Tattoo 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Getting Inked

By: Dedet Panabi / September 5, 2019

Instagram is giving me a serious case of tattoo envy. So many people are sporting the most stylish tattoos — not just on the back or arm, but very cute (and subtle) designs on wrists, ankles, hips and even fingers. If you’re thinking of getting inked, here’s what you need to know about the pain, risks and how to take care of your new tattoo.

How are tattoos done?

Your tattoo artist will use a tattoo gun or machine that holds one or more needles. The needles push permanent ink into your skin. Some of the latest tattoo guns can pierce the skin 150 times a second.

Close up of tattoo needles

Is it painful to get a tattoo?

Unfortunately, the tattoo needles will reach the skin layer where most of your pain receptors are located. So we’re not going to lie: it will hurt, and there will be some bleeding.

But how will it hurt, and how much? It depends.

We asked people who got tattoos in Singapore, and they candidly described the pain as a scratching sensation, which becomes more intense the longer the tattoo gun lingers on an area. (That’s why shading and detailing tend to be more painful than when they do the outining.)

However, this sharp pain tapers off , and can become a dull and general pain. It’s still uncomfortable, but tolerable.

Which tattoos hurt the most?

Tattoo artists also say that the pain levels depend on your personal tolerance levels and where you’re getting inked.

Feet, ankle, hand, wrist tattoos tend to be the most painful, because they’ve got lots of nerve endings and very little padding to cushion the pain.

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Hand poked finger tattoos by @laramaju · @cocoschwarz Hamburg 🇩🇪

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“Fatty” areas like the arm, hip, chest and back will be more comfortable to ink. (See, there are moments when you’re really happy for that belly and back fat.)

How can I relieve tattoo pain?

  • Talk to your tattoo artist about the design and placement of your tattoo. The best Singapore tattoo artists have the skill and experience to tell you how much it will hurt. They will suggest ways to simplify it. (Remember, even if you are given a numbing cream, effects wear off after about an hour. The longer and more complicated a design is, the more pain you will feel.)
  • Mind over body. Deep breathing and meditation helps. Download a meditation app or a relaxing playlist so you have something to listen to while you’re getting tattooed.
  • Take breaks. Ask if you can take a short break when the pain is intolerable. You can also have your tattoo done through multiple sessions.
  • Ask for pain relief. Your Singapore tattoo artist can recommend a pain reliever you can take after your session. However, avoid any aspirin or pills that can thin your blood.

What are the risks of getting a tattoo?

The biggest one is….regret. Don’t get a tattoo while you’re drunk, depressed, high, or crazy in love with someone you just met. Tattoos are permanent (and sometimes, more permanent than the relationship you’re currently in). Be veeery sure before you get a couple tattoo, or ink someone’s face or initials anywhere on your body.

Or, if you’re deadset on twinning tattoos, you can get these subtle and symbolic matching tattoos, like these!

But from a physical and medical standpoint, risks include:

  • allergic reactions to the dyes
  • infections
  • keloids or raised scar tissue
  • bloodborne diseases like tetanus or hepatitis.

Always do an allergy test, and go to a reputable Singapore tattoo salon.

How do I minimize the risks of getting a tattoo?

There are three ways to significantly lower your risk of infection, allergic reactions, and the utter disappointment of getting an ugly tattoo:

  1. Go to a reputable Singapore tattoo salon.
  2. Go to a reputable SIngapore tattoo salon.
  3. Go to a reputable Singapore tattoo salon.

It’s that important. Tattoos aren’t cheap, but if you’re going to get inked, get the best Singapore tattoo artist you can afford. Ask to see their work, and check the conditions of their salon. Check if it’s clean and meets licensing and sanitation standards.

Ask the salon how they prevent infection. Do they wear fresh gloves for each procedure? What equipment do they use? Are the needles in sealed packages? How do they sanitize the trays? Don’t be afraid to ask!

How do I take care of my new tattoo?

Your Singapore tattoo artist will give you advice on how to avoid infection, and can recommend some over-the-counter meds for swelling or pain. Here are some other tips for caring for your new tattoo:

  • Keep the bandage on for 24 hours, then apply antibiotic ointment every day until it heals.
  • Wash the area with plain soap and water. Avoid scented shower gels for now! Then, pat dry with a towel. Don’t rub it!
  • Apply a mild, fragrance-free moisturizer or lotion several times a day.
  • Avoid exposing your tattoo to the sun for at least 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Don’t swim until the tattoo is fully healed.
  • If your tattoo is on your chest, back or thighs, wear loose clothing made of breathable fabric.

Find tattoo artists in Singapore!

Check out Beauty Insider’s Singapore beauty directory to find out where to get the best tattoos and other beauty treatments.