Aftercare is your responsibility!! No ink will look good without proper care and maintenance. If you treat it like crap, it’s going to look like crap.
The most important thing to remember is that your fresh tattoo is an open wound. Although your tattoo will appear healed in about 2 weeks, it is not completely healed for 6 weeks.
The primary goal of aftercare in the first few days is to prevent infection and scabbing. Scabbing will damage the tattoo, pulling the ink out of the skin. Infections can get quite nasty if you’re not careful and also damage the tattoo. DON’T let people touch it!
AFTERCARE FOR A BETTER TATTOO
- Remove the bandage when you are ready to properly clean your fresh tattoo, anywhere between 2 – 10 hours is ok. If you cannot resist showing off your new tattoo before you get home, ask your artist if they can cover it with clear cellophane wrap so it can be viewed without the protective layer being removed. Do not leave cellophane wrap on longer than 10 hours, or bacteria can grow.
- If the bandage is sticking, run lukewarm water over it to loosen it up.
- Wash your tattoo gently with antibacterial soap, using your fingertips until the tattoo is no longer slimy or glazed. Do not scrub or use a cloth on it for two weeks. Gently pat the tattoo dry with a clean towel and allow the tattoo to air dry.
- Apply a thin layer of ointment to your tattoo – enough to make it shiny, not sloppy. Too much prevents the skin/tattoo from breathing, and can cause leaching of the colors. Most artists will have a recommendation and a damn good reason for what they tell you. Listen to them. We prefer A&D ointment. (See "Healing Ointment" below.)
- Do not re-bandage the tattoo. Ok, realistically a lot of people actually have to work at dirty jobs, so you may have to re-bandage it to keep it clean. If you are going to re-bandage the tattoo, ALWAYS use a non-stick bandage and a thin layer of ointment – just enough to keep the bandage from sticking. Protect it during the day, change the dressing if it gets dirty or you are sweating a lot. If the bandages you have are not big enough, cut the sticky edges off and tape the non-stick pads together. DON’T BE CHEAP AND BUY GAUZE. Gauze will pull out the color and cause all kinds of lint to stick to the tattoo – which will need to be washed, sometimes scrubbed off. Clean your tattoo as soon as you get home from work and leave it un-bandaged as much as possible.
- Do not let a hard scab form. Keep the area of tattoo covered with a light coating of ointment for 5 to 6 days. Ointment should be applied whenever the tattoo is feeling stiff or dry. Normally, between three to five times a day. Too much ointment will suffocate the tattoo and liquefy any scabs that may have formed causing the ink to fall out and look blotchy.
- Somewhere between 3 and 6 days, the tattoo should start look like it’s flaking. DO NOT pick or peel the skin away. If it itches, wash and reapply ointment. Let the skin peel naturally. You will notice small pieces of dry skin containing color coming off. This is normal- it is just a top layer of dead skin coming off. Your tattoo is not disappearing. We recommend A&D through the entire 2 week healing process, but at this point many artists say you can start using lotion to moisturize the area. Be sure not to use fragrance/color/glitter lotion and be careful of any reaction you may develop.
- Continue moisturizing the area for at least 2 weeks, using the ointment or lotion. Remember though, it will not be completely healed for up to 6 weeks.
- DO NOT re-bandage the tattoo if at all possible.
- DO NOT let people touch it.
- DO NOT scrub the tattoo with a washcloth during the two week healing period.
- DO NOT scratch, pick at or peel your tattoo.
- DO NOT soak the tattoo for 2 weeks. No swimming, baths, hot tubs or saunas. Profuse sweating has the same effect on new tattoos as soaking in water. When tattoo has completely peeled, swimming or soaking is OK.
- AVOID THE SUN. A sunburn on a new tattoo can cause a lot of problems. It will dry out your tattoo and cause it to form a horrendous scab much of the time causing the tattoo to fade before it is even healed. It will take much longer to heal completely. It promotes scarring in a new tattoo. Wait until it is fully healed to go back in the sun or a tanning bed and use at least SPF-30 sunscreen for the rest of your life to prevent fading. (Do not apply sunscreen while the tattoo is healing.)
- Wear loose clothing – girls, don’t let those bra straps rub on your shoulder tats! You’ll risk irritation, infection and chaffing the ink right out. No pantyhose or socks on fresh ink either.
- No shaving or waxing the area until the tattoo is completely healed. Your hair will grow though and ITCH LIKE CRAZY - this is ok, don't scratch it!
- Small amounts of color may appear on clothing or sheets for first few days – this is normal, don’t freak out!
- This is not a good time to go camping