So you’re thinking about getting a tattoo? Good for you for doing your research! This is a permanent decision, so thinking it through and being absolutely sure is critical.
“The choice to get a tattoo is highly personal and one that should only be made after a careful and deliberate consideration of the consequences (both short and long term) of the tattoo,” Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Stephen Greenberg told me. “As we age and a patient’s lifestyle changes, one of the biggest regrets is not the clothing that a patient wore to a particular event or a bad haircut or clothing style craze they fell into, but the permanent tattoo that they wish they had never gotten in the first place!”
Unfortunately, there are times in our lives when it’s best to hold off on the ink. Whether it’s because you haven’t had a chance to think it through or don’t know your tattoo artist, take your time and ask yourself if you’re in a season of life when a tattoo isn’t the best idea. Here are just a few reasons to hold off for now, according to the experts.
You don’t know your tattoo artist
You wouldn’t undergo surgery with a surgeon you’d never met, so don’t do the same with your tattoo artist. Before jumping in, get to know your artist, look at her portfolio, and ask for references. Unfortunately there are some inexperienced and unskilled ones out there.
“It happens far too often,” tattoo artist Mark Detter told Baraboo News Republic. “The state requires that artists abide by certain health and safety standards. But there’s no requirement that an artist have talent.”
A bad tattoo artist could leave you with a sloppy tattoo at best, serious infection at worst. “It leaves people exposed to contracting HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C,” Heath Technician Matt Kachel explained to Baraboo. “These are diseases a person may contract and not know about it for a long time. It can lead to outbreaks, and that’s not something that we’d like to see.” Don’t worry about asking too many questions. Do your homework so you can feel good about this experience.
You’re looking for a job
I’d love to tell you to jump right in if you’re ready for your first tattoo, but if you are currently job hunting, take a serious pause. Research shows that having visible tattoos makes is harder to get hired. “Visible tattoos” refers to tattoos on the face, neck, forearms, hands, and lower legs.
A negative bias against tattoos seems to affect every business sector. Restaurant managers prefer hiring servers without visible tattoos while sales managers worry that hiring sales people with tattoos will affect sales.
Just because you’re not currently searching for a job doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. Keep that in mind when choosing the location for your new piece of artwork.
You haven’t really thought it through
Deciding to get a tattoo on a whim with friends can feel exhilarating, but it’s best to sleep on the decision. You’ll be living with this decision forever. It’s best to completely think it through first.
“A number of reasons can influence a person’s decision to seek tattoo removal,” Dr. Roy G. Geronemus told Medical Daily. “Young woman [sic] become mothers, people experience changes in work status, and sometimes it’s just a matter of maturity. We call it ‘Tattoo Remorse.'” This tattoo remorse is causing the number of people looking into and pursuing tattoo removal to rise. This makes it even more important to seriously weigh the pros and cons before heading to the tattoo parlor.
“As more people continue to get tattoos, the more people are having tattoos removed,” Dr. Geronemus explained. “With recent advancements in skin care technology such as PicoSure, tattoo removal has become significantly easier. For example, in the past the colors blue and green have been problematic in removing from the skin. However, today these colors have become the easiest to remove.” Even though the process of removal has become easier, it still involves multiple appointments and procedures. Make the right decision from the beginning.
You’re worried about being judged
While you shouldn’t make life decisions based on what others think, know that a tattoo could change the way you’re perceived. If you are a sensitive person, that could play into your decision.
A study in Managing Service Quality found that if you have any visible tattoos, you’re probably going to be judged for them at some point or another. Participants in the study were asked to look at pictures of people with and without tattoos, then make assumptions about them. Study participants believed the tattoos were unprofessional. Older participants even went so far as to say that the tattooed workers seemed less intelligent and less honest than the non-tattooed workers.
You’re planning to become pregnant
Even though tattoo removal is possible, a tattoo is a permanent decision. It should not be taken lightly, and it’s important to think about its ramifications in the long-term. For example, if you are planning to become pregnant in the future, know that your tattoo may change. Any weight gain or loss stretches and then releases your skin, meaning your tattoo could end up looking different than it originally did.
Never get one near your sweat glands
This is one aspect of tattooing that I never considered. According to a recent study, having a tattoo affects the way your body sweats. That ink on your skin can actually block sweat, so choose where to place it very wisely. Our bodies need to sweat to avoid overheating, so it’s especially important to never block your sweat glands with a tattoo.
“We also found the sodium in sweat was more concentrated when released from tattooed skin,” study coauthor Maurie Luetkemeier told Time. It also turns out that skin that has a tattoo on it releases 50 percent less sweat than surrounding skin. Tattooed skin may not be able to reabsorb those lost electrolytes as well either.
You’ve had skin cancer
If you have had skin cancer or if there is a strong history in your family, keep walking the next time you pass a tattoo parlor. While there is not a direct link between tattoos and skin cancer, there is enough concerning information about a possible connection to make you think twice.
“The process of tattooing involves the integration of metallic salts and organic dyes into the dermal layer of the skin,” Plastic Surgeon Cormac Joyce told Time. Breaking into the skin and causing this inflammation could lead to “malignant transformation.” Dr. Joyce believes that while tattoos do not cause skin cancer, they could put those already at risk in danger. Talk with your doctor if you’re concerned.
You’re sick with a virus
Getting a tattoo is not like having professional makeup applied. Because the needles penetrate your skin, you will be exposed to potential infections. If you are just coming down with a cold or virus, it’s best to fully recover before undergoing any invasive procedure.
“Tattoos should be thought of as a medical procedure as it poses similar risks as minor surgery does,” Dr. Greenberg told me. “Patients run the risk for an immediate or delayed infection, poor healing, poor scarring, localized or systemic reaction to the ink/dye, and there have also been reported cases of infectious disease transmission from dirty needles and instruments. While some of these risks can be treated with antibiotics, many of these risks pose long-term consequences.”
You want to mark a special occasion
It seems that tattooing your partner’s name on your body is a red flag that you’re about to break up. I don’t believe in jinxing yourself, but if I did, this would be at the top of the list. Next time you want to make a grand gesture for your significant other, book an amazing vacation for the two of you and leave the tattoo needles at home.
When Kaley Cuoco and now ex-husband Ryan Sweeting met, they married within a year and celebrated that date with a tattoo. Unfortunately, the marriage ended almost as quickly as it started, and Cuoco was stuck with the tattoo on her upper back. She shared her journey of covering it with her fans on Instagram. Rather than remove the wedding date tattoo, Cuoco chose to cover it with an insect, writing, “the deep, meaningful, larger than life meaning behind this beautiful piece of ink, is….. It covered the last one.”
Cuoco clearly had a sense of humor about the process, because she later posted, “note to self- do not mark your body with any future wedding dates #under30mistakes #donttakeyourselftooseriouslykids.” So next time you’re tempted to make an #under30mistake, brainstorm other ways to show your love.
You don’t know what kind of ink is being used
We’ve established that before ever seriously considering a tattoo, you should get to know the artist and ask lots of questions. Part of this process should be making sure to find out exactly what kind of ink he plans to use and where it came from. While the ink itself may be sterile, there have been cases of artists diluting it with water in order to achieve the perfect shade. If the water is not sterile, this can contaminate the entire ink supply, spreading infection.
You’re unsure about the spelling and style
There is nothing more cringeworthy than a misspelled tattoo. It is literally a constant reminder of your mistake. Double and triple check the spelling and style before going ahead with any tattoo.
Jennifer Lawrence knows this firsthand. She has an H2O tattoo on her hand, but the two is not aligned properly. “I was with Liam [Hemsworth]’s family and everybody was getting tattoos, and I was like, well, I’m always going to need to be hydrated, so I guess I should get H2O on my hand,” the actress told HitFix. “By the way, I know that the two is high and in H2O the two is supposed to be low. I should’ve Googled it before I got it tattooed on my body forever.” Google first. Tattoo second.
Perceptions are changing
While it’s true that having a tattoo can affect how others see and even judge you, the tide seems to be turning and, fortunately for the tattoo lovers, perceptions and biases are changing. An article in College Student Journal found that the majority of college students surveyed were open to tattoos. Most acknowledged the fact that they could face some discrimination for a visible tattoo. That being said, over half were still considering one.
Don’t write it off if a tattoo is right for you. Just make sure you’ve given yourself plenty of time to choose the right tattoo with the right artist at the right time in your life.