Celebrity tattoo artist Kevin Paul shares his top tips for avoiding post-needle regret

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GETTING your first tattoo can be really exciting, especially if you've been thinking about it for a long time. But even if you think you're 100% ready to go under the needle, having planned and contemplated the design for months - or even years - there might still be some factors you haven't considered.

"I've been getting tattoos for over 27 years now and I regret a lot of what I have from when I was younger," admits celebrity tattooist Kevin Paul, speaking at the launch of the new Nivea Men Body Shaving range. "In this day and age, we should be educated enough to not make mistakes, but we're not."

Paul, the man responsible for more than 40 of Ed Sheeran's opinion-dividing tattoos (more on them later) and who has also inked the likes of Harry Styles and Rihanna, first picked up a tattoo gun aged 13, so he has a lot of experience to draw on.

From finding a decent tattooist to choosing a design and where to position your inaugural ink, there's a lot to think about, and since tattoo removal is both expensive and very painful, you need to make sure you're not going to feel pangs of regret when you leave the tattoo parlour.

Keen to avoid a rookie mistake? Here, Paul shares seven things to consider when getting your first tattoo...

1. Go to a reputable tattoo artist

"The problem with most tattooists is that they just want your money, so when you come in and ask for a pocket watch they'll put it on you and kick you out the door quick," Paul warns. "I don't like to do that. I don't want you to be happy with your tattoo for a year or two or three years - I want you to be happy with it forever."

2. Don't rely on word of mouth to find a tattooist

"There's nothing worse than word of mouth," says Paul. "You go on Facebook and you'll see a status, 'does anyone know a good tattooist?' and half the people that are put on there I think are awful and I've had to cover up their work!

"You need to properly research it. Look at tattoo conventions and see the level of art that is being done and look at the websites of tattoo conventions. You need to educate yourself on what's good and bad first of all, then look at good artists in your area."

3. First tattoos should be personal

"I always say to everyone full stop: have something personal. Don't respond to fashion trends. Don't have what your favourite celebrity's got. Have something that's personal to you," Paul advises.

"Obviously, everyone wants something different, whether it's for their parents or for their kids, or they've lost somebody. You [as a tattooist] have to find out why people want it and then once you know what they want, then you can give them some ideas.

"Every style can be adapted to something that's personal to you."

4. Don't copy David Beckham (or any other celebrities)

"Everyone's having pocket watches and clouds and angels [at the moment], and it's all because of David Beckham," Paul says. "Everyone's just copying David Beckham, but realistically I don't think these people want the same tattoos as David Beckham, they just like the style of black and white."

Paul says he's done seven or eight lion tattoos a week for the last three years, dating back to when he inked a huge lion design on Ed Sheeran's chest, but that was something that had a personal meaning for the singer.

"He sold out Wembley Arena three nights on the trot and no one's ever done that single-handedly," he explains. "I was round his house for my wife's birthday and we were just chatting about him getting something to represent selling out the arena, and then he said about the lion - because Wembley Arena is [associated with] the three lions. We did it the next day and we weren't expecting the amount of attention it got. It's been recorded as the most famous tattoo in the world."

5. Don't use Google for inspiration

When choosing a design, turning to Google is the "worst thing" you can do, Paul Reckons.

"You'll be getting the same thing that every other doughnut has got!" he laughs. "The problem is everyone wants tattoos but they're not artistic. They get on Google, look at pictures and go, 'That's what I want'. But they don't really want that."

Photos can be useful for showing a tattoo artist the style you'd like your tattoo in, but you should always have something unique and personal, Paul advises.

6. Coloured tattoos will fade more quickly

"In terms of longevity, tattoos are definitely going to be best in black and grey, because every time they fade you can retouch them," Paul says. "It's a lot harder with colours, because colours get dull, so it's hard to bring it back to life and freshen it up again."

6. Covered tattoos last longer

If you don't want to have to go back for lots of touch-ups, choose a place on your body that isn't exposed, Paul recommends.

"Places that are going to be in the sun are going to fade more over time," he says. "I've got tattoos on my head that are two years old and they've faded quite a bit, and then I've got tattoos on my arms and on my ribs that are still as bright as the day I got them."

7. Don't worry about the pain

Worried that your first tattoo is going to be very painful? Paul has noticed a recent trend for people using numbing creams before they go under the gun to make it more bearable.

"That seems to be the next thing in tattoos," he says. "Generally, though, I don't think tattoos are that bad if you go to a good professional artist and you have it done properly, then realistically the pain isn't that bad. Ed Sheeran used to have seven or eight hours at a time, he can sit pretty well."

The new Nivea Men Anti-Irritation Body Shaving Range, which ensures the best body shave for optimal care against irritation, is now available at Boots, from £6.