Everyone starts off as a tattoo virgin; and if you are curious about the process, google immediately directs you to many blogs and articles about expectations and tattoo care. However, that isn't necessarily the whole story. Gabi Bouvier discusses the tattoo tips she would have preferred to know ahead of time.
I fall into the middle of the spectrum when it comes to tattoo preparedness. I didn't get an appointment, or heavily vet my chosen tattoo parlor. I did check out all the reviews and compare it to the other options. I didn't visit the place before hand or even plan where I was going. I got my first tattoo in Rome on vacation, having finally settled on a parlor the night before.
Everyone has their own way of getting and taking care of their tattoo. I might not have been super prepared at the onset, but as soon as I got mine, I was religious about taking care of it, and following every instruction to the t. However, there were a few care instructions I would have liked to have known ahead of time, so my conscientious-self could prepare.
1. Moisturize: It is not unknown that you should use lotion to keep your tattoo looking bright and fresh. I read a great analogy once: your skin is like a window, take care of the window well, and you'll clearly be able to see through it. In this instance, take care of the outer layer of your skin, so the tattoo underneath stays clear. What was unknown to me, however, was that you should only use certain lotions while it is healing. I had not thought this far ahead, and if my tattoo artist hadn't taken pity on me and gave me a sample lotion, I would have been searching for the nearest drug stores trying to find one of the 'approved lotions'. Next time I get a tattoo, I will definitely have a tube on hand.
2. Cotton clothing: It is highly recommended that you wear loose, 100% cotton clothing over your tattoo. I did not know this and spent an entire evening running around Rome trying to find 100% cotton shirts. I ended up shopping mainly in the men's sections of stores because everything in the women's section was either too skintight, or not 100% cotton. When I got home, I found out quite a few of my shirts fit the bill, I just hadn't known to pack them.
3. Sleeping: You should not sleep directly on your tattoo while it is healing. This isn't a huge one, but maybe you want to think about your tattoo placement, and how you sleep, before you get one. If you sleep exclusively on your back, getting a large back piece might be problematic for a few weeks.
4. Keeping it clean: In first few weeks especially, you want to keep your tattoo really clean. This didn't present much of a problem, except to discover that you should be using mild soaps. My perfumed body soap did not make the cut, so thus ensued another shopping trip to find the perfect soap.
5. Water & Sun: You should not expose your new tattoo to sunlight, and you shouldn't keep in submerged in water (showers are fine, baths not so much). This is more of a seasonal problem: you might not want to get a new tattoo in the summer, then immediately join your friends at the beach, basking in the sun and swimming in the sea. If you want to let your tattoo heal properly, swimsuit season is probably a no-no. I know that my next visit to a tattoo parlor will probably occur in winter.
These tips might not be for everyone, and certainly, listen to your artist! But hopefully knowing this before hand will help some of you be a bit more prepared.