Tattoos. Tattooing. Body Art.
It’s not the old Aircraft Carriers across your chest or the Popeye anchors on your arms anymore. People of ALL walks of life get tattoos for oodles of reasons. It’s not reserved for White Trash, Truckers or Military personnel anymore. 80 year old Grandma’s even get them now!
I have 11. I am not a freak, a weirdo, or a hose-bag (at least no one has ever told me that). I’m a Wife of 11 years, and a Mom of 3 kids. 95% of my tattoos are concealed and get hidden under my clothes. When it’s wintertime, I forget I even have them until I take a shower! Then it’s a surprise! “Holy Cow! I forgot I had those things!” My “ink” is for me–not to show off to everyone. When it gets hot out, yes of course you see more of them. But on the average day, it is not my priority to be a walking museum for gawkers.
I have 2 that have very special meaning to me. One, is for my brain surgery and the date. The other is to signify the deep love and devotion my husband and I share. The other ones are close to my heart and have elements of things I love (like Bees ad Mickey Mouse), but the 2 I mentioned are my most signficant ones by far. My hubby has the same 2 also–and he feels the same way!
But whatever the reason you decide to get one, there are some things to keep in mind.
1. IT’S FOREVER/PERMANENT. If you don’t like it or even the placement–too late! You can’t whip out your handy dandy eraser and fix it. It’s there for GOOD, wherever its at. No Do-Over’s here! Make sure you see a professional that is on the side of being a perfectionist. Placement is everything!
2. TAKE YOUR TIME. Choose something with special meaning to you (commemorate a special event, a special person, a place of personal paradise, a meaningful symbol, etc.). The list goes on. There is no rush. Just don’t get drunk one night and get one done because you’re drunk friends goaded you into it. Again–erasers don’t work for this! This will be with you FOREVER. Make sure it’s something you can live with, take pride in and is not the cause for embarrassment! In the immortal words in Indiana Jones, The Last Crusade–“Choose Wisely.”
3. Tattooing is a form of “Wearble Art.” We all like to admire art from time to time, but when small children are present, we really don’t want them to see Mickey and Minnie Mouse getting their groove on!!! Save that for a more hidden place! And there are other certain themes that are not quite as visually stunning to everyone else–namely, Skulls, Death, Monsters, Blood and Guts. Again, not too great for the younger audience. See above–“Choose Wisely.”
4. IT’S GOING TO HURT. Now I would be a liar and a half if I said “It doesn’t hurt.” It does. There is nothing like this kind of pain. I did acupuncture for 2 years and I don’t fear needles when getting blood drawn–but it is NOTHING like that. Certain areas hurt MUCH worse (the Lower Back is death), while others don’t hurt at all. It all depends on you–you own pain tolerance, medications or alcohol you might have used.
There are two things here to remember.
A. Find an artist with experience with 1st timers and is gentle or “light/soft handed.” Heavy handed tattooers FLIPPIN’ HURT!!! Even more than it normally does! Holy Yikes!!! I have been inked by both. And I will go to the light handed artist again over the heavy handed one, in a heartbeat! Yowzas! That especially SUCKED.
B. The human brain does NOT remember pain. The nerves only react at the time to stimulus, but it is not stored in your memory. Think about it. Recall an especially painful time in your life. For me, I’ll pick childbirth. I was on NO drugs whatsoever, I did it natural and it happened really fast! I “recall” that there was a lot of pain involved, there was tearing and bleeding, but I do not remember the actual sensation of it.
Try it. Do you remember the specific pain of an event? The actual sensation of it? Probably not. It doesn’t stay stored. That’s why I could have 3 kids. If we could remember exactly what the pain felt like–we’d all have stopped at one! This is another reason why we do tattoos over and over again. We feel the pain as it happens, but forget what it was like and optimistically think “It won’t be so bad this time, I know what to expect.” Haa Haa! Oh you sad, strange, little person!!!! You couldn’t be more wrong!
Now here are some little known tidbits you need to be aware of. My dear friend, and my personal Tattoo Artist “Nicolas” (for us white people, it’s pronounced Nee-coh-laahs) has been kind enough to let me borrow some of his knowledge and 25 years of tattooing experience to answer some questions, so we can share it with you!
Now according to “Nicolas,”
- Not 18? No tattoo for you! No one under 18 can get a tattoo. If one is even seen on a minor, the tattoo artist can be tracked and fined for doing it. It’s illegal.
- A really good, experienced tattoo artist (like “Nicolas” who has been doing it for 25+ years) can read your skin better than a newspaper. He can tell if your on medicine or pregnant–just by how your skin takes the ink. If you’re pregnant–don’t bother after 2.5 months and until you’ve hatched. If you’re on antibiotics–stay away for 2 weeks after the last dose is taken. Again, it will be a wasted trip for you, because the ink won’t absorb into your skin. You’ll need to come back at a later date. Same thing thing if you’re over-tired or not taking daily vitamins! The ink won’t take in either case! So go home, get some sleep and take your vitamins!
- A & D Ointment/Lotions. A & D is for the first day or two and for Brand New Tattoos. (Or anything specifically for brand new Tattoos) Apply a thin coat every 3 hours or so to coat the skin (I also use straight Melaleuca oil directly on the tattoo, and it absorbs into the skin. It’s pungent–but it heals the skin).
*Lotion (after the A & D period is over with) is very important to use hourly! Keep your new tattoo covered with lotion. BUT–be sure to use an unscented, unflavored lotion or you will be in a world of stinging! And STAY AWAY from anything that has Petroleum in it! (I personally use a special lotion from Melaleuca–that targets people with eczema/psoriasis and completely knocks out the “itching phase” 4-5 days later when the tattoo is healing. When doing touch ups–A & D is mostly not needed. The skin had already seen action and is “sort of” used to it.
- Showers/Baths. Showers are fine after a day. Do not scrub your tattoo or even put any kind of shower gel on it. It will sting like crazy–as if the water droplets falling on it didn’t hurt enough! And DON’T take a bath. Soaking the tattoo in hot water does really weird things–like make the inky skin ball up and fall off (kinda looks like rainbow colored string boogers–Ew!). You look like a colorful leper when you get out of the tub. And don’t remove ANY of the color/ink before it’s ready. BIG MISTAKE!
*When you pick at it (because it itches or has a blob of colored ink/skin ready to go–you are actually tearing off the color–that you paid for! If you peel a lot of it off-expect needing a touch up and having some unattractive/bare parts of your skin hanging out until it’s healed enough for the Touch Up to be done.
- Salty Diet? Ate Pizza last night? It’s going to sting and it will show on your skin. It will hurt more and stays redder longer. The ink doesn’t go in as smoothly when you are full of salty stuff!
- Tight Skin after a tattoo? Soak it in COLD/LUKEWARM (NEVER HOT) water (washcloth or paper towel) for 10 minutes twice a day. It will take longer to heal and hurt more if you chose to ignore the tightness. But the skin is crying out for water–give it what it needs!
- When you have areas that won’t heal or look kinda pus–y–soak it with rubbing alcohol. It helps dry out the gunk and actually helps it to heal. I got part of a tattoo done in an area under my arm that constantly rubbed against the underwire in my bra. Alcohol cleared it up in 3 days!
- Did you drink or do drugs last night? It’s going to show on your skin. People who drink hard liquor even the night before will bleed more. Everyone “bleeds” plasma crossed with a little blood, but this is actual blood (more than just plasma) we’re talking about. Icky stuff. And it makes it REALLY hard on you and the tattoo artist, because you don’t absorb the ink as well, it swells the skin, and takes longer because he is having to “mop” up the ink and blood even more than normal.
- Drugs. If you are a frequent drug user, the body can refuse the ink, the skin won’t heal correctly, scab up more, and possibly when the scabs come off, so will the ink itself. There will always be complications depending on the person. So please take care of yourself.
- If you’re Drunk at the time–a proper, licensed tattoo shop WILL NOT work with you. Everyone talks about handling it better it you’re drunk–but it better not be obvious–or you’ll wind up on the curb!
- If you have areas that really aren’t healing up after a month or two–start using Vitamin E Oil on it. It helps the skin to heal. But be sure to ASK/CALL your tattoo artist about how to proceed FIRST. Don’t guess, don’t assume–CALL THE PROFESSIONAL and get their advice first. This is what you paid them for!
- If you have PREVIOUS TATTOOS from another Artist, Good Luck. Tattoo Artists are NOT willing to touch another artists’ work. Unless you are willing to pay them a lot to do it, they won’t touch what someone else started. They are very picky about messing with someone else’s work, or even about someone else touching their work. It’s hard to guess what someone else is thinking, right? There you go! Try to stick with the tattoo creator whenever possible.
Now a few months ago, I got a bracelet tattoo done by a heavy handed person (not my usual person). I had “Nicolas” take a look at it and he was really upset. “WOW. That’s not good–not good at all. Your skin is damaged–BIG Time.” What it looks like happened is that the needle wasnt sharp anymore. If you dip the needle into the ink pot and it hits the bottom, over and over again, the tip gets bent. So it looked like the entire tattoo was done with a bent needle tip. Because of the hard pressing that was done, and the needle being bent, it damaged the skin layers underneath and the top layer as well. (It was a full week before even the sheet on my bed could brush over my wrist without me wincing in pain from just that! Imagine a shower?) I know tattoos hurt–but this was ridiculous!
There were areas that were hard feeling when you pressed different areas of the tattoo itself. Those hard spots are nearly gone after 2.5 months. As “Nicolas” explained it, what I had were areas of dead skin that needed to heal and become alive again. I knew what he meant when he told me to prick my skin with something sharp. Prick your upper arm and then the tattoo area–you’ll see what I mean. (I thought he was mental, but I did it. ) Sure enough, I could FEEL the areas on my upper arm, I had sensation. On the tattooed area, even though I saw myself pricking my skin–I couldn’t feel it at all. It was truly dead. This was NOT the time to put Vitamin E on it! Cool water or alcohol ONLY. This is why I say to call your professional to get their advice first!
It did not heal well, it needed LOTS of soaking, and now after nearly 3 months, it’s close to being healed. But there are patches still of red, injured skin showing through. It was not also aligned perfectly and is “off center” when you turn to look at your wrist (I know better–so WTH?). “Nicolas” has been kind enough to offer to fix it, to get it looking as good as it should. We hope for it to be healed enough in ANOTHER MONTH. WOW! Believe it or not–I do want to get Touch Ups for this one! Even still!
(Now it is not my intention to “slam” or “smear” the name of the particular artist I saw for this. This was totally at my discretion. In fact, at my request, they did some Touch Up work that I am VERY pleased with! The one tattoo in particular turned out really well and they really “knocked it out of the park!” Their portfolio showed good work. I do not want cause any harm to their career so I will not name names.)
And the last and maybe most important question you may be wondering. Is getting a tattoo addictive? Yes and No. In my personal experience, it was not so much “addicting” (I gotta get another and another and…) as I wanted to add things. Some were new, but most were “Touch Ups” or “Additions” to ones I already had. But once I’d had enough–nothing could change my mind. I WAS DONE. That’s it. No more for me. We all have a set limit.
For my husband, he is not an addictive personality at all. He did his to match (he has armbands) and then his last 2 were more of “it sounds like a good idea” to get them done. But his experience was totally different than mine in that ALL of his hurt like the dickens. Every little bit, every little time. The agony was more than he could take. So he stopped for the reason of it hurt too much to go on.
Me personally? I’ve had 3 kids RAW (no drugs, no nothing) so pain is nothing to me ( I guess I’m a hardass and didn’t even know it!). I started out with my first tattoo being the worst one you could ever get–the lower back tattoo (which I now consider to be similar to having a 4th child–and I know pain!), so after that–nothing was going to be as painful as that was! And you know what? Nothing has come even CLOSE to it!
Now another little tidbit is important to know. The inks they use these days are safe–medically. They do NOT have metallic substances in them anymore. Some people with older tattoos done in the mid 80’s and before, had to worry about metals being used in the inks. This was very problematic–because they weren’t aware of what was in the ink until they got an MRI later in life! Then, their skin popped like popcorn in the microwave! Not nice. X-rays, CAT scans can also cause some issues (they sometimes “cloud” or make shadows in the X-ray itself), but when you are about to receive an MRI, they ask you about tattoos on the pre-questionnaire.
Tattoo ink is considered a Cosmetic, therefore is not checked over and supervised before it is given out for consumer use (herein lies the problem with the cosmetic industry as a whole). So tattooing is not for the really stringent Greenie or Tree Hugger. I do consider myself to be a bit of both (a Green-Hugger!)–but the idea of “My Own Personal Body Art” won out over worrying what *might* be in the ink.
So in summary: Check their portfolio first, Get a real professional with experience, and that they are licensed to do tattoos, Be choosy, It’s permanent and Yes, its going to hurt!!!
Any Questions? Comments? Tattoos of your own? Share them with me!
I’d love to check them out! You went through the pain of getting them, at least be appreciated for it! And please share this with anyone who is thinking of getting a tattoo! These are great tidbits to pass on to those that even have them! Thanks so much! And I look forward to hearing from you!