A tattoo is an investment and, like most expensive investments, they require a certain level of care after you walk out of the tattoo studio. You wouldn’t purchase a BMW and expect to never wash or maintain it after you drive off the lot, right? So, when you spend a decent amount of money on your ink, plan on washing and maintaining it, too!
Now, here comes the tricky part. When you buy a luxury car, you’re going to find that most mechanics will present the same method of maintaining your vehicle: change the filters, change the oil, etcetera, etcetera. There may be a small detail here and there that varies by where you purchase the car, but overall, you know every 3,000 miles you’ll need to stop for an oil change. When it comes to your ink, you’re going to find a smattering of different aftercare methods depending on the artist you are talking to or what website you’re looking at.
The fact of the matter is that tattooing has evolved drastically over the last two or three decades. Your older artists may suggest a totally different approach to aftercare than your newbie. Your higher level tattoo artist may recommend different aftercare products than your small-town shop. There are many variances in tattoo aftercare thanks to the abundance of tattoo aftercare products on the market today.
So which methods and products are right?
Well, that’s where things get tricky. While the industry can pretty much agree that you need to wash and moisturize your tattoo on the regular during the healing process, there are varying opinions as to which products are the best. And, of course, some products work better for particular skin types than others. For example, one aftercare product worked really well on my husband but didn’t keep my fresh ink nearly as moisturized. I felt I had to apply it more frequently than he did. I’m British, he’s American-Italian… our skin is very different. Skin type isn’t the only factor that can alter which products or methods work best for one client versus another client, either. Hobbies, work, environment, and age can all change which products or methods are most suited to the individual’s healing process.
As of recent years, a few semi-new products have made their way into the tattoo aftercare toolbox and have altered the process of how artists and clients look at aftercare. These products are referred to as transparent tattoo bandages. They are essentially medical-grade adhesive bandages (similar to products used in hospitals since the 1980s) which are applied to the tattoo just after the session is completed and left on for an extended period of time. Unlike when an artist applies plastic wrap to your fresh ink, the client does not have to remove it an hour or two later, wash, and apply product. The transparent bandage remains in place for several days.
Who are these good for?
This method is slightly more expensive in most cases than picking up a tub of Aquaphor at Wal-Mart. You generally won’t find it offered in your smaller shops but will see it appear in higher volume, more upscale shops where the pieces are usually larger and more expensive. It just wouldn’t add up cost-wise for a smaller shop which turns out mostly shop-minimum pieces. However, your more upscale shops where the majority of the pieces are large-scale, multi-session pieces will usually have this option available.
Using this method can come in handy for some clients with particularly hands-on jobs or hobbies in which the tattoo would be exposed to elements that could be harmful to its healing process, too. For example, we just had a client consultation last week in which the client owned his own barbershop. He was looking to have a piece, a rather large piece, placed on his forearm. However, due to being the owner of a brand new business, he wasn’t going to be able to take any time off work. The placement would cause an issue as it would be in the drop zone for hair clippings while he was working. While he could wear long sleeves, those don’t always prevent every single hair shard from slipping through and the risk of getting a hair fragment embedded into his new tattoo seemed high. In this case, we recommended using a transparent tattoo bandage to prevent any issues during the beginning stages of the healing process.
Likewise, for outdoor workers such as contractors, fishermen, or landscapers, transparent tattoo bandages can help prevent exposure from harmful elements or materials. Other great uses include medical field workers such as nurses, doctors, or lab techs, and those in the athletics industry.
While this method is preferred in some cases, it isn’t necessarily the only way to go. Tattooing has been around for over 5,000 years, while these aftercare products are relatively new so they’re not a requirement by any means. Whatever the case, following your artist’s instructions TO THE LETTER is all that truly matters when it comes to keeping your tattoo pristine.