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Beauty Chats: Everything you need to know before getting inked, according to the pros

Beauty Chats: Everything you need to know before getting inked, according to the pros

“Think before you ink”

Text: Redzhanna Jazmin

Should you tip your tattoo artist? Find out below, where we're covering everything you need to know before getting inked

Getting a tattoo can be an intimidating process. From pain levels to healing times and even studio etiquette, there is so much to consider before the needle even comes near you.

What are you going to get inked? Where are you going to get inked? Who are you getting inked by? And that's just the beginning—after all, any number of things can go wrong when it comes to getting a tattoo. From gnarly infections to painful healing processes, it's just not worth winging it where it matters. Our best advice is to do your due diligence in order to prevent your first tattoo from being your last.

Don't know where to start? We've put together a nifty guide to getting a tattoo, including a rundown of what to look out for in a studio and an artist to get the ink of your dreams.

To glean a little more insight into the world of tattoos, BURO spoke with two pros: Lulla Hew (@lullapalluzza), a tattoo apprentice from Electric Dreams Tattoo Collective training under Pioneer Tattooist Simon David, and Pinky Pokes, a stick-and-poke artist based at Fifth. From studio etiquette to tattoo FAQs, they've answered all of your burning questions below in our guide to getting tatted:

What you should know before getting tattooed:

1. It's probably going to hurt

As is true for most forms of body modification, you should expect to feel discomfort or pain, depending on your tolerance. That said, there are a few things you can do to make the process as easy as possible. For starters, the placement of your tattoo is important—some areas of the body tend to hurt more than others, so consult your artist to find the ideal placement for you.

Further, if your pain tolerance is on the lower side, there is another solution. Namely, opting for the hand poke technique, which is generally thought to be less painful. Pinky explains that stick-and-poke tattooing is "a non-electric and manual technique of tattooing. It is basically dipping a tattoo needle into tattoo ink, and then poking away by hand, dot by dot, into the skin. This hurts less compared to tattoo guns, where the guns drive the same needle used in stick and poke tattoos super fast into the skin."

The good news is that, no matter what you get or where you get it, as aptly put by one of Pinky's clients: "Pain is temporary, swag is forever". 

2. You don't have to know exactly what you're getting, but it's also great if you do

Some like to take a more spontaneous approach to tattoos, and that's totally fine. If you're thinking of getting inked and you're not sure where to start or what to get, Pinky and Lulla both suggest either starting small or scheduling a consultation with your artist. During your consultation, your artist should clear all your doubts and ease you into the process every step of the way.

If you're not attached to any single idea or sentiment and are just keen on getting inked with something, Pinky suggests that flashes—a pre-designed, one-off piece from an artist that you can get during a pop-up or flash event—might be for you. The only thing is that, with flashes, usually no changes can be made to the design or sizing.

If this doesn't sound like your cup of tea, a custom tattoo is also an option. Lulla assures that if you have a clear idea of what you want or even a sheet of ideas to work from, your artist can execute your idea for you. If not, the design process can also be a more collaborative effort, where your artist can create a design to suit your specifications.

3. How to pick a tattoo artist

1. Consider the specific style of tattoo you're interested in
As explained by Lulla, there are all kinds of tattoo techniques to choose from, such the traditional method, the hand-tapping technique, the machine technique, hand poke (or stick and poke), and the Japanese Tebori. So, it's important to do your research to see what you like so that you can narrow down your search to artists who specialise in your desired technique.

2. Do some research into the different styles of tattoos
According to Pinky, it's best to have a rough idea of what you want and where you want your tattoo. This way, your artist can work off the ideas you've relayed.

3. Book a consultation with the artist ahead of time
Lulla recommends this as it will give you an opportunity to scope out the space. "Most reputable artists and studios go by word of mouth, so don't believe everything you see online," she continues. "It’s very important that you have seen their workmanship in person."

4. Go with a tattoo artist that you feel comfortable with
Another key must-have in any tattooer-tattooee relationship? Good communication. Pinky explains that "you should not feel pressured into getting a tattoo design that you are not happy with. You should be able to speak your mind on the design of your tattoo, and there should be no communication breakdown with your artist."

4. What red flags to look out for in a studio space

The last thing you want to get from a new tattoo is a host of health issues that follow. The way a studio operates is incredibly important, so for your reference, here are Lulla's green flags:

  1.  A clean, tidy, and sanitary work area
  2. Everything is handled with a fresh pair of gloves
  3. Everything besides the tattoo machine is a single-use and disposed of immediately
  4. For studios that use traditional needles and metal tubes, look out for an autoclave (a machine that sterilises equipment)
  5. If the studio uses cartridges, make sure that the needles and tubes are in a vacuum pack and opened in front of you (no autoclave is needed here)

How to prepare yourself for a tattoo:

  1. Get sufficient sleep the night before
    Firstly, you don't want to wake up late for your appointment. Secondly, getting a good night's sleep is imperative to a smooth-sailing session.
  2. Do not drink alcohol the night before your tattoo
    Lulla explains that alcohol can cause you to bleed more, which may disrupt the tattooing process.
  3. Eat well before your appointment
    The last thing you want to do is pass out mid-tattoo. Trust us—you're going to need the energy!

What to wear to your tattoo appointment:

Believe it or not, the way you dress for your appointment does actually matter. When it comes to tat-appropriate garms, Pinky has two suggestions:

  1. Don't turn up in tight clothing
    Tight clothes may restrict the area you want to get tattooed, and could be uncomfortable to put back on after your session is over.
  2. Don't wear white
    The tattoo ink may smudge and stain your clothes.


The do's and don'ts of studio etiquette, according to Lulla Hew and Pinky Pokes:

  • Don't be late.
  • Don't haggle.
  • Don't rush your artist.
  • Do trust your decision.
  • Do trust your artist’s opinion.
  • Do tip your artist to show your appreciation, but don't feel pressured to.

How to take care of your tattoo, according to Pinky Pokes and Lulla Hew:

Lulla urges the freshly tattooed to remember that "fresh tattoos are basically wounds with ink". As such, the newly tattooed area will be extremely tender, sensitive and prone to infections. So, you should treat your wound well by heeding the following advice:

  • Gently wash, dry, and moisturise your tattoo with the provided or suggested aftercare from your artist at least two to three times a day
  • No scratching or peeling the scabs from the healing tattoo as its drying out
  • Don't work out, stretch (i.e. yoga) or swim
  • Don't use hot tubs, saunas, or steam rooms for at least two weeks
  • Do not exfoliate or shave the tattooed area until your skin is fully healed (this varies, depending on every individual's skin healing rate)


The most common misconceptions about tattoos:

  • Coloured or white ink tattoos hurt more
    "This is not true—the inks and the administration of the ink into the skin are all the same, regardless of colour", says Pinky.
  • Stick-and-poke tattoos hurt more than machine tattoos
    "In my opinion, eyebrow threading hurts more than stick-and-poke," Pinky laughs. "I think my tattoo patients can vouch for that, too!"
  • Weight gain or weight loss affects your tattoo
    "If you’re gaining or losing 10 kilos in a week (or experiencing generally sudden weight changes), then yes," explains Lulla. "But, if you’re gradually gaining or losing weight over weeks or months, it's not going to affect your tattoo."
  • Using Vaseline to moisturise your tattoo
    Lulla explains that "Vaseline is a big no as it clogs up your wound and blocks it from healing. Using Vaseline like this will drag the healing process out and could even cause harm to the area."
  • Getting a certain kind of design i.e. tiger, dragon etc. is bad luck
  • Getting the name or a portrait of your significant other being a good idea
    It's a tale as old as time and, according to Lulla, it's taboo for a reason. As she puts it: "Do not get them inked!"

All in all, while spontaneous tattoos are fine when you've already got an artist that you trust, there is a lot to consider for first-timers. In any case, we hope that all (or, at least, most) of your burning questions have been answered. Stay safe and ink away!

Find more stories on body modification here.