Whether it’s a minimalist tatt or television-inspired ink, there is more than design to consider when you’re getting a brand new tattoo. While aftercare is crucial to ensure that your fresh ink stays vivid and heals correctly, understanding the realities of maintenance is just as important. Read on to learn about five key pieces of info to know before you get body ink, especially if you’re a first-timer.

1. Your skin can’t be sunburned or tanned. If you’ve recently hit the beach and are looking for a new tattoo, think again: Having skin that’s irritated from sun exposure won’t give you a healthy canvas for body art. Michael DeMatty of San Francisco-based Black & Blue Tattoo says to protect your skin with SPF or cover up even during a walk to work in the sun in the days leading up to getting inked.

2. Consider which colors are being used. Not all pigments are created equal. “Cinnamide is typically used to create that red pigment, and out of all tattoo colors, it causes the most allergic reactions,” Dr. Kavita Mariwalla of New York-based Mariwalla Dermatology tells us. Make sure you fully consult with your artist before to confirm that the hues you’re choosing won’t react negatively with your skin and cause adverse effects.

3. Avoid getting inked in areas that are prone to breakouts. Tattooing is incredibly abrasive to the skin, so adding a design where you have acne or sporadic breakouts might screw up your final look — and be harmful to your complexion. “If there are any breakouts or acne abrasions close to the area of the tattoo, ink could get into it and stay permanently,” DeMatty explains. Just. No.

4. Take aftercare as seriously as choosing the design. Post-tattoo care is just as important as choosing the art itself. “After-care is crucial because you don’t want the skin to heal too quickly or the scab can dry up, fall off, and pull the ink with it,” Mariwalla explains. Constant moisture is key, so find an ointment that will help seal in your new art and protect it from daily damage. “Use a rich ointment like Skinfix Inked Tattoo Balm ($19), which is 99.5 percent natural and uses shea butter and sunflower oil to keep skin well moisturized to help with healing,” she recommends.

5. Don’t get tatted on your hands or feet. Even though a tiny tatt inside your finger might be the latest trend, don’t waste your time (or money, or pain). “The hand, fingers, and feet are not good places to get tattooed because the skin is too thick, causing it to disappear partially or completely over time,” says DeMatty. Instead, consider an area with thinner skin (like your wrist, for example) and bigger surface area so you can get really creative with your ink.

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