If you’re getting your first tattoo or even your tenth, you may have questions about it. From healing your first tattoo to how much do tattoos cost, this first-time tattoo FAQ answers many questions for those considering their first body art piece.

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Before You Get A Tattoo

What do tattoos mean?

Tattoos have been around for many hundreds of years and can mean many hundreds of things.
The meaning behind some tattoos is cultural and of long custom. The meaning of tattoos based on symbols in other languages are as old as the symbols themselves.
But above all, the meaning of a tattoo is personal. It can be the symbol that represents a relationship, or a belief, or a stage of your life. Maybe it’s just a little bit of self-expression that you need to indulge in.
Search our gallery of tattoos for the many designs that are available.

I have an idea, but I can’t draw it. Can you help design my tattoo?

Yes, we can help. We have a custom design service and can help you design your own special tattoo.

Can I consume alcohol or drugs the night before I get my tattoo?

No. You should stay from either one for a day or two, at least, before you get your tattoo. Here are some of the reasons why: Tattoos can be expensive and time-consuming to get (and to get right). You want to be at your best while getting your tattoo so you can appreciate what’s going on.

Where on my body should I get a tattoo?

You have to consider the potential pain that may be caused on different parts of your body, as well as how often you want to display your tattoo to the general public. If you have a professional position or work in an environment where your employer frowns on tattoos.

What kind of design should I get?

Choosing a design can be a long and personal process. And I should be! Remember that even though nearly all tattoos can be completely removed by laser treatments or other removal processes, removal is a long, potentially painful, and expensive process. It will cost much more money.

Should I tip my tattoo artist?

It is not at all required or even expected for you to tip your tattoo artist. Tattoos can be very expensive, and often people save up for them for months in order to get them. Tattoo artists know this and know that you may have spent all you have just to get the tattoo done in the first place.

How long will my tattoo take?

The time it will take to complete your tattoo depends upon the design, the inks, and the placement on your body. The time needed to execute the entire design will go up as the tattoo becomes more complicated, colorful and goes onto the areas of your body that are more delicate.

What kind of questions should I ask at the tattoo parlor?

You will want to ask questions about hygiene and about any other aspect of the tattooing process that interests you. If you’ve had a tattoo before and are familiar with the process, you will still want to ask about the safety and hygiene at a new shop.

How do I look around in the shop?

You should be on the lookout for several things when you are searching for the right tattoo parlor. Check out the ‘flash’ (or drawings of tattoos), find an artist you can work with, and, perhaps most important, be sure that there is good hygiene in the shop.

Can I do anything to prepare in order to make the tattooing process more comfortable?

There are three things to be aware of and ready for before you get your tattoo: choosing the right design and artist, being in good health, and avoiding drugs and alcohol before the procedure.1. Before you get the tattoo, take your time and find the right artist.

All About Tattoo Ink

I got my tattoo recently, and the colors are already fading. What should I do?

The best thing to do in this case is to go back to the studio and artist where you got the tattoo, show the tattoo to him or her and ask for a touch-up.
Most colored tattoos and even some black ones need a touch-up because the skin can only take so much ink, and any excess will come out. A free touch-up is included in pretty much every tattoo you get at a professional parlor.

Why do colors fade?

One of the biggest problems with permanent pigments is that the most durable ones are unsafe for use on human beings. This leaves the industry with just a few safe alternatives. For the most part, very light, fast, and permanent colors are used. However, this is not always the case.

Is there a pre-test to see if I might be allergic to tattoo ink?

Yes. There is a pre-test, but it is not cheap.
The chances of being allergic to tattoo ink are very small, but if you are concerned about it, you should ask the studio if the artist will be willing to test some ink on your skin. You will be charged for it because the artist will need to go through the sterilization procedures they perform between customers to ensure safety, just as if you had gotten the entire tattoo. But since there are quite a few metals used in tattoo inks, you might want to pay the price for the test, especially if you have a history of allergies.
See the other questions in our Tattoo Ink FAQ about possible allergic reactions to tattoo ink and other substances.

Is it normal for tattoo ink to flake off a few days after I get my tattoo?

Yes, you may lose some ink due to flaking and peeling shortly after you have gotten a new tattoo. Your skin can hold only so much ink, and any excess will be shed. You may find that some ink comes off on your clothing for a few days. Once a scab has formed over the tattoo, this will stop. The scab itself may become the color of the ink that you lose.
DON’T peel off any scabs that may form. This may cause scarring and could also damage your tattoo. See our FAQ on “How to Take Care of Your New Tattoo” for more information.

If I have dark skin, can I get colors?

The color of ink that will show up on your skin will all depend on its tone and shade. Skin tones darker than tan or light olive will not usually take yellow, orange, or white, and if your skin is quite dark, you may only be able to use the really bold colors of black, purples, reds, and blues.

What colors of ink are available?

Gone are the days when the palette for tattoos consisted of black, gray, and a few bold colors. Recent years have seen an explosion of new colors available, and if the artist doesn’t have the exact shade or color you want, he or she can almost certainly mix it up for you on the spot. 

Is there glow-in-the-dark or phosphorescent inks for tattoos?

No. Neither of these are available for tattoo inks. Substances that glow in the dark can do so without any light or radiation; anything like that would be toxic for humans to use in their skin. Phosphorescent substances glow after some exposure to the light. These are also toxic to humans.

How safe are tattoo inks?

There is a wide variety of tattoo inks in use today, containing a vast number of substances. You will want to ask your artists what is in the inks used in their tattoo parlors. They may mix the inks themselves or buy them pre-mixed.

Can I get a white tattoo?

Yes, you can! Actually, let me temper that a bit.
Completely white tattoos are available, but not everyone is a good candidate for one. White ink is the most difficult for the skin to absorb. It is also more common to have an allergic reaction to white tattoo ink than to others. In fact, the ink may even ooze from the skin while it is being rejected.
Lighter, paler skin retains white ink the best. Darker skin tones are the most likely to reject white ink, so if you have dark skin, it’s not advised to try a completely white tattoo. You risk infection as well as the loss of your cash on something that will probably not work (but hey, it’s your money).
There are a few other things to be aware of about white tattoos. The ink used for white tattoos is not the same as the white ink used for mixing with other tattoo colors. If your tattoo artist does not know this, then you need to ensure that he or she will use the correct ink. Better yet, find another artist.
White ink is the most fragile, and white tattoos fade quickly even if your skin does retain it well. The best way to care for a white tattoo is to keep it well protected from the sun and to wear sunscreen when it is exposed to sunlight. Most people who have successful white tattoos have them in areas that will not be exposed often to sunlight, such as on the back or chest.
Some artists outline the white tattoo in black ink. This is not recommended, as it may blur together with the white ink and create an area of gray and muddy tone. If you really want to try a white tattoo, invest the extra time in finding a tattoo artist who knows about the special steps that need to be taken to make this special tattoo a success.

What about metallic inks? Can they be used?

If there are inks with glitter, gold, or silver tones available (and there are rumors about such inks being out there somewhere), they are not safe for use. Any tattoo using inks of this type would have very dangerous and toxic chemicals in them.

Tattoos And Your Health

Can I still donate blood and organs if I have a tattoo? If so, how long do I have to wait?

You can still donate organs and blood, but you will have to wait for a period of 12 months if you live in a state that does not regulate the tattoo industry. This is to ensure that you have rid yourself of any possible infection or that you know about any possible communicable disease that you may have contracted. These circumstances are very rare, and you should be able to donate blood without trouble.
If your state does regulate tattoo parlors and requires health inspections, you may not have to wait nearly as long. Check your local regulations and blood banks to find out.
Thanks for caring enough to be a donor!

Can I get and is it legal to get a tattoo while I’m pregnant?

Legal or not, it isn’t advisable to get a tattoo while you’re pregnant. There are many things going on and changing in your body at this time, and you shouldn’t take any risks or complicate matters. Allergies can change during pregnancy. Your chemistry changes. There is another life-taking form inside your body.
The tattoo is an open wound on your skin, and it takes time to heal. Tattoos can become infected. Unclean practices in the tattoo parlor can result in the transmission of diseases. With all the things that are taking place inside you and the other life depending on yours and on your good health, it would be best for you to wait until after the baby is born. There will be plenty of time, after all, once you have given birth. Even then, it’s advisable to wait until you are done breastfeeding the baby if you are planning on doing that. The risk of infection extends to the baby at that time as well, if you do have the bad fortune of getting an infection from your tattoo.
As for legality, the laws are depend entirely on the state and locality where the tattoo parlor is located. Look into your local laws to find out. Again, we strongly advise you to wait until after your baby is born. You may also have a hard time finding a reputable tattoo artist who will perform the tattoo.

Can you get tattoos on your breasts when you have implants?

Implants shouldn’t present any problem. The tattoo needle pierces the skin over and over again, but it doesn’t penetrate very deeply at all.

Can I get a tattoo when I’m hemophilic?

No. This is not at all advisable, and even if you try, you will have a very hard time finding a tattoo artist who will work on you.
A tattoo is essentially an open wound. The tattoo needle punctures the skin over and over again very quickly. Your skin will be punctured, although not deeply, thousands of times during the process of getting one tattoo.
It is common and expected for anyone to bleed while getting a tattoo. The tattoo artist often has to stop the needle and then wipe away the blood before he or she can continue. If a non-hemophilic bleeds during the tattooing process, imagine how much you, as a hemophilic, will bleed. We advise everyone very strongly not to drink alcohol or take aspirin before having a tattoo done because of the potential for increased bleeding.
We also advise, very strongly, that hemophilics not attempt to get tattoos. There are a lot of other ways to express yourself that won’t be detrimental to your health.

Is there any medical condition that will prevent me from getting a tattoo?

Yes, there are some conditions that will prevent your having a tattoo and others that should make you think twice before you get one.
First off, hemophilics should not get tattoos. If you can even find a tattoo artist who is willing to give you one, you have to realize that getting a tattoo involves having a needle pierce your skin over and over again. Almost everyone experiences some blood loss, and a hemophilic will experience more than most.
Secondly, pregnant women should also avoid getting tattoos. There is enough going on with your body and the one forming inside it that you shouldn’t complicate the situation any further. Again, a tattoo is an open sore, and although allergic reactions and infections are rare, it is inadvisable for you to take that risk. There’ll be plenty of time enough after the baby is born.
If you have any communicable diseases, you should think twice about getting a tattoo. The tattoo artist should know about your condition before you get a tattoo, too, because he or she risks exposure to something. It’s not fair to expose someone to a disease without informing them of the risks. If they still want to take you on, make sure you are as healthy as possible when you get the tattoo and that your tattoo artist takes the utmost care with the safety and hygiene procedures.
Diabetics also need to take very good care before they get tattoos. As long as your blood sugar is at a healthy level and you are in good shape otherwise, you should be able to get a tattoo without any trouble. However, diabetics should avoid tattoos in the area where they may experience really poor circulation, like on the legs and feet.
If you have epilepsy, talk to your doctor before you get a tattoo. If your incidence of seizures is low, you should be able to get a tattoo without any complications. Even if you are on medication to manage the seizures, you should be able to get a tattoo as long as you are taking your medication regularly and in otherwise good health. Let the artist know about your condition and what to watch for. Discuss the situation with your doctor and follow any medical advice given. You may also want to take someone with you to help you feel more comfortable.
For more information about tattoos and these conditions, see our other FAQs about ‘Tattoos and Your Health.’

Can I get a tattoo when I’m a diabetic?

Yes, you can, but you need to be mindful of your condition. The most important thing that you need to do is to keep your blood sugar at the right level. Eat something before the tattooing process, and keep something to eat and drink on hand while you get your tattoo.

Can I get a tattoo over varicose or prominent veins?

Yes, this is possible. The tattoo needle doesn’t go deep enough to do any damage to your veins, no matter what state they are in. However, you may have to tattoo the area with somewhat dark inks so that the veins don’t show through. Or you can create a design, with the help of your tattoo artist, that incorporates the veins!
You also have the option of removing the varicose veins before you get a tattoo. This can be a simple and fairly painless procedure. Whether you remove the veins or not, it might be a good idea to consult with a doctor before you make the decision to tattoo the area.

Can I get a tattoo if I have epilepsy?

People with epilepsy have had tattoos successfully and without complications.
There are important considerations to think about before you get a tattoo, though. Think about what sets off your seizures before you go. Does the place have flashing lights or anything that might result in your having a seizure?
Tell the tattoo artist that you have epilepsy. This is only fair to him or her. Especially if he or she is unfamiliar with the condition, you may find it hard to find someone who will be willing to give you a tattoo. However, you can help educate him or her about epilepsy, just as he or she might inform you about tattoos. The tattooer should be aware of what signs to look for, just in case, and maybe he or she will have some suggestions to help make the process easier for you. Maybe they can make the atmosphere of the tattoo parlor a bit less alien or alarming (like by turning off any flashing lights!)
If new or unfamiliar situations can cause you to have seizures, then perhaps the shop personnel can allow you to come in and watch someone else get a tattoo or become comfortable just being in the shop. You might also want to bring someone, a friend or family member, along with you to help relax you and to watch for warning signs.
You may also want to check with your doctor before getting a tattoo to get a medical opinion. Especially if you haven’t had many seizures, you should be fine. But if you need to take medication regularly, be sure that you don’t skip any doses, be rested up before you get the tattoo, eat well, and avoid alcohol.
With the tattoo artist’s help and by taking care of yourself, you should be fine.

Can I drink alcohol the night before I get my tattoo?

No. You should stay it for a day or two, at least, before you get your tattoo. Here are some of the reasons why:
Tattoos can be expensive and time-consuming to get (and to get right). You want to be at your best while getting your tattoo so you can appreciate what’s going on and to be able to ensure that the process is going as it should. So don’t indulge in alcohol or any drug that will cause you to be confused.
Alcohol thins the blood. While you are being tattooed, you will usually bleed a bit, and your tattoo artist will wipe it away as often as need be. When your blood has been thinned by alcohol, you will bleed more freely, and the tattoo artist will need to wipe the thinned blood away more often. This will add time to the entire process.
If you are on any sort of medication, let your tattoo artist know so he or she can be aware of any potential complications.

Can I get infectious diseases from tattoo needles?

Yes, infectious diseases can be caught when the rules of hygiene are not followed during the tattoo process. Bacterial infections can result either from improper aftercare of your tattoo or when the tattoo artist doesn’t use clean needles and clean equipment during the tattoo process.

Tattoo Aftercare: How To Take Care Of Your New Tattoo

Do tattoos normally result in peeling skin? Learn how much peeling skin is to be expected with new tattoos and what treatment you can try to help the problem.

How long should I stay out of direct sunlight?

The first two weeks during which your tattoo is healing are the most crucial, but direct sunlight will always pose a danger to your tattoo.
UV light rays degrade tattoo ink over time. If you want your tattoo to last, cover your tattoo with high SPF sunscreen. An SPF of 30 or higher is recommended.
For more information on tattoo care, see the other FAQs on ‘How To Take Care of Your New Tattoo.’

How long should I keep the bandage on after a new tattoo?

Your tattoo artist will have instructions for you. Each artist has his or her own regimen, but usually, the bandage should stay on for about two hours.
After you remove the bandage, wash your tattoo with a fragrance-free antibacterial soap, then gently pat it dry. Don’t scrub or scrape!
For the first few days, apply an A&D ointment three times a day. Your tattoo artist will recommend a product for you, but check to see that you are not allergic to any of the ingredients in it.
For the next several more days, stop using the A&D ointment and instead apply a fragrance-free lotion three times each day (something like Curel or Lubriderm should work quite well).
After four or five days of this, apply the lotion whenever the tattoo area feels dry or itchy. Whatever you do, don’t give in to any urge to scratch it! This can damage your tattoo, and that’s not what you want.
For more information on tattoo care, see the other FAQs on ‘How To Take Care of Your New Tattoo.’

How long should I put lotion on my new tattoo? What kind?

For the first few days, you should put A&D ointment on your tattoo three times a day. After that, you can switch to a fragrance-free and gentle lotion like Lubriderm, Aveeno, or Curel. Even vitamin E oil can work well for you.
Whatever you use, it should be without fragrance and be hypoallergenic. Your tattoo artist will have recommendations for you.
For more information on tattoo care, see the other FAQs on ‘How To Take Care of Your New Tattoo.’

Why is my tattoo itching, peeling, and/or flaking off?

Your tattoo will begin to flake or peel quite naturally a few days after you get it. At first, the area will be covered with an area of dry skin that looks like a dry film. This is dead skin that will eventually peel and flake away. Some of the dry flakes may contain ink from your tattoo, but it’s also natural for you to lose some ink this way.
You should be using lotion on the tattoo to keep it moisturized, and that will help with any itching or excessive peeling.
Again, DON’T scratch the tattoo! This can lead to damage!
For more information on tattoo care, see the other FAQs on ‘How To Take Care of Your New Tattoo.’

How long should I wait between tattoos?

As long as you aren’t tattooing the same area you’ve recently done, you can go back in for another as soon as you like.
Having said that, I’d recommend letting the first one heal for a few weeks before you get another. Especially if it’s your first tattoo, you want to go through the process of getting inked, healing, and appreciating your new tattoo before you rush into getting another. Once you’ve appreciated the experience and the result of your first tattoo completely, you’ll have a better idea of what you want for the second (and third, and fourth…)
For more information on tattoo care, see the other FAQs on ‘How To Take Care of Your New Tattoo.’

Should I avoid water contact? Can I go swimming?

You shouldn’t avoid water entirely, but you should avoid swimming while your tattoo heals. Showering, as usual, will present no problems, but don’t soap the tattoo or scrub it. Don’t soak in a bath because that can damage your tattoo.

How long does it take a new tattoo to heal?

A new tattoo usually takes ten to fourteen days to heal. The healing process depends on several factors. The placement of the tattoo and the way you care for it can have an effect on how long it takes your new tattoo to heal.

The Pain Of Getting A Tattoo

Does it hurt to get a tattoo? If you’re thinking of getting inked, you’re likely wondering if you can tolerate the pain factor.

Whether you are adding to an existing design or considering your first tattoo and are wondering how much discomfort you can tolerate, you may be asking what hurts the most- tattoo outlining or shading? Both tattoos outlining and shading are necessary to create most tattoo designs, except for simple script or symbol tattoos.

Does it hurt to get a tattoo? If you’re thinking of getting inked, you’re likely wondering if you can tolerate the pain factor.

I’m afraid of needles, but I really want a tattoo!

Tattooing involves having a needle puncture your skin over and over again, so you’ll need to find a way to manage that fear.
Get comfortable with the studio and your tattoo artist. Ask if you can watch someone else get a tattoo and see how they handle it. Plan on getting the tattoo somewhere where you can’t see it; not being able to see it happen can make it easier. Bring a friend to have an interesting conversation with, or listen to some interesting music. Whatever you can do to make yourself relax, try it out. Good luck!

Is tattooing with color more painful than with black?

The color of the ink doesn’t usually play any part in the pain of tattoos. However, sometimes creating the black outline of the tattoo can be a painstaking and maybe even painful process.
Some people say the outlining process is more painful, but others say that filling in with color is more painful. Two types of needles are used for the outline and fill-in, and this might account for the difference in the pain.

Which is more painful, outlining or filling in?

Many people say that outlining hurts more. The reason for the increased pain in outlining is that a thinner needle is used for the precision of the outline, which causes more pain.
Others say that the filling in is more painful. The needle is thicker and should be less painful, but the area covered is also larger. If you’re having a large tattoo done, you may experience more pain as time goes on because your body’s endorphins, which cope with pain, will wear off after awhile.
Start with a small tattoo on an area which isn’t extremely sensitive and judge the pain of the situation for yourself. Then, if you think you can handle it, move on to something splashier!

I’m afraid I might faint while I get a tattoo.

Fainting during the tattoo process is extremely rare. When it does happen, it’s usually the result of either nervousness or low blood sugar. Do what you can to lower your anxiety by becoming as familiar with the tattoo parlor and process as you can. 

Is there anything I can do to lessen the pain?

There are several things that may make the experience easier for you. First, for your first tattoo, you might choose a fleshy area, like the upper arm or thigh, because those areas will hurt less than the areas closer to the bone.

Does it hurt to get a tattoo?

Ah, the time-honored main question of the tattoo world! Well, the pain of the tattoo process, like choosing a design and deciding where on your body to put it, is subjective and personal. When you haven’t experienced it yourself, you can only listen to how others describe it.

The Tattooing Process: How exactly is a tattoo done?

How does a tattoo machine work?

The tattoo machine looks a bit like a dental drill. It has a needle (sterile), and tube system for the delivery of the ink, a motor, and a foot pedal that works the motor, which is something like the ones found on old sewing machines.
The needle on the tattoo machine (or tattoo gun, as it is sometimes called) moves at between 50 and 200 times a deposit of a drop of ink about one millimeter under the surface of your skin. This depth is in the dermal layer, underneath the epidermal surface layer. While the epidermis sheds regularly, the dermis does not. This is why you don’t lose your tattoo very easily.

How is the tattoo created?

Once you’ve chosen your design, the tattoo artist will draw or stencil the outline on your skin.
The outline of the design is tattooed first, using a thin needle and ink. The tattoo artist will clean the area and then start the shading. The ink and needles may be thicker for the shading process. Once again, the tattoo will be cleaned for the coloring with one or many inks, according to the design you chose. The tattoo area will be cleaned one more time and then bandaged.
This entire process may take less than an hour, or for a complicated or large design, many hours and more than one session.

What are the sterilization procedures in a tattoo parlor?

Your skin will be punctured by the tattoo needle dozens or even hundreds of times each minute during the process. Most people don’t think of it this way, but a new tattoo is essentially a new wound in your skin. For this reason, proper hygiene in the tattoo studio is essential.

Finding The Right Tattoo Artist

Are you wondering how to get a tattoo apprenticeship? Congratulations on your interest in an expressive and artistic career. Otherwise, you might be labeled a “scratcher” who does poor-quality tattoos. Who wants that?

How do I choose the right studio?

Finding the right tattoo studio is a crucial step in your quest for the perfect tattoo. The ‘right’ tattoo parlor means a clean and safe tattoo parlor.
Does the tattoo studio have a license? Not all states or localities require studios to be licensed, but finding one with the proper license where required is a good idea. Health inspections are needed in many places now. Ask to see the latest certificate of inspection.
Ask your tattoo artist about the procedures of hygiene and safety in the parlor. Watch them at work and see if they follow the proper steps. Any disposable materials (needles, gloves, ink caps) must be changed between clients and the used ones disposed of. The old needles should be placed in a sharps container.
The autoclave must be used to sterilize equipment between clients, and countertops and other surface areas should be cleaned with a disinfectant. Any areas that might be touched with contaminated gloves during the procedure must be wrapped in clear plastic to avoid the spread of germs.
If the shop does not follow the correct procedures of hygiene, or if it looks unclean in any way, move on to the next place.
If the place is clean and safe, look at the flash on the walls. All tattoo parlors should have ‘flash,’ or drawings of tattoo designs displayed as advertisements of what they do. If you don’t see anything you like, you may want to look elsewhere. Some people specialize in specific types of designs, and they might not have much experience and expertise with what you want.
For more information on this, see the FAQ in this section about finding the right artist.
Above all, don’t be in such a hurry that you rush to get a tattoo that you won’t really love. Love the design, love the results, and love the fact that you got it done safely! 

What do I look for in an artist’s portfolio?

The artist’s portfolio is the book of designs he or she has done that will be shown to you when you are looking for a tattoo. Check to see if anything in the portfolio represents the flash on display (either on the walls or in a flash book). Do you like the style? Does he or she do anything that you would want on your skin? What about the clientele in the portfolio? Do they represent a part of society that you feel comfortable with? Or do you even care about that? These are some of the questions to ask yourself.
Once you’ve found an artist whose style or styles you like, check the execution of the designs more carefully. How do the actual tattoos in the portfolio compare to the flash? Are the lines drawn clearly? Is there any fuzzing or fading? Are the colors bright and true? If you like what you see, and if the parlor is safe and hygienic, you’ve probably found an artist you can deal with.

How do I choose a good tattoo artist?

There are many factors that should go into your search for the right artist. This search can take time, but it’s very important that you don’t rush to make the wrong choice.
First of all, take great pains to find a tattoo parlor that is safe and hygienic. See our FAQ on parlor hygiene in this section.
When you’ve identified a safe parlor (or parlors), then you can continue in your search for the right artist. Check out the flash (drawings of tattoo designs) displayed on the walls. Are they the kind of designs you are interested in? Will the artists tweak their basic ideas to create something you’d prefer? If you want a custom design, are they willing to do it?
If you are satisfied at this stage, next check out the artists’ portfolios. There you will find photographs of actual tattoos they’ve done. Are they executed well? Are the lines clear and sharp? Are the colors bright, are the grays shaded nicely, is the overall effect pleasing?
Finally, the artist must be someone you can work with. Does he or she listen to your concerns about the process with patience? What about your ideas for your tattoo? Do they treat you with consideration? Are you going to be comfortable having this person use tattoo needles on your skin? Especially for your first tattoo, you need to be comfortable and to feel safe.
Once all of these questions are answered to your satisfaction, you’ve found the right tattoo artist!

How to Find Tattoo Ideas

Whether you opt for traditional tattoo flash or have your artist design a tattoo that’s custom just for you, here are just a few ways to find tattoo ideas.

I have a tattoo that I want to fix. What can I do?

You can get a cover-up for an old tattoo that you are tired of or that never turned out the way you expected. Years ago, artists had stock designs that they used to cover offending tattoos. These pieces usually had heavy fields of black; black panthers, black clouds with lightning, etc.

I have an idea, but I can’t draw it. Can you design my tattoo?

Yes, we can help! We have a custom service for designing tattoos. We can take your own tattoo idea and create something that will amaze and impress your friends.

How can I find pictures of a specific tattoo?

You can use a search engine such as Google to find a specific type of tattoo design. But we’ve also made the search easy for you!
Check out our gallery of images, where you will find tattoos of many kinds and using many colors. You’re sure to see lots of images that will match or come near what you’re looking for and to give you many more ideas.

How do I go about choosing a design?

Choosing a design can be a long and personal process. And it should be! Remember that even though nearly all tattoos can be completely removed by laser treatments or other removal processes, removal is a long, potentially painful, and expensive process. It will cost much more money and cause you more pain to remove the tattoo than to get it, whether you rushed off and got your tattoo on a whim or pondered it long and hard. So be sure that you’ll be pleased with the results before you mark your skin in what is essentially a permanent process.
There are many things to consider, but they all have to do with the effects the tattoo will have on you and its effects on others.
Let’s start with the effects your tattoo will have on others since that category is a bit shorter and a bit easier to sort out. In the long run, the effects your tattoo may have on others will also affect you, so they are all related.
Your tattoo could result in giving offense to others in several ways: some people don’t like tattoos at all, or in some job situations, your employer may frown upon visible tattoos; you could put a serious damper on romance with a potential new partner if you’ve got the name or initials of a former love on tattooed on your skin; the meaning or style of the tattoo could offend for other reasons (tattoos depicting nudity or even symbols about certain beliefs can offend others); or, rarely, you could contract some disease (such as hepatitis C) from a tattoo when you got it in unsanitary conditions, and that would also impact the lives of others.
Of course, you may not care what impact your tattoo will have on others. That is your right, and maybe you shouldn’t care at all! Unless you have poor health that affects the lives of your loved ones, the impact your tattoo has on someone else is unpredictable and debatable.
Still, if your tattoo is in an area of your skin that is easily visible to others, surely you are deliberately projecting some image or other that you want others to be aware of. So if you are projecting an image, make sure it’s one you want.
If you want to express a certain image or emotion, or belief, take that into consideration as well. What kind of picture would express it well? What colors would best enhance it? If the picture is important to you, look at examples of something similar before you decide on your own tattoo. These are ideas to consider when getting a tattoo.
You may want to commemorate or remember someone with your tattoo. While choosing the tattoo, consider what image would best remind you of that person or project an element of their personality or memory. What did he or she love? What image would best portray what he or she meant to you? Look at the tattoos in our gallery, or look at the tattoos you see on other people. A good tattoo artist can also help you by making suggestions or by improving your idea.
What appeals to you for a color scheme? Do you prefer black, white, and gray? Or would you like some bright colors in your tattoo? The styles available range from old-style, traditional ones consisting of mainly bold, dark colors, to newer ones with many bright colors. Tattoos can be cute and sexy, or strong and simple, with eastern symbols and characters, or butterflies or animals.
Check out our gallery of tattoos. You will find many examples of the various styles, traditions, and colors there. If you don’t find exactly what you like, you should certainly find the beginnings of an idea that an artist can help tweak for you.
But you can’t change your tattoos the way you can change your clothing, so be certain that you will like looking at it day after day, month after month, year after year.

Tattoo Distortion Concerns

How will aging affect my tattoos?

The tattoo will undergo the same changes as the other skin on your body. It will get as wrinkled as the skin surrounding it does, and there isn’t much that can be done to prevent that.

Does stretching by working out or pregnancy, or gaining weight affect tattoos?

Yes, the tattoo will change with the skin it is on. When you gain weight, the skin stretches; when you lose weight, the skin shrinks. Any tattoos will expand and contract when the skin stretches and shrinks. If your skin gets more firm, your tattoo will likely look better than it did before. If you lose weight dramatically and quickly, however, your skin will sag and the tattoo with it.
Pregnancy weight gain and loss will quite likely cause tattoo distortion if the tattoo is in the midsection. This is why women are advised not to get tattoos on this part of the body if they think they may still have children. The rapidity of the weight loss and gain is the cause of the trouble; the tattoo will suffer from the rapid changes.

What happens if I get a cut right where my tattoo is?

This depends on the depth of the cut. If it is just a shallow scratch, nothing will happen to your tattoo. If the cut is deep, there is a chance that the colors will fade and bleed out, but this is a rare occurrence. If this does happen, you can always get it touched up.
If it is a really deep cut, you probably have other problems to worry about than your tattoo, but when the healing is done, you still have the option of a touch-up to repair any damage.

Can I have a tattoo done over a dark mole?

It is physically possible to cover moles and freckles with tattoos, but it’s not a good idea. Changes in moles are often the first indicators of skin problems such as cancer.
A better idea is to tattoo around a mole or birthmark. Talk to your tattoo artist about designing something special and personal that will incorporate your skin’s distinctive characteristics into something unique.

What about tattoos on scars and stretch marks?

You want to make sure your scar or stretchmarks have healed fully before you attempt a tattoo, and that means waiting at least a year. The scar (or stretch mark) should no longer be pink. Attempting a tattoo too soon would be painful, and the ink may not hold very well.

Will my tattoo change in appearance over time?

Given enough time, yes, your tattoo will change some. If your skin sags, the tattoos on it will sag as well. Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and it is constantly shed and replaced.

Tattooing And The Law

How old do I have to be to get a tattoo?

In most places, you will need to be at least 18 years old to get a tattoo. Don’t expect to be able to coax and convince a tattoo artist that you really are old enough, or almost old enough, or soon to be old enough. You should be 18 years old and have a photo ID to prove it.

What are the legal requirements to become a tattoo artist?

You will need to have a license to operate legally as a tattoo artist. Or not.
The requirements to get a license differs in many states, but usually, this requires completing some kind of program that trains people in the use of tattoo equipment and in the proper techniques to clean and sterilize the equipment and the shop, and other materials.
They may also need to pass an examination from the local health department. Some states don’t require licenses, but you may need to re-certify each year and prove that you have been trained properly on health issues.
Finally, you should complete an apprenticeship with a certified tattoo artist in a licensed shop. The time period for the apprenticeship varies, but it could be a year or three years.
Most tattoo artists are eager to comply and are glad of the laws. Having a license and working in a licensed shop that is inspected by the health office one or more times a year ensures customers that their tattoos are safe and reliable.

How do I become a tattoo artist?

If your state or other locality requires a license to operate as a tattoo artist, there are various stages you will have to go through.
However, one part of the process that may or may not be regulated is the apprenticeship. Whether or not you need a license, whether or not you need to pass health inspections, whether or not you need to pass a written exam, you will want to undergo a period of apprenticeship.
An apprenticeship is a time in which you work with, and learn from, an experienced and probably licensed tattoo artist. This should be someone with several, or many, years of experience (some states require that the mentor have at least three years experience as a licensed artist).
While you work at the mentor’s studio, you will not be paid. You are there to learn how to use the tattoo equipment, how to clean the tattoo equipment, and how to evolve your designs from pictures on paper to real artwork that is inked onto human skin.
The artist is helping you out by giving you the benefit of his or her experience and won’t be expected to pay you in any other way. However, before you embark on an apprenticeship, DO be sure that the expectations of the arrangement are known by both parties and that a contract of terms will be signed. This is only fair to both parties, you and the mentor.
For more information on this topic, see our FAQs on ‘So You Want to be a Tattoo Artist.’

Are tattoo parlors insured?

Most tattoo shops have insurance, but this may cover only liability for accidents, etc., that occur on the property. The insurance policy may not cover any sort of guarantee that you will love and be satisfied with your tattoo.
If you want a tattoo and would like to find a parlor that guarantees quality and satisfaction, you will have to ask them about that.

What should I do if my underage teen wants a tattoo and I don’t like the idea?

Your response will be your personal decision, but there are some things to take into consideration before you either agree or disagree.
Tattoos are permanent. Even with removal procedures, such as lasers, being as available and effective as they are, a teenager should be impressed with the fact that tattoos should be considered a permanent work of art.
This artwork will be on his or her skin for years to come, and any potential removal will be painful and expensive. A trendy haircut will grow out if your teen no longer likes it, but a tattoo is there for years, even decades.
Tattoos are very popular these days and might be mistaken for another fad by a young person. An impressionable teen who wants to be like his or her friends or like someone famous they admire may be tempted to rush into having a tattoo without considering what it may mean in the future.
The trendy symbol he wants tattooed permanently on his back today may look pretty uncool in a few years. The love of her life whose name she wants inked on her shoulder now may turn out to be the dirtbag whose name she never wants mentioned again in a few months.
If your teen is talking to you about getting a tattoo, take heart that he or she is looking for your approval and hasn’t rushed out to get one illegally or from someone completely unprofessional and unsafe, without talking to you first.
Take the opportunity to urge your teen to the dangers of going to anyone other than a reputable tattoo artist. There are many risks involved with tattoos. An infection from unclean practices can ruin the tattoo and result in permanent scars. Blood-borne pathogens such as Hepatitis C and even AIDS can be transmitted by tattoo needles and equipment when the proper precautions aren’t taken.
From there, it’s your call what to do next. Your underage teen is still an underage teen, and as such, needs your approval to get a tattoo. A reputable tattoo parlor will want you to be there along with your teen and will require you to sign a consent form in front of them before they will do the tattoo.
Unfortunately, not all parlors or artists (or unscrupulous practitioners calling themselves or aspiring to be artists) will follow the legal requirements. If your teen is determined, he or she may find one of these people and get that tattoo anyway.
You may choose to go ahead and sign that consent form just to help your child avoid the dangers of a risky tattoo. Or you can urge him or her to wait until the age of consent is reached and do it later. This is where the strength of the relationship you have with your teen will be key. Good luck!

What about tattooing hands, feet, the face, and the genitals?

Many tattoo artists will not tattoo the hands, feet, or face. Some who do tattoo the feet will not tattoo the bottoms of feet. In some places, tattooing any of these parts of the body is illegal.
The reasons for this have to do with personal preference and with health. The hands, feet, and face (or anywhere above the neck) are very public areas of the body, and for personal reasons, some tattoo artists will not permanently mark another person where they will always be making a very public statement.
This is a matter of personal conviction, and it’s no use trying to convince a tattoo artist to tattoo your face if he or she has already stated that they will not do it.
The other reasons have to do with your health and the general qualities of the skin on the hands, feet, above the neck, and genitals. The skin in these areas can be more sensitive, more subject to change, and more difficult to heal than the skin on other parts of the body. These more sensitive areas can present difficulties to the artist and to you.
If the tattoo artist you are dealing with has reservations about giving you a tattoo on a certain part of your body, please respect his or her convictions and cautions. You may seek to find another artist, but don’t try to persuade him or her to do something he or she is not comfortable with. Their artistic integrity rests on the satisfaction with your tattoo – both the artist’s and your own – and they will not want to jeopardize that.

So You Want To Be A Tattoo Artist

What should I know about apprenticeships? How do I get one?

The best way to become a tattoo artist is to find an apprenticeship. The mentor you choose should be an artist who has years of experience, someone who knows tattoos and the business of tattoos. They will be able to teach you how to create a tattoo on a person from ideas in your mind or on paper. You will learn the proper use and cleaning of tattooing equipment, how to use and blend inks, and how to follow all of the necessary safety procedures. In addition to this, you will learn the many other things you will need to know to work successfully in the tattoo business.
An apprenticeship will usually last up to three years. During this time, you will not be paid for any work you do. You will spend your time learning, watching, cleaning, and practicing. At the end of your apprenticeship, you will have learned all you need to know to take on clients of your own.
Browse the TattooDesign.com database of frequently asked questions.To get an apprenticeship, you have to ask for one. You may even have to pay for one. Even if you are offering a fee, it may take some time to find an experienced artist who will take you on. After all, it takes quite a bit of time to personally train someone in all it takes to be a tattoo artist. Don’t take just any offer if you think the artist has not had enough expertise to train you (especially if you are going to pay for the favor).
When searching for an apprenticeship, prepare a portfolio of flash and any other artwork you may have. Any artist who considers you will want to see your ideas and how well you can draw them.
Once you have found a mentor, there are several steps to take. Before you agree to anything, make sure that the terms of the agreement are fair to you as well as to your mentor. Have a legally binding contract that will protect you as well as your teacher. Anyone who is unwilling to sign a contract is someone you don’t want to work with.

Do I need a license to be a tattoo artist?

This depends entirely upon where you intend to do business. In some states, licenses are required. In some, there are no state-wide requirements for licenses, but local laws may require a license. You will need to investigate the laws governing tattoo licenses in your particular state and municipality. The requirements themselves will differ depending on where you are. In some places, you will need to show proof of certification in dealing with blood-borne pathogens. More and more states and cities are requiring tattoo parlors to show proof that they have passed an inspection by the local health department.
You can get started in our section on tattoo laws.

Are there tattoo schools?

Yes, there are. Bear in mind, however, that most tattoo artists will recommend an apprenticeship over an online school. I haven’t heard much about the idea of tattoo schools because there is so much to learn about the tattoo business that must be learned on the job and in a studio, preferably with an artist and mentor who has a lot of experience.
Here are some of the tattoo schools advertised online:
– Tattoo School | Tattoo Apprenticeship: tattooschool.com
– Master Tattoo Institute: mastertattooinstitute.com
– Tattoo School: tattoo-school.com
We’d be interested in getting information about these schools from anyone who has attended them since we have no experience with them or what they offer.

How do I become a licensed tattoo artist?

To become a licensed tattoo artist, you will need to satisfy the terms of the licensing in your state or locality. Usually, this requires attending a tattoo school or earning an apprenticeship, and taking a test for the license.
There are some tattoo schools out there, but I haven’t heard a lot to recommend them, especially compared to the skills you will learn during an apprenticeship. A school can teach you how to transfer the designs of tattoos in your mind on or paper to ink on human skin, using the correct equipment.
You will learn this and much more during a good apprenticeship. When you’ve found a licensed, experienced and accomplished artist to take you on and train you, you will learn, over a period of a year or even two or three, how to transform a theoretical tattoo drawn on paper into an actual tattoo. In an apprenticeship, you will also learn the proper use and cleaning of the tattoo equipment. You will learn about inks, how to blend them, how long they last, and so on. There is more to the tattoo business than creating the art, however. You will need to learn good customer service and even the economics of the business.
You may not need a license at all. It depends on your state or local laws. Many require that tattoo artists be certified in how to deal with blood-borne pathogens, but not all do. You need to look into the legal requirements where you live or plan to operate as a tattoo artist. For more information on this, you can also read our section on tattoo laws.

How To Remove A Tattoo

What is involved in laser removal of tattoos?

By far, the most popular and effective method of removing tattoos currently is laser removal. During laser treatment, pulses of light are emitted and enter the skin; the energy of the pulses is absorbed by the tattoo pigment. The pigment reacts with the light and is broken down. A low-grade inflammation results and the skin needs several weeks to recover.
Patients may have as many as twelve treatments over a year but often should wait six weeks or more between treatments. Results vary and are affected by many factors. Some tattoos can be removed with as little as four to six laser treatments, but others can require as many as eighteen visits over two years. Experts now warn that some tattoos may never be completely removed.
The effectiveness of laser treatments can depend on the color and the age of the tattoo. Older tattoos can be easier to remove since tattoos naturally degrade over time. Also, the newer inks have proven to be more resistant to laser removal than older ones because of the different ingredients. This means that older tattoos can be removed more easily.
Tattoos of black and blue ink are often easier to remove than tattoos of brighter colors like green and yellow. In fact, these lighter ones may never be entirely invisible to the naked eye, even after many laser treatments.
The practitioner of laser removal may give you local anesthesia and may not. This depends upon their preferences and your own. The pain can be compared to the feeling of a grease splatter on the skin, according to many people. Sometimes your skin will bleed, sometimes it will not.
The cost of these ongoing treatments adds up. On average, you can expect to pay $75 per square inch to remove your tattoos with a laser.
For more in-depth information about laser removal, please see our longer article, “Laser Tattoo Removal.”

What methods are used to remove tattoos?

These days, there are many different methods for tattoo removal. Since the late 1980s, laser treatments have become the most popular and are still the most effective way to remove tattoos without any scars.

Can I get a tattoo that is removable?

All tattoos are removable if you are willing to undergo various options like dermabrasion or laser treatments. These are lengthy, costly, and painful procedures, though, so be sure you really want to get a tattoo before being hasty.
If you are looking for a short-term option for a tattoo that is like the real thing but easily removable, there is no such thing. The only way to get a tattoo that is easily removed is to have one made with henna or to use a simple rub-on tattoo. Despite some rumors on the Internet and in tattoo circles, there are no ‘temporary’ tattoos that fade away within a few months.

Can I get my old tattoo reworked, covered, or removed?

If you are unhappy with an old tattoo, you have various options to improve the way it looks or even to remove it entirely.
Reworking an old tattoo should not be a problem for any professional artist. Just go to a studio and an artist you trust and explain your problem to them. The tattoo artist can go over it again to improve the color or re-work it and change the design.
If you decide to get a cover-up, keep in mind that if the inks of your current tattoo are dark, it won’t be possible to cover them with lighter inks. You will need to use something similar in shade or go darker. For ideas on cover-ups, take a look at the cover-ups in our gallery. Usually, they are executed in such a manner that you would never know that there was another tattoo underneath it.
In the worst cases, the only thing left to do is to remove the tattoo. If you decide on removal, the most effective way to remove it is by laser treatment. Unfortunately, it can be quite a lengthy and expensive process. It will cost $75 per square inch on average and can take ten sessions or more to remove the tattoo completely. For more information on removing tattoos, see our other FAQs about “How to Remove a Tattoo.”

Blacklight Tattoos

Is getting a tattoo with ultraviolet ink different from any other kind?

There are many differences between getting a blacklight tattoo and getting one with regular ink. The blacklight tattoo can cost more money, take more time, and cause more complications than a regular tattoo.
UV tattoo inks do not show up well under regular light, so the procedure for getting a blacklight tattoo may be a bit more tricky than the usual one. Your artist will need to apply the inks while checking the design under a blacklight so he or she can see the design taking shape. The difficulty in precision means that the entire procedure may take longer than a similar design would be using regular inks. The inks are also thinner than regular inks and need to be wiped often. So blacklight tattoos are more expensive because of the extra time and care that needs to be taken.
These inks can also be more difficult for the skin to retain. I’ve read more than a few complaints on various message boards by people who spent the extra time and money to get that special UV reactive tattoo, only to find that it disappeared within a few months due either to fading or to the skin’s inability to hold the ink.
Another problem caused by these inks is the increased possibility of an allergic reaction. Even though they have been approved by the FDA for use in tracking animals, there is no guarantee that your skin will not have some unpleasant reaction to a tattoo using blacklight inks.
Another reason to be a little wary of this ink is that it can turn a little yellow or brown with exposure to the sun. Some people complain that a tattoo that was meant to be invisible will show up as yellow or brown on their skin after several weeks or months of exposure to the sun.
Not all of these tattoos become invisible to the light of day, even if they are blacklight only. Of the eighteen inks sold by Crazy Chameleon, only the palest of whites will usually become invisible. Even that could take 12 to 18 months to happen. Sometimes these tattoos leave a light scar, taking on the appearance of scarification.
These links are quite a bit thinner than regular tattoo ink. If you want to have a regular tattoo highlighted with UV ink, get the regular tattoo first, allow it to heal, and then do the highlighting. The other inks will cover the UV ink if applied after it, and your fabulous glowing design shows up adequately. They also do not blend like other inks do, so they require special care in their creation.
Try to find a tattoo artist who has had some experience in applying ultraviolet tattoos since a special kind of artistry is needed to create one successfully. It may cost a bit more, but your disappointment will be great if you take the extra time and spend the extra money on this type of tattoo, and it doesn’t turn out fabulous!

How do blacklight tattoos work?

The ultraviolet ink tattoo uses fluorescent dyes that react to blacklight. The inks become visible under blacklight as they react to the ultraviolet rays, and they glow within a few seconds of exposure to the rays.

Are blacklight inks FDA approved?

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved some of the inks used in blacklight tattoos but has not approved their use as tattoo inks for humans. These inks were originally approved as spectral marking pigment for fish and game. The inks are used to track the movements and migrations of fish and are game-used for human consumption. Given that testing, the inks may also be safe in human skin, but there is no guarantee.
You should be aware of the higher risk of an allergic reaction and the increased amount of time for the application. It is also more difficult for the skin to retain this type of ink. So despite their relative safety, there is no guarantee that once you get a blacklight tattoo, you will not be allergic to the ink or that your skin will be able to retain it. 
The inks with this kind of FDA approval are sold by Crazy Chameleon Body Arts Supply and come in 18 colors. 12-18 months until it completely heals and disappears to the human eye.
Any links that contain phosphorous are not safe! Be sure to find out what is in ink used by your artist to create a UV reactive or blacklight tattoo! Although they are more than cool when they work, you don’t want to risk the health of your skin by using ink that contains dangerous and poisonous chemicals.

What are blacklight tattoos?

Blacklight or ultraviolet tattoos using blacklight reactive ink show up under black lights. If the palest of these inks are used, these tattoos are barely visible in the light of day.The inks are available in shades from white to purple, although the colors will not often be as vibrant as regular tattoo ink.
You can use blacklight tattoo ink to add a little something extra to a regular tattoo, or you can get a tattoo that is blacklight reactive only. This can be useful if you don’t want or can’t have (for professional reasons) a tattoo that is very obvious.
There are not yet many tattoo artists who are familiar with using blacklight tattoo ink; you may want to be sure that your artist has had some experience since the inks are generally thinner and harder to work with than regular tattoo inks.
There is also some debate about the safety of blacklight tattoos. None of them are FDA approved for use as human tattoos (although some have been approved for use in tracking fish and games that are meant for human consumption), they are more prone to infection, and many people have difficulty retaining the ink. Please read our other FAQs on “Blacklight Tattoos” for more information.

Cosmetic Tattoos And Permanent Makeup

Does it hurt to get cosmetic tattoos?

Cosmetic tattoos are still tattoos, and they involve having the skin punctured by a needle. There will necessarily be some pain involved.
However, your skin will be numbed by a local anesthetic before and perhaps during the application. This should be quite enough to take away most of the pain involved. Many people say that the sensation merely tickles because of the topical anesthetic.
You will likely experience some swelling and soreness for several days after the procedure. An over-the-counter painkiller will be all you need to deal with this pain. Ask your artist what he or she recommends and how long they think you will need to take it.

Are there procedures or precautions that should be taken before I get a cosmetic tattoo?

Your skin will be treated with a local anesthetic before the procedure, so don’t take anything for pain ahead of time.
If you are having something done to the eye area and wear contact lenses, be sure to bring your glasses to wear home. You will need to avoid using your contacts for a few days.
If you are having something done to the lip area and have a history of cold sores or fever blisters, you will want to get a prescription for an antiviral treatment for it. Begin taking the medication several days before the procedure, and you will be done with the doses several days afterwards. 
Consult with your practitioner beforehand, and he or she will give you any other advice you need. You may also receive a kit for aftercare to take home with you.

How long does a cosmetic tattoo take, and what are the prices?

The application of permanent makeup will take an hour to a couple of hours, depending on the procedure chosen, and can cost a few hundred dollars to a thousand dollars or more.
A simple lash enhancement will take an hour and cost about $300-$400. The price of a full lip color enhancement, which will take two hours, will be closer to $700.
For something that involves replacing the natural coloration around areas that are now scarred or changed due to surgery, the costs and time needed will be greater.

Can permanent makeup be removed?

Most permanent makeup is on the face. It can be difficult to remove with lasers or the other procedures by which tattoos are generally removed.
It’s best to be sure that the cosmetic tattoo is exactly what you want before you proceed and that the artist you choose is very well qualified to do this very specialized kind of work.

Who would want a cosmetic tattoo or permanent makeup?

Permanent makeup is appealing to someone who wants to appear as if they have freshly applied makeup all day long, without taking the time to apply and re-apply it over and again all day. It can be ideal for someone whose occupation causes them to sweat a lot (like a tennis coach), or for someone who has mobility issues or even a medical condition that causes a lack of muscle coordination (like Parkinson’s).
Permanent makeup also appeals to someone with sparse eyebrows, thin eyelashes, or pale cheeks, facial features that he or she would like to look better all the time, and without the fuss of filling in or making up over and again.
Permanent makeup or cosmetic tattoos are also great for covering up or improving the appearance of scars, birthmarks, and birth defects. It can be used for reconstruction after surgeries. For example, cosmetic tattoos are often used to provide natural-looking color for the nipples after mastectomies or breast augmentation surgeries.
The uses of permanent makeup are many, but those purposes generally are to make the patient look better and even feel better about his or her appearance.
Cosmetic tattoos can be extremely helpful for those who don’t feel confident with their appearance due to heredity or accident. There are more and more practitioners of the art every day, but do your research and find someone who has an excellent track record and the correct training.

Who can apply cosmetic tattoos?

Sometimes cosmetic tattoos are applied in a plastic surgeon’s office by a specialist there. Sometimes you may be in a clinic where the only specialty is the application of permanent makeup.
The important thing is to find a licensed aesthetician, someone who has been thoroughly trained in the use and application of color pigments to enhance your beauty, facial features, and skin tone.
It’s important to find someone who has been certified with the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals. This non-profit organization ensures that practitioners have had many hours of training in the proper application of cosmetic tattoos in the study of color and skin, and facial structure. The practitioners certified by the SPCP will also be trained to follow all the needed procedures for optimal safety and hygiene.

Are permanent cosmetic inks safe?

The inks in cosmetic tattoos are usually made of inert iron oxides. If you don’t have any allergies to iron oxides, you should do fine with them. Check to make sure that inks are specially created for cosmetic purposes and not ordinary tattoo inks. It’s not that something is wrong with tattoo inks, but for the enhancement of your facial features, cosmetic tattoo inks are the way to go.
Supposedly these pigments and inks don’t migrate the way other tattoo inks do. However, they do tend to fade a bit over time, and you will probably need to have your work touched up within two-five years.

Are there side effects to permanent makeup?

As with regular tattoos, your skin will be punctured over and again with a needle. The side effects will also be similar to those from a regular tattoo, but there will be additional ones, too.
The area tattooed (or ‘made up’) will experience some swelling for a few days. You can use cold compresses to bring down the swelling, and you will also want to use an antibiotic ointment to combat any risk of infection in the area. If you’ve had something done to the eye area, you won’t be able to wear contacts for several days because of bruising and swelling.
Something extra to be aware of is that the results of permanent makeup will not at first appear the way you want them to. The color will be darker for an average of a week to ten days, but it will fade a bit during that time, and the shade will gradually become the one you chose. If you’re displeased with the results during that time, just wait a bit to see how it looks after ten days or so before you panic. Sometimes your permanent makeup can take up to three weeks to fade to its final shade.

Are there risks to permanent makeup or cosmetic tattoos?

The risks with permanent are much the same as the risks involved in regular tattoos. (See our FAQs on “Tattoos and Your Health” for more information.) There is a health risk involved. 

What is permanent makeup?

Permanent makeup is a specialized kind of tattooing that is used for cosmetic purposes. For this reason, it can also be called ‘cosmetic tattooing,’ ‘micro-pigmentation,’ or ‘demographics.’ Permanent makeup is often used for simple beautification.

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