There are several reasons why drinking alcohol before getting a tattoo is problematic. These include:
- Decreased blood clotting ability.
- Increased risk of excessive bleeding.
- Decreased tattoo quality.
- Impaired judgment.
- Negative impact on the shop and artist.
Besides being sober for the tattoo procedure, you will also want to research the artist and the parlor to make sure the business follows certain regulations and adheres to sanitation, sterilization, and other safety standards to avoid complications and risks from contaminated needles, such as hepatitis and HIV.
Drinking alcohol "thins" your blood temporarily because it lowers levels of fibrinogen, a blood protein that helps with clotting. It also reduces the activity of platelets, which are blood cells that form clots.1 Researchers have found that as few as 2 drinks can impair platelets’ ability to clump together, which is essential for blood clotting.2
Because alcohol decreases your normal blood clotting ability, you may experience increased bleeding during the tattoo session. The blood can cause problems for your tattoo artist and may make it more difficult for them to do their job. The artist has to focus on accuracy while sticking to the design you requested. Excess blood can make it harder for them to see what they’re doing and create quality work.3
Excessive bleeding can also dilute the ink, which can result in your tattoo looking faded and less vibrant.3
Further, thinned blood can lead to heavy scabbing, which can damage the tattoo.4
Another problem with going to the tattoo parlor under the influence is the potential for impaired judgment. A tattoo is permanent, so you want to be sure you have a clear head when you get inked.
You will need to approve the design, ensure your artist knows exactly what you want, and answer questions that your artist might have about your preferences. You also need to understand the instructions they give you about the healing process, so you know how to care for wounds and prevent infection.
Many artists will not tattoo you if you are intoxicated. You can’t legally sign the release form if you’re drunk.4 But even if they will do the tattoo, you could end up with something you regret that could be expensive to remove.
If you decide to get a tattoo removed, sometimes the effect is only partial. “Ghost images” of the tattoo are common, and textural changes to the skin, as well as scarring, can occur in the removal process. Multicolored professional tattoos are the most difficult to remove and pose the most risk for ghost images.5
The Impact on the Shop and Artist
If you’ve been drinking before you get a tattoo, you could damage the tattoo shop’s reputation or the reputation of the tattoo artist. If the quality of their work is poor because of excessive bleeding, their business could suffer.
In addition, intoxicated customers are not pleasant for anyone to deal with. They are more likely to fidget during the session, and this could be distracting for the artist.2
Remember, a tattoo artist is a professional. You expect good service from them, so don’t make their job harder by being a difficult customer.
Best Practices for Getting Tattoos
First of all, make sure you are getting tattooed by a reputable artist and shop. Risks for adverse effects increase when you get a tattoo from an unauthorized facility instead of a professional, regulated studio. People who have used unauthorized shops report more complications, and unsterile equipment and needles can transmit infections such as hepatitis and HIV.6 Read online reviews of the shop and research the artist’s designs to make sure you like their style.
The ideal experience for both the customer and the tattoo artist is for the customer to be clear-headed and sober when they are in the shop. You are getting a piece of artwork engraved onto your body for life, so you want to make sure the conditions are optimal. Even slight mistakes can become regrettable problems over time, so make sure you’re in good condition both mentally and physically to give yourself the best tattoo experience.
Mike Martin, the president of the Alliance of Professional Tattooists, recommends that people get a good night’s sleep, drink plenty of fluids, and eat something about an hour before the process to help them stay calm and aid healing.2
Finally, pay close attention to the instructions the artist gives you for the aftercare and healing process, to ensure a fast recovery and avoid infection.
. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The Effects of Smoking and Drinking on Cardiovascular Disease and Risk Factors.
. Fowler, P. (2015). 7 Things You Need to Know Before You Get a Tattoo. Men’s Health.
. Greenwood, C. (2018). 8 mistakes you’re probably making when getting a tattoo. Insider.
. Hudson, K. (2009). Living Canvas: Your Total Guide to Tattoos, Piercings, and Body Modification. De Capo Press.
. Khunger, N., Molpariya, A., and Khunger, A. (2015). Complications of Tattoos and Tattoo Removal: Stop and Think Before You Ink. Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, 8(1), 30-36.
. Rahimi, I., Eberhard, I., and Kasten, E. (2018). Tattoos: Do People Really Know About the Medical Risks of Body Ink? The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 11(3), 30-35.