Being helpful is part of human nature. No one wakes up in the morning and goes ‘I’m going to fool the heck out of my best friend about their tattoo.’ However, there’s a lot of seemingly harmless advice out there in circulation that can have devastating consequences when taken to heart. Here are the 5 worst pieces of advice we’ve ever heard about tattoos. If you have a friend that believes in one of these myths, be a hero and help them out. It could save their design…or their life! Geeze, that sounds dramatic. Let’s just learn how to avoid some bad advice and take care of our bodies properly!
1. Your Tattoo Will Heal on its Own
This is the most dangerous piece of advice out there, so I’m putting it at the top of the list. You wouldn’t let a deep scrape the size of an orange sit unattended, so why would you do that when ink is applied via needle in an area just as wide? I’ve seen far too many people say that they only needed to rinse off their tattoo once a day or so to keep it from getting infected. Those people are lucky and run on something called a ‘survivor bias.’
At the very least, wash your tattoo twice a day with appropriate soap. If something looks off or strange about your tattoo, go see a doctor right away. Even if your tattoo does heal without issues, aftercare increases the quality of the tattoo in the long run. There’s no reason to skip it!
2. Pick a Famous Tattoo Shop
Hear me out. People will urge you to go to a famous tattoo shop, and while that’s all good and well, don’t automatically assume that popularity equals quality. Many times, a shop becomes popular just because it’s inexpensive and bought some positive yelp reviews. If someone recommends the shop to you in person, that’s one thing, but don’t pay attention to the glowing reviews you see online.
The first thing you want to look at is the tattoo design quality. Single out the online three star reviews to see the real pros and cons of the shop. Go to the shop in person and ask to look at your artist’s portfolio. If they refer you to a ‘newbie’ artist or only show you simple tattoos from their portfolio, it isn’t a good choice—no matter how popular it is! In general, only accept a tattoo from a new artist if you’re already familiar and in love with a tattoo shop.
3. You Can Tan Normally with Tattoos
A tattooed piece of skin needs a lot more care than an empty spot, especially when it comes to tanning. Harsh light is so effective at damaging tattoos that it is used as the primary form of tattoo removal. It feels great to go to the beach and show off your tattoo and getting a tan on top of that sounds like an excellent day. So how do you go about tanning with tattoos properly?
First, apply some tattoo sunscreen or suntan lotion. Yes, such a thing exists! By giving your tattooed area a little extra bit of protection whenever you go out into the sun, you prolong its life by years. Artificial tanning also will not damage your tattoo. If you want to be absolutely certain of your tattoo’s safety, cover it up entirely with a thick piece of paper of the same shape. That way, your tan is nice and even, without ever touching your tattoo ink!
Remember that any amount of sunlight, sunburns, and suntans damage tattoos in the long run, so keep tattoo sunblock in stock as often as possible. Just a small bottle of the stuff to stick in your purse works wonders.
4. Your Tattoo Finishes Healing at Two Weeks
This one is sometimes peddled by newbie tattoo artists or people who have only received small tattoos. They see that the skin of their tiny tattoo looks smooth and normal at two weeks and assume it must be completely healed. It should be obvious why this blanket advice doesn’t work for larger tattoos, which need much more time to heal, but this can actually be harmful advice to people with small tattoos!
Your skin takes about 6 weeks to regenerate after the severe damage a tattoo inflicts. Even if it seals up and stops peeling, the skin on top of your tattoo will be scar tissue that can’t properly form a barrier between your body and the outside world. Risk of infection goes way down, but your tattoo is still hypersensitive to light damage (especially from the sun) and chemical damage from soaps that harm tattoo ink. You have to continue to treat the area with moisturizer or skin cream for two months before you can officially call it healed and treat it like any other patch of skin. Even then, I recommend putting suntan lotion on it whenever you go out!
5. Your Tattoo can be Anything!
On the surface level, yes. Of course your tattoo can be anything. Practically and ethically speaking, please don’t just get anything for your tattoo. Tattoo artists are weathering through the Dickbutt tattoo trend, and it just won’t be funny—if it’s even recognizable—in another ten years.
Although you can choose anything to be the subject of your tattoo, I can’t recommend enough that you choose something relevant and personal to you. It will have the same meaning in ten years, can’t be twisted by society in the long-term, and the design will give you a boost of pride for the rest of your life. Someone who says ‘your tattoo can be anything!’ is probably just convincing you to get a tattoo for the sake of getting a tattoo. Your tattoo needs to be more than an adornment with little more utility than a sticker. When you pick your tattoo, don’t pick just anything. Pick what matters to you.
Using the Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard about Tattoos
The best way to use these pieces of advice…is to ditch them. Tell your friends about these myths, keep your fellow artists informed, or pay attention to how to avoid these particular pit falls. Spread good advice to battle the misinformation out there (you can find a bunch on our aftercare article and throughout the site).
Your health and the health of others matters far more than being ‘right.’ If you ever have a disagreement about the right way to care for a tattoo, talk to an experienced artist, a doctor, or a respected online source to determine the truth. As the world of tattoo art expands, our knowledge expands with it. Let’s continue down this road and see where it takes us. You never know how our perceptions will change down the line!