet not dripping with water.
  • Roll the moist gauze sponge through some salt until it doesn’t seem to be dissolving any more salt. At this point, the sponge should be covered all over with salt.
  • Scrub your tattoo with the salt-covered sponge for 30 minutes or until your skin gets reddened. You will of course feel some pain doing this.
  • After the area has dried, dab some antibiotic cream to prevent infection and dress the area with a sterile bandage.
  • Remove the bandage after 3 days and watch out for any signs of infection; you will in particular want to check that the area has not turned redder. Increasing pain is also a sign of infection and should warrant the attention of your doctor.

The following is yet another way to do salabrasion:

  1. Dip a small towel or cloth in warm water and then use it to moisten the tattooed area
  2. Spread ½ cup of salt on the area and the use then rub it through the skin with the towel (or cloth) until it turn red or starts bleeding.
  3. Wash the salt off with warm water and then dab the area with a cotton wool soaked in hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide has antiseptic properties that help to prevent infection.
  4. Pop a vitamin E capsule and empty its content all over the area of focus
  5. Finish by covering the area with a sterilized medical gauze and leave it on until a scab forms and ultimately falls off.
  6. You will notice the tattoo get slightly lighter after the scab has fallen off but if you still need to fade it even more, you can follow the process again after the area has completely healed.

    Tattoo Removal Creams

    TCA creams are increasingly advertised as a tattoo removal option but it deserves to be mentioned that they only fade tattoos rather than remove them per se. Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) is commonly used at spas as a chemical peel to get rid of fine lines, reduce acne scars, and fade wrinkles.

    In early 90s, TCA was shown to have a mild fading action on tattoos and has since been widely marketed as a tattoo removal ingredient, usually in the form of creams. Among the most popular tattoo removal creams are Tat B Gone and Tattoo-Off.

    While these creams can help to fade tattoos, they causes adverse reactions with the skin in 10-20 percent of users as the Tattoo health Organization says with symptoms ranging from minor skin irritation to skin discoloration and even blistering in more severe cases. To be on the safe side, consider slathering the cream over a small area of skin first to see how it reacts with your skin.

    Cover your tattoo: while it doesn’t exactly fit into the list of home remedies for tattoo removal, covering your tattoo is a good option for those special occasions when having your tattoo exposed is out of the question.

    There is a great variety of tattoo makeup products on the market today and is the secret used by actors to hide their tattoos when on stage or shooting film. You first stop when looking for tattoo makeup is any store that deals in performing art costumes. Various online stores such as Ben Nye also stock tattoo makeup.

    While salabrasion helps to fade tattoos away and make them less prominent, it on the downside make you end up with a discolored or thickened skin, not to mention that it is inevitably painful. There is also a high risk of scarring involved as David Li, MBBS, FACD, a dermatologist based in Brisbane says.

    Natural Remedies for Tattoo Removal

    More and more people want to go as natural as possible in as far as at-home treatments are concerned. In that regard, there is no way we could have finished this guide without long at some of the natural remedies for tattoo removal. Here are some of them:

    Aloe vera + Paederia Tomentosa + Vitamin E

    Aloe vera has a wide range of beneficial uses in as far as natural home remedies are concerned ranging from burn treatment to dry skin alleviation and age spots removal. It is also touted to be one of the best home remedies to lighten tattoos when used alongside Paederia Tomentosa and Vitamin E. Here is an outline of the process used to fade out tattoos with aloe vera:

    1. Squeeze out a tablespoon of aloe vera juice from a fresh aloe vera leaf. Over-the-counter aloe vera gel would as well do.
    2. Mix the juice with 1 tablespoon of Paederia tomentosa and then pop the content of 2 capsules of vitamin E capsules in.
    3. tir thoroughly to create a fine paste and then work it through the tattooed area of your skin. Rub the area gently with your finger in a circular motion for 10 minutes or so and finish off by rinsing the area with warm water.

    Lemon Juice to Lighten Tattoos

    Lemon juice is also touted to be one of the best natural home remedies for tattoo removal. It is especially effective for removal of light and small tattoos. To use lemon juice to fade tattoos, follow the following steps:

    1. Cut a lemon into two halves and then squeeze out its juice.
    2. Add in 100g of salt and stir thoroughly to dissolve.
    3. Dab the solution onto the tattooed area with a clean cotton ball and then rub repeatedly for 30 minutes.
    4. Finish by rinsing the area with warm water
    5. Repeat as often as is needed to get the desired results.

    Honey for Fading Tattoos Naturally

    Honey also makes it to the list of at home tattoo removal methods but it deserves a mention that it will only help to fade a tattoo as opposed to removing it altogether. This remedy is also effective for small, light-colored tattoos. Below is a guideline on how to use honey for this purpose:

    Mix a tablespoon of honey with a tablespoon each of aloe vera juice, yoghurt, and salt.

    Blend them thoroughly to make a natural tattoo removal cream and then work it through your skin on the tattooed area.

    Massage the area gently to aid the cream to work into the skin and finally rinse the cream off with warm water after 30 minutes or so. Repeat as necessary to get the desired results.

    Word of caution

    While the above listed home remedies for tattoo removal may give you notable results, there is the risk of scarring and infection involved. Infection is especially likely for harsh tattoo removal options such as Salabrasion; you are essentially scraping off your skin to the lower layers of the skin where the tattoo ink lies.

    As for the less harsh natural remedies for tattoo removal highlighted in this guide, results vary form one person to another and patience is key to getting significant results. If you are comfortable with it though, and don’t mind the cost involved, you can always go for professional treatments such a laser tattoo removal, dermabrasion, and surgical excision.

Tips For Getting Your First Tattoo

Getting a tattoo is a huge, exciting, nerve-wracking decision. If you’ve finally decided to go for it, make sure you’re prepared with these essential tips for getting your first tattoo. Arming yourself with some knowledge is the best way to make sure you get a tattoo you’ll love just as much 40 years down the line as you do today. I don’t mean to put on the pressure, but learn from my experience.

If you know you want a tattoo but have no idea where to start, inspiration is all over the internet! Check out these 11 subtle tattoos, 21 literature-inspired tattoos, and these 26 super clever ink ideas. Whatever you settle on, make sure you, not your best friend / partner / parents, like it and feel good about it. It’s your skin, after all.

Here are seven essential tips you should know before getting inked for the first time.

1. Don’t Be Drunk

This might seem obvious, but I have enough friends with random teddy bear ankle tattoos that it’s necessary to mention. Be sober. Be sober. Be sober. Drunk tattoos are the ones you’re most likely to regret.

2. Pick A Reputable Salon

If you’re salon isn’t certified and regulated, GET THE HECK OUT. Basically, don’t get your tattoo done in someone’s basement. Is saving money really worth getting a less-than-professional tattoo and risking infections? Doubt it.

3. Instagram Is Your Best Friend

Instagram is for tattoo artists what MySpace was for musicians in 2008. If you have a specific tattoo design or artist location in mind, search that hashtag (i.e., #ShellTattoo or #LosAngelesTattoo) to see what’s out there. Just because an artist is really good at traditional sailor tats doesn’t mean they’re the right choice for your lavender bushel shoulder tat.

4. Go To The Bathroom Before

A minor but important note. I almost wet my pants while getting my first tattoo. This could’ve been easily avoided. At least it distracted me from the pain?

5. Tip Well

Being a tattoo artist is no easy job. It’s respectful (and just basic common courtesy) to tip them well for their work. Oh, and give them a shout-out on social media while you’re at it!

6. Take After Care Seriously

Your tattoo won’t just magically heal itself. You’ve got to take care of them properly. After all, a tattoo is essentially just a very fancy wound. Slacking off could result in infections, misshaped tattoos, and faded colors. I promise proper care isn’t that labor-intensive, and well worth it.

7. Sunscreen Everyday

Love the bold colors in your tattoo, or want to keep that black as jet black as possible? Slather on SPF every single day. It’s a great habit to get into anyway, and you’ll be so glad five years from now when your tattoo has barely faded.

Are Tattoos Safe?

As the popularity of tattoos continues to grow, so does the concern about potential risks. Some risks, such as the spread of infections through the use of unsterilized needles, have long been known. But what isn’t clear is the safety of tattoo inks.

Are tattoos safe?

Permanent tattoos are made by using needles to inject colored ink below the skin’s surface. Permanent make-up is considered a permanent tattoo that mimics the results of cosmetic products such as an eyebrow pencil, lip liner, eyeliner, or blush.

While state and local authorities oversee the practice of tattooing, ink and ink colorings (pigments) used in tattoos are subject to FDA regulation as cosmetics and color additives. However, because of other public health priorities and a previous lack of evidence of safety concerns, FDA has not traditionally regulated tattoo inks or the pigments used in them.

FDA has received reports of bad reactions to tattoo inks right after tattooing or even years later. Some people report itchy or inflamed skin around their tattoos in the summer when they’ve been out in the sun. Recent reports associated with permanent make-up inks have prompted FDA to study tattoo ink safety.

“Our hope is to get a better understanding of the body’s response to tattoos and their impact on human health, and to identify products at greatest risk,” says Linda Katz, M.D., M.P.H., Director of FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

What are the Risks

  • Infection – Dirty needles can pass infections, like hepatitis and HIV, from one person to another.
  • Allergies – Allergies to various ink pigments in both permanent and temporary tattoos have been reported and can cause problems.
  • Scarring – Unwanted scar tissue may form when getting or removing a tattoo.
  • Granulomas – These small knots or bumps may form around material that the body perceives as foreign, such as particles of tattoo pigment.
  • MRI complications – People may have swelling or burning in the tattoo when they have magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This happens rarely and does not last long.

Tattoo Ink Research

In a laboratory within FDA’s Arkansas-based National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR), research chemist Paul Howard, Ph.D., and his team are investigating tattoo inks to find out the chemical composition of the inks and how they break down (metabolize) in the body; the short-term and long-term safety of pigments used in tattoo inks; how the body responds to the interaction of light with the inks.

“There have been no systematic studies of the safety of tattoo inks,” says Howard, “so we are trying to ask—and answer—some fundamental questions.” For example, some tattoos fade over time or fade when they are exposed to sunlight. And laser light is used to remove tattoos. “We want to know what happens to the ink,” says Howard. “Where does the pigment go?”

NCTR researchers are exploring several possibilities

The body cells may digest and destroy the ink, just as they rid the body of bacteria and other foreign matter as a defense against infection. NCTR studies show that a common pigment used in yellow tattoo inks, Pigment Yellow 74, may be broken down by enzymes, or metabolized. “Just like the body metabolizes and excretes other substances, the body may metabolize small amounts of the tattoo pigment to make it more water soluble, and out it goes,” says Howard.

Sunlight may cause the ink to break down so it is less visible. NCTR researchers have found that Pigment Yellow 74 decomposes in sunlight, breaking down into components that are colorless. The pigment components may still be there, says Howard, and we don’t know if these are potentially toxic.

The skin cells containing the ink may be killed by sunlight or laser light and ink breakdown products may disperse through the body.

Research has also shown that some pigment migrates from the tattoo site to the body’s lymph nodes, says Howard. Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, a collection of fluid-carrying vessels in the body that filter out disease-causing organisms. Whether the migration of tattoo ink has health consequences or not is still unknown. NCTR is doing further research to answer this and other questions about the safety of tattoo inks.

Tattoo Tips for Consumers

FDA has not approved any tattoo pigments for injection into the skin. This applies to all tattoo pigments, including those used for ultraviolet (UV) and glow-in-the-dark tattoos. Many pigments used in tattoo inks are industrial-grade colors suitable for printers’ ink or automobile paint.

The use of henna in temporary tattoos has not been approved by FDA. Henna is approved only for use as a hair dye.

Permanence

Consider tattoos permanent. Removal is time-consuming, costly, and doesn’t always work. The most common method of tattoo removal is by laser treatment, which delivers short flashes of light at very high intensities to the skin to break down the tattoo ink. FDA allows several types of lasers to be marketed for tattoo removal. Some color inks are harder to remove than others. Many repeat visits every several weeks may be required to remove a tattoo, and it may never be entirely gone.

Do not buy or order online do-it-yourself tattoo removal products. These acid-based products are not FDA-approved and can cause bad skin reactions.

Consult your health care provider—not a tattoo parlor—if you want a tattoo removed. The American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery can help you find a doctor experienced in tattoo removal.

Don’t Avoid an MRI

If you need to have an MRI done, don’t avoid it. Inform the radiologist or technician that you have a tattoo so appropriate precautions can be taken.