Okay, so we all know tattoos aren’t cheap. They’re not like that old DVD you picked up out of the $3 bargain bin at Wal-Mart—you’re going to want to care for them PROPERLY.
Most respectable artists will go over the aftercare procedure with you before you leave the shop. They’re even likely to give you an aftercare sheet with step by step directions on how to care for your new ink, complete with a do and don’t list, to take home with you in case you forget.
But, let’s get real. Most people are so excited about their kick-ass tattoo that they don’t pay attention when the artist is giving them the run down. They’re too busy admiring their latest body art. Artists know this, which is why you get the take-home sheet. Think of it as a cheat sheet to help you pass the next stage of the tattoo process. But, of course, there are people who lose this or stuff it in a drawer never to look at it again.
This is how great tattoos turn bad.
Regardless of how amazing your artist is or how killer your piece is when you walk out of the shop, the end result of the tattoo process is on you. You are responsible for the caring and adequate healing of your tattoo. The artist doesn’t go home with you (unless you’re like me, in which case you live with your artist…and then you get constant reminders of aftercare). He or she won’t be there to tell you that you can or cannot do that activity or remind you every time your new ink needs washing.
So, as a quick reminder, here are five ways that you could potentially be ruining your new tattoo without even realizing it.
A lot of the tattoo aftercare procedures are similar to that of post-surgical aftercare procedures. After all, a tattoo is essentially an open wound and should be treated as such. Standing water of any kind poses a danger as it can be filled with bacteria, dirt, and other irritants. Submerging your tattoo, even in clean bathwater, can potentially damage it or lead to an infection. Of course, you can shower and wash your tattoo, but limit prolonged exposure to water for at least the first two weeks. This includes baths, swimming pools (salt or chlorine), lakes, oceans, and saunas/hot tubs.
Direct exposure to sunlight during the healing process can be detrimental. But, don’t worry, you’re body will remind you. It’s likely that, when exposed to direct sunlight, your fresh ink will begin to tingle, almost like a burning sensation. Remember that feeling you get when you’re sunburned and bright sunlight hits your already-roasted skin? Yeah, it’s that feeling. This is your body telling you that it’s a no-no. Listen to it. If you can’t stay out of the sun for some reason, make sure your tattoo is covered. Sunscreens are not created to protect damaged or healing skin in any form, so, just like the post-surgical care sheets will tell you, they will not work properly and they’re likely to sting upon application, anyway. Just avoid the sun. It’s only two weeks; you can handle that, right?
If you can’t remember how many times your artist said to wash your tattoo and apply new ointment, it’s better to be safe than sorry, right? I mean, if it’s meant to help the healing process, overdoing it can only help more. Wrong… that’s definitely not how it works. While these processes are meant to aid in the healing process, there is such thing as too much of a good thing. Overcaring for your tattoo is just as detrimental as some of the other no-nos. Follow the rules, don’t over-do it but don’t ignore it either. These guidelines are there for a reason…trial and error. Someone has already figured out what works best, so you don’t have to worry about ruining that new, expensive tattoo.
Picking, Scratching, and Other Horrors
Your tattoo will peel. It’s a fact of life. It’s not infected, it’s not damaged, and it’s not falling apart. Does it itch? Oh, like hell. But whatever you do—and I’m sure your mother will tell you—DO NOT SCRATCH IT. And if you see scabbing, definitely do not pick at it. You risk pulling out the color or causing scarring…and nobody wants that.
I don’t think you realize just how dirty the world around you can be. That telephone at work? Disgusting. That doorknob in your own house? Crawling with bacteria. You don’t know what germs have landed on your hands since you last washed your hands, so it is best to avoid touching your tattoo at all unless you have literally just washed your hands. Don’t let your pets lick or rub up against it, don’t let your children play with it, and don’t let your friends get touchy-feeling while admiring it. Just leave it alone until it’s time to wash it again.