Before your appointment
Make your tattoo appointment as easy as possible with these preparation tips!
Dry flakey skin is very difficult to tattoo. It takes longer, it doesn't absorb the ink well and leads to an average end result.
Moisturising and exfoliating for the week leading up to the tattoo can really make a difference to not only make your session quicker and easier but give a better end result!
If you have skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis it's best to consult your dermatologist before getting tattooed and only do the tattoo when your skin is at it's best.
While artists generally don't mind shaving the area for you on the day, we only have basic disposable razors to work with which can be difficult on large areas with thick hair.
Pre shaving can save time on the day and minimise irritation if you've got a nicer razor at home and careful technique. If you're not confident to do it well yourself without cutting the area, a trim with an electric razor can still save a lot of time during your appointment and is always appreciated!
A healthy body copes with the pain better and healthy skin absorbs the ink better. Eat healthy with lots of fruit and veges for the weeks leading up to your appointment and hydrate well (remember little sips often is better for hydration than irregular sculling)
While a healthy diet is best leading up to the tattoo, a rich breakfast on the day full of fats and carbs will help carry you through better as you burn through energy fighting the pain.
Sugars during the tattoo can help with energy levels as well as help prevent fainting as your blood sugar levels drop throughout the session so sweet snacks are a great idea. Caffeine is fine but best not to have too much.
Being fit and healthy is great and will help you recover faster from the tattoo, but it's important not to overdo it leading up to the day.
Sore, tight muscles hurt just to touch let alone tattoo, so take it easy for a few days leading up to the appointment. Massage and stretching can be great a few days before to loosen up the area just don't overdo it.
While your tattoo heals it's best to avoid exercise completely and just let the area rest. It's not always viable but do your best to plan for light duties at work and take a week or two off the gym.
It's hard to talk yourself through the pain if your mind is already running in overdrive!
It's not always possible but do your best to reduce stress leading up to your appointment. Reduce your workload if possible, book your appointments for times where you won't be rushing straight from a busy day at work, practice meditation, yoga, breathwork, or anything else that helps you relax and clear your mind.
During the tattoo focus on slow and deep meditative breathing, and try to take your mind elsewhere, focusing on the pain will only amplify it.
Bringing a form of distraction with you can be helpful. Some prefer just to chat, others bring headphones to listen to their favourite tunes or watch videos on their phone/tablet. If your hands will be free you can consider bringing a book or handheld gaming device, or even just a stress ball, whatever works for you!
A general mentality that's great to go in with is a healthy mix of nervous and excited with a big dose of stubborn. It does hurt so being a bit nervous can help prepare you for that pain, being excited helps you stay motivated, and overall being stubborn will keep you sitting there even when it sucks.
While we're experimenting with these more, the results are inconsistent, and in the worst case can make the skin stretchy, puffy, leathery and overall difficult to work with leading to a worse end result. In a lot of cases because it can make it take longer it'll wear off before your session ends and you'll end up feeling it anyway as well as paying more for the extra time. For these reasons it's generally not worth it but discuss with your artist, in some shorter sessions particularly shading sessions it can be quite helpful.
Other numbing products
Each artist has their preference, but I use a wide variety of products with mild numbing agents throughout the process. These tend to work better the longer the session goes so act as more of an aid through the most painful hours, helping a lot with those big full day sessions.
As a general rule it's best not to take anything beforehand, but if you're going to make sure you avoid anything with blood thinning properties. This can thin the ink as it's being applied resulting in a washed out look and making the session take longer too. Mild pain killers like Paracetamol and Ibuprofen don't tend to have much effect, while more intense prescription pain killers like Codeine and Tramadol work quite well but are typically not prescribed for tattoos.