Ultimate Guide To Tattoo Aftercare: Make Your Tatt Standout!

tattoo aftercare

Good tattoo aftercare is something that needs your commitment and dedication if it’s going to serve you as well as you want it to for the rest of your days. The healing advice that comes with getting any new ink is as broad as the mountains are high, and everybody has the best advice for you, don’t they?

Well, that’s all good and well for them, but the best new tattoo care advice is the one that works in sync with your body and its healing processes. It’s unlikely that you’re going to get the same healing advice from two different artists, and this just shows you the range of healing and new tattoo care options that have become available.

I’ve gathered together these tattoo care instructions and guidelines from years of combined and professional experience through experts in the industry, to bring you the easiest, simplest and most beneficial information regarding how to take care of a tattoo.

Tattoo aftercare is not something that is reserved strictly for new tattoos. A tattoo is something unique and individual that needs to be taken care of and looked after for as long as you live.


Methods Of Healing


A new tattoo can take anywhere between 7 to 14 days to look fully healed. This all depends on the size, placement, style and type of tattoo.

Below the surface of the skin, on the other hand, may take up to a month to fully heal, allowing the body’s natural healing ability to lock the ink in completely.

There’s no way of fast-healing a tattoo, take your time with the careful healing process and don’t be in rush. Here are the two most common methods for after tattoo care that involve a wet and a dry healing process.


Dry Healing Tattoos


how to take care of a tattoo

After returning from having your new artwork inscribed into your skin, it’s advisable that you wash the area with warm water and a bar of unscented soap. After patting your tattoo dry, leave it to air-dry for at least 15 minutes before applying any ointments or lotions.

Keep your new tattoo unwrapped and exposed to the air throughout the day, wrapping it using a plastic wrap before going to bed for the first three nights. Ensure that your tattoo is completely dry before you re-wrap it.

Rewrapping during the first three days is an important part of the healing process as your body tends to lose a lot of fluid (plasma) throughout the first few initial days.

Wrapping your tattoo will also prevent your new piece from sticking to your sheets at night, as well as reducing skin irritation while promoting quicker healing.

During the daylight hours, a mild, non-scented moisturizer should be applied. I’ll get into more detail about these kinds of tattoo aftercare products a little later on.

The ointment or lotion should be applied until your tattoo starts peeling after about 3 to 7 days. Once the peeling phase is in full swing, stop applying a moisturizer as excess moisture will begin to form bubbles on your tattoo.

If this happens you should cease application immediately, allowing your tattoo to dry naturally and peel on its own.


Wrap/Wet Healing Tattoos


Less conventional than the practice of dry healing, wrap or wet healing of a tattoo is usually recommended for larger pieces. After returning from your artist, leave your bandage on for between three and twelve hours, but not longer than twelve. Wash the area with warm water and an anti-bacterial, non-scented soap.

Pat down the area to dry after washing, and allow it least 15 minutes of air-drying time. Your tattoo must be completely dry, 100%. Without using any lotions, creams or moisturizers, wrap your tattoo in plastic wrap. Remember here that sweat is your enemy, and although it’s hard not to sweat when you are wrapped up in plastic, washing your tattoo now becomes of the utmost importance.

You should wash your new piece every 4 to 6 hours, patting it down with a clean cloth and rewrapping in fresh plastic. These are the basics around wrap healing that need to be followed for the first three to five days.

The peeling process should start within those first few days of wrapping, flaking like a sort of sunburn. When this starts to happen, you know it is time to stop wrapping your tattoo and to start treating your dry itchy skin with a non-scented moisturizer. Your skins’ texture will slowly return to normal as your tattoo continues to heal.

Remember, NO SCRATCHING OR PICKING YOUR SCABS! EVER! Moisture rashes do happen, along with ingrown hairs. The important thing to remember is to keep your tattoo clean, be consistent, and never be afraid to contact your artist regarding any questions or queries.

Choosing the right method of healing is more a personal choice than anything else. Variables include: your skin’s overall condition, your immune system at the time, your age, your body’s natural melanin count, the tattoo’s location, your daily routine and activities, and the list goes on. Working closely with your artist on the design, style, placement and best healing suggestions is the best way to achieve your ultimate personal healing results.

Remember that you know your body and how best to look after it. Be consistent, diligent and clean. Your new ink is, after all, an open wound that needs to be protected from bacteria and all forms of infection, and that is up to you.


Tattoo Aftercare Products


With so many choices of both new and tried-and-tested tattoo aftercare products on the market today, it’s hard to get to grips with what’s what, and what is going to treat your tattoo like the new masterpiece that it is.

There are some standards that have not changed much over the history of tattoos. The fact that it’s essentially an open wound does lead to some care instructions and product ingredients that are just better than others for this kind of situation.


Soaps


soap for tattoos

Soap is the ONLY THING that you want to be washing your tattoo with for at least the first week or so after getting it. After you have removed the artist's bandage ensure that your free hand is clean. Using only a non-scented, anti-bacterial soap and using your clean hand, gently clean and wash away any excess fluids that will have accumulated since the work was done.

It’s good to find a soap that has additional moisturizing and skin treatment properties, remembering the importance of the anti-bacterial and non-scented attributes. Branded tattoo soaps are popular and expertly crafted soaps for tattoo aftercare cleaning and healing.

They’ve been specially formulated to provide the best healing and recovery treatment for your new art and skin, combing the right ingredients to treat your newly sensitive skin and the ink that’s beautifying it.


Lotions


Using a lotion on your tattoo during the healing process is not optional. It’s something that’s part-and-parcel of getting any ink done, and is absolutely vital to the healthy healing of your new design.

Lotions offer you and your new piece protection from the germs that it comes into contact with, while at the same time soothing and repairing your freshly damaged skin.

Using a lotion for tattoo care will help to prevent ailments and infections from entering your tattoo and your body during your healing process, while at the same time preventing a possible disaster regarding the final look of your new work.

Tattoo Lotion

Most of your regular, everyday lotions contain harmful chemicals and compounds that adversely affect the ink and the healing process. Typical cleaning lotions that contain alcohol, tend to break down the ink into smaller particles that can then be absorbed and carried away by your body, damaging your tattoo and leaving it spotty, blotted or patchy.

Specific tattoo lotions have been specially formulated using ‘softer ingredients’ so that they do not do damage to your open and vulnerable flesh while helping the ink to mesh better with your skin. Those that have fairly sensitive skin should rather opt for a hypoallergenic lotion or baby lotion as these lotions have similarly had their ‘hard ingredients’ replaced by ‘softer’ ones.

The two most widely used and recognized, non-specific tattoo lotions that are both plain unscented, are Lubriderm Lotion and Aquaphor. It would be hard to find a decent tattoo artist that would disagree with the recommendation of these two products. They have, over their many years of satisfactory use, proven themselves to be amongst the best tattoo aftercare products that you can use.


Bandages


Tattoo bandages are a relatively new concept in the field of tattoos and their healing requirements. They offer a simple all-in-one type solution to the care and protection of your latest addition. Once applied, a tattoo bandage can be left on for the duration of the healing process, allowing you to monitor your healing progress through the transparent adhesive as it improves. These adhesive bandages will protect your new ink from any germs, fluids, bacteria, viruses, dirt and water that it may encounter.

Tattoo Bandage

They have been designed to be fully waterproof, breathable, flexible, and of course transparent. These special tattoo bandages have been further designed to take the care work out of looking after your new tattoo for the first few days, significantly reducing the risk of infection.

The dressing sticks to your skin and not your tattoo and can even be left on to protect your ink while you’re in the shower. Unlike other aftercare products and procedures, these tattoo bandages don’t have to be changed and managed countless times during the day.

The breathable film allows your tattoo to be properly ventilated so that there should be no build-up of excess moisture. Being completely waterproof, these bandages will allow you to carry on with your regular and daily activities while knowing your tattoo is well looked after and protected.


A+D Ointment


This is what most artists choose to use when they’re on the job, quite often said to also be a great product for diaper rash. It’s a good way to start to heal your tattoo while at the same time being a great lube for the artist. It can, however, have some side effects.

A+D is usually a very thick ointment and needs to be rubbed in completely. If it’s used on larger pieces for an extended period of time, it can have adverse reactions caused by the absorption of too much of the active ingredients. This could lead to the break-out of a rash or a pimply area. It’s recommended that you use A+D ointment for only the first day or three, after which, you should switch to a non-medicated and unscented lotion.

As you can see there are many differing avenues that one can take on how to take care of a tattoo just after it’s been done. 

They each come with their own benefits and essential steps in cleanliness and infection preventative measures. Make sure that you follow these simple product guidelines when it comes time to choose the right aftercare product for your new inks needs.

An infected tattoo is not something that you wish to experience, after all, you didn’t pay all that money just so that you could have a hard time and an ugly-looking tattoo, did you?


Sun, Water and Other General Care Guidelines


Water Care for Your New Tattoo

It’s recommended and suggested that you have a shower after getting some new ink done. Your goal here is to rid the area of any and all unwanted built-up fluids and germs that may be present. It is OK to get your tattoo wet, just in case you were wondering. The danger when it comes to water and tattoos is not in the getting it wet part, it’s in the keeping it submerged part.

Soaking or submerging your new tattoo for any period of time is very inadvisable for at least the first 10 days to two weeks after you’ve has it done. Being submerged under water can cause your ink some serious damage that is going to make the job look horrid. Lakes, rivers, swimming pools and the ocean all contain bacteria that’s potentially harmful and damaging to your tattoo and the health of the open skin around it. These can obviously lead to infections and other unwanted complications that will hinder your healing time as well as ruin your new piece.

Excessive sweating, steam baths, sauna’s and heavy gym workout sessions should be avoided for the time being. Instead, take the care and time to really look after your new investment. It is, after all, with you for life, and I know that you want it looking its best, always.

Sun Care for Your New (and Old) Tattoo

Tattoo Sun Care

Whether your tattoo is old or new, the sun is the most detrimental element that your body’s ink can encounter. It fades and destroys tattoos with the greatest of ease and without you even realizing it. During the initial healing process it’s absolutely essential that you keep your tattoo out of the sun, as exposure to the sun’s UV rays will only damage your skin further.

Uneven healing, scarring and lightening are all effects the sun has on a fresh tattoo. The best solution is to use or wear loose-fitting clothes to cover up your ink from the sun. If the situation is unavoidable and tight-fitting clothes must be worn, then by all means, use a sterile, non-stick bandage.

This option should only be used as a last resort as it may cause some damage to the scabbing, moisture build-up or irritation to the skin and healing process.

Some other care advice is to give the tanning bed a miss completely during the healing process. Once your new tattoo has healed and has lost its shine completely you can get back to business as usual. If you must expose your ink to the sun (as we all inevitably do) it’s recommended that you use a sunscreen with the highest SPF you can find. Nothing less than SPF 30 is suggested, and is handy to keep around for whenever you need to strut your stuff and show off your goods.

Clothing

Clothing, as you can well imagine, can have a massive impact on the healing process, and tight-fitting clothing is certainly not going to do your new work any favors. Although the selected area of your new tattoo is a factor, remember that your tattoo needs to breathe.

This is not going to happen if it’s wrapped-up in yoga pants all day, now is it? When your tattoo starts to scab and begins peeling, tight-fitting clothes are going to help those scabs come off sooner than they should, and you’re going to have to return for touch-ups as well as being disappointed with color and possible scarring.

Prime examples of a bit of a dodgy location would be bikini lines and bra strap areas as these are areas that tend to see quite a bit of tight-fitting and rubbing clothing action. Take careful consideration when getting these areas done.

Similarly, if you have a new piece on your foot, try and avoid wearing shoes and socks at all costs. Aside from the constant rubbing against your tattoo, they are a breeding ground for germs and bacteria.

Infections

This is something that’s not extremely common in most tattoo cases. It is, however, a good idea to have a basic understanding of some of the signs and concerns regarding this area of your new tattoo.

The first line of defence that you have against getting an infection is the artist that you choose. If you choose someone that’s doing it out of their house or basement, that’s not the most sanitary-looking environment, then perhaps an infection will teach you the lesson you should have already been wise to.

Although it may be cheap or even free, running the risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis, or some other unmentionable is most definitely not worth it. The rewards are most certainly not worth the risks.

Some key signs will be prevalent if your tattoo does become infected, usually indicated by a red haze surrounding your tattoo after a few days.

This may also be accompanied by a white haze covering your tattoo, extreme scabbing, yellow or green oozing puss, a bad smell from your tattoo, heat around the area, indentations in the surface of the tattoo, or black or red lines running away from your tattoo.

By following these prescribed guidelines and through your own commitment and diligence, infection issues can be avoided and are fully treatable. If you are, however, in doubt, don’t be afraid to contact your artist, and if the problem really gets out of hand it may be best to call your physician for a diagnosis and perhaps some antibiotics.

Tattoo care instructions, if followed properly and correctly, are going to save you from the unnecessary hassles and inconvenience of having to work through an infected tattoo. Keep it out of the sun and from being submerged in water during the healing process.

The right clothing and care practices are going to ensure that you get the best results from your new tattoo, keeping and holding its bright coloring, perfect shading and definitive line work.


Caring For Your Tattoo Over The First Week Or So


Caring For Your Tattoo Over The First Week Or So

The first week of having your new tattoo is the most crucial time of having a tattoo, especially the first two or three days.

The care that you give your new tattoo within the first week of the healing process is what’s going to ensure that it maintains its boldness and luster, and keep it looking fantastic for years and years to come.

Here are a few simple steps and procedures to keep in mind during the first week of caring for your new tattoo to help you handle the healing process better.

1. Remove the bandage and clean

Depending on the size and location of your new ink, the bandage should be removed after a few hours (no more than 8 to 12 hours ever). Your new tattoo should then be thoroughly washed clean of all excess fluids and build-up using warm water and an anti-bacterial unscented soap.

You should then pat your new ink dry with a clean paper towel, and allow it to air-dry until fully dry before proceeding with your choice of either the dry healing or wet/wrap healing method.

2. Sleeping

Depending on your chosen method of healing, your tattoos preparation for your bedtime is something that should have been taken care of already.

You can either wrap your tattoo up at night when you go to bed, or you can choose to have it air-dry and open during the night. Here I’m going to take you through the latter as wrapping your tattoo up at night has been covered in both the previously mentioned healing methods.

Not wrapping your tattoo at night will most likely involve you using an old or spare set of bedding. You will no doubt wake up with a nice fresh imprint on your sheets.

A clean towel can be placed on top of your bedding if you’re not too keen on messing up your sheets.

A concern that has been expressed using this method is the likelihood that you are going to wake up stuck to your bedding or towel.

In this kind of situation, the best solution is to take your sheets with you to the shower and let the warm water gently remove them. DO NOT PULL THE SHEETS OFF!! This will destroy your tattoo. Trust me, I speak here from my own experience.

3. Applying an Ointment or Lotion

With your new tattoo being an open wound of sorts, it needs to be treated as such and with the due respect.

Always wash your hands thoroughly before applying any lotion, as this is a direct line to your blood stream. Your goal here is to try and keep your tattoo moist as much of the time as possible. You want to gently rub your choice of ointment or lotion over your tattoo until you have achieved a slight sheen.

Ensure that whatever you’re applying is done so in a uniform way and not slapped over your tattoo. Lotions and ointments can be applied between three and five times a day, or whenever your ink is looking a little dry.

Remember not to use too much lotion, and as a rule of thumb less is more. One exception to the rule is for those tattoos in places where your skin is very thick or is subject to lots of bending and motion throughout the day. Keep these areas slightly more moisturized for better results.

4. Sun and Water Care

These two very important points have been explained and I’ve mentioned them again as a reminder of their importance. Always keep your new ink out of the sun and harmful UV rays, while using a suntan lotion with a SPF of at least 30 when exposing older tattoos to the sun.

Hot tubs, swimming pools, lakes, the beach, and generally any other forms of water submersion for your new tattoo should be avoided completely.

Aside from the harmful and infection-causing bacteria and germs that pose the risk of infection, soaking your ink under water will similarly do your new work some untold damages.

5. DO NOT SCRATCH, PICK YOUR SCABS OR PEEL YOUR TATTOO

This is a point that must be stressed as it’s one of the easiest and silliest ways to ruin your tattoo. Yes, it gets itchy, it’s healing. Do not scratch it or even start removing any of the scabs. These are the body’s natural mechanism that it uses to heal itself, and lock in the ink at a cellular level.

When you pick at the scabs of your tattoo, all you’re basically doing is picking the ink out of your skin. You’ll notice, and please do not test this, that when you pick a scab off the patch, underneath it will be the color of your skin.

Color gone, touch up, please. Apart from the needles wrecking of your tattoo, picking your scab can furthermore scar your skin and leave you with some permanent skin damage. Your scabs will come off naturally and in their own time.

They usually come off during a lotion application session or cleaning, when they’re ready and in their own time.


​Conclusion


I sincerely hope that these guidelines and instructions have proved themselves to be useful to you. Tattoo aftercare is something that’s a standard practice with a few variations in products and methods, but the basic premise of cleanliness and protection are the same.

We were all created differently and thus we all heal in our ways and through our best methods.

Follow these easy-to-use guidelines and your own body’s healing capacity to get the best results from your new body artwork, and get the most out of your life-long living gallery.

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