When I decided to get my first tattoo, I didn’t make the decision lightly — after all, it’ll be on my body for the rest of my life because I definitely never want to go through a tattoo removal process (I’ve heard it’s painful and costs $$$). I spent a full year debating whether or not I was ready to tattoo my favorite quote on my wrist (okay, I also used some delay tactics because I have a serious phobia of needles).
For someone who spent a solid 12 months weighing the pros and cons of getting inked, I didn’t spend that much time researching what weird things would happen to my body when I got a tattoo.
The morning after my favorite quote was inked on my wrist, I sent a series of frantic texts to my best friend from home who happens to have more tattoos than I can count. It was too early to remove the bandage, but it looked like the ink was running and the print appeared to be totally smudged. What had I done? And how in the world had one of the most reputable tattoo parlors in Seattle managed to botch this? DON’T WORRY — this story has a happy ending because the “weird” things that happened were, in fact, a sign that my tattoo was healing up properly.
In order to spare you the alarm of waking up to a seemingly wrecked tattoo or seriously scabby skin, I recommend reading the weird things that happen when you get inked before you head to the tattoo parlor. (I mean, someone should learn from my mistakes.)
1There’s an adrenaline rush.
The level of pain experienced while getting a tattoo is different for everyone — some people find it excruciating, while others adamantly declare it doesn’t hurt at all. But, regardless of your pain threshold, the body experiences the needle’s penetration as a type of trauma. “Fight or flight” syndrome follows, which is always accompanied by a rush of adrenaline. You may also experience a “heady” feeling during the process — and, although it can be intense, some people actually find it relaxing.
2Some of the ink will seep.
Your tattoo artist will cover your tattoo in a plastic bandage, and you’ll generally be advised to leave it on for about 24 hours. You’ll very likely wake up in the morning and discover that the ink has seeped into the bandage — and it can be disconcerting, because it looks like your entire tattoo somehow got smudged. Seeping is totally normal, and it actually means the tattoo is healing properly. The ink usually seeps for a few days, so just make sure you’re washing it with cool water and rinsing off as much ink as you can.
3You’ll get scabs.
Tattoos look beautiful once they’ve fully healed, but it takes time — so don’t be alarmed when your skin looks less than stellar during the healing process. The dreaded scabs tend to emerge a few days after you get inked, and they’re actually a sign that the tattoo is healthy and healing properly. It’s super important not to pick at them, because you could accidentally leave a scar.
4It itches and peels.
Again, this is unpleasant but totally normal. Fight the urge to scratch at it — most tattoo parlors send you home with packets of soothing gel to put on the affected area.
5Sunburns are the enemy.
Okay, sunburns are always the enemy, but they can cause serious damage to a tattoo. As anyone who’s ever had a sunburn knows, you shed layers of skin when it heals — and, the more severe the sunburn, the more layers of skin disappear. This is especially damaging for a new tattoo because it takes time for the ink to fully settle under the skin — but any sunburned tattoo will fade, and the idea of getting a tattoo touched up repeatedly sounds both costly and unpleasant. So, seriously — don’t forget your sunscreen.