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You REALLY want a tattoo
by Raúl Ortiz @ shegsy.com

You are planning to have a tattoo, so what next?

There are a few things you should do before, such as chosing the design you want to have on your body and the location for it, making yourself aware of the health issues and concerns and if you are under 18, checking your local laws and talking to your parents before moving forward.

A bit of history on tattoos
First of all, have in mind that tatttoos are not just a trendy thing to have. Tattoos are here to stay, and for sure they are not going to go out of fashion in the near term. The proof is that tattooing has been practiced from a very long time in civilized human history. In 1991, the frozen body of a 5000 year old tattoed man 'ötzi the ice man' was discovered on the mountain chain between Austria and Italy. 'Ötzi the ice man' had 57 tattoos on his body, apparently applied for therapeutic reasons. Also, wall paintings from ancient Egypt, as old as 2200 years BC, suggest that the use of tattoos in the ancient Egyptian society. The egyptians spread the practice of tattooing throughout the world and it seems that by 2,000 BC, the art of tattooing had stretched out all the way to southeast asia.

Choosing a tattoo design and it's location
The first thing you have to do after deciding that you REALLY want a tattoo, is finding a tattoo design with a meaning. Perhaps the tattoo flash that you see on the walls at your local tattoo parlor may be cool enough, but it may not be YOUR tattoo, something unique, something that drives you, motivates you, reminds you of a particular date, event or something special.

My first advice on this matter is that you should have a tattoo for an specific reason, not just because you fancy having a tattoo or because it's perceived as a cool 'accessory' to have. Tattoos are for life (and longer) so you should be 100% sure about the design you want to put on your body as there may come a time in the future when you regret what you did in the past.
A good option for choosing a design, is to take a flash image you like and modify it to speak to your personality. A tattoo is one of the most dynamic symbols of self expression ever created so it's important that you choose a tattoo with a meaning. One of the best options is to ask a tattoo artist to draw a design for you. Search for a tattoo artist with a particular drawing style you like and ask him if it's possible for him to design your tattoo. Tell him what you want, what the tattoo should express, the approximate size, body location, style, color scheme, etc.. and be sure that he will come up with something nice, and for YOU. Personally, I have done this a few times in the past with people who emailed me with their request, and so far no one has been dissapointed with the result.

My second advice is that you place the tattoo on a body location that you do not normally see, even when looking at yourself in the mirror (e.g. back, ankle, shoulder, etc). You run the risk of getting tired of your tattoo if you see it every single day of your life. My preferred locations are those covered by normal clothing. That way, your tattoos will only be seen when you want to show them or during the holiday summer days when we wear scanty clothing.

If you are a girl, have in mind that having a big tattoo on your lower back could mean that you cannot receive any epidural anesthesia, which is an ongoing injection of pain medication into the epidural space around the spinal cord, to partially or fully numb the lower body when giving birth. This is because there is always the risk that some ink gets into your spinal cord if the doctor injects you throught a tattooed skin area. All this should not be a problem if the tattoo design has blank areas.

Quality and Health
Ask your friends for a reputable artist, drop your question on tattoo forums and visit different tattoo studios before deciding. It's extremelly important that you research your artist and studio. Remember that this tattoo will be with you for your entire life and you only have one shot at getting it right. At the end of the day, the difference between a nice tattoo and an amazing tattoo comes down to the actual tattoo design and the tattoo parlor who will tattoo it on your body.

A tattoo design should ONLY be applied by a qualified professional tattoo artist in an sterile tattoo studio as there are risks associated with tattooing beyond the obvious short term pain. Getting your design tattooed by anyone at any non-professional location means putting your health at extreme risk. Not to mention the possibility of ending up with a permanent mess on your body.

Tattoos require aftercare in order to avoid infection so It's important to rely on the expert guidance of your tattoo parlor for the proper care of your life-long treasure. The long life of your tattoo depends upon the care you give it during the critical first few days.

Quality tattoo parlors have helped compile the following simple directions for quick healing. However, it's important that you consult your own tattoo artist for any special instructions related to the aftercare of your specific tattoo.

  • Do not re-bandage the tattoo.
  • Do not apply vaseline, lanolin or petroleum based products.
  • Do not apply alcohol.
  • Do not rub, scratch or pick at the tattoo.
  • Do not expose the tattoo to direct sunlight, swim or soak in sauna, steam bath or bathtub for two weeks.
  • Be sure clothing touching your tattoo is clean and soft.

Now you are ready for it. Moreover, you should know that having a tattoo is one of the 100 things you are supposed to do before passing away..., so..., what are you waiting for?

You can find further resources in the links page.
This article was originally published on Dec 18, 2005. It has not been updated.

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