Interested in getting a tattoo? Here’s what you need to know

Tattoo artist
Photo by Mikhail Kayl/

Many people refuse to get a tattoo because they’re worried about what it will look like when they’re older. When you’re getting your first tattoo at 40, 50, or even 60, however, how a tattoo will age stops being such a big concern.

While over 38 percent of millennials have tattoos, there’s also been a surge in generation Xers and boomers getting inked. Whether it’s the confidence that comes with age, or the fact that the stigma of having permanent ink has all but disappeared, people are choosing to get body art throughout the second half of their life.

With that in mind, we’ve created a guide to getting your first tattoo later in life. Here’s what you need to know about choosing a design, a parlour, and healing well.

1. What Do You Want?

Many people get tattoos that symbolize something—a child, a pet, a lost loved one, a significant life event—but you can also get a tattoo simply because of the way it looks. You may even decide you want some flash art by a tattoo artist you really like. Not everything on your body has to have a deeper meaning.

2. Placement

It’s important to remember that some places on your body will hurt more to tattoo than others. Anywhere without a significant cushion of fat, such as the wrist or the ankle is going to have a significantly higher ouch factor than your upper arm or back. Also, older skin tattoos differently than younger skin. It is thinner, less elastic, and bruises easily, so tattoo artists should set their needles to a shallower depth while working on more mature skin.

Helen Lambin getting tattooed

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3. Selecting an artist.

Finding the right person to bring your tattoo dreams into reality is probably the most important part of your journey to getting inked. Many tattoo artists have their own distinctive style; some are known for doing realistic portrait tattoos, others for fine line work. If the tattoo you want is fairly basic, then many tattoo studios will be able to execute it, but if you’re looking at a fairly complicated design, you may want to shop around. Familiarize yourself with the work of different tattoo artists in your city, read Yelp reviews, and set up a consultation with an artist before getting the tattoo.

4. Hygiene

All tattoo parlours should have an autoclave machine they use to sterilize needles. Call the tattoo parlour ahead of time to make sure they use one, and also ask them to confirm that they passed their most recent public health inspection.

Arm tattoo

Photo courtesy of Alessandro Manfredini/Instagram

5. Pain management

Everybody’s pain tolerance is different; some people swear that getting a tattoo is no worse than getting bit by a mosquito, while others won’t hesitate to scream bloody murder. If you’re scared about the pain, take two Tylenol an hour before getting your tattoo, as the acetaminophen won’t affect the way blood clots. You can also practice deep breathing exercises to calm your anxiety. Whatever you do, don’t take a shot – alcohol will thin your blood and affect the way your body receives the ink.

6. After care

You tattoo artist will walk you through the best way to care for your tattoo after it’s all over, but there are some general guidelines to follow. Moisturize your tattoo using plain, unscented lotion, stay out of water, and most importantly, don’t pick! You want the ink to stay settled in your skin, so let the skin scab and flake off on it’s own time.

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