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Written by Kieran Proctor

Preparing For Your First Tattoo Session



You’ve met your future tattooist and have ordered a custom design. You’re just waiting to see the final design and approve it, before it’s tattoo day. Congratulations! But is there something you should be doing while you anxiously await seeing that final tattoo design? Yes, there is.

You should get yourself any tattoo aftercare products you might need, in advance of getting tattooed. Tattoo creams and tattoo specific soaps are the big two items that you should consider using on your fresh tattoo. Tattoo specific creams and soaps are often hard to get in stores. And are often best ordered online.

If your tattooist has okayed the use of a tattoo numbing cream or tattoo numbing spray, you may need to order that tattoo numbing product in advance.

The availability of tattoo numbing creams and sprays vary by country and jurisdiction. In some countries they can be ordered by pharmacies. And in other countries and jurisdictions you will need to order them online.

You should also make sure you have dark colored, loose fitting clothing that you can wear to your tattoo appointment. And for a week or two after your tattoo appointment while your new tattoo heals.

So, let’s look at each category of items you might want to consider getting in advance of your tattoo appointment. And where they can best be ordered. 

Prepare for Your Session By getting a Tattoo Numbing Cream

Proper tattoo numbing creams and tattoo numbing sprays will contain a topical anesthetic. And the most common topical anesthetic used in tattoo numbing products is lidocaine.

Lidocaine is the topical anesthetic most dentists use. And anybody who has sat in a dentists chair knows just how numb (and drooling) lidocaine can make you. A good tattoo numbing product will use the maximum allowable strength of 5% lidocaine.

Some formulations of tattoo numbing products will include mixtures of lidocaine, prilocaine, tetracaine and epinephrine in varying degrees and mixtures. And when choosing a tattoo numbing product, it’s important that the product states exactly what’s in it.

Some disreputable tattoo numbing products will claim online, that they numb areas for many hours. But they don’t contain a topical anesthetic and they don’t numb anything! If the product doesn’t clearly list its ingredients, you should treat it like it’s a fake and ignore it.

A real tattoo numbing product will tell you clearly on the website and on the label which anesthetic it contains and in what percentage. And if you’re getting one of the more painful spots tattooed, you’ll be glad to have a real numbing product.

I’ve personally used dozens of different tattoo numbing creams over the years and have found most of them to be effective. And I recently tested a numbing cream with Lidocaine 5%, Prilocaine 5% and Epinephrine 1% when I got the blackout sleeve on my right arm.

Mad Rabbit Numbing Cream
The numbing cream I use

Buy Your Tattoo Aftercare Creams In Advance!

You’re going to need a tattoo aftercare cream for your new tattoo. The main purpose of a tattoo aftercare cream, is to stop the new tattoo from drying out and becoming scabby, crispy or cracking.

You need to keep your new tattoo supple and moist. Or you risk having parts of your tattoo deteriorate and the color fall out. And if your tattoo does scab up or get infected leading to areas dropping ink, it means you’ll need another trip to the tattooist. Spending more money to have the area touched up.

In theory, you could use something as simple as Vaseline, Bepanthen or pawpaw ointment as a tattoo aftercare cream. However, specialized tattoo creams are my go to items, because I’ve had better results with them.

I use tattoo specific aftercare creams because they’re designed to stop the tattoo from drying out and have antiseptic qualities to prevent infections. The good ones are also formulated to have no nasty chemicals that could negatively affect the quality of a new tattoo.

You want to avoid creams that have alcohol, petroleum, lanolin, mineral oils, parabens, phthalates and fragrances. These can irritate the new tattoo, cause infections or simply make your new tattoo a heck of a lot more itchy. And remember you’re not allowed to scratch your new tattoo no matter how itchy it gets!

For my last major work, my black sleeve, I used ‘Mad Rabbit’. And I definitely recommend the Mad Rabbit range of aftercare products.

The aftercare salve went on well and prevented itching. And I had no spots that needed touching up. It’s vegan, but also petroleum and paraben free. Yet, it contains a mint oil (along with other ingredients) that give it a great scent!

Mad Rabbit - New Tattoo Repair Soothing Gel
The aftercare cream I use

Make Sure You Have A New Soap For Your Tattoo!

Soap is something that most people forget when getting their first tattoo. But it is an important component in a proper tattoo aftercare routine. The same ingredients you should avoid in the creams you use on your new tattoos, should also be avoided in the soaps you use to clean your new tattoo.

Following your tattoo appointment, your tattooist will wrap your new tattoo. They will likely wrap your new tattoo in cling wrap (plastic wrap) and use tape to hold it on. This makeshift bandage should only be worn for 1-3 hours. It’s to allow you to get home.

Once home, you need to remove the bandage and properly clean the new tattoo of all excess blood, ointment, ink and plasma. You need to clean off all that goo using soap.

If you just use the regular soap you have in your shower, you risk irritating your new tattoo. Most supermarket brand soaps have fragrances and chemicals you don’t want on your fresh tattoo.

Specialty tattoo soaps like aftercare creams are free of alcohol, petroleum, lanolin, mineral oils, parabens, phthalates and fragrances.

Mad Rabbit - Tattoo Safe Soap - Cleansing New Tattoo Soap
Specialized tattoo soaps

Organize The Clothes You Will wear to your appointment

You should wear loose fitting clothing so it’s easy to work around and doesn’t rub on your new tattoo. And you should wear dark colored clothing. Because tattoo ink, blood and plasma will stain light colored clothing.

If you don’t have loose fitting, dark colored clothing to wear to your tattoo appointment, you should get some in advance. I wear our basic tees for upper body tattoos and they work a treat.

With the buy 3 and get the fourth free offer our Tattoo Vagabond Basic Tees are less than $10 each. They have a great fit and are made from smooth 100% combed and ring spun cotton. They’re the perfect t-shirt for wearing to your tattoo session.

Basic T.

The other things you should consider before your tattoo appointment are what’s lurking in your refrigerator.

For a couple of days before your tattoo appointment and until your tattoo is healed, you should avoid excessive amounts of alcohol, pork and anything that seeps through your pores.

Alcohol will thin your blood and make you bleed more. Remember all those action movies where the guy gets shot and then downs a bottle of whiskey? He’d bleed to death.

Don’t drink before or after your tattoo appointment. It will make you bleed more. Wait until the healing is well underway before going on a bender.

As for eating pork before or after a tattoo, it depends on the country you are in. And no, it’s not a religious thing. Pork can cause a tattoo infection depending on how it’s been prepared and preserved. And you should never eat pork of questionable origin with an open wound.

You can wind up with a nasty tattoo infections from eating pork after getting a large tattoo. Particularly if the pork hasn’t been prepared and preserved correctly. And the last thing you want on your fresh tattoo is a scabby infection destroying the ink. So avoid pork until your tattoo is almost healed.

Once your tattoo is healed, you can break out the pork chops and whiskey. 

pouring whiskey into skull glass
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