Here’s What to Eat Before Getting a Tattoo, Plus Foods to Avoid

what to eat before getting a tattoo
Credit: Sarah Harvey

In scheduling your next tattoo appointment, there’s a lot to consider: the length of the appointment, cost and design, artist selection. But on your list of pre-tattoo to-dos should also be what to eat and what to avoid before your appointment. What’s in your system can effect your entire tattoo experience, so consider this list of food and drink to enjoy or avoid before your next appointment.

Don’t go on a pre-tattoo bender 

Go on a bender the days or night or hours before your appointment. Alcohol dehydrates you and thins your blood — and the last thing you want during your tattoo is to excessively bleed. But don’t worry, seeing a little blood is totally OK and normal. Caffeine—things like coffee and energy drinks will also dehydrate you, plus has the added bonus of making you jittery. The last thing you want is to have the shakes while someone draws with permanent ink on your body, especially when attempting delicate line work

But guzzle tons of water

Drink plenty of water. Your skin thins when you’re dehydrated, so chugging water, starting the day before your appointment, will make your body a better canvas for the tattoo. It will also keep your energy up, so bring a bottle or two to sip during your session. Hydrated skin takes to the ink better than dry, thirsty skin does—and hydrated skin starts from the inside out. (Though these best lotions and ointments for aftercare are pretty good at keeping things moisturized, too.)

Carbs are good, but not too many

Don’t overload on sugar before getting your tattoo, as it may make you more jittery than that second cup of coffee. But, Whitney Marie Donohue, artist at Rise Again Tattoo in Billings, MT, suggests “bringing little candies to keep your blood sugar up” during the session so that you don’t feel faint from the sight of needles, blood, or you know, from not eating at all. And to that point, you should also have a filling meal the night and a few hours before your appointment. Loading up on some extra carbs—you know, the good stuff like pasta, rice, bread, and oatmeal—will help keep your energy up and appetite sated. 

Eat protein like a caveman

Protein helps your body heal. Our muscles and skin benefit from that extra serving of beans or chicken your contemplating, so having another serving before getting your tattoo — and in the days after — will help your body bounce back. Remember that, while not always painful, tattoos are still a trauma to the body, so it’s important to feed the body in order to ultimately heal.

Skip the dairy and salt

Despite our endless love affair with cheese, consuming an excess amount of dairy and salt may cause you to bloat, ultimately changing the look and feel of your skin. If you’re bloating, and thereby retaining fluid, at the time when you get your tattoo, the tattoo won’t look the same once your skin shrinks back, rather, it could potentially look a bit stretched or swollen. It’s all about balance, ultimately: Have too little water and your skin with my dry and and wrinkled. Too much dairy and salt and your skin will bloat, not bounce. 

And if you just can’t resist the mozzarella sticks

Try a zinc supplement. Everyone has foods they can’t avoid (or should we say “can’t avoid”), so if cheddar-dunked pretzels are your kryptonite, zinc can help manage swelling. It also supports your immune system by protecting against infections and aids how your body processes protein (in which it’s also found). You can take it as a supplement or enjoy zinc-rich foods like eggs or beef.

Go full-Popeye and eat your spinach

Spinach, along with other leafy, dark greens such as kale and broccoli have plenty of vitamins A and C and iron to fortify your system both during and after your appointment. You’re not confined to vegetables to get extra doses of these vitamins. Squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots have plenty of vitamin A, while citrus fruits are rich with vitamin C. 

The bottom line

Tattoo artists recommend you eat one to two hours before your appointment and a meal full of protein and vegetables is a good choice. Beyond the nutritional benefits, it’s unlikely that a healthy meal will overstuff you to the point of nausea — a bonus if you’re especially squeamish around needles. If you’re planning on packing snacks, check with your artist on whether food is allowed and what to bring. Peanut butter cups won’t be a smart move if your artist is deathly allergic and a bag full of fast-food is just plain aggressive. And that’s no way to start a session, is it?!

If you liked our story Here’s What to Eat Before Getting a Tattoo, Plus Foods to Avoid, make sure to check out the 13 Important Things to Know Before Getting Your First Tattoo.

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