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rec.arts.bodyart: Tattoo FAQ 2/9--Getting a tattoo

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Top Document: rec.arts.bodyart: Tattoo FAQ 2/9--Getting a tattoo
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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge

This is the first question in this FAQ because it's usually the first
question that people ask. The answer is yes. Having needles pierce your
skin *does* hurt. But what you *really* want to know is, "How MUCH does
it hurt, and can I handle it?"

It's not nearly as bad as what you might imagine. The pain comes from
the cluster of needles on the tattooing machine piercing your skin very
rapidly. This sensation, however, doesn't feel like the poking pain of
an injection--it's more of a constant vibration. You will be amazed at
how quickly your body releases endorphins, (pain killers), which dullens
the pain significantly.

The pain will also vary according to where on your body you get worked
on. Skin right above bones (collarbone, anklebone, etc.) tend to be more
painful than other areas. In addition, certain types of needles seem to
hurt more than others. I personally think the needles used for outlining
produce a sharper, more noticeable pain, while the needles used for
shading seem to be much more like an electrical buzz (nearly painless).

Remember, you are volunteering for the experience. The amount of pain
will depend on your psychological attitude.

NOTE: Do not drink alcohol or take illegal drugs for pain relief
purposes prior to your tattoo sessions. Both aspirin and alcohol thin
your blood and promote excessive bleeding. Aspirin also decreases the
clotting of blood, which will slow down your healing as well. In
addition, artists do not appreciate dealing with drunks and is illegal
in many states.


Some people say that taking a couple of over-the-counter analgesics
before tattooing can take the edge off the pain.  Acetaminophen,
commonly sold under the brand name 'Tylenol' is generally recommended,
but not aspirin, ibuprofen, or other NSAIDs, as they tend to inhibit
clotting.  In short, you may find yourself bleeding like the
proverbial stuck pig.

There *are* actually topical anaesthetics available, even in the 
stick-up-its-butt U.S.  For instance, Bactine contains some
lidocaine, and it is possible to buy benzocaine preparations
over the counter.  The drawback of these is that they do not
work on unbroken skin, but if they are applied after the first
pass with the needle, they *can* make a tremendous difference.

EMLA is reputed to be much better, and will work on unbroken
skin, but it is not generally available in the U.S.


Your reading this may mean you're already interested in getting a
tattoo, or may know someone who is. In a survey of 163 tattooed men and
women, a third of them had regretted their tattoos! While most of this
FAQ discusses the process once you've decided to get one, let's pause
for a moment.


People get tattoos for different reasons. Is it to please your partner?
Is it because you want to belong to a group that has tattoos? Do you
identify with a certain subculture known for tattoos? Do you want to
show your independence, individuality or uniqueness?

These are all valid reasons, and why many people get tattooed. However,
because of the permanency of your tattoo, try to look at yourself in
five, 10, or even 20 years. What will you be doing at that time? You
might be a free-spirited college student now, and a web of vines on your
wrist would look really lovely. However, are you planning to work in a
very conservative field after you graduate? Will others look at your
tattoo in a bad way? Will you have to hide it with long sleeve shirts?
Are you *willing* to wear long sleeve shirts if the environment is

Do you want a tattoo of a tiger because your partner's nickname is
"Tiger," and you love the way s/he scratches your skin? Do you think
you'll be with this person in five years? If not, how will you look at
that tattoo? With fond memories, symbolizing a special period in your
life? Or a shameful or painful reminder of somebody who hurt you and
didn't care for you?

You're a headbanger (or a nose-smasher, ear-bopper or whatever) and you
*REALLY* want a tattoo all over your arms just like Axl Rose, but you
can't afford a professional artist so you get your friend with the
mail-order tattooing machine to do those designs for you? Or perhaps you
get spider webs tattooed all over your hands (or your face, which has
happened) because you want to be "different" in school. What if you
decide to "straighten out" and get a real job; train as a chef or
something, and then no restaurant hires you?

*GETTING IT REMOVED* is *NOT* easy, and is *NOT* cheap. Expect to pay
$1,000 to remove even a fairly small-sized tattoo if you're looking at
laser surgery. Expect to have a noticeable ugly scar if you go with a
non-laser technique. Expect to pay for every penny out of your own
pocket because health insurance companies will not pay for tattoo
removal. There may not be a laser surgery specialist in your area. Then
think of all those laser-surgery doctors who are going to get rich off
of a person's foolishness or lack of careful thinking.

...Maybe tattooing isn't for you.

...Maybe you shouldn't get that $10 tattoo your friend's been telling
you he'll give you, in his garage.

...Maybe you shouldn't let your buddies tattoo your hand with India Ink
and a needle at this weekend's party.

...Maybe you should get a tattoo on your back instead of on your hand.

...Maybe you should get a tattoo on your left wrist so it can be covered
by your watch if you have to...

...And maybe after reading this FAQ and reading RAB, you'll think
carefully about it, and make some informed, wise decisions about what to
do with your body.

  *Tattooing can be beautiful.*

    *Tattooing can be exhilarating.*

      *Tattooing can open a whole new world for you.*

             ...but make sure to do it *RIGHT*.

User Contributions:

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