Tattoo Aftercare

Published on January 19, 2014 by Jodie M
So you just stepped out of the chair with some new ink and you’re dying to show it off to the world. After briefly hesitating you take off your bandages while your friends beg and plea to see your amazing new tattoo… even though your tattoo artist explained proper tattoo aftercare right?  DON'T DO IT.
 

Basic Tattoo Aftercare Tips 

Tattoo aftercare is probably one of the most crucial steps in ensuring your investment. Every tattoo artist has different methods and suggestions for keeping your tattoo healthy while it’s healing and thereafter.
 
Keep the bandage on for 3-5 hours and moisturize the area while it heals. Some parts of the wound may scab but you should never pick at it, just be patient and let the wound heal properly so that there is no damage to your tattoo. Do not go swimming or sit in saunas because this will impede the healing process and may cause infection. For more detailed aftercare instructions visit here.
 
Any tattoo artist will tell you they hate touching up their work. Now of course there is the occasion where the tattoo work needs maintenance due to errors or the levels of difficulty in healing. But when the touch up work can be avoided it's a heartbreaker. After spending hours of their precious time doing art, the last thing an artist wants is to do it all over again.
 
Here's a small parable or an example if you will, of what not to do with brand new tattoo ink. A girl, we'll call her Jane, got a Kanji tattoo design (her first) on her shoulder. After the work was complete, her artist went into his entire lecture about proper care of said tattoo. The advice included keeping it out of the sun and water for a certain amount of time. Jane assured him she'd take care of it, tipped him and went along her merry way.
 
A short week later she went to the beach. Her activities included swimming and sunbathing. You can only imagine what happened to her tattoo ink, which was far from being healed. The scab peeled off and half her design disappeared. It was a huge Japanese symbol with a big hole in the middle! She was so embarrassed by not heeding the advice of her artist that to this day she keeps it covered up.
 
The moral of the story is simple. Take everything your tattoo artist says seriously. If you want your design to last a significant amount of time you will have to implement major lifestyle changes. Sun exposure fades tattoos. Chlorine fades tattoos. Certain tattoo shades, colors for instance, fade more rapidly than others. Lotion and sunscreen and gentle soaps can help lengthen the life of your body art, but not totally minimize the effects of sun exposure.
 
Tattoos are expensive and many people believe artists are overpaid. Not true. If you find an artist you connect with, a tattoo soul mate if you will, then you're one of the lucky ones, so show them a little respect. What they do is not easy. It's exhaustive and time consuming and she leaves a part of herself with you. Read on to learn a bit more about tattoo after care and removal of your tattoo (should it be beyond repair).
 

Tattoo Aftercare: What You Need to Know

Proper tattoo aftercare is extremely important to ensure that no infections or problems occur after tattooing and also so that your tattoo is not damaged. It is very important to follow the guidelines laid out by the tattoo artist after leaving the shop. After leaving the tattoo parlor the tattoo artist is no longer responsible for any infections or problems that may occur after the procedure. If a new tattoo is not properly taken care of it can turn a beautiful piece of art into a hideous (and painful) disaster.
 

The Bandage

The first step of proper tattoo aftercare is to NOT TOUCH THE BANDAGE. Though it may be frustrating to not immediately be able to take off the bandage, it is the only way to keep airborne bacteria from entering and invading your wound. 
 
A tattoo is considered a wound and raw flesh is a breeding ground for bacterial infections. To ensure healing and keep your wound safe, the bandage is to be left on the wound between 2-5 hours. The only exception to this rule is when a tattoo artist wraps the tattoo with saran wrap or some kind of plastic. Plastic wrap is detrimental to tattoos and must be removed immediately to ensure proper tattoo aftercare. Tattoos that are not properly taken care of may look like this.
 

Cleansing the Wound

Once it has been 2-5 hours since the bandage was placed on the wound, the next step of tattoo aftercare is to treat the tattoo area and wash it gently. After removing the bandage use lukewarm water and mild antimicrobial soap to wash away ointments, blood, and plasma from the skin.
 
If the wound is slippery, then it is oozing plasma which must be gently removed to avoid scabbing. Use a clean towel or washcloth to pat, not rub, the area dry. Apply an antibacterial ointment to the tattoo but make sure to AVOID NEOSPORIN. Neosporin is bad for tattoos because it causes an allergic reaction which forms red bubbles on the surface of the tattoo. When the red bubbles disappear, so does the ink.
 
There are many commercial products such as Tattoo Goo that you can use, but they are not necessary. Over the counter products are fine for tattoo aftercare so long as they are diligently used for 3-5 days. After this period of time you can opt to use a lotion instead of an ointment, but it must be dye and fragrant free.  
 
Keep in mind that the future results of your new tattoo depend on persistently following the guidelines of tattoo aftercare. It may be tedious, but it is a necessary step.
 

Showering, Hot Tubs and Swimming

It is totally OK for you to get wet and shower. However, submerging a tattoo in a bath or a hot tub can cause serious damage and can be detrimental to your body art. Avoid submerging in water and swimming for at least 2-3 weeks. This is very crucial and many people often forget this, causing their entire tattoo aftercare to go by the wayside.
 

Scabbing and Sun Damage

A few days after getting a tattoo, peeling and a little scabbing is not uncommon. Excessive scabbing is usually the mark of a poor tattoo, but a little bit is normal. Just be sure to apply a moist, warm compress to the scabs for a few minutes 3 times a day. DO NOT peel off the scabs by yourself. By peeling the scabs you are damaging the nearly healed tattoo, and no tattoo aftercare procedure will be able to help you.
 
If your skin itches slap it. If it peels then put lotion on it. Whatever you do, make sure to let the wound heal by itself. After your skin has healed it is vital to protect it from the sun’s harmful rays. Use a minimum of SPF 30 sun block to keep your tattoo vibrant and colorful.
 
To find more information about tattoo aftercare check out this article and be sure to click the link for more aftercare tips with an instructional video from a professional artist.