As a lot of people know, my company originally came from my line of Real Heal tattoo aftercare. In case you don’t know the history, when I started diving into the world of being a tattoo enthusiast, I started having reactions to Aquaphor, Neosporin, and A&D ointment. My tattoos would scab, I’d often have small itchy bumps, and the itching was often unbearable.
As fate would have it, I was simultaneously in school for my Masters in Holistic Wellness, as well as a year-long herbal certification course. One of my classes was focused on cancer, and one of the major carcinogens I focused on in my class project was mineral oil/petroleum. After understanding the dangers of this ingredient, I set about to create a safer tattoo healing cream/salve/ointment. And so my Real Heal salve was born.
Over the last 7-8 years, I’ve spent a good amount of time talking to tattoo artists about their art work, the healing process, and the tattoo process itself. In honor of these wonderful men and women, let me be the one to offer some education on tattoo etiquette. Quite frankly, this isn’t always obvious to everyone, and it causes quite a bit of frustration for the artists.
- *You cannot swim for two weeks after a tattoo, nor soak it in a bath tub. Salt or chlorine will pull out ink. Please do not think you’re the exception to the rule—if you want to bathe, leave that body part OUT of the water!
- *Touch ups are not indefinite. Don’t show up 4 years after you've had a tattoo and expect the artist to touch it up for free.
- *Do not bring your toddler with you to a tattoo shop, and allow them to run around unsupervised. No matter how clean a shop is, there is a danger for a wide range of diseases...which is why your artist takes courses on biohazardous materials and gets their license renewed every couple of years. In addition, a tattoo shop is not a playground, and your child is a distraction for the artists who are working-they are not your babysitter!
- *Do not ask for a solid quote, without meeting with your artist. When all you've told the artist is that you want a rose tattoo, how are they supposed to price it? Send a pic. Set up an consultation. They can probably give you an estimate, once they know the size, where it’s going, whether it’s colour or black and grey, etc.. This is an estimate and can and often will change, based on multiple factors.
- *Don’t ask for a sketch to be sent to you. Ever. Too often, artists have sent sketches, only to watch them walk into another shop and be tattooed by another artist who low-balled their price.
- *Don’t settle for low-ball tattoo prices. You get what you pay for, like anything else. Reputable shops have a higher hourly rate and minimum priced tattoo. There’s a reason for that. If you ask for a price and decide on a decidedly cheaper shop, you may risk a greater chance for infection, inexperienced tattoo artists, inferior tattoo supplies, or an artist who doesn’t give a sh*t about you.
- *Asking prices without even looking at the artists portfolio. Ask the shop minimum and browse through the portfolios to see who’s art work resonates with you. Do not waste the time of an artist, by just price-gauging. This isn’t k-mart. There are no blue light specials, when you want a high-quality artist.
- *Don’t just “yeah yeah” your artist, when they ask if you know how to heal it. This is their reputation on the line—they carehow you heal, because it’s a reflection of their work. Even if you know the proper aftercare, discuss it with them, just to make sure. They are often aware of the most current methods of healing, and what works best for their clients. And don’t disregard their instructions and do what your friends say to do, then expect them to fix your hard-healed ink.
- *Don’t think you can just pick up tattooing in your spare time. Proper tattooing is more than just being an artist, wanting to make extra money, or thinking you can be a rock star. There are years of apprenticing involved, training with a different art medium, not to mention people skills. Tattooing is ANYTHING but easy money. Nor are you going to be the next Ink Master. (And if you think that show is real in any way, please just stop reading this and crawl back under a rock.)
- *Do not feel the need to constantly talk during your session. Your artist is not your therapist, nor your best friend. We all understand you’re in pain, and that’s often how people cope. But don’t expect advice from a stranger. Some artists are quite introverted, and get into a “zone” when they’re working. Please don’t distract them.
- *Tip you artist! It doesn’t always have to be money—if you see a cute gift idea when you’re out that your artist would appreciate, feel free to do it! Good artists are a wealth of info and friendship…most become therapists of some sort (in case you missed the bullet point just above this one). Please treat them with respect!
- *Be respectful of their workspace. Don’t sit in their stool if they get up (that extra chair is for you!). Don’t play around with your friend who’s getting tattooed. Don’t bring 5 friends with you—this isn’t a picnic or day at the beach! Don’t hover over the artist; you’re not VanGogh, needing to watch their technique.
- *Do not act like you know more than they do about colour, size, placement, ideas. They’re the expert. This isn’t Burger King; it’s art. You can’t always have it 100% your way. It’s OK to ask questions if you don’t think something will work—but do not be an ass about your idea, and be unwilling to budge on the design. If you don’t trust them, you shouldn’t have them put something permanent on your body.
This isn’t a complete list, but please understand the point of this blog. Just as most people don’t understand your job, know that you don’t understand everyone else’s. The rules are different in any profession, and I’ve repeatedly heard the same complaints from multiple artists. If you have any questions you’d like to ask or anything you want to add, feel free to contact me! If I can’t answer it, one of my lovely artist friends will!