I may or may not have mentioned that I got my second tattoo late last year. It’s a cat on my left thigh, and it’s a memorial piece for my (really rad) aunt who passed away five years ago in December. The line work is finished, and it needs shading and colouring, but I’m not in a huge hurry to get it done. That’s the thing about tattoos. There’s no rush. They’re not going to go away.
Tattoo aftercare is specific to your artist, and I would never suggest anyone take my advice over a professional’s. I did want to write a bit about caring for your tattoo, though. And how to survive getting a tattoo, although I may not be the best source of advice for this. I fainted after this piece was finished.
There’s a really funny photo somewhere on the internet of my face while getting my first tattoo. If I can find it, I’ll add it to this post. The thing is, getting tattooed is not actually that painful. I mean, it hurts, of course – of course it hurts. It’s a tolerable pain, though. It feels exactly like what you’d expect a tattoo to feel like. And as soon as your artist stops tattooing, it stops hurting. (It might hurt again later, but that’s more the burny glow of pain you’d expect from a huge, raw open wound.)
Being tattooed is quite taxing on your body, however, and it’s generally recommended that you eat a good meal beforehand and keep your blood sugar up for the duration of the session. I can endorse both Jet Planes and Redskins for this (I just wish they weren’t called that).
Most importantly, you should pay attention to what your body is telling you. I have a weird physiological reaction to things that impact my body (having blood taken, getting tattooed, getting a piercing.) As much as I try to convince myself otherwise, I will get faint and dizzy about ten minutes after said trauma is over. I did not pay attention to this after my most recent session, and then suddenly I woke up and I was lying on the table in the recovery position (thumbs up Amy, Mum, Callum and Tim for dealing with me.)
So. Aftercare. Tim Gau, who did both my tattoos and is an all-around GC, recommends cleaning a fresh tattoo infrequently with fragrance-free soap, and applying thin layers of Bepanthen when necessary. And no scratching! Even when you feel like you might die of un-fulfilled itchiness if you don’t.
The other really big thing to remember is to protect it from the sun. This is something you have to do FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE but especially so in the first year of the tattoo’s life. I usually just chuck on a layer of whatever sunscreen is in reach while I’m doing my face. This will get expensive the more tattoos you have, though.
I’m really curious to learn what peoples’ preferred method of tattoo aftercare is. If you have tattoos, what do you use? Do you swear by Bepanthen? Coconut oil? There’s no wrong answer – well, there may be a wrong answer, but I’m not here to call you out on it.
I’m also open to other people sharing their stories of fainting after getting tattooed – please! – so I can feel less ashamed of it.