Can You Drink Alcohol Before or After Getting a Tattoo?

Woman getting a tattoo

You’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo for a while. The self-expression and opportunity to share who you are through carefully curated body art is alluring to you – but you’re not crazy about needles.

A little liquid courage would help calm your nerves before you get inked, right?

And what about afterward? You’ll likely be sore, and a couple of cocktails would definitely take the edge off.

But… can you drink alcohol before or after getting a tattoo?

While having a couple of drinks might seem harmless enough, you really should abstain from drinking alcohol for 24 hours before getting a tattoo and at least 48 hours afterward.

Here are 4 reasons why you should avoid alcohol before and after getting a tattoo.

Reason #1: Alcohol Impairs Your Judgment

The amount of alcohol you consume has a direct impact on the quality of your decisions.

Selecting the artwork and approving the size and placement of your tattoo need to be done while you’re thinking clearly. Getting a face tattoo like Mike Tyson or Post Malone might seem badass at 2:00am after several whiskey sours but you’ll more than likely see things differently the next day.

The truth is that most tattoo artists will flat out refuse to work on you if they suspect you’ve been drinking. Even though the paperwork you sign releases the artist and studio from certain liabilities, the agreement doesn’t shield them from all forms of negligence.

Cute girl with tattoos

Reason #2: Alcohol Thins Your Blood

It’s a medically proven fact that alcohol thins your blood. The severity of this effect depends on the amount you drink but even a small amount of alcohol can change the consistency of your blood and result in excessive bleeding.

This affects the quality of your tattoo in two ways.

Visibility Problems

When you consume alcohol, it thins your blood reducing its ability to clot.

Here’s the problem. If there is excessive blood, it’s harder for the artist to see the tattoo needle… let alone focus on intricate sections of your artwork.

An experienced tattoo artist may still be able to produce high quality work, in spite of excessive bleeding but it would be better to avoid the situation entirely.

Ink Dilution

Excessive bleeding can also dilute the artist’s ink, resulting in less vibrant colors or a “washed out” appearance in your tattoo. Definitely not what you want after spending a lot of time and money on carefully selected body art.

Reason #3: You May Be Difficult to Deal With

Giving a tattoo is hard work and it can take a long time. The artist will likely want you to be calm and not move around much – but alcohol has the effect of lowering inhibitions.

People who have been drinking tend to become more animated and talkative. If you’re especially gregarious and chatty, it could very well make the process of getting a tattoo take longer than if you had abstained from drinking.

If you’re especially uncooperative, the artist may not be able to finish the tattoo and request that you come back another time when you’re sober.

Reason #4: Alcohol Can Slow the Healing Process

Getting a tattoo creates what amounts to an “open wound” on your body and it needs time to heal. Your tattoo may need anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to heal completely.

Drinking alcohol too soon after getting a tattoo can impede the healing process. As your newly tattooed skin begins to heal, scabs will form creating a protective layer that keeps bacteria from entering your body. Alcohol interferes with this process, extending the amount of time needed for your body to recover.

You should wait at least 24 hours after getting a tattoo before drinking alcohol. 48 hours (or longer) is much better.

Alcohol and Tattoos Aren’t a Good Combination

Even though we’ve all heard stories of friends commemorating an alcohol-fueled night out by getting matching tattoos, it’s probably a really bad idea. When it comes to tattoos, alcohol causes more problems than it solves.

By Michael

Chief mixologist and cocktail enthusiast at Swizzle Club.