A new tattoo looks fantastic and, compared to the experience of inking itself, probably doesn’t feel all that uncomfortable! But, getting the tattoo is just the first step; you have to remember that aftercare is a big part of the tattoo healing process, and determines how good your tattoo will look after your skin has finished repairing itself.
If you’re looking for tips for taking care of your new tattoo, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’ll explain exactly what you should do to take care of your newly tattooed skin, both the day after getting it done as well as in the weeks that follow.
Why Does Tattoo Aftercare Matter?
Any tattoo you get is technically an open wound, or, more accurately, thousands of them. Every tiny pinprick the needle makes in your skin penetrates to the dermis, the second layer of your skin that's just beneath the epidermis. These open wounds can make your skin feel a little raw and uncomfortable, and they also open up your skin to the possibility of infection. As a result, you need to take care of your new tattoo in order to:
- Prevent the possibility of infection
- Stop your tattoo from fading or the lines from blurring
- Help your skin heal from the tattoo inking process itself
All of these require some effort on your part, but the good news is that tattoo aftercare instructions aren't all that involved after the first day-- it just requires a little bit of alteration to your routine, and you can use healthy products created from natural ingredients for added benefits.
Tattoo Aftercare Tips
Here are some great tattoo aftercare tips you should keep in mind while your tattoo heals
Immediately After Inking
The first 24 hours immediately after receiving your tattoo are arguably the most important. Your skin is at its most sensitive during this timeframe and your tattoo is at its most vulnerable.
Remove the Bandage
Your tattoo artist should have given you a bandage and a gel-like solution, both of which will cover your new tattoo. These will keep you from feeling too uncomfortable on the journey home. But as soon as you get home, you should remove this bandage or plastic wrap and begin washing the tattoo yourself.
The only exception to this is if your tattoo artist uses a special ointment or gel that needs to soak for a set number of hours. In this case, listen to your tattoo artist’s advice and wait to remove the bandage.
Wash and Pat Dry
Your tattoo needs to be washed thoroughly yet gently with warm water. There are a few reasons for this:
- To get rid of dead skin cells that will pile up on your new tattoo
- To clean away dirt and extra ink that might still be in the tattoo area
- To get rid of bacteria that might have sunken into your skin’s pores
- To remove any plasma that occasionally comes to the surface
Plasma is a blood product that is made up of a mixture of skin oil, dead skin cells, and tattoo ink oozing from your skin. Even though it’s a little gross, it’s a normal part of the healing process and just needs to be washed every day.
When washing your tattoo, use cool or lukewarm water to avoid irritating your skin and use soap. The soap should be used to keep the bad germs from infecting your wound.
After washing your tattoo gently, pat it dry with a soft towel or clean paper towel instead of scrubbing the affected tissue.
We’d also recommend using an antibacterial ointment whenever possible. The ointment goes on your fresh tattoo after you’ve thoroughly washed it. Ointment can provide moisturizing and nourishing benefits to your skin, but its primary benefit is for your comfort. The ointment should remove skin irritation to some degree, allowing you to get on with your day or fall asleep without feeling your tattoo burn and sting.
Use a Tattoo Care Salve
You can and should use a tattoo care salve. A salve is an herbal mixture usually combined with essential oils and beeswax. Tattoo care salves are specially formulated to soothe pain and swelling, especially for freshly inked skin.
The best tattoo salves, like Green Goo’s Tattoo Care Salve, can also provide a protective layer to block out bacteria and help your tattoo heal more quickly. They also nourish and moisturize your skin, which is important since freshly tattooed skin has a tendency to dry out easily.
After the First Day
After the first day, tattoo aftercare becomes a little more routine and every day should bring a little more comfort.
Wash Several Times a Day
Starting on the first day and proceeding for the rest of the tattoo care period, you need to wash the tattoo three or four times per day. This helps to prevent infection.
As mentioned above, it’s not unusual for freshly tattooed skin to easily dry. As Green Goo explains, dry skin can cause several uncomfortable conditions. You can use an unscented moisturizer, preferably one made with natural ingredients. A thin layer of fragrance-free salve can help your skin retain the moisture it already has and can prevent your tattoo from scabbing and cracking prematurely.
Avoid Sunlight and Soaking
While there are plenty of things you should do when it comes to tattoo aftercare, there are also things you should not do. Two of these include exposing your tattoo to sunlight and soaking your tattoo in water.
It’s okay if your tattoo gets a little sun from a window or while you’re walking from place to place. However, your tattoo shouldn’t soak in the sun like when you sunbathe. Avoiding excessive sun protects your lower skin cells from being exposed to harmful ultraviolet radiation and prevents your skin from getting sunburnt.
You also don’t want to soak your tattoo in water. So avoid taking a long bath while you’re waiting for your tattoo to heal. Soaking your tattoo prevents it from getting enough oxygen and can even affect the art itself.
Don’t Rub Your Tattoo
Finally, don’t rub your tattoo at all. This applies to both your fingers and clothes and to rubbing your tattooed skin on any furniture. This can be a little difficult depending on where your tattoo is located, but do your best to avoid general skin disturbance for a while. Try not to sit on your tattoo if it’s on your leg, for instance.
You should continue to wash and moisturize your tattoo several times a day, or until your tattoo artist says you can stop. This gives your skin the chance to fully heal without becoming infected and without being clogged with dead skin cells and debris.
Continue using a tattoo aftercare salve or ointment as well, depending on your comfort level or needs.
After a few days, your tattooed skin should start forming scabs. Although they may not look very appealing, scabs are crucial for your skin to heal properly, so don’t pick at the scabs or try to peel them away. Let them eventually dry off and fall away on their own instead.
Scabs work to protect your skin from bacterial infection and allow new epidermal cells to grow unimpeded.
Don’t Wear Tight Clothing
We also recommend avoiding tight clothing on the skin where your tattoo is located. For instance, don’t wear skinny jeans if you have a new tattoo on your calf. Wearing tight clothing may cause your skin to get irritated from the continuous rubbing, which could eventually cause your tattoo to blur, or your skin to become red, itchy, or inflamed.
Let it Breathe
Don’t put your original tattoo bandage back on after you take it off on the first day. Your tattoo artist should mention this when they give you the bandage in the first place. After removing the bandage, let your tattoo breathe and get the oxygen and moisture it needs to begin the healing process.
If you treat your newly tattooed skin well, your new body art shouldn’t fade. In fact, it should keep its first-day vibrancy for a long time. Tattoo fading is normally a result of age, so don’t help things along by rubbing your tattoo excessively or giving your skin a hard time as it tries to heal.
Getting a new tattoo is an exciting time, but taking care of the new tattoo is important not only for the tattoo itself, but for your skin. Following all the above tips can help result in a great-looking tattoo and comfortable skin in no time at all.