Why Do You Need Sugar Before A Tattoo?

For many, getting a tattoo is a daunting process. Not only is it a medical procedure, but depending on how the tattoo session goes will determine the outcome of the tattoo as a work of art permanently. Understandably, you should take every precaution to ensure the process is as smooth as possible, so do you need sugar before getting a tattoo?

Although some evidence suggests that sugar may give you the boost you need to help manage the pain of getting a tattoo, there is evidence to suggest it may cause more harm than good for your recovery. Therefore, you should avoid sugar before getting a tattoo in light of healthier options.

To better understand why many people believe the myth that you should eat sugar before getting a tattoo, we will be exploring the importance of sustainable blood sugar levels in greater detail below. Whereafter we will look at some dietary suggestions in preparation for getting a tattoo:

Should You Have Sugar Before A Tattoo?

Although many people believe that having sugar before a tattoo is a good idea, it would appear that the confusion around sugar as being good for tattoos stems from the misrepresentation of having healthy blood sugar levels versus consuming sugary foods.

Namely, it is vital to have a healthy, nutritious, and hearty meal before getting a tattoo (see below for a breakdown of key nutrients.) You should eat a solid meal before getting a tattoo because it raises your blood sugar levels to a healthy level and keeps them consistent.

Having a consistent and stable blood sugar level is essential when getting a tattoo, as it reduces the pain of the tattoo, promotes healing, and avoids the risk of becoming dizzy/lightheaded during lengthy tattoo sessions.

In fact, many tattoo artists recommend bringing healthy snacks during a long tattooing session to keep your blood sugar levels stable while also keeping you content and full without the need for a complete meal. Healthy snacks include dried fruit, nuts, and healthy energy bars.

In contrast, foods high in sugar can cause a spike in your blood sugar levels, followed by a notable decrease. While this may assist the tattooing process in the short term, it is not conducive to most tattoo sessions.

Furthermore, sugary foods can result in bloated and expanded skin, particularly in and around the stomach area. Bloated skin means the final tattoo product may be inferior while also being subject to diminished healing.

In conclusion, most tattoo artists do not recommend eating sugary food before getting a tattoo.

What Foods Should I Avoid Before Getting A Tattoo?

Along with avoiding sugar, there are some everyday food items you should avoid eating before getting a tattoo:

  1. Alcohol,
  2. Caffeine,
  3. Dairy.

1. Alcohol

The most obvious reason to avoid alcohol before getting a tattoo is that it impairs your judgment and makes you restless. Not only does it make it hard for a tattoo artist to tattoo a patron, tattoo artists are not allowed to legally tattoo an intoxicated client.

However, even moderate amounts of alcohol before getting a tattoo can dehydrate you and thin your blood. Dehydration affects the health of your skin, making it harder for an artist to tattoo you, increases your recovery period, and/or can make tattooing more painful.

As a blood thinner, alcohol increases the amount you will bleed due to tattooing/having your skin pierced. Not only does this make it difficult for a tattoo artist to complete a tattoo due to excessive bleeding and diluted ink, but excessive bleeding can pose a severe health risk to the person getting a tattoo. 

Consequently, many artists recommend a 24-hour break from alcohol before getting a tattoo to mitigate the risks caused by excessive bleeding and dehydration.

2. Caffeine

Although caffeine may give you a temporary boost to get you through a tattooing session, it thins your blood and dehydrates your skin in a similar fashion to alcohol (see above for more details.)

Furthermore, caffeine is a diuretic and stimulant, making you feel anxious and restless. The combination of the urge to pee and restlessness means that you could be fidgety and nervous throughout a tattoo session, which increases the chances of improper tattooing.

3. Dairy   

Similar to sugar, dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt can result in bloated and expanded skin. Not only does bloating affect the tattooing process, but the retention of fluid negatively affects your body’s hydration, resulting in dry skin and increased recovery time. 

What Foods Should I Eat Before Getting A Tattoo?

When planning a healthy and nutritious meal before getting a tattoo, it is advisable to include the following in your dietary plan:

  1. Protein,
  2. Vitamin C,
  3. Water.

1. Protein 

Known for its body-building and regenerative properties, eating food high in protein before getting a tattoo is essential for your body’s recovery. Furthermore, protein provides your body with a slow release of energy, allowing you to last throughout a lengthy tattooing session.

We recommend light foods that are high in protein, like eggs, tuna, and/or chicken.

2. Vitamin C

Although any meal you eat before a tattoo should be high in a multitude of vitamins and minerals, vitamin C is essential as it helps to improve your skin’s firmness and regenerative ability.

There are various fruits that are high in vitamin C, like oranges and tomatoes.

3. Water  

Finally, and most importantly, you need to drink plenty of water before and during a tattoo session. The reason is that staying hydrated is essential to having healthy skin, staying alert during a lengthy tattoo session, and improving your recovery.

Just make sure to agree with your artists on bathroom breaks in advance, should they be necessary, and to not disrupt the tattooing process abruptly.  


In conclusion, despite the advice of some people, most tattoo artists agree that eating sugar before getting a tattoo causes more harm than good. Instead, you should focus on a hearty, nutritious meal and drink plenty of water before getting a tattoo.

Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you

working on tattoo at my studio
Working at the studio on one of my projects

Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.

Design and tattoo ideas

For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):

Tattoo meaning

If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).

Tattoo aftercare

The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):


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