Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, and Bella Hadid have another thing in common, aside from their famous families and multi-million dollar modeling contracts: Tiny, hidden tattoos. The mini works of art have become increasingly popular in the last few years, thanks in large part to their hide-ability (and the fact that they're really, really fun to show off on Instagram). But with any tattoo — large, small, or in-between — there are still some things you should know before getting a tiny tattoo, no matter how easy it is to cover with makeup or a bracelet.
Even if a tattoo is small, it's still a permanent mark on your body, and it's critically important to educate yourself on the process before you go under a needle. All tattoos, and all tattoo ink, parlors and artists, are not created equally, which I learned the hard way after getting my own tiny tats — one that came out really well, and another that looks like total shit.
With small tattoos, there is an entirely different set of things to look out for, especially because there is less leeway for error. If an artist messes up a line on a tiny tat, it's not like they can go over it and fix it the same way they could with a big one. Perfection is key with small lines, which is why you need to know what your getting into beforehand.
Here are seven facts about tiny tattoos to consider before you get one, care of Brian Keith Thompson, celebrity piercer and owner of Body Electric Tattoo. And don't worry, none of them involve getting permission from anyone to do it. It's your body, after all!
1. Some Artists Won’t Do Them
When you’re going in for a tattoo, it’s important to remember that “body art” is a form of ART, and each artist has his or her own individual strengths and weaknesses. Because of this, some specialize in micro-tattoos while others won’t do them at all, which is why it’s important to do your research beforehand. “Check yelp, check their google rating, and ask them questions,” says Thompson. “If you pick someone who isn't competent in what they do, is it really their fault, or also your fault for picking someone who isn’t competent?” Also, be sure to check out their portfolio (or at the very least, their Instagram) to confirm that they have experience with the type of tiny tattoo you’re looking for.
2. Mistakes Do Happen
There's an old saying in the industry — "they all can't be winners,” and with a small, tiny little fine line tattoo, there's not a lot of margin for error, so mistakes do happen. “It's a handmade tattoo, and people make mistakes,” says Thompson. “When they're small and micro, sometimes the line's not perfectly straight the way you want it. You know, it's not photoshop, it's not a drawing, it's your body — it's skin.” Make sure you find an artist who knows what they’re doing (and who’s used to doing fine line art) to minimize the chance of a mistake.
3. No Two Tattoos Will Look The Same
This is important to note for anyone who wants to get matching tattoos with their besties, or who wants an exact replica of Bella Hadid’s tiny tattoo. “Sometimes your skin handles pigment differently than other peoples,” says Thompson when asked why some people’s “identical” tattoos may look different, even if they were done at the same time by the same artist. "Sometimes it's your skin, or the way you took care of it, or the soaps you're using, or your water... it can be numerous different things.” There’s really no way to fix this, but it is important to know before you go under the needle.
4. Fine Lines Fade Faster
As cute as they are when you get them, tiny tattoos sadly won’t last as long as full-line, traditional style tattoos. “If it's a single needle tattoo, most artists cut the ink down because they can't use just straight black because it bleeds out, so they cut it so it's not as strong of a black pigment, so the body will actively remove it faster,” says Thompson. Your immune system is actively working to get rid of a tattoo the minute the ink hits your body, and it has an easier time flushing out single line styles simply because there’s less ink.
5. They Can Easily Be Reworked
Even though tiny tattoos fade more quickly than bigger ones, they are easier to fix when it happens. “You can just have it reworked in 10 years and go back over it,” says Thompson. “Larger portions of your body it's not as feasible for some people with the time and the money, but tattoos can be brought back to life again.” Plus, with small tattoos you can always, always go bigger… which is a lot easier (and less painful) than trying to go smaller.
6. Delicate Tattoos Need To Be Treated Delicately
Believe it or not, micro tattoos really are as fragile as they look. “Because the lines are smaller, they are thinner and more delicate, they don't take abuse as well as the larger, thicker lines,” says Thompson. “It's a more delicate tattoo, so you just have to treat it more delicately.” Make sure you don’t pick the scabs, run into anything or soak the tattoo in water. And the better you treat your body post-tattoo — eating well and getting enough sleep — the better it will heal.
7. Less Care Is Best Care
Every studio may have a different approach to aftercare, but Thompson lives by a “less is best” mantra, especially with delicate tattoos. “You wanna wash it a few times a day, and then just leave it alone,” he says. “I let my tattoos dry out, I don't constantly take care of it for two weeks. I leave it alone and let it do its thing.” He suggests applying a thin coat of colorless, odorless lotion a few times a day, and keeping the tattooed skin out of the sun. No picking or scratching the scabs, either.