How to prepare the skin for a tattoo

  • Just as you need to take care of your skin after getting a tattoo, it’s also important to prep your skin beforehand.
  • Before a tattoo, make sure your skin is well hydrated.
  • Avoid blood thinners like alcohol and aspirin at least 24 hours before your appointment.

We’ve all seen those movie scenes: During a drunken debauchery, the eccentric character walks into a tattoo parlor to get inked and may or may not remember the ordeal in the morning. Obviously, little consideration is given to these impromptu (but permanent) moves on the big screen. But in real life, getting a tattoo, or at least getting your best tattoo, requires some prep work beyond choosing the artist, design, and the perfect spot on your body.

We spoke to professional tattoo artist Asami to explain what you need to do to prep your skin for a tattoo.

Make sure your skin is hydrated

Keeping your skin hydrated is always important, but making it supple and soft before your tattoo appointment is especially essential. “Dry, flaky skin can present considerable problems for a tattoo artist and negatively impact the end result,” says Asami, who honed her craft in Kyoto, Japan, and New York. “Dehydrated skin accepts dye unevenly, which can impact the appearance of the tattoo.” She recommends making it your mission to keep your skin super hydrated in the days and even weeks leading up to your tattoo. Drink plenty of water and moisturize your skin with an emollient cream like CeraVe Moisturizing Cream ($17) day and night. Stay away from harsh, drying exfoliators or scrubs at least a week before your appointment.

Avoid alcohol and blood thinners

At least 24 hours before your appointment, try not to drink alcohol or take blood thinners like aspirin. “Alcohol thins the blood, which can impact the tattoo process, healing, and the final look of the artwork,” Asami says. When the blood is thin, it can mean excessive bleeding, which creates complications for the performer. After the tattoo, you may want to wait for the party cocktails to allow it to heal in optimal conditions.

Shave the area

Shaving with a new, sharp razor is an essential step in tattoo preparation. “Starting with a light skin surface helps the lines of the tattoo look sharp and ensures that the design will last,” says Asami. Removing all traces of hair is important, so a new razor or tool like the Schick Hydro Silk Dermaplaning Wand ($20) will help remove those fine, hard-to-see hairs. If you are unsure of the exact location of your tattoo and would like to wait until you arrive for your appointment, your artist will shave the area for you.

Eat before your date

Asami recommends eating something 30 minutes before your appointment and bringing something to snack with you, as well as water. “Beginners can get a little dizzy and even feel weak,” she says. “Having a healthy meal before your appointment and snacks on hand can be a big help.”

Wear your comfortable clothes

Depending on the size of your tattoo, you might be on the table for a while, so might as well be comfortable, Asami says. Choose something loose, avoid light colors that smudge easily, and consider layers that you can remove effortlessly. Also, choose your clothes depending on where you are getting your tattoo. For example, if it’s your lower back, go for a top that can be pulled up, or if it’s your shoulders, something strapless or with easy-to-pull straps works well.

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