How To Shave Before Getting a Tattoo (Plus Other Skincare Tips)

The big day is coming and you are finally committing to adding a little self-expression to your skin. Do you know how to prepare? Should you shave the area before visiting the tattoo parlor?

When getting a tattoo, it is necessary to correctly prepare the skin in order to prevent infection, avoid potential complications, and all the skin to receive the ink. Although you may choose to shave the area before visiting the tattooist, many will choose to shave and sterilize the area at the time of the tattoo.

Read on to see how to prep your skin before getting a tattoo, including whether or not you should shave the area you’re getting inked.

Should you shave before getting a tattoo?

It is a matter of individual preference whether or not to shave before getting a tattoo. Consult with your tattoo artist before the appointment about whether or not you should shave and adhere to their skin preparation methods. 

In most cases, shaving will be perfectly fine as long as done well. Do not plan to shave until after an artist consultation. You are providing them with a surface on which to work and they will know what works best for them. Those who are hairier may help the artist by trimming the area before a tattoo appointment.

Whether you have been planning on ink for months or you just had an impulse for that sick flash on the wall of your local shop, skin preparation is crucial to the finished project. Those impulse walk-ins in a shop rarely prep anything other than their minds for the process and will undergo some formalities through the shop and local ordinances for body art. Reputable tattoo artists and shops will provide a shaving service as a matter of sanitization and also professional respect for their craft.

Some men feel that they are the only ones allowed to “mow their own yard” and will not allow anyone near them with a razor. Tattoo forums are full of those that shave prior to a tattoo without incident. It is of note to mention that several of these men and even women have experience in several tattoos and understand what works best for them.

What happens if you don’t shave before a tattoo?

Rest assured knowing that if you do not shave prior to a tattoo the tattoo artist will provide the service.

Your tattoo artist will sterilize the area to be tattooed and will shave off even the lightest of peach fuzz. There are a number of reasons for this practice but in terms of hygiene, hair can harbor bacteria that could lead to a painful infection. 

There is also the potential that if the tattoo needle encounters stubble the hair could be driven back beneath the skin resulting in ingrown hair.

If there are no medical complications, the stencils used for the tattoo linework may not adhere fully and even peach fuzz may interrupt the ink resulting in disappointing work that may need to be touched up.

Is it better to wax or shave before a tattoo?

If it’s good to shave before getting a tattoo, is it better to wax?

Shaving has the edge on hair removal as it can be done very quickly with a minor risk of reaction. Waxing is perfectly acceptable but should be done about a week before the tattoo in order to allow time for the skin to heal. Tattooing over inflamed skin will be difficult for both you and the artist.

Anyone who has removed body hair has a preferred method. There are a lot of depends on factors as well. Those with thicker hair growth may prefer the razor to the wax. But those with a thin growth may prefer the wax. 

For first-timers or the sensitive, waxing may not be the way to go as it can be painful and leave the skin sensitive. The waxing process is trusted across the world to provide smooth skin but the goal before a tattoo is to cause as little stress as possible.

How long before a tattoo should you shave?

How fast does your hair grow?

If you are confident that you can shave without irritation or incident that it is acceptable to shave the morning of your tattoo appointment. Skin hydration is crucial to tattoo success so be certain to shave appropriately using hydrating products instead of those heavy in alcohol. 

If you suspect at all that you may nick yourself, especially shaving in an area that may prove difficult to see or navigate, you may try and shave a week prior. This allows time for minor cuts and razor bumps to heal thoroughly. It may also make you aware of the potential for razor bumps. Ingrown hair may be difficult to remove and may result in skin cratering and making a less than perfect surface for your tattoo.

Will the tattoo artist shave you?

Public Health regulations often dictate which services a shop must provide in order to receive licensing.

If the area to be tattooed has any hair on it, you will be shaved prior to a tattoo. Part of a tattoo artist’s apprenticeship is preparing skin to receive ink by a regulated sterilization process followed by shaving the hair if necessary. 

Shaving is a matter of hygiene as discussed by Jack Lowe of Skin Kitchen. Hair can be a breeding ground for staph or strep that could create a problem for the soon to be irritated skin.

Each person experiences hair growth differently. Men who have never shaved their legs or arms may prefer a practiced hand. Artists become especially helpful with a blade on areas that are difficult to see such as the back, shoulders, and calves.

What do tattoo artists use to shave?

The tattoo shop blades will not be impressive but they will be familiar.

A tattoo artist will use a single-use disposable razor in accordance with state and local ordinance for body art studios. 

These disposable razors ensure only contact is made with one person before going into a sharps box to be disposed of according to local health regulations. These will be similar to those used in operating rooms.

How to shave for a tattoo

If you’d like to shave before heading in for a tattoo, proper preparation is important. Nicks or skin irritation could lead to a painful tattooing process, an imperfect tattoo, or a rescheduled appointment.

To shave for your tattoo:

  • Take a hot shower to cleanse and lightly exfoliate the area. Heavy exfoliation could cause irritation. 
  • Use a hydrating shaving cream to lubricate the skin and hair. If possible, use a preshave oil to create a protective barrier that also prevents the loss of moisture.
  • Use a razor dedicated to body hair. The tattoo artist will use a simple disposable razor so a fancy single-use razor or cartridge is not necessary.
  • Apply a moisturizing aftershave balm. Witch hazel can also prove to be beneficial with its astringent properties as it closes pores and tightens the skin. It will also serve as an antiseptic to prevent infection. Avoid the use of alcohol as it can be drying. 

How to prepare your skin before getting a tattoo

Tattoos are very taxing on the skin and if you have ever had to endure razor burn then you should be well aware of how important skin preparation is prior to shaving. Tattooing is much the same in that healthy skin provides a better experience. In fact, there are several lists that advise against a number of mistakes to avoid before your session.

Hydration is the most important thing you can do for your skin and body anytime. 

You should be drinking plenty of water beginning a week away from your appointment. Apply moisturizer daily. Avoid sunlight, alcohol, or any activity that may dry or damage the skin.

Watch this video for the best methods to prepare to start a week out and also the day of your tattoo session.