Living the Alternative: After you get your first tattoo

Sarah Ross

Emmalin Phillips’ Tattoo (Photo courtesy of Emmalin Phillips)

College is all about firsts: first roommates, first apartments, first legal drinks, and, of course, first tattoos. Many people come to college and mark the occasion of new freedom with something new and equally as permanent: a new tattoo.

The first tattoo you get is like nothing else: you don’t know exactly what to do, what to think, or what to expect. You understand the permanence of it logically, but you still feel like it hasn’t fully sunken in, the same way you logically know it will hurt but don’t fully grasp it until you go under the pen. But fear not, all of the inked people you know and love were once inkless, and everyone that has a tattoo had to get their first tattoo. Luckily, there are many people out there willing to share their experiences. I’ve broken their experiences into three parts, the before, the during, and the after. So, without further ado:


Advice for After You Get Your First Tattoo

You may think you’re done; you’ve done all the research, picked a place and a design, gone and gotten the ink — that’s it, right? Wrong. There’s actually a lot to do, and a lot of emotions that come, after you leave the chair. One of the first problems cited: addiction.

Be warned,” said Katy Beirise, a pre-vet student. “People aren’t kidding when they say you’ll get addicted. Every day I fall more in love with my tattoo.”

Despite being enamored with the process, there is still more that comes after you leave the parlor.

“Make sure that you follow your artist’s instructions for after-care,” said Beirise. “For me, that meant putting on a lot of Aquaphor. Be prepared that your skin will be red and inflamed, as it needs to heal after the trauma that has ensued. Additionally, you need to be ready for all of the skin to slough off — again, part of the healing process.”

It sounds a bit gross, doesn’t it? Some people think that the worst part is not the needle, it’s the healing. It will be, at times, uncomfortable.

“This will be itchy!” Beirise emphasized, “Since scratching isn’t allowed, slap the area — I know it sounds weird, but it works!”

The elements will also not be your friend in this process, so be careful about what you expose the tattoo to.

“I remember the first time I got the tattoo wet and the ink didn’t come off,” said Beirise. “Logically, I knew the ink wasn’t going to wash off, but it was still pretty cool. You shouldn’t swim for about 14 days, so plan accordingly if you want to get your tattoo in the summer. Finally, sunscreen is your new best friend if you want to maintain your tattoo.”

However, for many, it’s not the aftermath of care that scares them, it’s the feeling of knowing that what you’ve done is permanent. Will they love their tattoo? Will they hate their tattoo? Will they regret the decision? Will it be the best thing they’ve ever done? Well, fear not, because those with regret seem to be among the minority.


“This tattoo was definitely one of my smarter decisions,” said Beirise. “It has been one of the best ways for me to honor and keep my furry friend with me. I put in the work ahead of time — thinking, planning, researching — and then I finally took the plunge. With some good aftercare, I am now enjoying a wonderful and beautiful tattoo every day. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

“Afterwards I really enjoyed how it looks,” said George Sanchez, an International Studies transfer student and one of our previous interviewees. “And I still like it to this day!!”

Although the after process seems scary, it really isn’t. Most people love their tattoo, and though the care may seem like a lot, it is rather easy to do.

“Just follow the instructions your artist gives you,” reminded Emmalin Phillips, a Business major. “Make sure to wash and moisturizer every day. Dirty tattoos lead to sad tattoos. All in all, make sure to go to a reputable shop, enjoy the experience and show off your tattoo!!”

There you have it! Getting your first tattoo may seem like an overwhelming process, and it is indeed a lot of work. There is lots of preparation, mental work, and physical and emotional responses to the process, but once you’ve labored through it all, you’ll see that it is worth it.

Congratulations!! You’ve made it through your first tattoo. Now all that’s left to do is moisturize, enjoy, and start thinking about your next one!!

Collegian Editor Sarah Ross can be reached online at or on Twitter at@HowSarahTweets. Read more of her content on AltLife. Leave a comment!