DOES IT HURT?
This is probably the most common and most frequently asked question by those who have never been tattooed. Of course it hurts to be tattooed! It generally hurts when needles are inserted into your skin! Luckily it is not so much that you can't deal with the pain. Each person has a different tolerance to pain.
Factors such as where the tattoo is being applied can also affect how painful it is. The more relaxed you feel the better. Don't use anesthetics of any kind, and never mix tattooing with alcohol. Being drunk while being tattooed will not really numb the pain and will cause you to bleed much more.
HOW IS A TATTOO DONE?
Tattoos are usually applied using a tattoo machine patented in 1896 by Samuel O'Reilly. Basically the ink is inserted into the skin cells in the epidermis. New skin then grows over the top forming a protective layer over the tattoo making it permanent.
HOW LONG DOES GETTING A TATTOO TAKE?
The time it takes to do a tattoo depends mostly on the design. The size and complexity of the design are the two major factors and also where the tattoo is to be applied. Certain areas of the body such as the arm takes less time because the tattooist can get a good grip on the area and stretch the skin, which is essential to applying a good tattoo. Flat areas like the stomach take more time because they are harder to stretch.
HOW DO I CHOOSE THE TATTOO ARTIST?
You should look for a tattoo artist whose work you like and who is reputable. Ask others where they got tattooed, especially if you really like the work you see. Ask to see photographs of the artist's work. Most often, the pictures will have been taken right after the work was completed, so redness and swelling are common. Things you should consider are:
- Does the artist work in the style you are looking for?
- Does the tattoo artist have any accreditation?
- Does the tattoo artist use proper sterilization procedures such as an autoclave?
- Is the tattoo artist and studio clean? Taking time to check out a few artists and studios will
ensure that you don't regret the experience.
WHAT IS AN AUTOCLAVE?
An autoclave is the only acceptable means of equipment sterilization in a tattoo studio and a legal requirement. It is a machine that uses a combination of heat, steam and pressure to kill all pathogenic micro-organisms known to man. If the tattoo studio does not use an autoclave, do not get tattooed there. Studios should keep regular records of their autoclave use and testing. Ask to see them if you feel unsure.
CAN I GET HIV OR AIDS?
HIV does not survive long outside the human body. Nor is it spread through casual contact. Generally, the virus can only be transmitted when sufficient quantities of highly infected blood are introduced into the body of another. The structure of tattoo needles does not lend itself to HIV transmission. According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, there has never been a case of HIV transmission from tattooing in the United States.
WHAT ABOUT HEPATITIS INFECTION?
The biggest risk in getting tattooed is hepatitis. Hepatitis, unlike HIV, is a very hardy virus that can survive long periods outside the human body and can be transmitted through little more than a scratch with an infected needle.
To combat this and any other infectious bloodborne pathogen, artists autoclave their single service equipment, use individual portions of ink and lubricant, dispose of used needles according to legal guidelines, use EPA registered virucidals to clean their stations between clients, and use barrier protection. These procedures are called Standard Precautions.
Basically, the artist must treat everyone (including themselves) as though they were infectious. That way, everyone is protected and the potential for infection is greatly reduced. If in doubt always ask the tattoo artist about sterilization procedures.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT?
Getting your first tattoo can be very exciting and nervous experience. If you know what to expect you may actually enjoy the experience. Always make sure you are well rested and have eaten beforehand. If you are tired, or your blood sugar is low, you may experience a higher level of discomfort than you normally would.
Drinking alcohol before getting tattooed is to be avoided at ALL costs. Not only do you become dehydrated, it will also cause you to bleed more and consequently have a negative effect on your new tattoo.
Because of the nature of the procedure there will be blood. The amount varies from person to person, but usually it is about what you would expect from a scraped knee or rug burn. The level of pain also varies from person to person, but most people don't find it unbearable. The best thing to do is just accept the discomfort and relax. Fighting or tensing will only increase your discomfort.
If you start to feel faint or "green around the gills" tell the tattoo artist right away instead of toughing it out. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break. Your artist is experienced in this sort of situation and knows exactly how to handle it.
Your new tattoo will get a patch of shiny skin over it or it may scab over. Leave the scab alone! This is a normal part of the healing process. Picking the scab may lead to infection and will damage to your tattoo. The scab will come off gradually.