I’ll never forget the day I decided to get my first tattoo. I’d always been excited to have one, as I view them as wearable art on your body and a form of individual expression. I was so excited and knew exactly what I wanted in terms of the design and colors. I knew I wanted to go bold and have a large, bright-colored tattoo on my upper right arm. Then of course reality set in and I had a whole bunch of things to figure out, like where I was going to get it done, the cost, the recovery, and of course (gulp) the pain.
First and foremost, I needed to find a tattoo artist. There are several ways to find one: by going to a local shop as a walk-in; searching YELP for helpful reviews; or the way I found mine, which was a referral from a friend. I recommend the referral process because you have someone who can tell you if the shop is clean and sanitary, plus you can usually see the artist’s work in person on your friend. I also recommend going for a consult with the tattoo artist to discuss the design, colors and placement on the body at least a few days prior. It’s good to establish a relationship with the person who is going to be placing a permanent image on you.
My consult was very helpful, and my artist traced the image on my arm so I could see if I liked it and to check the size. In preparation for the big day I was advised to wear comfortable clothing and to make sure I had plenty of Aquaphor on hand for after care. Aquaphor is a healing ointment similar to petroleum jelly that is used to treat burns and is very useful as a healing agent for new tattoos. I was required to sign a waiver to release the tattoo artist from liability regarding Hepatitis and HIV, another reason why cleanliness is super important. During your consult ask them to show you how they clean the equipment and needles. Make sure they bring out a new set of needles sanitized in a bag that’s opened in front of you.
The big day soon arrived and I was nervous yet excited. I had no idea what to expect pain wise. However, I knew there would be some pain as tattoos are applied with needles. and so I knew it wasn’t going to be like being licked by kittens. But, the pain wasn’t that bad. The outline and shading didn’t hurt that much, however the color hurt a lot as it is scraped into the skin. I remember hearing the sound of the needle (which reminded me of a dentist’s drill) and feeling like “what are you doing, I have to get out of here,” which is always my first instinct at the dentist.
I just kept saying, “you can do this, just go to your happy place and it will be ok.” So while I was there, I pretended I was sitting on the beach sipping a pina colada. Every now and then I’d feel a bird pecking at my arm, which was my subtle reminder that “hey, your getting a tattoo!”
My first tattoo took about two-and-a-half hours. Afterwards it was wrapped in plastic wrap, and I was told to begin applying Aquaphor daily starting the next day for up to a week. I was also told to avoid gyms and pools for at least three weeks to prevent infection. I’ve had my tattoo for almost ten years and I love it. I wear sunscreen to prevent fading and apply lotion at night here and there. The pain was worth the reward. Since getting that very first tattoo I have since added five more. I have one on my upper right back, one on my right wrist, two on my left wrist plus one on my ring finger, which was the one that hurt the most. I even convinced my husband to get one as well. I walked him through the experience, and he loves his. I love his too, as it’s my first name with hearts, lol.
My experience with getting tattoos is that they are painful but it’s for a short period of time. As long as you take care of it during the criticalthree
Laura Harrington is a married stay at home mom to a 2 year old toddler and 2 cats. She has an associates in Fashion Merchandising from FIT in NYC and resides in Connecticut.