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Tattoo You

Tattoo Care

Everything you need to know before going under the needle

Photography by Ryan Pfluger

So, bad boy, you're finally getting inked. May we offer some pointers? Chances are you've already chosen a design (if it's a Chinese character or your lover's name, please reconsider) and a location (nope, a tramp stamp still isn't cool), but you should also pick a tattooist whose work speaks to you. We asked Ashley Love, permanent tattoo artist at NY Adorned in New York City, for some tips.

"There isn't much to do to prepare for a tattoo," Love says. "Make sure you get enough sleep before, and eat a full meal to keep your blood sugar high. Wait if you have a sunburn, because your skin will peel and make the stencil come off -- a disaster for the artist." Also, opt for loose, easy, but appropriate clothing. "Wear a tank top if you're getting your shoulder done."

Newsflash: It's gonna hurt, so get over it. "Getting tattooed isn't fun, but it won't be the worst pain you'll ever experience, either," says Love. "It's often compared to a cat scratch, a bad sunburn, or a sharp pencil dragging against your skin. It's more aggravating than straight-up painful.

After the artwork is done, Love recommends leaving the bandage on for at least three hours: "Some people like to wear it overnight to avoid ink stains on their sheets, but make sure you don't keep it on for more than 12 hours. If the bandage sticks to your skin when you try to remove it, run it under warm water, peel it off gently, and clean it with antibacterial soap."

For the next three days, wash your tattoo two times a day and then apply a thin layer of ointment (Aquaphor is a safe bet). After three days, switch to a fragrancefree moisturizing lotion, keeping the routine up for 2-3 weeks until the tattoo settles.



Pictured: Lady Gaga and Rick Genest in 'Born This Way'

Even diehard ink enthusiasts should follow these rules:

Expose your tattoo to the sun

Sun is a tattoo's worst enemy: It breaks up the ink, burns the tattoo, and fades it. Avoid exposing your tattoo for the first two weeks. If you must be in the sun, keep your tat covered and apply a fragrance-free sunscreen with a high SPF.

Keep working out

It's fine to hit the gym after getting a tattoo, as long as you clean it afterwards. If you feel like exercising is stretching your skin and making the tattoo feel uncomfortable, take a few days off.


Scabs and flakes are no cause for alarm--they're a normal part of the healing process. Don't scratch or rub your tattoo. If the itching gets unbearable, slap it with the palm of your hand.

Wait for a touch-up--but not too long

It's best to get a touch-up a month after your first appointment, once your tattoo has healed. But if you do it too long after that, the ink may look different.


Soaking your tattoo in water during the three-week healing process is a no-no. Lakes and pools are full of bacteria and chemicals, so wait to swim until your tattoo has healed.

Be careful with pets

Playing rough with Fluffy could result in a scratch. Keep things chill until the ink settles.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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Julien Sauvalle