July 17 is National Tattoo Day, and it’s never been a better time to get some fresh ink! According to a recent Harris Poll, almost 30% of Americans have at least one tattoo. In fact, almost 70% of tattooed Americans have more than two tattoos, indicating that tattoos are steadily gaining mainstream acceptance. Here are our top eight tips to making sure when you go under the needle, you’ll have a great experience.

1. Get Referrals

Word-of-mouth isn’t just great advertising, it’s terrific research! Chances are, you know someone with breathtaking tattoos. Ask them who does their ink! Likewise, people are also quick to share their bad experiences, giving you valuable information on places to avoid.

2. Shop Around

The Vagaro Marketplace is a great place to start the search, browse verified customer reviews, and book a consultation. Then, follow up on Instagram, Pinterest, and studio websites. Go online to browse digital portfolios and customer reviews to help you narrow your options.

3. Keep it Clean!

Because tattooing breaks the skin, shop sanitation is a crucial consideration. Improper tattoo hygiene or cleanliness puts you at risk for scarring, Staph infection, MRSA, or blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B and C, HIV, tetanus, and tuberculosis. Here’s what to look for in a clean shop:

  • Hygienic equipment: tattoo beds, sterilized needles, sterilization machine (autoclave), protective barriers (plastic wrap, medical tape), and sanitary gloves (latex and/or vinyl)
  • Needles and pigment containers should be new and removed from sanitary packaging for each client
  • Artists should always wear protective gloves, disposing of used gloves between clients
  • All countertops, tables, and chairs should be sterilized and disinfected

4. Confirm Valid Licenses
If their licenses aren’t prominently displayed, you may want to reconsider the studio. You can confirm valid licensing with city and state government. When verifying the studio’s licensing, it’s equally important to ensure the studio artists are properly trained and certified.  

5. Know What You Want
If there’s a specific tattoo style you want, such as American Traditional, Japanese, Blackwork, or New School, make sure you research shops and artists specializing in that style. From there, schedule a consultation, so the artist can help you decide on the design that’s right for you.

6. Meet the Tattoo Artist
This is someone you’ll be spending significant time with, who’ll be handling your body while you’re experiencing some degree of discomfort or pain. With that in mind, it’s important that you’re comfortable around them and trust them with your safety. Make sure that you like the artist, and not just their work.  Your memory of the experience will be as permanent as your tattoo!

7. Budget Accordingly
The saying, “Good work ain’t cheap, and cheap work ain’t good” is attributed to tattoo icon Sailor Jerry. Before your appointment, confirm if your artist charges by the hour or by the piece. This can make a difference, depending on the size and complexity of your design. You get what you pay for, so place value on the time, experience, and creativity of your artist. Finally, remember most tattoo artists are booth renters, so it’s customary to tip 15-20% of your service, depending on your location.

8. Follow Aftercare Instructions

Everyone has their own tips and tricks for healing, but your artist is the only one who’s a licensed and certified professional! Follow their aftercare instructions and avoid the most common mistakes people make during the healing process. If you think something isn’t right, reach out to your artist immediately to find out the next steps to take to keep yourself healthy and protect your new art.

Show us your tattoo inspiration! Tag us on Twitter or Instagram and tell us about your experience getting ink, the stories behind your art, and don’t forget to tag your artists, too!

Header Image: @criene via Twenty20

Tattoo Machine icon by Icons8