What to Do Before Getting a Tattoo

Lots of my friends are talking about getting tattoos together when we are all 18. My parents aren’t fans. I like them, but I’m not sure if I want one. Is it really that big a deal if its so common nowadays?

-UndecidedTatGirl

Dear UndecidedTatGirl:

Tattoos are very common, but I think they’re still a big deal because unlike typical trends, this is permanent.

For me, it’s way too big (and painful) of a commitment to one symbol, picture, or phrase. But there are many tattoos I really like and find beautiful, interesting, witty, and/or meaningful. I just prefer to admire them and maybe find a t-shirt, journal, or piece of jewelry with that symbol or phrase on it instead.

Tattoos can be a form of self expression and a fashion statement. They can emphasize a piece of your personality and can be fun and/or unique. So it’s really up to you to decide what’s right for you now and whether you won’t regret it or be sick of it in the future.

Whatever you do, don’t let your friends push you into it. If they really want to celebrate 18, take a road trip with that tattoo money, or get a piercing while they get tattoos (much less permanent but still something new).

If you do decide to go down the tattoo trail:

1. Think of how often you’ve changed your clothing/hair/makeup/music style in the last 5 years. Even if you’re pretty set on who you are and what you like right now, your preferences are bound to change because we all (hopefully) evolve over time. Pick something that you really feel will stand the test of time. This will be with you on your wedding day and when you’re a grandparent.

2. Draw the tattoo you want on your skin with permanent marker and keep it there for at least 1 month. If you’re not an artist, have someone else do this for you. This gives you time to see if that tattoo is really what you want and where you want it, and it helps you avoid a terrible tattoo mistake. Check out these sadly funny tattoo fails to see what I mean. 

3. Choose a place that can be covered up easily. While no one should judge you by the way you look, we all form first impressions of people and part of that includes are appearance. It would suck to one day apply for a job and have to find a way to hide that giant tattoo of a cobra all down your arm, or the big kiss marks tattoo on your neck. It might be hard for your prospective employer to take you seriously. Obviously your experience, skills, intellect, and work ethic should speak for themselves, but how you present yourself for an interview and at your job is something to consider.

4. Look for or ask for the tattoo parlor’s health permit. Be sure to go to a place that is safe, sanitary, and comes highly recommended. The risks of going to a sketchy place include: getting a staph infection from unlicensed or unskilled artists, increasing your chances of getting Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, Tetanus, and even HIV through unsanitary or reused tattoo needles. Some people are allergic to tattoo pigments like red ink and develop redness and itching that doesn’t go away until the tattoo is removed, and that takes multiple costly sessions.

 

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