Lots of young women use spring’s warmer weather as an excuse to finally get that tattoo they’ve always wanted. But before you splurge on your first piece of ink, there are a few things you’ll want to know about getting and caring for your body art. Of course, you already know how to research a design and choose a reputable tattoo shop, but you might not realize…

You’ll need to change your beauty habits. It’s vital to cover your tattoo with sunscreen and avoid tanning in the first few weeks to avoid fading the ink. (Giving up tanning altogether is even better.) You’ll also need to switch to a fragrance-free body lotion, since dyes and perfumes can irritate the sensitive skin. Your tattoo artist can recommend a good cream to rub over your tattoo; remember to apply it throughout the day.

The pain level varies based on the site. Squeamish about the needles? They move up and down thousands of times per minute, so the noise of the gun can be frightening but the pain level usually isn’t nearly as excruciating as you might imagine. That said, very large or detailed tattoos will hurt more, since they require multiple sessions and cover such large areas. And tattooing over areas with a little bit of fat (like the stomach or calf) will hurt less than an area over bone (like the ribs or wrist).

It really is permanent! Well, duh but with the increasing popularity of laser tattoo removal, many young women assume that if they change their mind about a design, they can simply have it removed. But tattoo removal is much more costly than the initial work, often running into the thousands of dollars depending on the design. It’s also much more painful than the initial work, and can take several sessions to remove the ink but even then, you may not be able to remove the tattoo completely. Caveat emptor!

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