To Ink or Not to Ink: 10 Questions to Consider
By the Editors of TattooFinder.com
People get tattooed for many reasons — from wanting to shock others or memorialize an event to simply wanting to beautify their bodies with permanent artwork. Whatever your reasons for considering one, getting a tattoo is inherently a long-term commitment and there are potentially a lot of complex decisions involved in the process. Because the ink you end up with is permanent and ultimately your responsibility, we’ve created Tattoos-101 as your trusted and comprehensive guide to the best possible tattoo experience. So if you’re thinking about inking, start here with the first and most important question: “Is getting a tattoo the right choice for me?”
“Tattooing has a gut level of appeal in every culture,” says Guy Aitchison, respected modern-day tattooist and artist. Historically, the urge to permanently mark one’s skin has been around for a very long time and evidence has been found connecting the craft to almost every culture dating back to the Bronze Age, circa 3000 BC. The ancient art has since developed in sophistication and meaning well beyond its worldly roots, but that hasn’t necessarily made tattoos generally accepted. The practice wasn’t even legal in New York City until 1997.
While some may still find tattoos repulsive or unnecessary, their modern day popularity is unmistakable. Aitchison and other industry-leading tattooists note a “Tattoo Renaissance” of the last several decades, with an influx of artistically trained young people entering the industry. This era has brought a new artistic quality to skin art and a massive increase in widespread appeal. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, about half of Generation Nexters in the U.S. (those born between 1981 and 1988) say they have a tattoo.
As a craft and an art form, tattoos can provide a physically intimate way to express your individuality, but they’re not right for everyone. And before you begin to tackle the inevitable barrage of design questions (i.e. “Does this purple koi fish truly express my identity?), you should educate yourself and weigh your options. If you learn more about why you want a tattoo and what you’ll experience in getting one, the better you’ll be able to answer the big question: Am I ready to get inked?
10 Questions to Consider Before You Get Tattooed
- There will be some level of pain involved. Am I okay with that?
If scraped knees make you woozy or you pass out giving blood, getting tattooed may be a real challenge for you. Despite the coolness factor, getting a tattoo is like art surgery; it involves rubber gloves, some blood and bandages, needles and the process can take several hours. And, yes, most people say that getting tattooed hurts. While the pain associated with each tattoo varies, and everyone experiences pain differently, there is almost always some level of discomfort. After all, your skin is being punctured thousands of times by little needles. Even if you’re okay with the pain, you still need to consider that you may be sitting in a very uncomfortable position for an extended amount of time.
- Am I comfortable knowing that a tattoo will become a permanent part of my body?
A healthy body can heal most wounds — a good thing since getting tattooed essentially “wounds” your skin to get ink to its second layer or “Dermis.” Typically, anything that penetrates your skin at that level is broken up and flushed out by the body by the bloodstream, but tattoos are resilient because the ink molecules are too big to discharge. A healthy immune system recognizes that the ink is not poisonous or harmful and allows most of the ink to stay there . . . forever. The decision you make now will be with you in your next relationship, at your future children’s high school graduations and with you as you rock on the front porch many, many decades from now.
- Do I accept that, even under ideal circumstances, there may be some health risks?
It’s a sad fact that not all tattooists are reputable. Some adhere to local health regulations (if any exist at all), while others may not. Enforcement of regulations through official inspections (again, if they actually exist) also isn’t guaranteed. Poor sanitation or misuse of tattoo equipment can lead to more serious and even life endangering blood diseases like Hepatitis. And, while you can be tattooed in a safe, reputable tattoo studio with little health risk, the greatest risks often occur after you’ve gotten your new tattoo. Improper healing and aftercare can lead to infection and long-term skin conditions, not to mention unsightly damage to your new artwork.
If you have special health considerations such as diabetes, hemophilia, epilepsy or immunity deficiency problems, you should talk with your health care provider prior to being tattooed. You will also need to notify your tattooist of any conditions that could complicate the application or healing of your tattoo.
- Whether people love my tattoo or hate it, can I accept potential tattoo criticisms and other “tattoo attention” as a part of my life?
Not everyone likes tattoos. Frankly, some people despise them. They are appalled that people would “deface” their bodies and they’ll let you know their opinions. And, vice versa, others who are also tattooed may feel a common bond with you. Some people may just be interested and will want to see them more closely (they may not ask for permission). By getting a tattoo, especially if it’s going to be highly visible to others, you will be drawing attention to yourself and, whether you like it or not, potentially labeled and stereotyped. Sometimes you have to have some patience and thick skin to wear your tattoo with pride.
- What are my reasons for wanting a tattoo?
Do you want to commemorate a loved one or a special event in your life? Is there a particular image or symbolism that you identify with and want to express? There is no “right” reason to go under the needle and you won’t need to justify your choice to anyone . . . except you. Be honest with yourself about why you want a tattoo and make sure you’re comfortable with that reason. Remember that your decision may be with you for a very long time. The more honest you are now about why you want a tattoo, the closer it will be to what motivated you to get it, especially as you wear it into the future.
- Do I understand that my tattoo will change in appearance over time?
Like your body, tattoos are going to change as they age. The skin is the largest organ in the body and it reproduces itself over and over. Your body will slowly break down some of the ink pigment of your tattoo, making it look dull, faded and blurred over time. Your artwork may also stretch or sag, which will make it appear a lot different than it did when new. The silver lining is that by using Tattoo Friendly™ design reference your tattoo will be best suited to hold up well over time. And regardless, it’s definitely possible to get your tattoo touched up, rescued, covered or removed entirely. The results will vary, but it’s important to know from the beginning that your tattoo will age with you and may eventually need more work to keep it looking like you originally intended it to.
- Am I willing to educate myself and do the required research needed for the best tattoo experience?
Like any type of learning process, getting a proper tattoo education can take some time and effort. You’ll want to put serious preparation in finding the perfect tattoo design, artist and studio, as well as learning how to take care of your tattoo as it heals and into the future. As you may have already discovered, there is a lot of misinformation floating around. Tattoos-101 can be a useful, comprehensive guide to a great tattoo experience, but you should be prepared to put in time and energy to get the best results.
- Am I willing to take full responsibility for the final outcome of my tattoo and experience?
The design you choose, the artist and studio that you decide to work with . . . all of these decisions are yours. With the potential of getting bad work and, worse, a health complication, it’s important to take responsibility for the ultimate outcome. There may be other people involved, like your flash artist or tattooist, but you’re the one calling the shots and the ultimate success of the tattoo experience is up to you. Educate yourself and make smart decisions about your design, placement, tattooist and aftercare. The choices you make will have permanent rewards and consequences, ultimately determining whether you’ll have the best possible tattoo experience.
- Does the decision to get tattooed feel like my own, or are there other influences that might be pressuring me?
Friends may pressure you to get one. Family may disown you if you have one. Regardless of external pressure, you should only get a tattoo if you want one. It sounds cliché, but a tattoo can be one of the most personal decisions anyone could ever make. Tattoos-101 will give you a roadmap for the best possible tattoo experience, but it’s going to be a personal journey. Friends, family members and even your significant other will have opinions about tattoos — whether or not you should get one, what you should get, how big and where. While trusted people can provide useful advice, put YOUR opinions first when weighing the factors and making final decisions.
- Are there alternatives to a tattoo that would better satisfy my desire to get one?
If you are not sure you’re ready for an actual tattoo, there are other options. One recommendation is henna art, widely used in India and derived from the henna plant. The natural ink can be applied to the body in decorative patterns, essentially “staining” the skin and lasting as long as three weeks. Other options include adult temporary tattoos, latex skin paint, tattoo clothing or other types of body modification like a piercing. If you’re interested in the idea of having a tattoo and just not 100% sure about going through with it, take the time to think your options through. Your skin isn’t going anywhere.
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