5 Things to Consider Before Getting a Tattoo

Have you ever considered getting a tattoo? Over the years, tattoos have become more commonplace, and aren’t just reserved for an alternative lifestyle. In fact, many women look to tattoos to fulfill their beauty needs with permanent makeup. Whether you’re getting permanent eyeliner or a full arm sleeve, there are so many things to keep in mind before taking the plunge.

White Ink Tattoo
March 2011: My tattoo freshly healed

As soon as I turned 18, I got my white ink tattoo. It reads, “learn to fly,” lyrics from Blackbird by the Beatles. I chose white ink because I thought it looked elegant, it was unique, and it’s also hard to notice for anyone who doesn’t know it’s there— which let me check the “no” box on the visible tattoos question for job applications. White ink fades a lot faster than colored ink, as well.

White Ink Tattoo
My tattoo now, it has faded a lot!

I shopped around for about three months looking for a tattoo artist I trusted. When I met Justin Coppolino, who now stars on Oxygen’s Tattoos After Dark, I knew he would be my guy. He was super excited about tattooing me, and also showed me some of his previous tattoos working with white ink.

If you’re also thinking about getting a tattoo or permanent makeup, here are some points to consider. Remember, I’m not an expert by any means, and can only speak from experience.


1. It Lasts Forever (ish)
One of the more obvious points I’ll mention: tattoos are permanent. However, over time they can fade, stretch, and even change colors. Notice how the letters of my tattoo aren’t as crisp now as they were when I first got it. That would be even more obvious had I gotten it in a colored ink. Gaining weight, tanning, and aging can all affect the appearance of your ink– especially on your face. Even if your tattoo doesn’t have some deep meaning, make sure you’re ready to make a commitment to seeing it every day for a very long time, through thick and thin (literally).

2. You Might Be Allergic
To put it simply, tattooing involves injecting ink below the top layers of your skin, which you may or may not react to. When I first got my tattoo, it healed nicely and didn’t seem to irritate my skin. However, I soon discovered that every summer, my tattoo inflames and starts to itch. That’s how I found out I have seasonal eczema; it had never been triggered before. Different inks have different ingredients, so make sure you do your research and let your artist know if you have any allergies. For this reason, I wouldn’t suggest getting permanent makeup done if you haven’t already had the experience of getting a tattoo. Imagine if you get an allergic reaction near your eyes or lips— yikes!

3. What You Pay is Usually What You Get
Unlike the world of beauty products, where you can find hidden gems for pocket change, tattoos are NOT something you want to skimp on. You’re paying for an artist’s expertise, updated (and sanitized) tools, high quality ink, and attention to detail. Most shops have an hourly rate, or a minimum if your tattoo doesn’t take very long to execute. Mine took about 20 minutes total, and I paid the minimum of $100, plus a 20% tip for Justin.

4. Beware of Trends
To work off of number 1, you may think that oxblood lip looks amazing now, but what about in a couple years? Keep in mind that trends change, and keeping it neutral will be the safest way to go when it comes to permanent makeup.

5. Pain is Subjective
What hurts for your best friend might be a walk in the park for you. The pain of getting a tattoo really depends on your personal threshold and the placement. Getting inked over bony areas, or skin that doesn’t experience a lot of elemental exposure (like the inside of your legs/underarms) will hurt more than others. My tattoo is placed on my forearm, and the process felt like someone was dragging a safety pin across my skin. It didn’t hurt nearly as much as people told me it would. It got a bit more pinchy moving towards my elbow, though.

My number one tip would be to get to know your artist and talk about what you want with them before getting your tattoo. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t commit.

Do you have a tattoo? What does it look like?


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  1. Great article! I got my tattoo on a whim one day, I was in my mid-thirties. I am glad it is just a small rose on my ankle, because speaking from experience, as you get older gravity does work……LOL!! Also, I am scared of needles, I don’t know what came over me that day!! I really don’t regret getting the tattoo but I wished I would have thought it through more. I like roses but I love butterflies, so why didn’t I get a butterfly????

  2. I agree with this entire post. I have 3. All can be covered unless I’m wearing shorts and/or my hair up. For me, they all tickled (the guys doing them laughed every time too) and I about fell asleep. My huge calf piece took about 2 hours and the only painful part was the way I was having to sit in the chair. I would also add that they’re addicting. I want lots more.

    1. I agree that they can be addicting! As soon as this one healed, I was already planning my second one. Of course, after I experienced my allergic reaction, those plans were cancelled.

  3. I got my first (and only) tatoo almost 40 years ago in 1977, back when it was definitely NOT commonplace. There were so many times that it was embarrassing (taking my special ed class swimming in rural Iowa in the 80s!) and inconvenient (I had to have my wedding dress altered to cover it). Yes, I regret getting it at times, but then again it has been a part of me for so long that I think I would miss it if it were to disappear. It’s a little butterfly over my right breast, which is slowly sinking south with my age. 😉

  4. I love that lyric from Blackbird, great choice, and the white ink is nice. I have been considering it lately, so this was helpful 🙂

  5. I will never get a tattoo for religious reasons and I dont handle pain well either lol but I like that yours is white and not as noticeable. I also love that is says learn to fly, i like that!

  6. I have a flower on my lower right hipbone area… they warned me part of it might really hurt. IDK if I was nervous or what but it tickled! lol they had to keep stopping because I was laughing hysterically.

  7. my friend just showed me her white tattoo and I thought it was the coolest thing. I never heard of them before!

  8. I would of never thought of white but I love it, at them moment I only have 2 but love your post about what people should think before getting them

  9. i’m way too eclectic and indecisive to get a tattoo… i change my mind constantly! my hair, makeup, fashion is always changing.

  10. I waited 20 years to get my tattoo, and I finally got it for my 40th birthday. I love it, and I’m so glad I finally got it. Yes, it hurt!

  11. I’ve never considered getting a tattoo, mainly because it’s a lifetime commitment, and my tastes keep changing all the time.

  12. Your tattoo is so neat, I haven’t really ever seen a white tattoo like that, it’s so pretty. I have one small tattoo, the constellation Casseopia, on my inner wrist, right arm. I love it! It has meaning to m.

  13. I don’t think I’ll ever get a tattoo. I’m not sure for voluntary pain hahah But if I ever did, I have two things in mind.

  14. Awesome post. I’m a tattoo addict – I already have 7 of them and I’m not done, planning out my large back piece. I have been wanting to write something like this, not because of regretting my tattoos (I do not) but because everyone has been wanting to know why I am so big on meanings for my tattoos and of course, everyone wants to know why I am so set about getting my back piece I’ve been planning out. I think tattoos are about self expression but each one of mine have some form of a story behind them – they all will. No one realizes though – that they are forever and you have to think wisely about what you get. I like yours… Beatles… legend!

  15. Great post. I have 9 tattoos and don’t regret any of them, but I was also sure to have them in areas easy to hide for work purposes 🙂

  16. Great post. I love your tattoo. I have 6 and they’re all in places you can’t see unless I am not fully clothed or have on open shoes.

  17. Great post, Miranda! I always contemplate getting a tattoo and then I think, “But it’s FOREVER.” and then can never make up my mind what I want.

  18. That is a great tattoo! i am so indecisive I don’t think I could ever get one, but you made a great choice.

  19. By the way Miranda – I absolutely LOVE your tattoo. I love that song (believe it or not, the Beatles are going to be part of my backpiece!!) and it looks beautiful in that spot especially in white ink. Very very nice and your artist did a great job!!

  20. *a* tattoo?? ha! I’ve been getting tattooed since I was 19 (I’m…let’s just say in my early thirties now, haha, kills me to say that!). I have my entire lower right leg (from the kneecap to ankle) completely tattooed. I also have a large family crest on my left arm, large ones on either side of my chest, a nautical star on the back of my neck, a traditional dagger/heart on my left shoulderblade, two smaller (for me) symbols on my right arm and an anklet of japanese characters on my left ankle. I love each and every one of them, and they are all significant to me in some way. My first tattoo artist was an awesome girl named Jen at the best and highest-rated shop in the area. She did my first 5 and she’s since opened her own shop. I then met a newer artist named Ross and had him do one of the small ones on my arm and really ended up bonding with him. We became really good friends over the course of the 6 years I knew him and he did my family crest, star, and my entire right leg piece (except 2 pieces of it). Sadly he passed away (on my birthday) in 2003 in a car accident. I had *his* tattoo artist tattoo my kneecap as a tribute to him, sort of overlooking the leg sleeve we’d worked on for 2 years together. The only piece I’ve gotten since then is one of the small ones on my right arm, the Scorpio symbol, a couple of years ago in Daytona Beach. I still plan on quite a few more but it just hasn’t been financially possible as I’m looking at sleeves and a backpiece. Ross did quite a bit of my work for free on his days off, I’d buy him lunch and beer and drinks when we went out. If he were still alive I’m sure I’d be done with everything I want by now. I do think that once I can afford it I’ll be going back to my original artist Jen at her new place, she does phenomenal traditional color work and I’m still proud to show off the pieces she’s done for me. Oddly enough, getting tattooed never bothered me pain-wise (except the back of the knee – oh my GOD does that hurt! It bruised even!) but I CANNOT STAND needles for shots or having blood taken. Or getting pierced. I even had to have the girls at the ear-piercing place do my second holes both at the same time because I’m a complete wuss. Go figure!

    For the most part, unless I’m wearing a tank top and/or shorts, you actually can’t see any of my current work. I do enjoy showing them though. I get tons of compliments and of course plenty of mean remarks too. (No, I’m not gay just because I have tattoos!) but I would not change a single thing about any of them and look forward to getting more. I love tattoos, I love looking at other people’s tattoos and discussing them. I love the different styles, colors, and details that different artists use. I think tattoos are a great form of self-expression and I love being a canvas for an artist to work on their art form.

    *I full on agree with all of your points, especially thinking about it for a long time before you actually do it. Hell, draw it on with a sharpie and see if you like it for a few days.

    *Finding the right artist is HARD work and not something to be taken lightly. Do your homework. Go to shops and ask to see portfolios. Look for pieces that are similar in style and color to what you want. Some artists are better with colors, some better with black and grey, some great with portraits and some are terrible at them. Some do amazing realistic looking pieces but not traditional pieces, and vice versa. Some are all-encompassing and are just fantastic at everything. Look at details in pieces in their portfolios. Ask questions. Don’t necessarily just decide on the first place that you go to. Check a couple of places out before you decide.

    *You really do get what you pay for!! Good work is not cheap and cheap work is not good!

    *Think about placement, some pieces just don’t fit right in certain areas; some artists will advise you against putting certain things certain places, some may not. Think about the shape of the piece versus the contours of your body where you want to put it.

    *And YES, tattoos hurt! Once you get used to the way it feels, though, you’ll be fine. Honestly for me, the healing process was the worst part. I personally would take at least 2 – 3 weeks to fully heal.

    *Fresh tattoos ooze, scab, dead skin falls off…it’s kind of gross till it’s healed!! But if it’s something you truly love, you will not regret one second of it and the healing process will be done in no time and you will have a gorgeous (hopefully!) tattoo to admire every day and remind you of the reason you got it in the first place.

    Sorry for taking so much space here! But I’ve seen too many tattoos done badly or for the wrong reasons and laser surgery is more expensive and hurts 10x more than getting one put on!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Jamie Lynn!! Your tattoos sound amazing. I also think it’s a great form of expression and I love hearing people’s stories behind their tattoos. I used to be obsessssed with watching Miami Ink! I luckily had a pretty easy recovery since it’s just small typography. I was so anxious because I couldn’t see the real finished product until all the scabs fell off. I went back after it was fully healed to do another pass over a couple letters that didn’t come out as bright as the rest. But overall I had a great experience. At first, I was going to go with another artist with this really cool shop and she was charging me $85, but she just didn’t seem enthused about doing white ink. She was just like “oh…. yeah sure I could do White Ink” whereas Justin was like “YES! I love working with white ink, here are some pictures of stuff I’ve done in the past” He totally won me over with his enthusiasm! And yes, placement is definitely important. At first, I was going to get mine behind my knee! I thought it would be a good idea because it wouldn’t fade as quickly, being out of the sun. But then I figured it might stretch or change shapes if I lost/gained weight. Plus, I wanted to be able to admire it!

      1. Glad to hear he was so enthusiastic about your piece. It’s definitely much more reassuring that your artist is totally into what he or she is working on! Like I said I know there are some artists who prefer one style over another, or black/grey to color, etc. so it’s important that your artist is as excited about your piece as you are! Shortly after we finished my leg sleeve Ross and I were talking about my next piece and were looking through one of the tattoo mags at the shop. I saw this absolutely gorgeous Elvis Presley (who I also have loved since I was a little girl) piece and I told him I’d love to do an Elvis piece. His face lit up and we started talking about designing it. Unfortunately we never had the time to do it before he passed but I’d still like that to be part of my back.

        I will say one of my favorite pieces (as well as one of the ones I get the most compliments on) is the star on the back of my neck. But I can’t see it!! Even looking in the mirror, I have to use odd angles to see it clearly. But I know it’s there and I love it!! It’s also hard to see the parts of my leg sleeve in the back, especially behind the knee (the neck of a guitar is right there), but I love to twist funny and look at it all the time, even 11 years after it’s been finished. It looks so good (it’s all in color and they’ve held up amazingly well, are still vibrant and bright) and it always reminds me of the reasons that I got it (the whole leg piece is mostly dedicated to music, my biggest passion, and the guitar is modeled after a good friend of mine’s Gretsch guitar). I’ll never ever get tired of looking at my leg sleeve. It took us 2 years and I-don’t-even-know how many hours to get it all done and it was a labor of love for Ross. He was very proud of it and he wanted to send pics to a tattoo magazine which we never did (I’ve been saying for years that I’m still going to do that!). For the amount of time that I’ve spent in tattoo shops over the years, I’ve seen a good number of people come in, pick something random off of the wall of flash and hardly give it a second thought before getting it inked. Definitely not the way I’d advise someone to look for a tattoo!!

  21. Cat scratches on a sunburn- that’s how I describe my ink to others pain-wise! I love my ink & wouldn’t change it for a thing! But all of mine are easy to hide too lol. I made sure not to do anything my friends were doing- behind the ear, wrist, chest, etc. because I was afraid it would burn work opps in the future. Great post!

    1. Yesss I didn’t want it to turn into a hassle to cover up. PLUS because I got it when I was 18, I kept thinking “What if it sticks out like a sore thumb in our prom pictures” LOL!

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