During the process of getting your tattoo, your artist will most likely guide you through the entire experience. However, your new tattoo care falls solely on your shoulders—and begins the minute you walk out of the tattoo shop.
Properly caring for your new tattoo is vital in protecting the quality of your tattoo, but also in preventing unnecessary risks, such as infection or scarring. While many artists vary in the specific products that they like to recommend, you will find that the overall premise of new tattoo care is pretty much the same around the world.
Now, there are two methods of healing a tattoo—traditional and modern.
- Remove the covering applied by your tattoo artists after one to two hours.
- Wash the tattoo with an unscented, mild antibacterial soap and warm water.
- Allow the tattoo to dry.
- Apply a thin coat of aftercare product to the tattoo (avoid products containing petroleum, as these can dry out your tattoo).
- Do not re-bandage the tattoo. Tattoos need to breathe in order to heal properly.
- Repeat approximately 3-4 times a day for the first 3-4 days, while the tattoo feels tender.
Modern New Tattoo Care:
Modern aftercare requires the use of a breathable tattoo bandage, such as Saniderm, which alleviates the multiple sessions of washing and applying ointment. Each brand has its own set of unique directions, so make sure to talk to your artist regarding the product they suggest.
Listen to your tattoo artist.
If you’ve done your homework and chosen a good tattoo artist, he or she will provide detailed instructions on how to care for your new tattoo. You should follow these instructions carefully. Your tattoo artist may have a slightly different opinion on the best way to care for a new tattoo, but don’t worry. Most reputable artists have had years of experience in new tattoo care, so their methods are tried and tested.
- Think of your tattoo as having a warranty; if you don’t follow the artist’s instructions, you might void the warranty, and he or she won’t give you free touch-ups.
- Remember: tattoo artists want your tattoo to heal correctly and look good just as much as you do, so they shouldn’t give you any poor advice.
- These instructions may vary slightly from what your tattoo artist tell you but should serve as a good guideline.
Continue to wash and moisturize your tattoo, at a minimum, twice a day until the tenderness is gone.
Wash your tattoo with anti-bacterial soap and warm water until it is fully healed. This can take anywhere from 3 to 6 six weeks, depending on the size and location of the tattoo. You should wash the tattoo approximately 3 times a day, though you should wash more often if the tattoo is on your hand, wrist, foot, or any other area that is more exposed to germs.
- After applying an aftercare ointment for the first 3 to 5 days, you can switch to regular lotion. Most tattoo artists will recommend avoiding lotions that are scented, colored, or contain glitter. Remember only to apply a light layer of lotion, as over-moisturizing can negatively affect the tattoo.
- The initial healing of the tattoo will take up to two weeks. During this time, you can expect the tattoo to start peeling or flaking, in a similar way to sunburn. Some colored skin may come away as the tattoo peels, but this is entirely normal.
- After the skin peels, your tattoo will look glassy and feel tight. Your tattoo may also have cloudy or white patches of skin that you will be tempted to peel off. You need to resist this urge. This is referred to as “onion skin” and will fall off by itself within a couple of weeks.
- If you have followed your new tattoo care, you can expect to be fully healed in about 4-6 weeks.
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