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Your 1st Tattoo: A User’s Guide


Mar 18, 2015

Getting tatted can be scary. But if there’s anyone who really knows the ins-and-outs of going under the needle, it’s our girl Lauren Winzer, the Australian tattoo artist behind Miley Cyrus’ recent (and excellent) ink. Here, the creative dynamo answers our simple but loaded question: What should you know, and do, before your first tattoo?

For your first tattoo, make sure that like the design or the style for a little while as taste changes faster than you realize! How timeless is it going to be? Make sure it’s something you really like. One caveat: it actually doesn’t have to have any meaning. The fact that you just really, really like something is good enough reason to have it tattooed on you.

Don’t show your friends or family the design beforehand to get their opinion. If you’re into it, do it. It’s for you—who gives a shit what anyone else thinks?! It’s all about personal taste, and since it’s your body, it’s your taste that matters.

Eat beforehand! Nothing worse than going in anxious as hell and with an empty stomach. You will get head spins, you may pass out, and you could even pee yourself or throw up—I’ve seen it all!

Bring some sugar with you. You might not feel like you’re doing much, but your body is putting up with pain. You’re going to get a bit run down, and there’s nothing better than a Coca Cola to give you a boost!

Take your tattooist’s opinion to heart as much as possible. I have people tryin’ to tell me what’s going to look best, but it’s different than art on paper, not to mention the fact that I do this every day, so I ultimately know what works and what doesn’t. Plus, my name is associated with your tattoo, so I want it to be the best it can be, just like you do. We know what’s going to translate best to skin. Please listen.

Don’t pick the spot for the tattoo based on the pain factor—pick it because that’s where you want it to be, because that’s what’s going to make you love it even more. The pain is super temporary. It’s worth it to have your tattoo exactly where you want, because it’s not gonna be moving anywhere!

Look online or in magazines to research tattooers and their styles to find artists that are going to best suit the tattoo and vibe you’re wanting. Some styles don’t come naturally to certain artists, so it’s best to choose someone that can pick up what you’re putting down!

If your tattoo artist has a three-month waiting list, then wait. Getting what you want is vital, because a tattoo is as permanent as it gets, and I find myself covering or redoing tattoos that aren’t “what I wanted” because the client didn’t want to wait for their first-choice artist. Much like love, you should never settle for second-best when it comes to your tattoo.

People try and be cool, like, “Fuck a career, I’ll look how I want and still get the job.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. Maybe in time, but right now there are still some unspoken rules about ink in the workplace, so try take it slow while you figure out what you really want. Go whole arms, legs, and torso if you want, because you can cover that up if needed, but really think about whether you want your hands, neck, etc. covered. I’ve seen people come in for laser removal because they can’t have visible tattoos for the job they want. It sucks, but you have to be a little cautious.

The biggest pain spots for me were wrist, upper stomach, the palm of my hand. The easy spots were my lower legs, outer arms, and the top of the hand. Pain-wise, in general, getting a tattoo feels like when you get really sunburnt, and by accident, you scratch your skin against a table or something. It’s tingly, and it’s scratchy. But don’t believe the hot-dragging-knife myth, because who the hell would get tattooed if it really felt like that?! I’m actually petrified of needles, but being tattooed feels more irritating and scratchy than anything.


  • Lauren Winzer, photographed by Renee Carey in Sydney, Australia

    In 2013, Lady Gaga got a tattoo in front of a live audience at the Guggenheim Museum of Art.