This is the first question in the FAQ section because this is generally the first question people ask. The frank answer is “Yes”. A needle piercing your skin does hurt. However how much it hurts depends on where you plan to get the tattoo inked and what is your pain threshold. I typically explain this as an ant biting again and again. It hurts but it is bearable. Again, after the initial 10 to 15 min, the pain tends to get lesser as your body releases endorphins (pain killers) which dulls the pain significantly. The second point to note is the location of your tattoo. Fleshy muscle areas like arms, thighs tend to pain less. Bony areas , ankles, collar bones tend to pain more. Again, tender areas like the inner side of your arms and thighs tend to hurt more than the outer side.

Its best to avoid any pain killers before a tattoo. Many including aspirin or ibuprofen could lead to increased bleeding. Anaesthetic injections don’t work either as they make the skin swell and after healing the tattoo may look pretty shaky. These days there are some form of numbing creams especially manufactured for tattooing. You may check with your tattoo artist for the same. They tend to lessen the pain for some time. My sweet and simple advice – if you have decided for a tattoo, the best is to grin and bear it. You will value your tattoo so much more.

The fact that you are reading about getting inked shows that you are interested. However it is best that you think this through and are sure what you want inked and where. When customers tell me to suggest a design and tell them where they should ink it, to me it is a sign of not yet ready. If you are going to have a permanent décor on your body, you sure want to be definite of what your want and where. Please note, these are permanent tattoos and when one gets them inked, they should do so clearly understanding they are going to carry them for life. The tattoo artist can definitely suggest something but you should atleast be clear of the theme, the location and the type of tattoo you would like to go ahead with . In a survey of 163 tattooed men and women in the US, a third regretted their tattoos.

It is possible to take out a permanent tattoo using laser. However this is very expensive and could scar your skin if not properly done. It is best to plan and then go for your tattoo in the first place. The other option is what is known as a cover-up. In this another tattoo, normally a black tribal is tattooed over the existing spoilt tattoo. That way one still has a tattoo but it could be different /changed from the original one.

Tattoos can be linked almost anywhere on the body. It is more a question of where one wants it. The only places technically one cannot get a tattoo is hair, teeth and nails. Some of the more common areas are the upper and lower arms, shoulder blades, upper chest, breasts, rib cage, stomach/abdomen, the neck and nape of the neck, thighs, calves, ankles, inner arms, wrists, back and buttocks. Not so common but equally doable are the under arms, nipples and genitals,

Tattoo inks are generally made from metal salt based pigments. While they are not FDA approved, they are inert and cause no problems. If you are very prone to different allergies, you may want to get a patch test done for the colours you may use.

The first thing to look for is cleanliness. Make sure the artist is using disposable needles and needle tips. Is it well lit and airy/air conditioned. Check for your comfort with the artist. Do you feel you are being treated with respect and your points/concerns are being heard. Don’t feel pressured to get the tattoo done on the spot just because the artist insists this is the only time he is free.

Couple of points. Firstly many organisations are still conservative. You may prefer not to get a tattoo done in a place that cannot be covered/hidden under any circumstance. An example of this would be the side of the neck which cannot be hidden even with a collar. I would therefore recommend something like that only for someone whose future occupation would never put limits on it – eg a DJ . Secondly avoid inking names as one never knows when you may not want that name on your skin. I have had a number of cases where I have inked a new tribal over an earlier name. Finally, we need to understand and remember that with age, some parts of the body sag more than others. When this happens the tattoo too would get distented. Just to drive the point a smiley face on a sagging breast would make it a sad sight.

As in any medical procedure, if the process is clean and hygienic there is nothing to worry. Ensure only disposable needles and tips are used. Also ensure that the tattoo artist is not using the same ink cup from which he used the ink for the previous customer. As long as standard procedures are followed, this risk is at a minimum.

Please be very careful of this. Laser cannot be used on a tattooed area. The heat will totally burn and destroy the tattoo. If one wants to use laser to permanently remove hair, it should be done before that tattoo is inked. One can however use other methods such as shaving, hair removing creams/lotions. These are perfectly same.

Reference to write up by Nick Buccaneer , pirate@netcom.com, who studied at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Dept. of Epidemiology. He spend the summer researching AIDS and IV drug use in NYC.

“Obviously there is some concern about AIDS and tattooing because when you get a tattoo, you bleed. But the mechanism of transmission needs to be better understood.

AIDS is transmitted by intimate contact with bodily fluids, blood and semen being the most common. Intimate contact means that the fluid carrying the AIDS virus (HIV) enters into your system. Injection drug users use hollow medical syringes and needles to inject drugs directly into their bloodstream. It is common practice to withdraw a little blood back into the syringe to delay the onset of the high. When needles are passed from IDU to IDU and reused without sterilisation some of that blood remains in the syringe and is passed on to the next user. If infected blood is passed , the recipient can become infected with HIV which leads to AIDS.

Tattooing is very different from injecting drugs. The needles used in tattooing are not hollow. They do however travel back and forth through a hollow tube that acts as an ink reservoir. The tip of the tube is dipped into the ink which draws a little into the tube. As the needle withdraws into the tube, it gets coated with ink. When it comes forward, it pierces your skin and deposits the ink. You then bleed a little through the needle hole. This happens several hundred of times a second

You are only at risk of infection if you come in contact with infected blood. Since it is only your skin that is being pierced during the tattooing process, only your blood is being exposed. This means that the only person at greatest risk is the artist because s/he is the only one coming in contact with someone else (potentially infected) blood. This is why reputable (and sane) tattoo artists wear surgical gloves while working.

Another source of infection is through the use of infected tools. This is why it is IMPERATIVE that you make sure your tattoo artist uses sterile equipment. Needles and tubes need to be autoclaved /disposed each and every time they are used. Ink should come from separate cups and not directly from the bottle. Any left over ink should be disposed off and not used under any circumstance.

Not as long as you take care of the tattoo. Standard care needs to be taken care of which is answered in Q 3.2

Tattoos are not recommended for persons with haemophilia and keloids. Other than tat, it is possible for everyone else. However it is best to let the tattoo artist know in advance of any medical condition such as diabetes or epilepsy. If you have multiple allergies, you can always get a patch test done in advance

Your tattoo is precious to you and you wouldn’t want it to look dull and faded over time. The only care one needs to take is to moisturise the skin occasionally and ensure that you use a heavy duty sun block lotion (SPF 30 or higher) while in direct sunlight. All said and done, tattoos will fade a little over time and it is possible to get a touch up done if required.

A fresh tattoo is sore and needs time to heal. During this healing period, which could be between 2 to 4 weeks, it helps to take the following precautions:

  • No steam , sauna or swimming
  • Avoid excessive wetting during your bath
  • Avoid excessive sweating thro exercise/physical activity

Your artist will let you know if s/he would like you to apply any other ointment during the healing period. A&D ointment is commonly used . It is important to follow the directions of your tattoo artist. Unfortunately there are different views on this. I personally suggest it is left open as far as possible and to wash it with a mild soap and pat dry daily.
The difficult period is normally from the 5th day onwards when the skin tends to get itchy , dry and peel. It is important to keep it moist at all times – use coconut oil, baby Johnson oil or a moisturizer. Do not scratch, especially if there is a scab as that would leave a dull patch if peeled .