What They Don't Tell You About Tattoo Aftercare


Saturday February 27, 2016

     Every tattoo shop and every tattoo artist have a little bit different opinions when it comes to tattoo aftercare.  I can’t say that any of them are right or wrong, but I know what aftercare works best for me and healing my tattoos.  Most tattoo artists will tell you what you need to do for healing your new tattoo, but they don’t tell you “why” it’s important.  I’m going to break down my suggested tattoo aftercare for you and explain “why” each step is important for healing your new tattoo. 

I wrap freshly done tattoos with an absorbent breathable bandage as opposed to Saran wrap.

Why?  Some artists use Saran wrap to bandage fresh tattoos, and I’m guilty of this in the past.  Saran wrap can leak blood, ink and plasma, not only potentially making a mess, but I’m sure you wouldn’t want somebody leaking there bodily fluids in your home, car or business.  Also, Saran wrap doesn’t allow the tattoo to breathe, and creates an excessive amount of heat on the newly tattooed skin.  Bacteria breeds rapidly in warm, moist environments, so I find that using a bandage that is absorbent and allows the tattoo to breathe is the safest alternative to use on a new tattoo.

I recommend leaving the bandage on overnight.

Why?  A tattoo is an open wound, and it’s best to protect it from any outside elements, especially in the first day.  Also, if you take off the bandage before you go to bed the first night, you will ruin your sheets as your tattoo will still be seeping plasma and excess ink.  Also, 6-8 hours of sleep with your sheets rubbing on an open wound can introduce bacteria into a fresh tattoo.  People with pets should be especially cautious of this.

In the morning, remove the bandage and thoroughly wash your new tattoo with a mild liquid soap.

Why?  Your tattoo will have a thick slimy buildup of excess ink, blood and plasma  on it from having the bandage on overnight.  It is important to remove this immediately so it does not dry up and cause a thick scab to form on your new tattoo.  I recommend a mild liquid hand soap because heavily fragranced body washes contain chemicals that are not good for a new tattoo, and can also contain alcohol that will not only sting, but dry out your tattoo.  Liquid soap is best because it is fresh each time out of the bottle, as opposed to bar soap that sits in puddles of water and collects bacteria in between showers.

Wash your new tattoo at least 3-4 times per day

Why?  Your new tattoo may leak plasma for the first 2-3 days, and it is important to keep this layer of plasma off of your tattoo so that it doesn’t dry up and cause your tattoo to scab up worse than it should.

I recommend using a very light coat of fragrance free lotion on your new tattoo, such as Lubriderm or Aveeno, 3-5 times a day as needed.

Why?  Lotion is water based- it absorbs into your skin as opposed to sitting on top of your skin.  Many artists still recommend A+D ointment, Aquaphor or other petroleum based ointments.  The problem with these petroleum products is that they sit on top of the skin as opposed to soaking into the tattoo.  This can lead to your tattoo not being able to “breathe” and in turn, your body may react by pushing out excess plasma and even some ink.  Also, petroleum products may clog your pores, leading to a rash like reaction, which can cause tiny red bumps throughout the newly tattooed area. It is also easy to use too much of these products and over moisturize your tattoo which can lead to color loss or premature fading.  Fragrance free lotion will help you to avoid those complications.

Do not pick or scratch at your new tattoo!

Why?  As your new tattoo begins to heal, it will scab or lightly flake and peel.  During this process your tattoo may get itchy.  All of the scabs and flakes on your new tattoo are connected to the ink underneath.  If they come off before they are ready, it can pull the ink out with it, leading to a bad looking tattoo that will need to be touched up.  It’s also important not to wear tight clothing over your new tattoo as well so you avoid your clothing rubbing off the scabs before they are ready.

No Soaking or Swimming for at least two weeks with a new tattoo.

Why? First and most important, swimming or soaking your new tattoo can introduce bacteria into your new tattoo and lead to infection.  Secondly, over moisturizing your new tattoo can cause the scabs/flakes to come off before they are ready, leading to a loss of color or premature fading.

No direct sunlight or tanning your new tattoo for at least 2 weeks.

Why?  The ink takes time to settle into your skin, and the first 2 weeks are the most crucial.  Any direct sunlight in the first couple of weeks can cause your new tattoo some major damage because the UV rays will break down the ink before it settles causing bad fading.  After 2 weeks, I tell all of my clients to use a high quality sunblock, SPF 50 or higher, to protect your tattoo from the effects of direct sunlight. 

I hope this was informative!  If you have any questions or comments, please contact me here.  If you know anyone that would benefit from this information, feel free to share and pass it along!

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