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Image of a man giving tattoos while wearing a mask

Be it your first, twentieth or two-hundredth, getting a tattoo during the pandemic comes with its own set of rules.

So, you’re sitting in front of your laptop, half-listening to your professor click through a painfully boring presentation. Your camera is off. You’re on mute. You decide to doodle. Before you know it, you’ve given yourself the tattoo of your dreams. In a flash of pure inspiration, you decide that now is the time that you will finally get it. You will commit to inking your body permanently. As the wearer of many tattoos, I will freely admit that I have succumbed to this train of thought. The stick-and-poke pine tree on my ribcage is the undeniable evidence.

But during the pandemic, the tattooing industry, like so many other aspects of our lives, has had to radically alter the way they do business. Below are a few important things to consider before you take the plunge and get a tattoo during COVID-19.

What Do You Want?

Deciding on a piece of art to permanently tattoo on your body is a decision that needs at least some thought. Now more than ever, having a tattoo in mind is critical before the booking and execution of your appointment. Walk-ins are officially a thing of the past.

The key to safe COVID-19 tattooing is limiting the amount of time that the client and the tattoo artist spend breathing the same air. Unfortunately, this most directly relates to impromptu tattoo parlor visits. Anything unplanned is unsafe.

But not all hope is lost for all you tattoo fiends with low impulse control. More and more often, tattoo artists are offering same-day availability. Prospective customers are encouraged to call the parlor on the day they wish to get inked, and they can find out if an artist has an immediate opening.

In a similar vein, social media has become the tattoo artist’s platform. Artists like Rachel Finelli (@softcake) of Moonrise Tattoo is one of many who specifically dedicates Instagram posts to booking availabilities.

But eager beavers beware! Tattoo artists are humans, and busy ones at that. Unless they specifically mention that Instagram direct messages are their preferred method of communication, most artists will not appreciate people sliding into their DMs.

Where Do You Want It?

This one is short and sweet. Think about the PPE that you wear on a daily basis. Masks, gloves and copious amounts of hand sanitizer are the norm nowadays. That means you might want to reconsider those hand or face tattoos you were dreaming of. Other than that, do your research and then go to town.

Who Do You Want to Tattoo It?

I won’t lie, I have a whole list on my phone of all the tattoo artists who I would love to be tattooed by. But in terms of COVID-19 safety, choosing the artist who gives you your ink has taken on a whole new meaning. Different parlors have varying coronavirus guidelines.

While state legislatures are generally laissez-faire with tattooing regulations, a few things have become the standard for receiving a tattoo during the pandemic. At the very least, expect that parlors will have you wear a mask while you get tattooed.

Since even before the pandemic, tattoo artists have consistently practiced safe hygiene due to the risk of allergens, blood-borne pathogens and other cross-contamination risks. Tattoo parlors are already incredibly clean places of work. However, additional COVID-19 safety measures have been put in place to further reduce the risk of transmission.

What Are the New Safety Rules?

You can’t bring friends. It’s sad, but true. Emotional support buddies are a no-go. Perhaps you can bring a cuddly stuffed animal instead? Facetime is always an option too.

You will probably be asked to hold still while they take your temperature with a temperature gun.

On the flip side, there are a few red flags that you want to keep an eye out for. Remember, you can never ask too many questions when getting a tattoo.

Has your tattoo artist taken a COVID-19 test recently? If so, when? How many clients does your tattoo artist see in a day? For how long? How many other artists (if any) are there in the parlor? Will you be receiving the tattoo in an enclosed, private room? What precautions are being taken by the parlor against transmission of COVID-19?

How Much Do You Want to Spend?

It is necessary to note that while tattoo parlors are primed to bounce back from the pandemic-induced recession, they are not immune. Artists may increase their minimums. This means there will be a baseline price for a tattoo and it will increase as you move up the price ladder. Artists might also change the style or type of tattoos they perform. It’s generally a good idea to research the style of your prospective tattoo and base your choice of artist on that.

In short, the pandemic has irrevocably changed our lives. Above all, it is critical to make sure that you practice the correct safety measures while getting a tattoo during COVID-19. Yes, the pandemic has affected the industry. We must shift the way we receive (and give) tattoos. But with proper precautions, we can still pursue our various dreams — dream tattoos included.

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