Tattoos may be more common than ever, but don’t take the risks lightly. Understand basic safety precautions and aftercare.
You could be the proud owner of a new tattoo in a matter of hours, but don’t let the ease of the process stop you from thinking hard about permanent body art. Before getting a tattoo, make sure you know what it involves and how to reduce any potential risks.
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How tattoos are made
A tattoo is a permanent mark or design made on the skin using pigments that are inserted through punctures into the top layer of skin. Typically, the tattoo artist uses a manual machine that acts like a sewing machine, with one or more needles repeatedly piercing the skin. With each prick, the needles insert tiny droplets of ink.
The process, which is performed without anesthesia, causes a small amount of bleeding and minor or potentially significant pain.
- know the risks
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Tattoos break the skin, which means skin infections and other complications are possible, including:
Allergic reactions. Tattoo dyes, especially red, green, yellow, and blue dyes, can cause allergic skin reactions, such as an itchy rash at the tattoo site. This can happen even years after getting the tattoo.
Other skin problems. Sometimes an area of inflammation called a granuloma can form around the tattoo ink. Tattooing can also lead to keloids, raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue.
Bloodborne diseases. If the equipment used to create your tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, you can contract several blood-borne diseases, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
MRI complications. Rarely, tattoos or permanent makeup can cause swelling or burning in the affected areas during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. In some cases, the pigments in the tattoo can interfere with the quality of the image.
Medication or other treatment may be needed if you experience an allergic reaction to tattoo ink or develop an infection or other skin problem near a tattoo.
make sure you’re ready
Before getting a tattoo, think about it carefully. If you’re not sure or worried you might regret it, give it more time. Don’t be pressured into getting a tattoo, and don’t get a tattoo if you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Choose the location of the tattoo carefully. Consider whether you want the option of hiding your tattoo under clothing. Also remember that weight gain, including weight gain during pregnancy, can distort the tattoo or affect its appearance.
Insist on safety precautions
To ensure your tattoo is applied safely, ask these questions:
Who does the tattoo? Go to a reputable tattoo studio that employs only properly trained employees. Please note that regulatory requirements and licensing standards vary from state to state. Check with your city, county, or state health department for information on local regulations and licensing.
Does the tattoo artist wear gloves? Make sure the tattoo artist washes their hands and wears a fresh pair of protective gloves for each procedure.
Does the tattoo artist use the proper equipment? Make sure the tattoo artist removes the needle and tubes from the sealed packages before the procedure begins. Pigments, trays or containers should also not be used.
Does the tattoo artist sterilize non-disposable equipment? Make sure the tattoo artist uses a heat sterilization machine (autoclave) to sterilize all non-disposable equipment between clients. Instruments and supplies that cannot be autoclaved, including drawer handles, tabletops, and sinks, should be disinfected with a commercial disinfectant or bleach solution after each use.
take good care of your tattoo
Caring for your new tattoo depends on the type and extent of work done. In general, however, you will need to:
- Keep tattooed skin clean. Use plain soap and water and a gentle touch. While you shower, avoid direct jets of water on the newly tattooed skin. Pat the area dry, do not rub.
- Use moisturizer. Apply a light moisturizer to the tattooed skin several times a day.
- Avoid sun exposure. keep the area
Most tattoos have a story. Your artist may create a touching tribute to a loved one or illustrate an inside joke you have with her friends, but the underlying meaning is never a requirement for tattooing.
The important thing is that you leave your session happy with the art that is permanently engraved on your skin. And whether it’s your first or fifth time, this feeling is never a guarantee when you’re considering a new tattoo.
But there are steps you can take to ensure that your new work of art is loved and healthy. We’ve put together everything you need to know to make your experience as easy, hassle-free and guilt-free as possible.
What to know before going to the store
Above all, you have to know what images you want. Do you want something floral? A picture? Abstract spots of color? Or maybe you just want a simple script?
It’s important to develop your core idea before scheduling a consultation, unless you’re coming for lyrics, which often just require you to decide on a font. During the consultation, your artist can work on the finer details. She can show them any pictures she has saved for inspiration and find out the location and price.
Depending on the time available, the artist may create a mock-up of your tattoo on the spot or a few days later, but ultimately the final results will depend on several factors:
- how much of your body do you want to dedicate to art
- how feasible is the placement of the tattoo
- how well the colors you want will show up on your skin tone
- how much time do you want to spend with the artist
- Here’s more on what to consider when designing your next tattoo:
Once you have decided what you want tattooed, you need to figure out what you want it to look like. There are a lot of different styles of tattoos, and you’ll want to go to an artist who is an expert in the look you’re going for.
Some of the most popular styles include:
Traditional American. Characterized by clean black outlines and the primary color palette, this style commonly features skulls and roses.
Traditional Japanese. Inspired by traditional Japanese artwork, the clean lines and minimal shading of this style are often used to create tigers, koi fish, and flowers.
Realism. The goal of this style is to recreate subjects using shading and color contrast, just as they appear in real life.
Illustrative. Combining aspects of traditional tattooing and realism, this style is all about bold contours and intense color saturation.
Neo-traditional. A modernized take on traditional American imagery, this style relies heavily on shading and color to create realistic portraits.
Minimalism or geometric. With a focus on crisp black lines and negative space, this style is all about precision. The results are often simple and symbolic.
But you don’t need to be familiar with the lingo to get one of these styles. Browsing Instagram is incredibly useful, as most artists post their work on their own channel and under a hashtag. If, for example, you’ve decided you want to get a cat tattoo, a quick search for #cattattoo returns over 220,000 results.
Save the images you like best and show them to your artist during your consultation. They can use them as inspiration to create a unique piece of their own.
Many people go for pure illustration, but if you want a script, stand-alone or alongside an image, you’ll need to figure out what kind of font you want.
Adobe Typekit is a great place to look for font styles, offering everything from handwriting to typewriting. The site even lets you view the text of your choice in the font you’re considering so you can visualize how it would look on your body.
If you see something you like, print out a couple of different versions to take to your artist. You may not have its exact source on your computer, so you can use these pages for reference.
Although the style of the tattoo often dictates the color palette, the artist can work with you to modify the design and style to best suit what you want.
That said, your skin tone plays a big role in how well individual colors will hold up. For example, fair skin tends to retain white ink better than other skin tones. The red and purple pigments are also more vibrant on lighter skin tones.
Darker skin tones tend to have darker colors (think crimson red and royal blue) better than lighter tones. Having darker skin doesn’t mean you can’t get pastels or other light shades, just that these options generally don’t appear as pigmented as darker colors.
Grayscale is also an option. With this style, your artist will use a mix of tpure black ink, diluted black and white to create the appropriate tones and tints.
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Tattoo Color Guide
Lighter colors show up brighter on lighter skin tones, especially white, purple, and red.
Richer colors hold up better on darker skin tones than pastel colors.
All colors will fade over time.
Remember, all colors, including black, will fade over time.
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