How to Care for a Tattoo
It’s very important to know How to Care for a Tattoo, since your tattoo aftercare will affect how your tattoo ends up looking. Tattoos that are poorly cared for might end up with splotches of lighter color or, even worse, an infection. Tattoos that are properly cared for look vibrant and healthy after they are finished healing.
Must Read: Best Tattoo AfterCare Products
First Few Hours
When you first get your tattoo, your artist will commonly treat it with an antibacterial ointment and bandage it with plastic wrap, paper towels, and sometimes tape. Warn them if you have an allergy to adhesive so that they can use a different kind of tape for you. Ultimately, how they bandage it doesn’t matter too much you’ll want to take off that bandage after two hours so that your tattoo can begin its healing process. Keeping it on any longer encourages bacteria to grow in the dark, moist area of your tattoo. Giving it some air prevents infection and speeds healing.
When taking off your bandage, be sure your hands are clean, disinfected, and dry. Hands are covered in lots of bacteria, making it easy for your hands to spread infection. While your tattoo heals, make sure to wash your hands compulsively and avoid touching the tattoo unless you’re washing. If your bandage is stuck to the tattoo, worry not. Get a small spray bottle or cloth and rinse the bandage not your tattoo with water. As the bandage gets wet, it should stop sticking to your tattoo. Avoid getting any water on your tattoo for now, and slowly ease the bandage off.
As soon as you remove your bandage, you’ll notice that your tattoo feels kind of like a sunburn. If it hurts more than you expected, any over-the-counter pain medication will help with it. Ibuprofen seems to have the best effect. Once it’s off, you don’t have to bandage it again.
Washing Your Tattoo
After taking off the bandage, you might be tempted to wash off all the grime. Well, good news you can! But, you have to follow very specific instructions. Before washing, make sure you have a good soap. Soaps that contain high amounts of petroleum or alcohol are ones you want to avoid. Dove soap is a good softer soap that you can use while your tattoo heals. Make sure that whatever you use also has no fragrance. Lather up your hands with soap and then wash away the grime with your hands. Don’t use loofahs or cloths for this, since they can contain high amounts of bacteria especially if you let them air-dry in the shower every time after you wash with them. There are also various tattoo aftercare soaps you can safely use.
|H2Ocean Blue Green Foam Soap||Tattoo Goo Deep Cleansing Soap for Tattoos|
|56 Reviews (Feb-16)||15 Reviews (Feb-16)|
It’s okay to let bits of shower water hit it, but only use enough to get the grime off. You don’t want it soaked or warmed up, so use lukewarm or cold water while washing it. Using cool water prevents your pores from opening and leaking out too much ink.
Once you’re finished washing, use a paper towel to pat your tattoo dry. Paper towels are better than regular towels because there’s a smaller risk of infection. Plus, if any of the colored scud was still on your skin, it won’t stain your regular towels. Don’t wipe or scrub your tattoo simply pat it. After it’s dry, there’s no need to put another bandage back on. The more air-time it gets, the faster it will heal. You can wash your tattoo up to twice a day but if it doesn’t appear to be particularly scummy, avoid washing it twice. That way, it retains as much ink as possible.
First Night – Tattoo AfterCare
How to care for a tattoo changes depending on the time and when it’s time to sleep, you want to take certain precautions. On the first night after getting your tattoo, your tattoo will ooze out clear plasma and extra ink. This is just your body’s natural way of preventing infection but it’s also a good way to ruin sheets and clothing. Wear old clothes to bed, and use old sheets, or else be prepared to have a colorful surprise when you wake up the next day. Try to use soft, non-abrasive sheets and clothing, and avoid touching the tattoo at all. Letting it dry out is very important. If you have a large tattoo on your back, try sleeping on your side with blankets off. It might be a little uncomfortable, but in the long run your care will pay off, both by speeding up your healing process or by saving your sheets from getting a new color!
Ointments are often pitched by tattoo artists as a means to prevent infection. It’s true that they do this, but they also increase the rate of dermatitis and scabbing. Use them at your own peril. Lubriderm, Aquaphor, and Curel are decent brands to use, if you choose to use ointments. As with soap, don’t touch anything with alcohol as its active ingredient to your tattoo. Some ointments work too well at healing your tattoo, and end up leaving white splotches where it healed up too nicely one such ointment is Neutrogena. While it’s a nice lotion in all other cases, it’s a terrible choice for healing your tattoo.
Always do a drop test to see how your skin accepts the lotion. Place one small drop on a portion of your tattoo and wait a few minutes. If it starts to burn, sting, or tingle, wipe it off immediately and choose a different product (Article: Best Tattoo Lotions). Besides the regular products you can go for a Tattoo AfterCare specific manufacturer and product.
|Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment||Tattoo Goo - The Original Aftercare Salve||Ink Fixx Moisturizing Tattoo Lotion|
|1,533 Reviews (Feb-16)||188 Reviews (Feb-16)||15 Reviews (Feb-16)|
After Two Days – Tattoo AfterCare
After two or three days, the tattoo starts to dry out. Large flakes will appear, similar to a sunburn. If you pick at these flakes, your body will not be able to absorb as much pigment as it normally would, so avoid scratching, itching, or picking while it’s like this. If you do end up scratching, your tattoo will not be as vibrant. Let the skin flake off naturally. Even if you want to itch and scratch, you have to resist. That being said, don’t wear any tight or abrasive clothing that might brush up against your tattoo and flake off some of that skin. There are various Tattoo AfterCare Kits on the market which will support your skin healing.
|H2Ocean Ultimate Tattoo Care Kit||Tattoo Goo Tattoo Aftercare Kit||After Shock - Tattoo Aftercare Box Set|
|171 Reviews (Feb-16)||21 Reviews (Feb-16)||No Reviews (Feb-16)|
H2Ocean’s Extreme Tattoo Care is a water based three step system that is designed to support your skin healing, reduce scabbing and preserve the tattoo color. The Kit contains a soap for cleansing the tattoo, an Ointment to protect the tattoo for the first two days and the care cream to moisturize for the remainder of the healing process . You can get it here (on Amazon).
The Tattoo Goo Aftercare Kit was designed to preserve and rejuvenate the ink colors. The kit comes with the Salve, the Lotion, the Soap and a guard Sunscreen. Tattoo Goo is a well know and widely used brand in the tattoo industry. Founded in 1998 they are in business for quite a while now and their products work. You can get it here (on Amazon).
Long Time Tattoo AfterCare
Now, that we talked about how to care for a tattoo immediately after you get one. How to care for your tattoo is more than just making sure it’s properly cleaned and drying, so lets talk about extended care. Although you can repeat the above for a month and have a nice-looking tattoo, there are many things you should avoid for three months while your skin’s deepest layers heal. Here are some things that prevent infection and promote vibrant colors in your tattoo:
- If any excess swelling, puffiness, or redness occurs, consult a doctor right away! This can be a sign of infection or allergic reaction. Our second section goes into more detail about this.
- Avoid using any oils, glitter, sunblock (unless the product is safe for tattoos), or sand on your tattoo these can scrape off layers of skin and ink.
- Don’t wear anything abrasive, and avoid touching your tattoo with cloths, loofahs, and towels. All of these things have an increased risk of infection and reduced color retention.
- Absolutely no alcohol goes on your tattoo! Alcohol will remove the color and cause it to bleed.
- Avoid swimming in pools, lakes, rivers, streams or anywhere at all with water. The only time water should touch your tattoo is sparingly, as you shower or wash it.
- If your tattoo swells, elevate it. Swelling and bruising are especially common for lower body tattoos, such as ankle or leg tattoos. You can also use an ice pack, as long as your tattoo doesn’t get wet. If the swelling continues for a prolonged time, seek a doctor.
- Reduce any kind of contact to your tattoo this includes your own hands! If you want to touch it (which should only be to clean them), be sure to wash your hands before hand. Fabrics, cloths, towels, and blankets all have the potential to carry infection, so avoid touching them with your tattoo. Don’t lean on any walls, metal objects, wooden objects, or anything, really. They also have a potential for infection.
- Don’t expose your tattoo to direct sunlight (until it’s healed). Sunlight will fade your tattoo as your pores expand and the moisture is driven away from your skin (Article: The Best Tattoo Sunscreen Products).
- Avoid working out movement and exposure to high-bacteria environments will only hurt your tattoo. If you must work out (during the tattoo healing), avoid using any muscle that might have your tattoo over it, and avoid touching equipment with your tattoo. Wash your hands thoroughly after exposure to equipment.
- After the scabs fall off, your tattoo won’t look as vibrant as it first did. This is because there are still a few layers of healed skin that haven’t fallen off yet. Within a few months, the last few layers of skin will fall off and reveal your final colors.
Of course, you’re not banned from these activities forever! After about three months, your tattoo should be all soaked in for life. You can resume normal activities and treat this part of your skin like any other. Avoid rubbing it with anything abrasive, such as sand or salt, since that is a natural way of removing tattoos.
Related Read: The Tattoo Healing Process – All Steps Explained
Infections and Reactions
Infection is rare when you get it from a shop and common when you get it from a so-called professional operating from their home. Avoid asking friends or home-run artists for your tattoo their equipment is not inspected by a health department, and can have any number of infectious material on them. But, even if you go to a professional shop, there’s still a chance of infection due to the nature of tattoos. A large, exposed wound that takes a month to heal is the perfect place for bacteria to thrive. Here’s how you notice it.
If your tattoo is still red and swollen a few days after you receive it, it’s time to ask your doctor about it. If there’s any yellow or green puss, run to the doctor. Clear puss is normal, but yellow and green indicates an infection. If the area is hotter than other areas of the body, it means your body is fighting off an ongoing infection.
Allergic reactions are uncommon, but possible especially with red dyes. If you have an allergy to nickel or cheap metal in general, let your artist know ahead of time so that they can ‘test’ the ink on your skin for a reaction. If your skin swells abnormally or only part of your tattoo makes progress with healing, see a doctor about treating your allergic reaction. You should go to a doctor as soon as you notice these signs.
Sometimes, you and your artist can do everything right, and it still leads to infection. Prevention and care is key when it comes to how to take care of your tattoo, so adhere to the guidelines as close as possible. This aftercare also helps keep your tattoo stunning and vibrant, even after it heals, so don’t slack off. As always ask your doctor and tattoo artist for any medical advice you might have. If you think you have a medical emergency, go see a doctor right away!
As always, thanks for reading!