Many of us have heard the classic axiom caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. In other words, it's up to whoever's doing the buying to ensure he or she gathers as much information as possible so that an informed purchase can be made. This is especially true of tattooing, where recipients bear the results of their purchasing decisions – for better or worse – on their bodies, ostensibly forever.

With the rise in the popularity of tattooing, more people are becoming excited at the prospect of emblazoning their bodies with treasured designs, memorialized events or personally significant symbols. The growth of the tattoo industry has made this easier than ever, with more tattoo shops open in the U.S. now than ever before. But before hopping into the chair for the first time, there are a few tips from the pros to take into account, to help guard against a case of tattoo regret.

Do your research
Pre-purchase research is an essential part of any consumer decision these days, but that should go double for tattooing. Unlike cars, toasters or televisions, tattoos have a much longer – if not permanent – shelf-life. This means that not only must potential tattoo recipients think hard about what they want and where they want it, but also who they want to do the work.

The commercialization of tattooing can make it easy to overlook the fact that tattooing is a form of art just like painting or sculpting – and this means that the term "tattoo artist" isn't just a name. If you were getting your house painted or commissioning a portrait of you and your family, you wouldn't entrust the job to just anybody, and the same should be true when it comes time to choose your tattoo artist. Alabama-based tattoo artists told that one of the best things a tattoo hopeful can do is to visit a few shops before he or she schedules an appointment. Almost all studios will have artist portfolios on display, which possible future clients can browse to get a sense of which artist best suits his or her preferred style or skill level.

Pay attention to the details
Of course, you've got more to worry about than just artist skill when it comes time to schedule your tattoo appointment. The industry is tightly regulated with regards to health and safety concerns, governing things such as needle sterilization and the cleanliness of work areas. Unfortunately, not every tattoo shop follows these standards as stringently as they should. noted that savvy potential customers can pick up on a lot of this as soon as they walk through the door.

While it may be difficult to determine the state of a tattoo shop's policies on sterilization, it can be possible to assess a shop's overall cleanliness when you walk in. For example, if the floors haven't been swept and the counters haven't been wiped down in the front of the shop, that may be good cause to be wary of the state of things in the back as well.

Another thing to pay attention to is the attitude of the staff in a given shop. Potential tattoo candidates want their artists to be not only talented, but also enthusiastic. In fact, Montana news publication the Missoulian spoke with tattoo artists who highlighted rapport between artist and client as one of the most important aspects, especially for larger pieces. 

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