If you Google the phrase “tattoo aftercare” you are going to get a slathering of articles, ads, and products filling your screen. You’ll see everything from creams, gels, oils, and lotions, and hear artists and clients figuratively shouting about which method works the best.
When you begin perusing these articles, there is something you need to be aware of… the industry has come a long way in the last decade. Inks have changed, machines have adapted, and aftercare methods that we once thought worked are now frowned upon. When you begin looking for advice – make sure you’re looking in the right place. If someone has been out of the industry for a few years, they’re probably not the best source of information.
Now, that doesn’t mean that everyone currently in the industry is worth listening to, either. There are some tattooers who don’t want to give up their old ways, despite changing information in the industry. There are some who haven’t had proper training or who don’t follow the industry updates, and there are some who just don’t care once the client leaves the shop.
As science has discovered more and more information regarding tattooing and how the body works in general, it has become more apparently clear that certain methods of aftercare just aren’t as good as the rest. For example, applying alcohol, Neosporin, Vaseline, or petroleum jelly to a tattoo can be damaging. These products not only trap dirt and oil above the fresh, open wound but they have been known to pull the ink out, creating a splotchy or faded look to your new tattoo. Let’s face it, these products aren’t exactly designed for being used on a tattoo. If you look at most of these products, their labels will even tell you they are not designed for internal use—this goes for Aquaphor and A&D, as well. When you think about it, you are rubbing these products over the top of what…? I’ll wait…
Yes, that’s right! You are rubbing these products over the top of an OPEN WOUND. If they’re not designed for internal use, why would you put that into an open wound? Just food for thought.
There are so many products available on the market that are designed specifically for tattoos. Products such as After Inked, Redemption, Tattoo Goo, and Electric Ink are all made just as tattoo healing ointments/creams. They’re safe for use on fresh tattoos and contain ingredients that are designed to make the healing process successful (if used correctly). Several of these products, such as After Inked, contains only natural ingredients and are vegan-friendly, too.
Of course, lotions, creams, and oils aren’t the only tattoo healing method on the market. There are medical-grade wraps that contain the tattoo during the healing process and allow the body to handle the healing on its own. They are breathable, sterile, and protect the tattoo from exposure to the outside elements. They eliminate washing several times a day and applying ointment and prevent pet hair, dirt, or clothing from sticking to the tattoo. Dermalize and Saniderm are good examples of these products. Plastic wrap, however, is not a good alternative—that, as Saniderm says, is for leftovers not tattoos. While plastic cling wrap used to be the go-to method for covering a tattoo, further research has deemed this to be a bad idea. The product is not breathable and traps your body heat inside of it along with the oozing body fluids, creating the perfect environment for bacteria to foster. Gross, right? Who wants to be a walking petri-dish? Not me.
Of course, there is more to healing a fresh tattoo than just the product you aim to put on it.
Keeping the tattoo from being submerged in water is important. While you can shower, you shouldn’t bathe or swim, and avoid extended showers. Keeping the tattoo out of the sun is also important. Freshly tattooed skin is more susceptible to a sunburn than regular skin and can actually increase the length of time it takes for your tattoo to heal. This goes for sunbed tanning, too. Avoid putting any scented lotions, perfumes, or soaps over the fresh tattoo, and steer clear of products containing dyes and sunscreens, too. Don’t shave, wax, or exfoliate the area and try to avoid using any harsh towels, washcloths, or loofahs on your fresh tattoo.
It’s not just ink and run. Tattoos aren’t a five cent, twenty-minute process anymore. They are an investment – and should be treated as such. Pay attention to the aftercare methods you use, where you get your information, and take good care of that ink!