Guide to Your First Tattoo

Candise Massa

Getting a tattoo is no longer the sign of rebellion it once was. In fact, according to, 70 percent of those with tattoos have more than one and 20 percent of people have more than five. As a result of the growing popularity, more than 15,000 tattoo parlours have opened in California alone. However, even though more people are getting tattoos nowadays, many don’t know what to truly expect before getting one or how to treat it afterward. 

Before getting a tattoo, there are some things one should consider. 

Expect the price to be pretty steep. Local tattoo shop Spider Murphys in San Rafael charges a minimum of $100. Yet, going to a tattoo shop because of the affordable price is not a great idea, as you are going to have this permanently on your skin and you want it done well.

Depending on what location you decide to go to, you may have to schedule an appointment. When scheduling your appointment be sure to include a visual of what you would like as well as the sizing, placement and font desired if applicable. You should also look at the reviews and visit the shop prior to an appointment to see if it is clean and sanitary. 

You should treat a tattoo like an open wound; dirt or bacteria can damage the final result or slow the healing process.

 If you are getting a quote or name, you should always proofread your tattoo, you don’t want a tattoo to say “no regerts” when you wanted it to say “no regrets”. states “17percent who have a tattoo regret it, most commonly, because it is a name they would otherwise like to forget.”

Body location also matters a great deal. Certain areas of the body hurt more than others and affect the lifespan of the tattoo. 

While getting my tattoo (shown in photo) on my arm, I only experienced some minor stinging and tingling. Pain may vary based on one’s pain tolerance; being a type 1 diabetic, I have a rather high pain tolerance when it comes to needles. Some people claim it is the drilling sound of the needle that freaks them out most.

You should also know what to expect after getting your tattoo. Most artists will tell you what to do and send you out with a handout for personal reference. Always follow the artist’s aftercare instructions and use their products. This will prove to be much better than reading through message boards.

When the artist has finished his or her work, they will most likely bandage it up in a type of medical dressing and recommend keeping this on for at least a few hours after getting your ink. 

Once it is time to remove the bandage, wash your hands before undressing as dirt and bacteria can impact the lifespan or healing process. Then, always clean the inked area with either the artist’s recommended cleanser or a gentle, unscented soap. 

“I recommend using either Dial unscented antibacterial soap or Dr. Bronner’s baby unscented pure castile soap,” said local Spider Murphy’s tattoo artist Jeremy Lyn Kymzie. 

Avoid fragrance and alcohol, as these are skin irritants and will inflame the skin surrounding your tattoo, causing a burning sensation. After you have finished cleansing the tender skin, pat it dry with a clean towel, never rub. Rubbing will cause the ink to fallout. 

 If you’re dealing with itchy, dry, or scabbed skin, don’t worry this is completely normal and it should subside in a few days.  Apply the recommended ointment. 

“The best ointment would be Aquaphor advanced therapy healing ointment,” said Kymzie. 

If the tattoo starts to flake or peel, don’t panic, it’s normal. This usually starts sometime after the third day and only lasts a few days after. Just don’t peel at it because this can cause the ink to fade. Exposing tattoos to direct sunlight can cause colors to fade so for the first week it is recommended to wear long sleeve, loose, cotton shirt.

Finally, in the duration of the first few weeks after getting a tattoo, remember to take showers only, no baths. 

Keep these things in mind before getting your tattoo and follow the recommended steps after getting your tattoo and you should be set. Just remember that every tattoo tells a story, so make sure it is one you’re happy with.