13 Things To Know Before You Get Your First Tattoo

Tattoos are frown at in Nigerian society primarily because of biblical reasons (Leviticus 19:27- 28 “‘27 “‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.) However, much like shaving, tattooing has been part of African culture alongside ear-piercings and tribal marks.

Unlike in the past, tattoos are less a means of cultural identification and more a form of art and self-expression. Despite the negative stereotype associated with Western tattooing, a lot of Nigerian youths get inked regardless. I’ve got a few myself which I absolutely love.

Following Big Sean and Jhene Aiko’s break up rumours, I thought it would be a great time to discuss tattoos and have put together a few things I’ve learnt and think you should know before you get your first tattoo.

Big Sean on Jhene Aiko’s arm. Don’t do this

1. What Tattoo: It is important to know exactly what you want to ink and spend some time designing it. I recommend you start with small simple designs. You are new to this and certainly not ready for a whole sleeve. Use Pinterest to find few tattoo ideas. You could also work with a tattoo or graphic artist to come up with something you like. Tattoos last almost forever, be certain about your choice.

2. Why This Tattoo: In my opinion, the choice to get a tattoo should not be a spontaneous or emotional one for obvious reasons. Spend even more time deciding why you want this on your body and it’s meaning to you. Be sure you can live with it for the rest of your life.

Please never ever ever get a tattoo of a lover’s face, name, initials or anything related. It is too often a bad idea because relationships are unpredictable. Even after marriage, it’s not the smartest thing.  The list of celebrities who have done this and regretted it is seemingly endless. You could make an exception for loved ones “in loving memory”… and even then you can’t be sure a mistress or a love-child won’t show up for the reading of the will. My opinion, just don’t do it.

All my tattoos, they’ve been thought out, thought over, been a work in progress for at least a year before I’ve got them. So I’m not walking into a tattoo shop, picking tattoos off a wall. It’s something that means something to me. It’s something that I believe in. – Colin Kaepernick

3. Where to Put it: Deciding where to place your tattoo is extremely important especially if you live and have a 9-5 or customer-facing job in Nigeria. I recommend you take your lifestyle and career ambitions into consideration. If you aren’t sure, get your tattoo on body parts that remain covered, at least in formal wear, unless you are hugely successful in the entertainment Industry. For Pete’s sake, whatever you do, don’t get a tattoo on your face.

4. Pain Threshold: Yes, it will hurt. How much depends on the size and details in your design, it might hurt a lot. A bunch of needles will continuously pierce, raise and inject ink under your skin so, you know, it does hurt. The bigger your tattoo, the more pain you should be prepared for. Brace yourself.

5. SensitivityIt is also important to keep in mind that some parts of the body are more sensitive and consequently more painful to ink than others. Some parts also take longer to heal. Avoid your elbow, groin and private area, ribs and the backs of knees.

6. Mental Preparedness: Having a tattoo in Nigeria, you will generally be perceived negatively by most people. A few people would be polite and curious, others, not so much. Church folk will see you as worldly and wayward. Some dates will conclude you are slutty, irresponsible or a player. Family and friends will give you the spiritual talk and assume something has gone wrong with you. Employers, well…don’t let your ink be the reason you are out of a job.

7. Do Your Research: Finding a good tattoo artist requires a lot of time. I don’t know of any good one in Nigeria yet. Investigate tattoo artists portfolios on Instagram and their website. Read testimonials from other clients and make an effort to visit the tattoo palour to ask questions. Get a good idea of their procedure, pricing and hygiene standards. Be sure the artist opens the needles in front of you and has fresh gloves on. The establishment should smell slightly of disinfectant.

8. Save Up: Be prepared to part with a some because good tattoos are not cheap and cheap tattoos are often terrible. Tattoo costs are usually charged by the hour depending on the size of your design. Small tattoos are comparatively expensive because you pay for the non-transferable utensils like needles, wipes and gloves used.

9. Talk to Your Artist: Get to know your artist find out as much as you can about his skill and his professional reputation from reviews.

10. Go With Company: A first time is always stressful so it is helpful to go with someone who supports you. Find a friend and visit the tattoo palour together so you have a second opinion on the establishment and good company while the artist gets the job done. I had my sister. She prefers piercings to ink but she supported me anyway.

11. Tattoo Care: A fresh tattoo requires special attention for at least a week. A good tattoo palour will give you instructions on how to care for it in the coming days and may offer you an ointment. If they don’t, get a tube of Bepanthen at a pharmacy. It’s a great nappy rash cream commonly used for tattoos. Follow the care instructions on this link.

12: Side Effects/Reaction: Like everything in life, tattooing may have side effects on some people. If you are prone to keloids, it is not advisable to get a tattoo. Others get a reaction to the ink, with excessive and unbearable itching and irritation of the area. It’s not common but it is possible and important to keep this in mind.

13: Tattoo Removal: Tattoos are forever, well almost. Now there are many ways to get rid of them. There are Intense pulsed light, surgical excision, dermabrasion and take-home treatments. The latest, most effective and least time consuming is Laser Tattoo Removal. This treatment completely removes tattoos without scarring. The laser light breaks up the tattoo ink. This process is just as painful as tattooing and costs a lot more but will have you good as new in three to seven days. However, I do not know of anyone offering this service in Nigeria.

Summarily, I think Colin Kaepernick expressed my opinion on tattoos best:

“To me, tattoos are a way of people being able to express themselves and have other people look at them and get a little insight into who they are, without ever even saying a word to them.”

Express yourself. Goodluck


Have any tips on getting a tattoo in Nigeria? Let me know what you think in the comments!
As always, thank you for reading!

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