Thinking of getting tattooed on holiday? From finding an artist to aftercare advice, here's what to do (and not to do) when getting inked on vacay.
Marking a special trip with a holiday tattoo can be the perfect way to round off a travel experience. But is bottling up memories as body art a wise decision when holidaying in warmer climes? Sun, sea and swimming aside, perhaps pinning down the best tattoo artist in that city or region is another of your obstacles.
From things to avoid to tattoo aftercare, we asked a handful of Europe-based tattoo artists for tips on holiday tattoos.
Should you get a tattoo on holiday?
When you think of holiday tattoos, it might conjure up images of a terrible faded typography or misspelled names of fleeting romances. Not to mention being under the influence, chemicals in swimming pools and battling the elements that make tattoo healing harder. But it doesn’t have to be that kind of tattoo - you absolutely can plan to get a tattoo on holiday as long as you follow the same care you would back at home.
If an artist is free to tattoo you at 2am, you have to wonder if they’re going to do the best job. So although an impulsive tattoo sounds like fun, the key here really is in the planning.
How to choose a tattoo shop and artist
When choosing a tattoo shop and artist abroad, Lisbon-based artist Filipa (@no.banshees) says her most important tip is to do your research ahead of time.
"It’s fairly common for people to reach out to the tattoo artists only when they're already at their destination and this may mean that the artist has no time to accommodate them. Sometimes you can be lucky enough to get a spot, but it's more difficult."
Visit Stories & Ink Studio, Falmouth
Stories & Ink now has a Falmouth-based tattoo studio with amazing artists in residence. So if you’re holidaying in Cornwall, be sure to pop in or book ahead for some body art. For more information or to book an appointment, see @storiesandinkfalmouth.
Tips for scheduling a tattoo on holiday
As for picking when on holiday to get tattooed, Filipa says, "I advise people to schedule their tattoo appointment according to their vacation plan.
"If you’re traveling mainly to go the the beach, I'd advise you to get the tattoo on the last days of vacation. That way you can still enjoy the beach before getting the tattoo (as long as you make sure they won’t get a sunburn at all). If you’re traveling for sightseeing and such, it’s up to you. It may be uncomfortable to get a large piece and then walk around all day.
"You should also make sure the appointment isn't the day before or after a main event - like a big concert or festival. It'll be uncomfortable to have a fresh, large piece in a crowd for an entire day. Also [the day after] you'll be extra tired and that can make getting the tattoo a lot more painful."
Things to avoid when you have a new tattoo on holiday
Mary (@maryintheskyy), owner of vegan tattoo studio A Little Piece of Heaven in Portugal, as well as touring London and Amsterdam, has some great advice:
"It's best to avoid exposing your tattoo to environments such as pools, the sea, rivers, or any other bodies of water. Since a tattoo is essentially an open wound, there's a risk of infection in these conditions.
"Additionally, direct sun exposure should be avoided for at least two weeks after getting a tattoo. It's advisable not to apply sunscreen to the fresh tattoo during this time. Instead, keep the tattoo covered with clothing or sleeves. This helps protect the tattoo from harmful UV rays and promotes proper healing.
"Also, it's important to note that tattoo artists shouldn't work on damaged or compromised skin, such as sunburned or recently scarred areas. Once the initial two week healing period has passed, you can start applying sunscreen to your tattoo."
Getting tattooed while drunk
Getting tattooed while drunk is generally to be avoided. As well as impaired judgement, getting a tattoo when drinking has other health effects.
With your blood diluted with alcohol, you might experience excessive bleeding or decreased blood clotting ability. This makes it harder for your artist to work on the design. It’s recommended that you don’t drink in the 24 hours leading up to your sitting, as well as afterwards.
Remember that alcohol and sun can leave you dehydrated too - so be sure to drink lots of water during and after your tattoo!
Can you tattoo over sunburn?
The artists we asked were against tattooing over sunburn - and we agree! Your skin will be super sensitive (ouch!) and damaged as it is, so not only will the tattoo hurt more, it may not heal properly.
Mallorca based @poliszka_tattoo echoes this with her advice: "I can’t tattoo on sunburned skin. The tattoo can heal badly and you can’t do so many details. If the skin is sunburned, it's better to consider getting a tattoo elsewhere on the body."
“The sun affects the healing process immensely!” adds Filipa. "The tattoo can become super dull and the lines can blowout a lot more. You absolutely should not get your new tattoo exposed to the sun for at least two weeks.
"Some tattoo creams have SPF, but you’re not supposed to apply as much and as frequently as you would with a normal sunscreen, so that’s not good enough."
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Tattoo not healing? Follow this extra aftercare advice
Whether it's due to unintended contact with seawater and/or an unadvisable dip in the pool, or even sunburn, sometimes in summer you may find your tattoo doesn't seem to be healing as it should.
In this instance, tattoo artist Lydia Gonzalez (@lydinktattoo) from Mallorca has some extra aftercare advice to get your tattoo healing journey back on track:
- Gently wash the tattoo: You can use a mild soap or pH-neutral soap without perfumes or alcohol and warm water to clean it. Gently wash the infected tattoo, avoiding vigorous rubbing as it can worsen it. Wash it three times a day with care and dry it with a clean, soft towel that is only used by you or with residue-free paper on the skin. And of course avoid applying tattoo creams, sunscreens, or moisturisers.
- Avoid scratching or peeling the skin: Although it may be tempting to scratch or peel the skin around your infected tattoo, it's important to resist the temptation. Scratching can introduce more bacteria and prolong the healing process. Let the skin naturally peel off and avoid any aggressive manipulation.
"The tattoo healing time usually takes about two weeks," Lydia adds. "If it's infected, it may take a bit longer to heal, but the final result is likely to be good. If the tattoo doesn't turn out well in the end, you can always talk to your tattoo artist to touch it up or find the most appropriate solution for each particular case.
"If the infection doesn't improve, consult a professional or if it worsens significantly, it's essential to seek medical attention."
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