When preparing for a tattoo, you research everything about the artist, location, price and look of the tattoo. But, what about the after care, the longevity, of the tattoo?
In many US states, there are no regulations regarding providing clients with tattoo after care instructions. An artist’s after care instructions should be as thorough as the work they pride themselves on. But sometimes, it is an afterthought or overlooked.
In this article
Proper aftercare and healing are critical to having a tattoo that you will be proud of for years to come. Here are some basic tips to follow when you get a new tattoo.
Tattooing is done - now time to bandage
You have a fresh tattoo. The initial bandaging your artist puts on will include a thin layer of moisturizer. Keep the bandage on for at least two hours but not more than 24 hours. Some artists use medical-grade adhesive bandages that traps out dirt and bacteria, which helps the tattoo heal; these should be left on from 8 hours up to 24 hours.
Washing your new ink - keep it simple
After removing the initial bandage, gently wash the area with your clean, bare hands and mild antibacterial soap. When cleansing the area of the tattoo, do not use a loofah or sponge. This will cause damage to the piece and prevent proper healing. Avoid shaving the tattoo until completely healed.
Let’s talk about hot and lukewarm water. When showering or washing your tattoo, you want to use cool water. This will help close your pores and keep the ink in place. Too hot or warm can cause your tattoo to leach out ink. Open pores can also allow bacteria to get into the tattoo and cause an infection.
Dry properly - be gentle
Any time you shower, or your piece encounters water, or any liquid, you will need to ensure it’s clean and dry. When drying the area on and around your tattoo, using a soft patting motion. DO NOT RUB, as this can disrupt the scabbing and prevent proper healing.
Tattoo Care - use all-natural products
The immediate tattoo aftercare is critical to the long-term health of your ink. Moisturizing is important but be careful to NOT over moisturize. Heavy ointments and balms can suffocate the tattoo, encourage bacteria to grow, and impact proper healing. Under-moisturizing can cause your tattoo to dry and crack and cause considerable damage to your tattoo. You could end up with cracked lines and white spaces if the scabs dry out and come off too soon.
Use an all-natural tattoo care cream a couple of times a day with light coverage. Any time your tattoo feels dry, take a few minutes to wash and pat dry the area on and around your piece and lightly moisturize.
Keep it clean
A tattoo is an open wound and needs to be kept clean and allowed to heal properly. You want to avoid the risk of infection, by being mindful of exposure to dirt and bacteria in the world around you. You can shower but avoid submerging the area in water. On average, wait 2-3 weeks before bath.
You should avoid lake water, ocean, and other bodies of natural water for at least two weeks, and preferably six weeks. There could be a varied bacteria in natural or chemically treated water, like a swimming pool or hot tub. While, any water or liquid can cause problems, you should also avoid the potential for sweating, as in a sauna or steam room.
Hands off - don’t touch or scratch!
Remember, your tattoo is an open wound and, therefore, can get irritated. Resist the urge to touch and scratch, as this introduces bacteria to the tattoo. Instead, wash with anti-bacterial soap and pat dry carefully. Then, you can apply a light layer of all-natural aftercare products. Irritation and itching are normal phases of the healing process but can be the toughest. You want to avoid touching, rubbing, or scratching the tattoo. Allow your tattoo to heal. If a scab comes off before it is ready, it can leave white spots or holes in your tattoo.
Clothing - what you wear matters to your new tattoo, during healing
What you choose to wear can aid the healing process or cause problems with healing. You want to protect your tattoo but also let it breathe. Wear loose fitting clothing around the area of your tattoo. Tight fitting clothing or shoes can rub against the tattoo disrupting scabs and irritating the skin. You also run the risk of your clothing sticking to the tattoo. This can cause considerable damage to your piece and pull the color out. If your new tattoo is on your foot, avoid sandals as they leave your foot exposed to the elements.
Take it easy - help the healing
Depending on the placement of your new tattoo, it’s important to be mindful of the movement of that area; especially large pieces or those that spread across joints. With that in mind, you may need to skip the gym for a bit to avoid stretching and contracting of the piece. Also avoid sports that cause excessive sweat. Keep your tattoo sweat free for at least two to three weeks to allow for proper healing.
Beyond initial aftercare: Long-term care of your healed tattoo
The second biggest cause of tattoo damage is over exposure to the sun. If you want your ink to keep its brilliance and fine detail, you need to be conscious of the exposure to the sun. Consider the first 3-4 weeks your first healing phase. You want to protect your tattoo from sun exposure, this may include wardrobe changes, but it will be worth the trouble to keep your work protected. After the first healing phase, use sunscreen regularly to avoid damaging the tattoo. A natural zinc oxide sunscreen can be used and wear loose clothing to keep it protected.
REMEMBER: Proper aftercare and long-term care of your tattoo will preserve your art for years to come.