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Getting a tattoo can be grueling, depending on your threshold for pain and which part of the body receives it. (Wrists and ankles, for example, hurt like a mofo, whereas the less-popular ear tattoo doesn’t hurt a lick.) In preparation for the ink needle, some people might decide to have a drink -- or four – to gain liquid courage, but most tattoo artists don’t recommend it.
“I say ‘no’ to drinking alcohol before a tattoo. Alcohol thins your blood, but even worse than that, the artist is forced to deal with a drunk,” says Adam Werther, owner of Adambomb, 2028 N. Martin Luther King Dr.
It’s true: alcohol, like aspirin, thins the blood, which makes the process messier as well as counterproductive. Matt Bennett explains this.
“Alcohol thins the blood making it very difficult to get the powderized pigment into the skin,” says Bennett, who recently moved his tattoo shop, Skin Tattoo & Design, from Milwaukee to Green Bay. “As you put it in, the thin blood and plasma will push out what you’re trying to do.”
Drinking before a tattoo can also impede judgment, so you might not pick the image that you really want, or one that will pass the test of time. Maybe a smiling skeleton flipping the finger sounds funny at first, but once the whiskey wears off, you might not want that on your neck. You get the picture.
“It’s simple: drinking alcohol before you get a tattoo is a bad idea. It inhibits judgment,” says Jon Reiter of Solid State Tattoos, 2660 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. “And it makes our job more difficult.”
Also, it’s important to remain alert during a tattoo because you want to make sure the artist is going in the right direction. If you don’t care for his or her color choices, for example, you want to be able to voice your opinion before it’s too late.
Werther says he refuses to work on someone who is wasted, which happens about once a year.
“You’re just not in the right frame of mind to get a tattoo if you’re drunk,” he says. “And you might be obnoxious or, worse, you might get sick.”
Alcohol, as well as other drugs like cocaine, can make you twitchy, which obviously makes the tattoo artist’s job much more difficult and, in some cases, impossible. Hence, “street drugs” are generally a bad idea to indulge in prior to a tattoo session, too. For some people, marijuana actually intensifies the pain.
Although we all harbor the classic image of a sloshed sailor swigging from a bottle while having an eagle imprinted on his chest, experts agree that sobriety is the best state to be in when getting a tat. Sure, bring your leather strap to bite down on, but save the Jack to celebrate your new ink.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.