Things you should know before getting your first tattoo

The first time is always going to be nerve-wracking

Getting inked for the first time is exciting, but also daunting af. With any luck, getting your first tattoo will become a happy memory forever etched in your brain, just as your tattoo will forever be on your skin.

Despite the fear that the commitment to a design may bring, coupled with the pain that the merciless tattoo gun inflicts, getting tattooed has been one of the best decisions of my life. My only regret is not being completely mentally prepared. On that note, here are the things you should know when you’re getting your first tattoo.

It’s obviously going to hurt, and the pain will be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced

Stepping into the tattoo parlour, I was terrified. Everyone tells you about how painful getting tattooed is, but you don’t really understand the kind of pain that you hear about until you experience for yourself. Honestly, when the needle was busy working at my flesh later, it felt like my skin was being slowly sliced open, and I thought my flesh might somehow break under the pressure of the tattoo gun.

However, worrying about the pain beforehand didn’t make it any easier to endure. Even though it could’ve been worse, it was such a strange sensation that nothing that could have prepared me for. Keep your mind off the pain and on the tattoo; think instead about how amazing it’ll be to finally get that piece of art on your skin that you’ve been wanting for so long. Either that, or bring along a friend or get chatting with your tattooer. Little distractions are best.

Don’t be afraid to voice your worries if you’re uncomfortable with the tattooist’s design in any way

One of my fears was that I would not have the courage to speak up if I did not like the look of the tattoo, and that I would end up being permanently marked with something I did not approve of. A tattoo is, after all, someone’s work of art, and no one feels good criticising someone’s art.

Thankfully, after seeing the design my tattooist had come up with on the day itself, I only had to request for a few minor changes, and loved the design immensely. The tattooist was also very gracious in allowing me to tweak the design. No one should feel afraid to voice their discomfort about something that will be a permanent mark on their skin, so remember that it’s okay to be honest about how much you like a design.

Being inked by a tattooist that you’ve done research on will decrease your nerves significantly

I had been doing research on Poppy, the lovely tattooist from Inkaddiction, and had been eyeing her designs for months. Although I had been dreaming of getting a tattoo for years, I only went ahead with the idea once I found her. I was extremely nervous about getting the tattoo on that day, and only calmed down once I reminded myself that I knew Poppy would make my tattoo look great.

Since I already knew I loved her artistic sense, it was easy to stop worrying during the process and just trust her. Doing research about your tattooist and making sure their style suits you is absolutely essential, and will really make a difference to your tattoo experience. Trusting your tattooist is also important, so remember that they are professionals and know exactly what they are doing.

Bringing a friend along helps

Now is not the time to prove to yourself that you are an ‘independent young adult who don’t need no one’. Having a friend to glance at in terror as you see the needle for the first time, having someone laugh at your pain, and then to have someone who will gasp and stare at your new tattoo with you makes the whole experience ten times more fun. Bringing someone along also makes sure that you don’t back out. My friend had to quite literally drag me into the tattoo parlour.

 Be prepared to take good care of your tattoo for the next two weeks

You will have to apply a cream to your tattoo, a few times a day, for at least two weeks. If your tattooist does not give you a cream, any kind of moisturiser or even nappy rash cream is usually okay. The tattoo will start to scab, and you will feel this insane urge to scratch at it until you’ve literally made a hole in your flesh. It will be an itchiness that is impossible to get rid of, because you’re not supposed to remove the scabs yourself. It will also be sore for a day or two, so be prepared for some sleepless nights.


Everyone will want to know what your tattoo is about, so have a ready answer. At the same time, don’t be too worried about what others think about it

Be prepared to explain your tattoo to people because everyone will get curious. Talking about the meaning of your tattoo is actually a pretty good way to let people get to know you better. At the same time, don’t worry too much about what people might think of it. It’s your body, and the most important opinion of what you do with it should be your own. If you don’t feel comfortable with telling people about the significance of your tattoo, it’s okay to give a fairly vague answer that does not make you feel too vulnerable.

The feeling of looking at your new tattoo will be exhilarating

Getting tattooed will be one of the best experiences of your life. To have a piece of art that you are proud of permanently inked onto your body will give you a thrill that nothing else can compare to. A tattoo is an expression of your inner self on your outer self, and you will love having that little reminder of who you are on your skin.

I couldn’t keep my eyes off my arm for hours after I got it inked. From the moment I saw the design, I knew it was the right one for me and after a week of having it, I have absolutely no regrets. If you’re reading this and going to get tattooed some time soon, I hope it all goes well for you, and that you enjoy being inked as much as I did.

University of East Anglia