How to Prepare for a Tattoo the Right Way

There are plenty of tips & tricks for what to do after you get a new tattoo. But don’t forget about tattoo preparation – it’s just as important as aftercare. Ink is a long-term commitment and prep work starts weeks before your session. You need to make sure your body and your mind are ready for the experience. 

From picking a design to minimizing your pain in the chair, here’s exactly how to prepare for your next tattoo session. 


The week of your tattoo session

1. Drink plenty of water

You should already be drinking water regularly. But if not, start to hydrate properly at least one week before your session. Drink at least 8 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Tea, coffee, and soda don't count. 

2. Shave or wax

The artist needs a clean canvas to work on, so you have to shave before your session. Shave at least 2-3x for the week leading up to your tattoo. Don’t wait until the last minute to shave. Your skin will be extra sensitive, making the tattoo process even more painful. 

If you choose to wax the area, make sure you do so at least 5-7 days before sitting. This should be enough time to let your irritable skin heal.

3. Exfoliate your skin

Exfoliation unclogs pores and stimulates blood flow which helps prepare your skin for the needle and ink. Not to mention, it helps prevent infections and speed up the healing process. 

4. Moisturize your entire body

Moisturized skin is healthy skin. Moisturize the area at least twice per day to make sure your skin is in good shape for your session. This is especially important in the winter, when dry skin is most common. Pick a moisturizer that is alcohol-free, as they tend to dry skin out. 

If you’ve been doing this for at least a few days before your session, your skin should be ready to go. Skip the lotion on the day of your session as it can make it difficult for your artist to work. 

24 hours before your session

5. Sleep at least 6-8 hours

One of the best things you can do for your body is to get a good night’s sleep before your session. If you stay up late or show up for your session yawning, you’re not going to have a good time. Though the finished product may look great, your skin is going to be put under extreme stress. If you aren’t well rested, your skin will struggle to heal properly. 

Don’t stay up late or go out for drinks – get a full 8 hours of sleep.  

6. Don't drink alcohol the night before

You’ve probably seen tattoo parlors open late in movies or even in real life. But as any artist or ink enthusiast will tell you, don’t drink alcohol before your tattoo. 

Alcohol is a blood thinner, meaning that it prevents your blood from clotting. Unless you want to endure a very painful, bloody session, you should avoid it for at least 24-48 hours before sitting. 

And if you ask anyone who’s ever gotten a tattoo while drunk, they’ll probably tell you that they regret it. 

7. Drink more water

Hopefully you’ve been drinking plenty of water the past few days. That’s great, keep it up. Continue drinking plenty of water right up until your session and pack a bottle for the session itself. 

The day of your session

Showers might be a bit tricky for the next few days, so make sure you take one before your session. Thoroughly scrub the area to remove any dirt and make sure your pores are clear before heading into the session to prevent infections. 

8. Eat a balanced meal

Even if you’re feeling a bit anxious and don't have an appetite, you should try to eat a small meal beforehand. 

What happens if you don't eat before a tattoo? If you don’t eat, you’ll likely feel dizzy or lightheaded during the session. This will make the experience far more painful.

Eat a balanced meal 1-2 hours before showing up to give your body the energy it needs to sit through the entire session. If possible, try to consume Vitamin C, which increases skin firmness and promotes healing. 

For longer sessions like back pieces or leg sleeves, pack a few snacks and drinks. You need to keep your blood sugar elevated to avoid feeling weak and passing out. We recommend granola bars, fruit, or chocolate.  

9. Dress comfortably

This should go without saying, but don’t show up wearing skinny jeans or constrictive clothing. You’re going to be in some pain and you don’t want to be any more uncomfortable than you already are. 

If you’re getting an arm sleeve, wear a short sleeve shirt or tank top. For leg tattoos, wear shorts or loose pants that can easily be moved. 

If your session is in the winter, you may have shown up in a jacket. But make sure you have some lighter layers underneath to avoid overheating. 

10. Don’t show up drunk or high

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t show up intoxicated to your session. Liquid courage can be great for certain things, but tattoos aren’t one of them. It’s dangerous for you and can be  disrespectful to the artist. 

11. Avoid pain killers like aspirin & other blood thinners

Taking an aspirin might seem like a good idea if you’re nervous about the pain. Unfortunately, aspirins and blood thinners are incredibly dangerous to take within 24 hours of your session. Talk to your doctor to confirm that your other daily medications are safe to continue taking.

If you’re really worried about the pain, try a numbing cream. Even for ink veterans, these numbing ointments make the experience much more enjoyable. 

12. Protect your skin

If you show up with any razor bumps, cuts, bruises, or scrapes, your artist is probably going to postpone your session. It isn’t safe to apply ink near open wounds or damaged skin – it will likely result in an infection. 

13. Skip the workout

We’re big advocates of physical fitness, especially when your muscles are covered in ink. But on the day of your tattoo (and even a few days after), skip the gym. 

Your muscles will be tired & sore from an intense workout, meaning they need rest & recovery. Well, so does your skin. If you workout the morning of your session, you’ll likely be in more pain and delay the healing process. 

If you still want to exercise, go for a light walk or low-intensity workout. And in a few days, you'll be back in the gym!

14. Bring something to entertain yourself

It’s totally okay to talk to the artist during your session, but they won’t be offended if you bring headphones to listen to music or watch Netflix. If you’re distracted from the pain, it will be easier for them to work. 

15. Bring a friend to keep you company

If you need someone to help you get through the pain or just someone’s hand to squeeze, bring a friend! Plus, it might be easier to talk to a friend than an artist who you’ve only met once or twice. Most tattoo shops will let you bring a friend to keep you company. 

16. Ask questions

If you have any last minute questions or changes to the design or location that weren’t covered in your consultation, be sure to ask your artist before proceeding. Artists are there to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask.

This may seem like a lot to do just for some ink. But if you properly prepare your body for the session, the healing process will be so much easier. If not, you could be left with a long & painful healing experience. 

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