Body modification isn’t a new practice at all, and Black and brown people have been getting body art in various forms for centuries. We can trace body modification from intricate tribal tattoos in Polynesia to scarification in Sub-Saharan Africa and South America. 2020 has been a year we simply couldn’t predict – and as a result, more people are ticking major events off their bucket list. If you’ve always wanted to get a tattoo and loved the idea but felt too scared to try – this might be the right time.
What to know about your first tattoo as a BIPOC
But the tattoo industry is known for being a relatively closed-off space, which changed with the advent of reality television shows like Miami Ink, LA Ink, and Ink Master. These shows help pivot tattooers to mainstream media, making them their own kind of celebrity. Despite this – it still can be a daunting experience to enter a shop as a Black or brown person. I started getting tattooed in 2010 and there weren’t many resources available at the time. I kept getting asked about tattoos and how to go about getting a tattoo, that I ended up writing a free e-book called Tattoos are for Everybody – so the information was accessible for as many people as possible.
However, the shift is happening with initiatives like Ink The Diaspora, a platform that aims to boost visibility of dark-skin tattoo enthusiasts who struggle to find representation in the industry. It’s important to highlight that, as it can be very difficult to find anyone with a deeper skin tone with high visibility in the industry.
Thanks to social media, it can be a lot easier to navigate getting your first tattoo and you can start at any age (my mom started at around 40!) – so here’s what you need to know.
Do your research
It’s important to thoroughly search for the artist you want. Instagram and Google are wonderful resources to find a tattooer that does good, clean work, and discover the style you might like. From neo-traditional to blackwork, there are several tattoo styles that you might love. Instagram and Pinterest are known for boosting trendy styles like those delicate micro tattoos you may have seen before.
Having an idea of what you want is great for any artist, and getting some references (preferably of their own work) is a good way to get the right design. Do note, most tattoo artists won’t copy art directly, as there are various laws around tattoo ownership, copyright and it’s considered unethical.
If you have darker skin, it’s also essential to see if your tattoo artist has worked on deeper tones. If you can’t see anything on their social media feeds, enquire about it – if they haven’t it would be better to find a more suitable artist.
As Bustle explains, “Because tattoo opinions change so often, listening to artists can help you keep your finger on the pulse of what is, and isn’t, working out for professionals these days.”
It’s important to give some thought to where you want to get tattooed and how that might affect potential job opportunities. Some placements like hands, neck, and face just aren’t considered “professional” in certain industries. I had my hand tattooed at a young age, and I knew I wouldn’t end up in stricter corporate professions – I would definitely recommend taking that into consideration. While having body art is nice, not being able to find a job isn’t.
Bookings are essential
We’re in the midst of a pandemic and tattoo artists have been hit hard by the COVID-19 restrictions. A large percentage of tattoo shops are no longer accepting walk-ins (i.e tattoos with no prior appointments) into the shop to limit the number of people in the space. Prior to COVID-19 pandemic, any good studio would have stringent sterilization and sanitization practices, as artists deal with hazardous waste like blood and plasma. Since reopening, there are even stricter measures in place, including no mask, no entry, no taking your mask off during tattoo sessions, and appointment-only bookings.
Follow the care instructions
Tattoos are a wound and unfortunately, can get infected. The best way to make a tattoo last is to adhere to the aftercare instructions from your artist. The process will differ from artist to artist, but it’s essential to prolonging the life of your art. Sometimes that means not wearing a bra or not letting water touch your tattoo. There’s an emphasis on going to good artists who have proper hygiene measures in place to avoid any complications. I’ve never had any issue personally with tattoo healing, but there are risks that can occur at any stage of the process if it’s not applied or looked after correctly.
Have you thought about getting a tattoo? Let us know in the comments below!
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