A Tattoo Artist Answers The Questions You're Too Afraid To Ask About Your Ink
“Let's get a tattoo."
I was at lunch with a coworker. It was the Friday before a long weekend and, therefore, the best Friday of all Fridays.
I was also feeling good. The most recent story I'd filed was well-received (thanks, guys!) and I'd just gotten back from a lovely vacation with my family. In all, I was in a good headspace.
“Okay, what do you want to get?” she asked.
I hadn't gotten that far yet.
“No idea. I just know I want a tattoo and want it now," I answered.
I got my third tattoo that day, lyrics from a Russian lullaby my mother sang to me when I was younger, on my collarbone.
To me, tattoos allow my body to act like a scrapbook of all the most pivotal moments and memories of my life.
While a few brave souls share my “why not?” approach to tattoos, many others like to spend a bit more time figuring out what they want on their bodies.
It's with those people in mind that I decided to chat with Puerto Rican tattoo artist Gian Karle Cruz, who has over 6 years in the industry under his belt.
Let's finally clear up some questions for you.
What's the most painful part of the body to tattoo?
The first thing on anyone's mind prior to getting a tattoo is how much it will hurt. There's a reason the most sensitive parts of the body are the most painful.
“Definitely the ribs,” Cruz explains. “Where you're most ticklish is where most of your nerves are. Those are going to be the most painful. The armpits, the bottom of your feet, the ribs."
Bet Cara Delevingne's “Made in England” foot tattoo was not fun at all.
What's the weirdest place you've ever tattooed someone?
We've all seen those memes of women getting their vaginas and asses tattooed.
There's also the guy who got a Hoover vacuum tattooed on his penis, which would be extremely hot if I didn't think he was trying to suck my vagina out with his dong.
Cruz has seen worse, though.
“A lot of people just ask for armpit tattoos,” Cruz says. “I've seen people get nails tattooed, lips, eyes, inside your eyeball."
Cue the silent screams.
When will this thing heal?
According to Unique Ink Tattoo, tattoos take anywhere from 7 to 14 days to appear fully healed. It can take up to a month to be fully healed.
Cruz argues it takes even longer.
“It takes about a week for the scab to fall off,” Cruz explains. “Totally healed? 90 days."
Okay, but will I be covered in blood after my ink is done?
Speaking from personal experience, yes. You will bleed, depending on the placement of your piece.
My inner-bicep tat hardly bled at all, though my shoulder tattoo made me look like I had a giant gaping wound until I washed it off.
Seriously, I went to a bar after I got my shoulder done and the bartender was almost scared to serve me.
“Some bleed, some don't,” he insists. “For the most part, you're not supposed to bleed a lot. If you bleed a lot, the tattoo artist is doing something wrong. Or the client has too much vitamin C in their blood."
Will you judge me if I'm hairy and need to be shaved for the tat?
As a very hairy person, this always lingers on my mind.
Apparently, it's all in my head. Cruz insists on shaving all his clients prior to getting any work done.
“Any part of your body has to be shaved," Cruz says. "Hair has a lot of microorganisms, so we need to shave no matter what. Even if it doesn't look like that body part has hair."
Well, that makes me feel a little better. And still hairy.
What if I had a wild drunken night and want to get a tattoo?
Most parlors have a very strict policy against drunk tattooing.
Every parlor I've been to made me sign a waiver claiming it would not tattoo me if I was drunk. My tattooed friends attested to this, too.
Drunk tats are harder to get than you'd expect.
Cruz reaffirms that.
“When you're drunk, I don't tattoo you.” Cruz says. “You're not in your senses. You're just annoying."
What's the most basic of all basic tattoos?
There's a Pumpkin Spice Latte equivalent to tattoos, and it's precisely what you'd expect.
“The infinity sign or the word hope,” Cruz says with a laugh. “Everybody got hope."
All these cool kids are getting fancy vegan ink. What's up with that?
My fancy-schmancy friends are all about vegan ink. Black tattoo ink is made with the remains of animals burned down into charcoal, or so they tell me.
To be fair, certain aftercare products are made with lanolin, which is oil derived from sheep's wool.
According to Cruz, it's time to get over it.
“There isn't much of a difference," Cruz says. "It's just a way of selling you ink. Nowadays, nearly all ink is vegan because [it's] all made of vegetable materials."
There you go.
What's the deal with white ink?
White ink might look great on Pinterest, but it's similar to the pastel hair trend of last year. It can only last for a short while before it looks like a faded brown blob.
“White ink is great if it's in the details and you don't use it much," Cruz explains. "It looks white at first, but after the sun hits it, it will turn an ugly brownish color in a couple of years."
UV tattoos, popularized because they glow under a blacklight, may seem cool because they're practically invisible in the daytime. The trend gained some speed after, you guessed it, being posted on social media.
Cruz isn't impressed by the trend, interestingly.
"I don't use it. It wasn't made for tattooing. It was made for cat scans," he says. "It's just microscopic beads [that] go in the skin and they stay there...I don't like the idea of having plastic, microscopic beads in my skin. I don't trust it."