Healthy living

Preparing yourself for body art

Body artists suggest that you consider these points before getting any body art:

  • If you are considering multiple tattoos or piercings, start with a small one to see how you manage the procedure and the after-care of your body art.
  • Body art which is very noticeable may affect your chances of getting some jobs. It may also be embarrassing in some social situations.
  • Be as healthy as possible. If you’re sick it will slow down the healing process and you’ll have greater risk of getting a local infection.
  • Avoid alcohol for at least 24 hours before and after a procedure. Alcohol in your bloodstream tends to increase bleeding during a procedure and can delay the healing process.

If you are having a tattoo:

  • Speak to your body artist before the procedure if you have multiple allergies or sensitive skin. The tattoo studio may be able to offer you a patch test to see if you’re allergic to the inks before you go ahead with the full procedure.
  • Ask the studio to apply a stencil of the design, if you are unsure where you want the tattoo or which style to get. This will allow you to ‘wear’ the tattoo and make decisions about it before you commit to the full procedure.

If you are having a piercing:

  • Talk to your body artist about your jewellery choice. If you want to use your own jewellery for the piercing, take it to the studio the day before so it can be checked and sterilised. Jewellery you buy from other places will not be sterile and may not be of suitable quality or size for the piercing you want.

Before your procedure

The body artist wants you to be comfortable and safe. At the same time they need to take care of their own interests and health, so there are a few things they will ask you to do. You will need to:

  • Provide proof of your age.
  • Give them your medical history, particularly any infectious skin diseases or other communicable diseases (diseases that can be passed to other people) you may have.
  • Tell them about any metal or chemical allergies you have.
  • Let them know if you have any problems with skin healing, especially keloid scarring (keloids are raised scars, more common in people with dark skin).
  • Talk about the style of body art and where you want it placed.
  • Tell them whether you have had alcohol or other drugs that day. Most body artists will not work on people who are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

Make it a comfortable experience

If you’re nervous about the procedure, there are some things you can do to feel more comfortable.

  • Take a friend with you for moral support.
  • On the day make sure that you have eaten something and have had enough fluid to drink so that you are not dehydrated.
  • Some procedures can be painful, but the pain can pass quickly if there are no complications. Breathing exercises can help you relax. Some people feel lightheaded or faint afterwards. This is due to a change in blood levels of adrenaline and the body’s natural painkillers.
  • If you know what to expect you can deal with it better. Also let the tattoo artist know how you’re feeling.

More information

Remember

  • Start with a small design or piercing before committing to larger, more obvious body art.
  • Talk to your body artist about any allergies, infectious diseases or skin problems you may have.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or take drugs for at least 24 hours before having a body art procedure. Most body artists won’t perform a procedure on someone with alcohol or drugs in their system.

Acknowledgements
Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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