Alcohol And Tattoos: Pros, Cons, & What You Should Know

Alcohol and tattoos, arguably a mover and shaker of human culture. Tattoos, a spectacularly mesmerizing form of body art. But what about the chemistry between them? Are they trouble together as doctors claim? Can you really drink before or after the tattoo session?

Such confusing questions. And the gazillions of contradictory articles you’ll find on the internet only make it worse. Don’t worry, I hear you. It’s about time we put an end to these debates for once and all!

Today, we’re not only going to know the chemistry behind tattoos but also how exactly alcohol messes with them. I’ll be covering every aspect of the matter and not leave even a tiny detail untouched. On top of that, I’ll also be answering some questions in the FAQ section.

Brace yourself and allow me to take you on a trip!

Alcohol and Tattoos
Photo: Alcohol and Tattoos

Getting a New Tattoo: To Drink or Not to Drink, That is the Question

Stop.

Turn down that glass of wine before getting a new tattoo. There are healthier ways to celebrate. Drink water instead, it’s good for your health anyway.

Why am I being such annoying booze police?

Because you should never drink before getting a new tattoo. I’ll be going into more details like the reasons behind it in the rest of the article. But if you’re just looking for a straightforward answer, that was the one. Make sure to go through the rest of the article as there are some other things you have to keep in mind too, apart from the temporary alcohol prohibition.

Unless you’re okay with watching your tattoo gets ruined, of course.

Alcohol and Tattoos Are Dangerous Together: The Reasons Why You Should Not Drink Before Receiving A Tattoo

Frankly speaking, saying no to alcoholic drinks before a new tattoo can be pretty hard for some. So instead of simply saying that you shouldn’t, I’m going to be explaining why you should not. Check out the reasons below, I hope they feed your curiosity well!

Reduced visibility due to excessive bleeding

If you’ve ever had to go through a medical procedure like surgery, you probably remember your doctor strictly telling you not to drink before the procedure. That’s because pretty much all surgeries involve bleeding to some extent. If any amount of alcohol is present in the system, the blood would be thinned resulting in an exorbitant amount of bleeding.

Scary, right? What that has to do with this is, the tattoo process involves bleeding as well. If you bleed too much, the tattooist won’t be seeing a thing amongst all that blood. That is precisely how excess bleeding will result in a low-quality tattoo.

To make sure you end up with an amazing tattoo – not an alcohol tattoo – the artist has to see what they’re doing.

Diluted tattoo ink

Yes, excessive bleeding can dilute tattoo ink as well.

Naturally, if there’s a wound, the body pumps more blood to that area. To prevent that area from bleeding excessively, a process called clotting occurs. What it means is, red blood cells (platelets) rush to the wound and clump together to stop the bleeding.

However, since alcohol makes the blood thin, it also significantly reduces the rate at which blood clots. So when the body pumps more blood to the tattoo wound, the thin blood being unable to clot gets mixed with the tattoo ink. Needless to say, the tattoo will be faded and washed out because of this.

Not being in the right frame of mind

If you are not attending the tattoo appointment sober, you’re not thinking straight.

The tattoo design you picked while being intoxicated may turn out to be something you’d hate after being sober. Have you heard of something called the Beer Goggle effect? It means finding everything more attractive after having a couple of drinks.

Tattooed skin isn’t something easy to undo. Do not take the decision whilst being in an intoxicated state.

Too much movement

Believe it or not, you’ll probably be moving around way too much during the session. I don’t mean flinching at the sight of the tattoo needles. You’ll simply be more active and animated. Another problem is that you’re likely to become too talkative, making the appointment a nightmare for the tattoo artist.

Now, why are all these a problem? The tattooist has to get the tattoo right at the first attempt. It requires their complete focus and attention. The more you’re distracting him, the higher the chance that the tattoo will be messed up.

Liability issues

Most tattoo parlors need you to sign some paperwork before the tattoo session to release the tattooist and the studio from certain liabilities and issues. However, if you’re intoxicated during signing them, the documents would become invalid putting both the studio and the artist at risk for legal problems.

For this reason, the tattoo studio may refuse to provide the service to you until you’re sober.

Being refused by the tattoo artist

Last but not the least, the tattoo artist may refuse to work on you as well. Getting a tattoo while drunk comes with huge risks, and any professional tattoo artist that cares about their career and has good morals won’t be taking that.

From a business viewpoint, this is the right thing to do too. No tattoo studio wants to have unsatisfied customers. It’s simply not worth it for them.

Does Alcohol Consumption Make The Process Hurt Less?

Do alcohol consumption and rotary tattoo machines less painful? No. Contrary to popular belief, it does the opposite. Alcohol consumption makes tattoos hurt more.

While laboratory studies do confirm that alcohol indeed reduces pain in humans and in animals – that isn’t applicable for tattoos. Because the catch that comes with tattoos is, they involve creating a wound on your skin. Wounds bleed. And if the blood has been made thin by the alcohol, the bleeding will be increased. So will the pain levels.

Another risk is that having an impaired judgment due to the influence of alcohol has a good chance of making you hurt yourself more. Uncontrolled behavior isn’t a good thing to have in the tattoo studio.

To wrap things up, alcohol won’t be lessening the pain.

What You Should Rather Drink Before Tattoo Sessions

Does not being able to drink before the tattoo appointment mean the end of the world? Certainly not. But that doesn’t mean you should go there with an empty stomach and a dehydrated body, either.

As aesthetic as they are, tattoos do cause minor damage to the skin during the session. Your body will need to heal from that afterward. So, it would be a very good idea for you to consume some necessary vitamins and minerals beforehand – to make sure all goes well.

But the question is, what do you drink instead of alcohol?

Water

Starting with the simplest one on the list – plain water. Drink a lot of it. And when I say a lot, I mean it.

You must keep your body’s fluid levels high, it’s crucial for receiving new tattoos. A dehydrated body means thin skin, and we all know that makes a terrible canvas for the tattoo. Tattoo ink works the best with well-hydrated skin. Not to mention, it may cause you to bleed less too resulting in a more comfortable experience. You’ll be energetic throughout the tattoo procedure as well.

Maybe even keep a bottle with you regarding the session, in case you get thirsty.

Lemon/lime water or natural fruit juice

Along with water, you should also try drinking some natural fruit juices or lemon/lime water. They are great sources of Vitamin C. But what do you need to consume Vitamin C?

It’s been dermatologically proven that Vitamin C plays an extremely effective role in healing wounds. And its renowned antioxidant qualities may be of great help too, for something like getting new tattoos. And last but not the least, consuming it will make your skin firmer and hence easier for the tattoo artist to apply the tattoo.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does alcohol affect tattoos?

Yes, there is a good chance that consumption of alcohol before or after the session will ruin your tattoo.

The tattoo needle penetrates the skin and creates a wound. Alcohol is known to dilute blood. As you can guess already, it won’t be a good combination. The excessive bleeding that’d be occurring would result in poor visibility. The tattoo artist won’t even be able to see what they’re doing due to the huge amount of blood. The compromised visibility will most likely make the final result compromised as well.

How long should you not drink alcohol before a tattoo?

At least 24 hours before the tattoo session.

That may seem like playing too safe, but it’s not. Alcohol dilutes your blood and it takes quite a while for your body to fully get over its effects. Even drinking half a glass of beer the night before may end up ruining your tattoo. Why take the risk?

How long after a tattoo can you drink alcohol?

I would strongly recommend you to stay away from alcoholic beverages for at least 48-72 hours, after the tattoo appointment.

It’ll be bleeding and oozing for the next two days. But if you don’t wait at least three days before drinking, the blood will be thin again. That would be causing prolonged bleeding and hence preventing the body from healing in the area.

New skin won’t be forming. Higher chances of a tattoo infection. The wound is not being protected from bacteria and germs. You don’t want any of these happening to you, do you?

Celebrate the new tattoo all you want, but don’t start drinking right away.

Does rubbing alcohol fade tattoos?

Yes, it does.

Rubbing alcohol is a total nightmare for new tattoos. The tattoo needs to stay moist to heal, but such a harsh chemical cleaning agent will make it dry instead. Not to mention, it’ll irritate your skin too.

No matter what you do, never ever use rubbing alcohol to clean your tattoo.

How much alcohol will thin your blood?

If you’re a male, drinking more than two drinks in 24 hours will thin your blood. For women, more than one drink would be enough to thin the blood. But what kind of drink are we exactly talking about? Let me clarify below.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a standard drink contains about 1.5 ounces of distilled liquor, 8-9 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol), and 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol).

How long does alcohol thin your blood?

Alcohol has a rather short life span in the body. It starts getting metabolized at a constant rate as soon as it enters. However, how long it would be thinning your blood for depends on a few more factors. Age, weight, gender, and food consumption before drinking are some significant ones.

Generally speaking, alcohol can thin your blood for a minimum of 24 hours, if not more than that.

The Bottom Line

In my opinion, alcohol and tattoo are like soda and Mentos. Individually, they’re two wonderful inventions of mankind. But when you mix them, the outcome would be always terrible.

Let’s take a quick look at what I’ve covered in the article. In the beginning, we’ve learned whether we should drink before the tattoo or not. And of course, the reasons why we should not.

After that, I’ve discussed some equally important matters including if alcohol consumption makes it hurt less and what you should drink instead. Last but not the least, we’ve learned the answers to some commonly asked questions in the FAQ section.

Now that you know everything about the chemistry between alcohol and tattoos, make sure to put the knowledge into good use. Good luck!