What to expect when you’re expecting a head tattoo
I got a houndstooth tattoo on the side of my head in May 2015. Because I’m sucker for punishment, I got a tilde on the other side in April 2016. Here’s what’s the same (and different!) about getting a head tattoo, and some photos of my ink at different stages of healing.
The houndstooth piece wasn’t my first ride on the tattoo-go-round. Any artist who would agree to do a head piece on a total newb shouldn’t be allowed to wield a needle.
The consultation‘s pretty standard. Make sure your artist has done head tattoos before. The skin on the scalp is thinner and tends to bleed more, making it a challenging area to work on. I chose the talented and badass Hannah Wolf at Castro Tattoo.
For most tattoos, the artist will go over your skin with a disposable razor right before they start. Head tattoos are a bit different. You must visit a barber to get your head shaved directly before your tattoo appointment. Hannah explained that if I tried to shave myself, I’d cause a lot of small nicks in my scalp and make her job harder.
I emailed my regular hairstylist and asked if she’d be able to shave my head prior to my tattoo appointment. She said yes. When I came into the salon, she said “I’m just gonna cut it with clippers, and the tattoo artist will shave it with a razor, right?”
“…no, I thought you could shave it all the way,” I said, panicking a bit.
“I don’t have the right kind of license for that,” said my hairstylist. “I can operate clippers but I can’t shave you, there are two kinds of hair cutting licenses.”
We thought about what McGyver would do. Went across the street to a bodega. Purchased disposable razors. Shaved my head illegally with said razors and conditioner. Don’t make my mistake. Be explicit with your barber.
When I arrived at Castro Tattoo, Hannah cleaned my scalp with iodine and applied the carbon transfer. This stage isn’t terribly different from getting a tattoo on any other part of your body, except that the scalp’s curves makes placement a bit trickier.
As previously stated, I’m no stranger to ink. I have tats on my chest, ankle, tops of both feet, ear, wrist, back of neck, and just above my bikini line. My head hurt the worst. I did my best to meditate and breathe through the pain.
The gun vibrating so close to your ear is incredibly loud. Bring earplugs.
Hannah did a fast and precise job. She got the houndstooth done in 2.5 hours. The tilde took about 90 minutes.
Bad news about healing: hair growing back into a head tattoo itches intensely. On the plus side, there are abundant oil glands on your head. You shouldn’t need to worry about the skin drying out.
The skin texture of a healing head tattoo is weird. You’re going to want to touch it. Don’t.
Hannah recommended not shaving my sides for at least 4 weeks. Your sweet undercut’s gonna get a little shaggy.
In the end, the pain was well worth it. I couldn’t be more pleased with how my ink turned out.