It's interesting that tattoos used to be seen as a trend for "certain types of people" (probably people your mum wouldn't be very happy about you hanging out with). But now tattoos can be seen on all types of people - teens getting their favourite song lyrics, memorial tattoos on your mum, or even grandparents getting matching tattoos with their grandkids.
As popularity of tattoos rises, comes the risk of people finding cheap ways to follow the trend. This is obviously an issue for health and safety reasons. Protip: if someone is going to give you a super cheap tattoo in their basement, you are probably going to get a tattoo that looks cheap or some sort of infection. It's not worth it. Save your money and get a proper tattoo done in a shop with a licensed professional.
Now that I'm done lecturing, I want to talk about my experience with tattoos. I currently have four and have plans for at least 3 more. The locations of my tattoos are on my inner ankle (not pictured), my left ribs, my inner bicep on my right arm, and my lower outer bicep/elbow on my right arm. The pain of these tattoos all varied from feeling like a cat-scratch to feeling like I was going to vomit. I didn't though! Throughout the process of getting tattooed, here is what I have found works best for me.
*Disclaimer: just because this works for me, doesn't mean it will work for you. This is advice given to me by 3 different licensed tattoo artists and through trial and error, I have found that this method works best for me.
Leave it alone
After I have gotten tattooed, the artist has wrapped it in plastic wrap. After about 3 hours I take off the plastic, and clean the tattoo gently with unscented soap and warm water (Not hot so that no bacteria will grow, but not freezing because I want it to get clean). I typically use a brand new bar of Dove unscented soap. Keep in mind that the Dove brand is not cruelty free - I am looking for a replacement for this product because it is not worth the animal testing. Feel free to comment your scent-free cruelty-free soaps in the comment section. I then pat-dry the area using clean paper towel. Then I leave it alone.
24 hours later
After 24 hours I begin the moisturize. I use Webber First Aid Ointment. When my tattoo artist Paula (At KLA Ink in Bolton, Ontario) introduced me to this product, I fell in love. I use a tiny bit as to not over-saturate the tattoo. Since it is unscented, it will not affect the tattoo negatively causing any discomfort. With the addition of Vitamin E, I can feel the itchiness that develops when the tattoo is healing calm down.
This product is only a few dollars at any drug store. I prefer this over the typical Tattoo Goo for a few reasons. First of all, it is a lot more cost-effective. Mind you, when caring for a tattoo you definitely don't want to "cheap out," but it does such a great job and is worth it. It also seemingly heals my tattoos faster. My first two tattoos were peeling for up to a month long, which can be normal for some people. However, once I started using Webber my tattoos finished peeling between two and three weeks after being tattooed. These results will vary depending on your skin and you should also talk to a professional if your tattoo is not healing after several weeks.
I found that the best way for my tattoo to heal was to be consistent with the application of the Webber product. After the first 24 hours, I would apply a tiny amount just to cover the whole tattoo in a very thin layer three times a day. I would first do a quick wash of it with the unscented soap and warm water, pat-dry with clean paper towel, then apply and repeat. Although I found this product really reduced the amount of itchiness I had when the tattoo was healing, I always want to stress do not scratch your tattoo. You can easily pull out some of the ink that was just added into your skin. This will result in a blotchy tattoo or pieces of it missing. You just paid good money for this piece - don't ruin it for a moment of discomfort!
If problems arise
The first thing you should do is contact your tattoo artist when you think something funky is going on with your tattoo. They have probably seen it all and can provide you with some guidance on how to proceed. However, if you notice extreme scabbing, bleeding or what looks like an infection, you should definitely see a doctor. Don't let this freak you out - do you research and ensure you check out your artists' finished and healed work to ensure that you can guarantee that they know what they're doing!
I am by no means a "heavily tattooed person" and definitely don't know everything about tattoos. I just love the art and look forward to getting more on my body. Hopefully my few experiences can give you a little guidance on what you can expect when trying to heal your tattoos. Good luck!