As a big tattoo girlie, I’ve realized that the aftercare is one of the most important steps of getting a new piece on my body.
Afterall, receiving a tattoo involves a needle making a ton of tiny cuts into your skin; as much as it’s art, it’s also a fresh wound that needs care and attention for a few days.
Here’s my contribution to the tattoo aftercare conversation: a resource for what to do after your appointment to make sure your fresh ink heals correctly.
Here are some essential aftercare tips to help keep tattoos looking vibrant and staying infection-free—both immediately and short-term.
Immediate tips for tattoo aftercare
Listen to your tattoo artist
The first and most important step in tattoo aftercare is to follow the instructions provided by your tattoo artist.
They are experts in the field and will give you specific guidance on how to care for your new tattoo. This often includes information about cleaning, moisturizing, and avoiding activities that could damage your tattoo during the healing process.
Some artists will provide you with a wrap when you leave the studio, with specific instructions for when to remove and how. Be sure to ask questions if you aren’t sure.
Wash with soap
The main gist of tattoo aftercare is keeping it clean while the skin is healing.
Proper hygiene is crucial to prevent infection. Gently wash your tattoo with mild, fragrance-free soap (I use Dial’s antibacterial soap bars!) and lukewarm water, using your clean hands to do so.
When you’re ready to dry, use a fresh paper towel and pat gently, then let it air dry. Avoid washcloths that harbor bacteria, and also try not to rub the tattoo, since that can irritate and elongate the healing process.
Wash your tattoo with soap twice a day for the first week after your appointment.
Apply an antibacterial ointment
After washing, apply a thin layer of an antibiotic ointment (I use Aquaphor).
The ointment both helps to prevent infection and keeps the tattoo moisturized during the initial healing stages.
If you’re washing twice a day, be sure to apply the ointment twice as well. However, be sure to refer to your tattoo artist for more specific directions on frequency.
Avoid the elements
Here’s two biggies:
- Avoid sun exposure
- Don’t submerge your tattoo in water
UV rays from the sun can fade your tattoo and increase the risk of skin damage. Keep your new tattoo covered, and when you’re ready to go out after at least a week, apply a high-SPF sunscreen to protect it from direct sunlight.
You can take quick showers, but initially avoid baths and all submerging until the tattoo is fully healed.
Similarly, stay away from swimming in pools, hot tubs, or natural bodies of water until the tattoo is fully healed. Otherwise, these environments can expose your skin to harmful bacteria.
Short-term tips for tattoo aftercare
After the first week, start using a lotion to moisturize. Any time the skin starts to feel dry, a layer of lotion can go a long way. Even beyond the immediate aftercare stages, your tattoo will benefit from regular moisturizing.
It’s best to use a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic lotion; I use Lubriderm.
It’s also suggested to avoid petroleum-based products, since they can clog pores and hinder the healing process.
The chances are pretty high that you’ll experience some itchiness as your tattoo begins to heal and the skin scabs. While normal, it’s really important not to pick or scratch it!
Scratching can damage the skin and lead to infection or scarring. Instead, gently tap or slap the itchy area for some relief (without the risk of damage).
Wear loose clothing
If you can, stay away from tight, abrasive, and irritating clothes over your new tattoo. Loose clothing with breathable fabrics can prevent unnecessary friction.
All skincare tips usually include drinking water, because hydration promoted healthy skin and faster healing. The same applies for tattoo aftercare! Drink your fluids.
Annnnd, that should do it!
Be sure to monitor for signs of infection, looking for excessive redness, swelling, oozing, or a foul odor. Remember that if you do suspect an infection, the best move is to go to a doctor immediately; your tattoo artist isn’t a medical professional.
Overall, tattoo aftercare is pretty straightforward! It’s helpful for both prevention and protection, and results in long-term success for your ink.
Most of all, enjoy your new tattoo!
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