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Tattoos 101 > View Lessons

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Getting a Tattoo...

...But Were Afraid to Ask!

by AdamSkyArtist

January 17, 2012

Continued from page 1…

Also, the sensation will change slightly during the application process. For the first few minutes there'll be some mental adjusting as your body gets used to the idea of what's happening, and then the pain killing natural endorphins will kick in and you'll start to get used to the sensation. There will be some spots where you'll notice the discomfort more and some spots where you won't feel it much or it might actually feel a little nice. Most people describe the feeling of getting tattooed as tickling at best to 'really fucking annoying' at worst.

The best preparation for your tattoo session on your part is to get a good night's sleep and come in with a full stomach so you have plenty of energy. Pain killers, drugs or alcohol will not help. Actually, alcohol and some drugs may complicate the process and your tattooist might turn you away if he suspects that you're under the influence. Sit down, relax and enjoy the excitement that you're about to get a new tattoo. Getting a tattoo should be fun and not a cause for anxiety.

Will there be blood?

Although the tattoo is inserted very superficially into your skin, there will be a little bit of blood that will 'weep' from your tattoo during and for a little while after the process. Many clients are surprised at how little bloodshed there actually is as a result to getting tattooed. The tattooist will use tissue and soap and water to clean the tattoo as he works and he'll clean the tattoo of any blood and ink residue when the tattoo is done. But you'll be asked to wear a bandage when the tattoo is finished, to absorb any blood and lymphatic fluid that seeps out of the tattoo for the first few hours of the healing process.

Is it safe?A tattoo shop scrub station, including an autoclave sterilizer.

Any self respecting tattoo shop will use state of the art equipment and sterilization techniques to ensure that your tattoo will be applied with the utmost cleanliness with no risk to you or the artist of disease transmission.

A tattoo shop should sterilize their tattoo needles and other sundries using a clinical autoclave - a heat/pressure unit that sterilizes by heating instruments at 246 degrees, under pressure for 30 minutes. This method of sterilization is the only proven means to kill viral parthenogenesis such as Hepatitis and HIV. Your tattoo artist should also use single use needles, and ink will be dispensed into small single use ink caps which will be disposed of after your tattoo is done. The artist will also wear latex or nitrile examination gloves during the procedure.

I urge you to ask your tattoo artist for visual proof that he has an autoclave and that he uses single use needles and single use ink caps. If your artist cannot provide visual proof of this or if he's evasive or is uncomfortable talking about his precautions in prevention of disease transmission and cross contamination, then it would be wise to go elsewhere as this would be a big red warning flag about the lack of cleanliness of the tattoo shop.

Many tattoo shops require state or provincial health inspections to take place in order for the business to operate. You can call your local health board and ask for a list of inspected tattoo parlors and you can usually get access to records of their health inspection for more details.

It's important for you to know that underground tattooers; those working out of their kitchen or basement or 'scratchers' as their referred to in the tattoo industry are not licensed or inspected by your local health authority and create a much greater risk for disease transmission than legitimate tattoo shops. As well, many scratchers have not had adequate training in prevention of cross contamination nor do they own the expensive and necessary sterilization equipment that you find at professional tattoo shops. For your own health protection, I strongly recommend only patronizing licensed tattoo parlors.

How long will it take?

This really depends on the tattoo design you choose. A small tattoo, such as a butterfly or Asian 'kanji' character can take as little as 20 minutes. But larger tattoos can sometimes take multiple sessions to complete. Your tattooist should be able to give you a time estimation before starting. We've all heard stories of 8 to 10 hour sessions, but this is somewhat unrealistic as very long sessions are grueling not just for the client but for the artist as well, due to the incredibly focused nature of the job. A common tattoo session can last up to 3 or 4 hours and if the work isn't complete within that time frame, a follow up session is usually in order. Most tattooers will ask you to wait for at least two weeks to give the tattoo a chance to heal before going back in to add more color.

What sort of aftercare and maintenance is required?

When the tattoo is finished you'll be asked to wear a bandage for at least a few hours or maybe overnight. It's important to know that every tattoo artist will prescribe a slightly different healing technique and you should listen to your tattooist and follow his directions for the best possible results for successful healing.

Your tattooist will most likely direct you to wash your tattoo thoroughly, immediately after removing your bandage. He may prescribe a healing salve or recommend a moisturizing lotion that will speed up the healing process. It's good to keep your tattoo clean and be sure to refrain from exposing your tattoo to dirty, dusty environments and to keep it out of direct sunlight for the first few weeks. Also, swimming with a fresh tattoo is never a good idea as chlorinated water will irritate your tattoo as will sea water. Fresh water swimming and soaking your tattoo in a Jacuzzi is a fantastic way to absorb nasty bacteria into your tattoo, so you'll want to avoid this sort of activity all together. It's a good idea to try to keep your tattoo as dry as possible for the first couple of weeks.

As your tattoo heals, it's not uncommon for some light scabbing and dry, flakey skin to appear over your tattoo. After a couple of days the skin will slough off and you may think that your tattoo is losing color as dead, ink stained skin tissue falls away as the tattoo starts to heal, but not to worry, this is all part of the healing process. Healing a (continued next page...)

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