Research: Visit different tattoo parlors/studios. You can pretty much tell upon entering some of them that you wouldn't want to have your tattoo done there. If the place looks like a pig sty, it's a definite no no, but don't confuse crowded with crud. Also, word of mouth. If you politely ask someone where they got their tattoo, most will be happy to discuss it with you.
Ask Questions: When you have your tattoo design, show it to different artists. There are 'specialists' in different styles of tattoos. There are also different tattooing methods. The older 'side to side' inking needles, to the 'tapping' inking needles. Show the artist where you want your tattoo done (some places might not work due to the stretch of your skin when you move, and a good artist will say so). He/She will examine the area, and let you know if where you want it would work.
Cleanliness: The best judge of this is actually watching a tattoist at work for a while. If you see changing of needles, gloves, and items being autoclaved on a regular basis, it's a pretty good indicator at the overall cleanliness. Again, don't confuse a crowed small studio with it being dirty. One very important question people miss asking is how often does their autoclave serviced.
Relax! Many people who want tattoos don't get them due to other people saying how agonising it is. The more you expect the pain you have heard from others, the more you tense up. From my own experience, I found it more annoying than painful. There are a few hiss/owie moments, but overall, it is more discomfort than pain. (What I use to compare is if you have ever had a theraputic massage for 1 hour, a tattoo is a walk in the park in comparison)
Your tattooist will give you a sheet of instructions on tattoo aftercare. Here are the whys. A few simple steps to make sure your artwork lasts a lifetime.
Wait: 2 hours before removing the padding put on your new tattoo. Let the ointment work to stop any residual bleeding.
Cleaning: The first time you wash it, just let warm (not hot) water run over it for a few minutes. Do not apply soap or other body washes. They will irritate your tattoo, and can cause inflamation. Over the next few weeks, as it heals, it is normal for colored flakey bits to fall off, but do NOT scrub. Let them slough off on their own. Try to keep soap and shampoos off your new tattoo.
Ointments and Lotions: This can be tricky. Many tattoist will give you an after care ointment to use 1-2 days after your tattooing. ProTat is usually the one given.Do not use it if you have an allergy to lanolin! Do a small 'patch test' on the wrist side of your forearm for possible allergic reaction the day you get your tattoo. After 12 hrs do it again. If you get no allergic reaction then put a little bit on a small section of your tattoo. If you get no reaction (burning, itching, weeping) that ointment is safe for you to use. You might get a reaction after using it a few times, but relax. Just stop using it. Substitute your regular skin moisturiser after the allergic reaction has abated.
Don't SCRATCH! A healing tattoo will start itching... a lot. If you scratch it, you might end up having to get touch ups, or it could ruin the tattoo. Having to have a tattoo redone does hurt.
Stay out of the sun: Intense itching and burning will happen if direct sunlight touches your healing tattoo. Repeated exposure could cause your tattoo to fade, or become patchy. Again, having to have a tattoo redone, or touched up does hurt.
Use Common Sense: Treat you tattoo like you would any minor injury. Stay out of swimming pools or other chlorinated water entertainments, steer clear of the beach. Not treating the tattoo with care is then leading cause of infection, and can lead to scarring of your artwork. Wear loose breathable clothing, as sweating will really make your healing tattoo burn and itch.
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