Top Tattoo Mistakes To Avoid

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 11, 2020
    Last Updated: November 15, 2020

Getting a tattoo is a big choice, and it is not one to make lightly. Having something inked into your skin permanently can be intimidating. It takes a lot of time and can be painful. You will want to consider many factors regarding any tattoo you get, especially for your first one.

Making mistakes with a tattoo is not unusual, whether in planning, execution, or aftercare. Luckily, they are easy to avoid with a little research, preparation, and patience.

Correcting tattoo mistakes is not easy, so it’s best to avoid them completely if possible.


Pre-Tattoo Mistakes 

Some of the mistakes you can make before ever sitting down in the tattoo chair include: 

Not Enough Research

The planning process is probably the most important to get right. It is on you to do the research and make the decisions that will determine your tattoo’s outcome. Both the artist and shop you choose should have a good reputation and examples on their website. You should also get recommendations from friends and family if possible.

Do not just find the closest tattoo shop and choose it without looking into the details. The same goes for the artist that you pick. Inspect every aspect of their website and social media, and ask them questions. An inexperienced tattoo artist can cause permanent problems with your tattoo design if you’re unfortunate enough to pick the wrong one.

Talking with them over email or face to face before making an appointment will help you decide if they are right for you and your tattoo. A safe, clean environment is critical, too, so take note of that when you get there.

Tattoo blowout is a permanent tattooing mistake, but can normally be avoided by picking an experienced tattoo artist

Unnecessary Research

There is a line between an adequate amount of research and too much. If you find yourself looking up how much certain body areas hurt to get tatted, stop. Everybody has a different experience, and you do not know how it will feel until you get it. A good rule of thumb is that tattoos near major organs will hurt more, as will anything over any bones. 

Budgeting Too Little

Tattoos are expensive. Not only do you pay for the ink, the art, and the artist’s time, it is best practice to give them a generous tip. Do not sacrifice a quality tattoo with an artist you trust because it is too expensive, either. 

Tattoos are a huge investment, and if necessary, you should save up until you have the money. Tattoos are not usually something you want to be cheap, especially if you have a complicated design in mind.

Not Considering Size and Placement

Smaller tattoos with more detail may run together as time goes on. Additionally, where you get inked is a significant factor. Some areas of the body will be more painful than others. Have a general idea of what to expect.

Consider your place of employment or desired career as well. There is still a stigma around tattoos, even though they are becoming more acceptable. The bigger the tattoo, the harder it will be to cover up, and the more expensive it will be.

Choosing a Design You May Regret

A matching tattoo with your significant other may seem like a great idea at the time, but in truth, it could end up the opposite. If you want to do this anyway, try something less obvious, like a symbol of a shared hobby or passion. A representation of the relationship instead of an obvious lovers’ tattoo will be much better if things do not work out.

Symbols or characters from other languages are popular, but you want to ensure that it means what you want it to mean. Even if you change it to look a little different, that could cause its meaning to change. Research everything you possibly can before going down this path.

One thing to do is make your desired design your phone background or have it somewhere easy to view. If you get sick of seeing it in those places, you will likely get tired of seeing it on your body. If you have any doubts, it is probably wise to take the time to reconsider your choice seriously.

Day-Of Tattoo Mistakes 

Some of the mistakes you can make the day of your tattoo include: 

Having Other Commitments

Pick a day that you will not have anything else to do. Do something relaxing beforehand and make a whole day out of it. By the time you get to the tattoo shop, you will be relaxed and ready for the experience with less anxiety.

Going Alone

When you go by yourself, it is easy to get overwhelmed and agree to everything the artist suggests, even if it goes against what you want. Bring someone with you who knows the vision you have for your tattoo, and they can have your back. It is also more enjoyable to have some moral support around.

Failing to Ask Questions

Ask any questions that you have, no matter how insignificant it seems. If it helps to ease any anxiety you may have, it will be worth it. If the artist cannot answer a question about what is in the tattoo ink they use with confidence and detail, you might want to ask more questions.

Being Sick or Hungover

Make sure you are healthy and do not have too much to drink the night before. If there is still alcohol in your blood, you could bleed more, causing problems for the ink to settle. Hangovers, along with sickness, can potentially make the pain worse. You do not want to get the artist sick either. Additionally, being well-fed and hydrated goes a long way to a better, more pain-free experience. 

Tattoo Aftercare Mistakes

Even after getting inked, you can still make a few mistakes: 

Leaving the Bandage on for Too Long

Initially, your tattoo artist may wrap the tattoo in plastic wrap or a bandage to protect it from infection. Leaving this on for longer than your tattoo artist recommends, however, can inhibit the healing process.

Washing Incorrectly

Hot water can hurt your tattoo, so make sure to keep it lukewarm. Washing it with antibacterial soap as recommended by the artist is essential to remove any blood or plasma. Make sure you wash your hands first and then move on to your tattoo, patting it dry once finished. Afterward, let it air dry for five to ten minutes before applying a healing lotion.

Using Scented Lotions or Soaps

Chemicals used in scented lotions and soaps can cause your tattoo to fade or irritate it. Always use something fragrance-free. The tattoo shop most likely has some products to help with the process if you want to get it from them instead of figuring out what will work well.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan-friendly aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.

Too Much or Too Little Moisturizing

A scab that slows the healing process down can form if you do not use enough moisturizer. Using too much, however, makes it vulnerable to infection. The right balance between the two is to use a light layer of a fragrance-free lotion after you wash the tattoo. Cleaning the tattoo about two to three times a day is sufficient.

This is FAR too much lotion and some should be blotted off with a paper towel

Sun Exposure

The sun not only causes tattoos to fade, but it also can hurt the healing process. Keep it covered with loose, light clothing for the first few weeks, and use a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF when exposed.

My favorite and most recommended sunscreen for using on tattoos is EltaMD UV Sport Sunscreen Lotion.

This broad-spectrum sunscreen has all of the attributes required for not only protecting your tattoo amazingly well, but also for helping to keep it bright and vibrant. It’s suitably strong at SPF 50 and is water and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

Most importantly, EltaMD is extremely tattoo-friendly and doesn’t contain any fragrances, oils, or parabens.

Itching or Picking

As with any open wound, your tattoo will scab over and become incredibly itchy. Scratching or picking at the tattoo can leave light spots or holes in your tattoo or even promote infection. Avoiding this is probably one of the most challenging things to not do during the healing process, but it is not worth the risk.

Final Thoughts

A lot goes into a tattoo, from the artist to your tattoo’s location, and how you take care of it during healing. While you want to consider everything before going to the shop, it’s essential to be flexible. The artist should know what they are doing, and you should know what you want.