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How to Prepare For a Tattoo – 16 Tips

There are no extremely strict rules to follow before a tattoo session, and even though most sound basic, they are crucially important. Manners outside of the salon apply in the salon too. See them in detail below.

So, the time has come for you to get a tattoo. The excitement is top-level, you feel more and more pleasantly anxious as the day for the appointment approaches, and you probably wonder, how to prepare for a tattoo?

If everything is ready, like finances, and a set appointment, and a chosen design, there are still some things left to do as the last steps. They are not tiresome at all, but they are crucial before you step into the salon. Let’s see what they are.

How to prepare for a tattoo

The basic and important preparation steps and tips are:

  1. Pay attention to the hygiene
  2. Also, don’t go overboard with perfumes
  3. Skip the greasy lotions on the day of the appointment
  4. Have exfoliated skin the day before the appointment
  5. If possible, take care of hair removal on the specific area of tattooing
  6. Be sober!
  7. Do not be hungry or dehydrated
  8. Have distractions prepared ahead
  9. Charge your phone battery, but also keep it on silent mode if you could
  10. Wear loose and comfortable clothes and shoes
  11. Be on time
  12. Be well rested the night before
  13. Engage in appropriate (amounts of) conversation
  14. Try to go alone
  15. Leave a tip
  16. If urgent and unavoidable, postpone the appointment

Tips for hygiene prior to the tattooing

hygiene prior to the tattooing

We all know the basic hygiene routines; showering, clean hair, certain cosmetic products, and so on. And you should try to stick to these basic rules, do not think that you need special extras or going overboard with some daily hygiene routines.

It is quite enough, and even obligatory to have a clean body and hair (full bath) before the tattoo session. Since the artists are always sitting very close, if not too close to the customer, it makes sense that you need to be appropriate in this sense, i.e., showered and with the basic cosmetics used (shampoo, shower cleanser/gel, deodorant).

You definitely don’t want to be known as the customer with strange and unpleasant body odor! If this is the case, the artist would have a hard time sitting through the session, might even stop it midway, or worse – comment on it politely!

Can I apply perfume?

Yes, you can, but only in moderation, and especially if it’s a heavy scent with strong ‘notes’. No perfume at all is also just as fine, as long as you are showered and clean-fresh. But, if you have to apply some perfume, make it just a spray or two, and choose a light scent. Also, do not spray perfume on the skin that is going to be tattooed. It will get wiped off with a special cleanser before the session anyways.

Is it bad to have lotion on the skin?

Well, kind of. It is not perfect or ideal in any way. The artist has to clean the skin before you begin the session, and this is a rule. So whatever you have applied, perfume, lotions, oils, or creams – it will be gone. Do not bother to apply cosmetics of this kind, because as good as it might seem to you, it is kind of pointless, to be honest. Feel free to apply those things anywhere else on the body if you want, but relax and skip them for that area of tattooing. 

If it’s summertime, avoid the lotions on the whole body, fully! You don’t want to sweat and ‘glide’ on the tattoo chair. Be ‘dry’, but clean!

Should I skip exfoliating the day before or just before the tattooing?

exfoliating tattoo

No! In fact, do it! Exfoliate the skin that will be tattooed while you’re at it (full body perhaps). Exfoliation is very good for the skin and not just for this purpose. Before tanning, before tattooing, in general – exfoliants make the skin breathe and remove dead skin cells that are basically dirt which is rubbed easily upon touch.

A clean and exfoliated skin is a pleasure for tattooing, because impurities will be gone, and all products the artist applies (like moisturizer during the session) will soothe and absorb nicely under the initial layer. Plus, it is good manners and hygiene to have clean skin in this sense.

Should I wax, shave or trim before tattoo

Yes, remove the hairs in the area that will be tattooed. But, do not wax! Waxing is known to cause ingrown hairs as we all know, and this is something you definitely don’t want. Just when the root starts to form a new hair follicle, in a few days from the hair removal, your tattoo will start to peel and itch – so imagine what happens? The irritated and traumatized skin will have to peel and scab, and with ingrown hairs or ingrown hair pimples, it might get complicated or even inflamed!

Shaving or trimming is the best option possible. If trimming machines don’t make the skin smooth enough, shaving is a no-brainer and a perfect option. Careful not to do ‘dry’ shaving, because this inflames the skin and makes it very sensitive, as sunburnt. Use foam or soap, shave gently, and apply moisturizer the night before, not the day of the appointment. 

Sometimes, customers forget to shave, but this is not so bad. Artists know this, and they always have clean, new razors if needed for some customers. The artist will take care of this if you didn’t.

Can I drink alcohol before getting a tattoo

Big time no! Do not do this, ever! And this goes for all ‘vices’, not just alcohol. The substances that alter our mood or physical state will be a major obstacle for tattooing, so major that the artist might cancel the appointment even before you start. If you appear in the salon intoxicated from anything of this kind, you will probably go back home immediately! 

The body will feel more pain. You will be fidgety. You will be uncontrollable. Your movements will be unpredictable and this is all a risk for the artist to make mistakes if you are not still. If you blabber without control under influence of something, the artist will find this to be unbearable and unpractical too!

Not to mention that alcohol specifically, thins the blood, so more lymph will be released, and you will bleed out more. This makes it impossible for the ink to stay put under the skin, and the whole work session will be a mess. 

Be sober. In every possible sense!

What to eat and drink before a tattoo appointment

tattoo appointment

It is important not to be hungry or dehydrated. If you don’t stand pain well, you might faint a little bit, or if you are very hungry, your blood sugar will drop and you would surely be woozy and dizzy. 

If you can, bring some snacks with you, something practical like small sweets, some juice, water, etc. Many artists, if not all, offer some basic refreshments because the customer’s health, for the time being, is very important for both of you. 

Eat an hour or two before the tattooing, it is the optimal time for proper digestion and avoiding hunger. Drink plenty of water the hours before the tattooing. But, also pay attention to what you eat. It should go without saying, but avoid strong tastes or scents – no garlic, onion, or very spicy foods. You don’t want that sort of oral odor, or turbulent digestion and stomach problems as well.

Can I do something while I get the tattoo?

You can always watch the tv because most salons have a tv or some sort of screen that you can watch and listen to. If not that, you can go through their magazines, and perhaps even find a new idea for the next tattoo! See the flash designs as well, or even discuss them with the artist (or just chit-chat, it is perfect!).

You could basically discuss any light topic if you want, and sometimes even other topics you might have in mind. You would be surprised how friendly some artists are.

Can I use my phone throughout the whole appointment to make time pass?

Yes, you can, but there are some etiquette rules to follow here as well. Spending all of your sessions on the phone is not so pleasant, because the artists are also human beings and want to be talked to! So, if you use your phone, make it appropriate, checking on it once in a while, or play in one or two game sessions on an app, or similar. Make a balance between chitchat and the phone. And if you are a very sought or popular person, go silent mode with the phone. A lot of beeps and rings are a total distraction and not good manners at all!

What kind of clothes to wear?

Wear very comfortable clothes and loose materials that are not tight on the skin. Imagine if you have to remove a part of the clothing, or partially take it off somehow. Would you be able to do it, if the piece of clothing is very tight?

No. then, don’t wear it, if it cannot come off easily. Also, for your own well-being and comfort, to last through the session nicely, you need comfy clothes of course. Avoid synthetic materials (not just for the tattooing, but in general too). Cotton, or breathable fabrics, loose too. 

What if I am a bit late or early?

As a basic good manner rule, it is ok to arrive a bit early to the appointment. This doesn’t mean too early, but at least 5-10 minutes before the appointment. This allows the artist to plan where and how you will sit, he will place the stencil, and by the time the set hour arrives, you can already start the session on time. 

But, do not arrive late! It is understandable to be just a tad late like 10-15 minutes if something happened and you are stuck in traffic, or with similar unplanned reasons. If this is the case, call the artist immediately when you know you’ll be a bit late ahead, so he will know when to expect you.

What if I have not slept well the night before?

Well, try not to do this! You have to be rested, and this is not a rule just for the tattoo sessions. When the body is tired, it is understandable to feel more pain and to just want to lie down, right?

Can I talk to the artist?

Sure, if he is talkative for the time being, why not? You might find out interesting things or even make a new friend. But, if you notice the artist is a silent type of person, do not go overboard with the talks. You can play games, see your phone as well, watch tv or the screen in the salon, or list through the magazines as well.

Can I bring a friend or more friends?

Try not to. You might think it is fun for your friends to see the session in person, but this is highly annoying for the artist and the others in the salon. The appointment is not a party session, it’s just a tattoo session. If you don’t bring your friends to hair salons or waxing sessions, or similar, why bring them to the tattoo studio?

Should I tip the tattoo artist?

Yes, you should, and this is basic courtesy. Many countries have a set amount of tipping, but also, on the other hand, many don’t even tip at all (and this is common in poorer countries with extremely bad economies). But, serious topics aside, if you get the chance, and some extra finances, tip the artist. He will be very grateful, and his work will be appreciated.

Read also How Much to Tip a Tattoo Artist.

Is it bad to postpone the appointment?

It is not bad if you have valid reasons. The artist will not investigate or ask intimate questions, but it is good to mention why you postpone. Whether it is being very late for some reason, or sickness, or anything else that prevents you from appearing – just be honest, apologize, and if you can, reschedule.


These rules and tips from above are not hard to remember, you agree? It all comes down to the basic courtesy and etiquette manners that we respect in everyday life, for most life situations. 

Pay good care to hygiene, do not be hungry or dehydrated, be sober, and set the mobile on silent. Try to be on time, or just a tad earlier, and go alone. A moderate amount of talking goes a long way, and tipping sums up the manners and the session nicely too!

Not hard to remember, and practical in the long term too!

Read also: The Best Lotions & Moisturizers for Old Tattoos