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Choosing to get your first tattoo is a life-changing decision. Not only is getting inked painful, time-consuming, and expensive; but also the tattoo will remain on your skin for the rest of time. Here are a few things to consider before taking the plunge and heading to the tattoo parlor.

1. The Design

For many people, the design aspect of their first tattoo is the easiest part. Getting a special name, date, or symbol etched onto your body is an incredibly touching and poignant gesture that you will cherish for the rest of your life. However, if you have no idea what design you want, you should take some additional precautions. According to The Independent, finding a tattoo artist whom you admire should be one of the first steps. Once you know that you like their style, they can help you design the tattoo of your dreams.

Additionally, make sure that you are absolutely confident in your choice. Tatring suggests that you think back to the tattoo you would have gotten ten years prior. If you now loathe the tiny infinity symbol you initially wanted on your wrist, it might be a good idea to take a step back and determine how much your tastes will change in the next ten years.

Once you have settled on the design, make sure to proofread – especially if the artwork is pulled from other cultures. Do some light reading on your design to determine if your design is culturally and historically accurate. You wouldn’t want to go in thinking you’re getting the actual Greek symbol of strength and end up with a Wiccan pentagon tattooed across your back.

2. The Preparation

Once you’ve chosen the design, take a little time to prepare yourself for the process. You should pay a visit to your dermatologist to make sure that you won’t have any unexpected reactions to the needles or ink. You’ll also need to make an appointment at the tattoo parlor, especially if you’ve elected to use one of those Instagram-famous artists that you’ve been drooling over for years. Finally, you will need to break open the piggy bank for this endeavor. Cosmopolitan reports that tattoos are usually a lot more expensive than you think – especially if you’ve decided to replicate Adam Levine’s massive back tattoo.

A few days before your appointment, take some time to mentally prepare yourself for the process. Since getting a tattoo involves a needle consistently piercing your skin, the process can (and probably will) hurt. Additionally, if you’ve elected to get a tattoo on a part of your body with high nerve endings and low fat, it will probably hurt a lot more. These areas include your feet, hands, ribs, and ankles. Take some pain-relieving medication, like Advil or Ibuprofen, before taking a seat in the chair.

3. The Morning After

Your brand new Greek symbol of strength tattoo will need a lot of care and TLC, especially in its first week. There are several aspects of the post-care process that are key in ensuring your tattoo heals and sticks around for years to come. Most importantly, you’ll want to stay away from large bodies of water. While a shower should be fine, you will want to avoid your long bubble baths and ocean swims for a couple of weeks in order to prevent infection. Dermatologists also suggest keeping the ink covered and cleaning the area with a non-abrasive solution once or twice daily.

At the end of the day, the tattoo you choose will become a part of you for the rest of your life. Take time to prepare, do your research, and make sure you’re really going to love what you’re putting on your skin. Your future self will thank you.