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Drinking Before Inking? All the NOs!!

Getting a new tattoo can be so exciting. Planning for what you want, finding the right artist, scheduling the appointment - if you are serious about tattoo collecting, the lead up to a new tattoo can take months and even years of waiting. But what should you be doing a few days and especially the night before a tattoo session? Planning your new ink is only part of the process of getting a new tattoo. While your chosen artist is working out a design for your skin, you have some work to do as well.

dry brushing skin, tattoo skin preparation

We all know that our skin is our largest organ and of course the better your skin, the better your tattoo. Some things are out of your control, like pore size, hairiness, and moles, but there are several critical factors that you DO have control over. Some things to do a few days before your session include staying out of the sun and hydrating like a champion (not the day of, but daaaays before). Hydration is a process that occurs over several days, not in the time it takes for you to drink a big glass of water. Dry brushing the skin and applying lotion to the soon-to-be-tattooed area are also ways to prepare. Using a natural bristle brush, just sweep over dry skin to help with circulation and skin cell turnover (YouTube it!). Plus it'll make you smooth like a baby, especially after you moisturize. You will also want to be well-rested and well-fed starting several days before your session and continuing all the way up to start time. Your body will be optimally prepped and your session will be more managable - and your artist will thank you.

Those are a few simple things you can do the week before your tattoo to help prepare yourself. What should you NOT do? The number one no-no is drinking (and let's lump recreational drug use right in there). You have probably heard this "no drinking" thing before, but do you know why? You may think it has to do with drunk people being an ever-loving pain in the ass to deal with, especially for hard working artists who have to concentrate, and you wouldn't be wrong. But do you know the main reason you shouldn't pound Red Bull and vodka before your session (besides the obvious "that is a terrible idea" reason)? Alcohol is a blood thinner.

OK so what does that mean exactly, and how does thin blood affect a tattoo in progress?

"There are two main reasons why thin blood would be a problem during a tattoo procedure. The first is the annoyance factor. As an artist trying to render a piece of art onto your skin, it is very annoying to have the work obsured by too much bleeding. The second is a technical problem. The blood, when mixed with tattoo ink thins the ink too much and causes the resulting color to appear faded or translucent and 'washed out'. Any subsequent bleeding has the potential to flush out ink that has been tattooed into the skin which can cause light spots or 'holidays' in the color."

"While alcohol is a known blood thinner, during a tattoo procedure there are other factors that come into play. For one, time plays a factor in how much you'll bleed. Having a drink or two just before getting a tattoo will not likely thin your blood out enough to become a problem. Drinking heavily the night before on the other hand could cause a problem."

"Your health plays an important role as well. Not enough iron in your diet will thin your blood. Blood thinning medication such as some muscle relaxers and pain relievers will also. Let us not forget those with high blood pressure too. These factors, coupled with alcohol, can cause some rather severe bleeding during a tattoo proceedure."

(succinctly and perfectly stated by the folks at

tattoo session close upA couple of important takeaways are the time factor and other agents that might thin the blood. I still don't think having a couple of drinks before a tattoo is a good idea, because you will not be at your most alert best, but had you even considered the night before factor? It takes time for your blood to thin just like it takes time for you to become fully hydrated and well rested. Planning ahead and avoiding alcohol several days before a long session is just good common sense. So is taking a look at your medications and determining if any are blood thinners prior to your session. If they are, have a conversation with your doctor or pharmacist and come up with an action plan.

This week I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be tattooed by Teresa Sharpe at the Tahoe Tattoo Show.  I have been vying for a chance like this for over two years, so you better believe I am going in well prepped. Extra sleep, extra food, tons of water, no alcohol starting four days before my session, plus taking extra care with my skin. Hopefully all of this careful prep will help me contend with what is bound to be an 8 to 12 hour session. Is it worth it? Oh hell yes!! So the next time you are scheduling a special tattoo, spend a few extra days getting yourself in tip-top shape beforehand so your session will be smooth and your tattoo will be perfect.