How to Prepare for, and Take Care of, Your New Tattoo
Meet Ghinko, from NYC's Bang Bang Tattoo shop
Whether you cheer or lament the removal of the stigmas often associated with tattoos, one thing is clear - ink is trendy and body art has gone mainstream. From full sleeves to secret jokes, going under the needle continues to be a way for both artists and recipients to express themselves and tell stories across the canvas that is our skin. While some opt for classic looks and flash (nautical iconography and names of lovers, perhaps?), others seek out bespoke styles and alternative techniques.
NYC-based tattoo artist, Ghinko, specializes in single needle tattoos, a method for creating micro realistic images through delicate lines. Keep reading to see images of her work, learn about her background, and get her professional advice on tattoo care.
How did you get into tattooing?
I first tattooed myself when I was 17 in high school with a $100 tattoo kit that I bought from AliExpress. Coming from a poor immigrant family who believed an education was the only route to financial success, I suppressed my initial curiosity and continued as a NYU student on a scholarship. NYU constantly surrounded me with street shops and drunk college tattoo stories, and I couldn’t resist tattooing.
After a failed apprenticeship in 2014, and a failing apprenticeship that started in 2016, it wasn’t until one day in Summer 2017, Jay (@jk.tat) invited me to West 4 and Evan (@evantattoo) finished a micro realistic insect on a girl's arm. I had no idea that tattoos could be so precise and detailed. It was a tattoo that wasn't thick and bold, but delicately beautiful yet powerful. Once I saw fine-line and single needle work led by outstanding people after working with difficult tattoo artists for years, I haven’t stopped working in the tattoo industry since.
You're known for your single needle, fine line work, and micro realism. This style is increasingly popular, but a significant departure from the bold colorful look often associated with tattoos.
I was always a strong proponent for the simple pen and paper route all my life. I had a relatively successful art Instagram (@inkskin) during my college days, before I began my path in tattooing, and from there, I learned early on that my comfort zone was to do illustration-based, detail-focused, small-scale pieces that aims to not impress the viewer but elicit a feeling.
It was only when I discovered single needle and fine line tattoos that I found the last piece to refine my style. Single needle tattoos can be time consuming and has limitations of damaging the skin during a tattoo session, but it has refined the style you see today: compact but meaningful. Single needle tattoos have become like jewelry but is fully customizable and un-losable.
You're currently doing a residency at NYC's Bang Bang Tattoo, owned by "celebrity" tattoo artist Keith “Bang Bang” McCurdy. How did that happen? What's that experience been like?
Keith, or “Bang” as we all call him, reached out to me when I announced my leave from my first tattoo shop in January 2019. At the time, I had only been professionally tattooing for 9 months, and I can still remember my disbelief when Bang DM’ed me on Instagram: “I’m watching your stuff girl-keep it up.” I still don’t know how he found me to this day.
Fast forward one year later of traveling and working in shops worldwide, I joined Bang Bang in January 2020. Truthfully, I was intimidated by Bang’s energy and presence during our initial meetings, but ever since I’ve joined, he’s been unconditionally supportive and accommodating. He’s supported me in many ways, and it’s the greatest thing to hit the ground running in such a talented, bustling shop with the support of a powerhouse like him.
You pride yourself on truly telling people's stories through your art. What is your process like?
From the very beginning of my career, my favorite part of the tattoo process was the consultation. I’ve always loved to sit down with my client and my iPad/sketchbook and begin the consultation with, “Why are we getting this tattoo?” Not only does a consultation excite me because the design process is unpredictable, but it gives me a chance to understand my client and their purpose. Once we’re on the same page, we browse through references, talk about life, and I’ll subject my client to some poor, questionable (but good-intentioned) sketches of their future tattoo. I like to personally establish trust as a tattoo can be an intimate thing. Trust leads to open-mindedness, which at the end of the day, always leads to a true art collaboration instead of a transaction. It’s also getting close to my client that makes me comfortable to sit for hours in silence as I tattoo. I have so many amazing clients and stories. I am so grateful for the clients that have stuck with me since day one. I couldn’t ask for more as an artist.
If someone is thinking about getting a tattoo, what is your advice for them?
Always do your research and trust your instincts. If someone is on the fence about a tattoo, I say, “when you know, you know.” If someone knows he/she wants a tattoo but doesn’t know what to get, I say, “research tattoo artists on Instagram, the algorithm will do the rest.” I personally have endless Pinterest boards to organize the flood of references brought to my feed from the algorithm.
How should they prepare on the day they get their tattoo?
On the day of the appointment, always dress comfortably as tattoo sessions can be physically and mentally taxing. Bring entertainment if you’re uncomfortable with extended periods of silence, and make sure you are moisturizing and exfoliating the weeks leading up to the appointment.
What are your "Do’s and Don’ts" of tattoo aftercare?
I believe pre-care is just as important as aftercare. Like how we take special care of our face to keep it looking hydrated and healthy, you also must moisturize, sunscreen, and exfoliate your body so your tattoos take well to your skin and age well.
Post tattoo session, I personally love using Hustle Butter and all-natural products such as coconut oil or Mad Rabbit Tattoo’s Soothing Gel to reduce itching, scarring, and tissue damage. I also prefer dry healing over products such as Aquaphor or A+D. One of the biggest problems I’ve seen are clients caking on the products when all you need is a thin, moisturizing layer. I do tend to see more people coming in for touch ups in the summer due to sun exposure and sweat. My advice is to take it easy for the best healing results, and if anything happens, come back for a touch up.
[Editor's Note: we just sent out the A+D® VoxBox to some of our tattoo-members! Learn more about the breathable, hydrating formula made especially for tattoos here.]
Do you have a tattoo? Tell us your story (and about which products you use to keep your ink in shape) in the comments below!