Stop and think before undergoing the needle, say experts.
* Meet with an artist before getting any work done, suggests Craig Jackman, manager of Skinworks in Balboa. Make sure sanitary conditions prevail.
* Be sober. Jackson says inebriated people are turned away at his salon. These are no longer the days of waking up with some strange name on your arm.
* Decide on your design in advance. "A tattoo is art. The canvas is your body. A bad tattoo can only make a person look trashy," says John Lloyd, owner of Raygun in Dana Point.
Too many people, laments Jackman, hastily choose a design without any thought to its personal significance. Down the road, "they end up blaming the tattooist instead of taking responsibility."
Lloyd says customers frequently ask him to select a design for them. "It's incredible. Most of the time I won't. It's not like you're at a carnival getting your face painted."
* To find an artist, ask around. Or, says Antoinette Dorst, of Huntington Beach, who has two tattoos: "If you see anyone who has beautiful work, get the artist's name."
* Don't be afraid to ask to see a tattoo artist's portfolio.
* Live with it. "Even with all the latest technologies to get rid of tattoos, you should consider it something that's not temporary," says Lloyd.