How to Take Care of a Tattoo: Common Questions Answered!
So you just got tattooed for the first time and you love your new tattoo, but you still have a ton of questions. Or maybe you’re a tattoo veteran and just need a refresher on tattoo care. Whatever your situation is, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of tattoo aftercare instructions that’s sure to give you all the answers you need.
Tattoo healing time varies depending on the person, though typically from the inking to the initial surface healing can take 7 – 14 days. However, your body is still regenerating skin cells after this, so it is important to continue moisturizing.
Remove the bandage no sooner than 4 hours after, though it can be left on overnight. If you were tattooed early in the day, you may remove the bandage before going to bed. The bandage should be removed within 24 hours of receiving the tattoo. We don’t recommend rebandaging after the first bandage is removed.
The tattoo should be thoroughly cleaned immediately after removing the bandage, and cleaned daily from there on out. We recommend cleaning it multiple times on the first day. Pat the tattoo dry (don’t rub) with a lint-free cloth or paper towel to avoid irritation, and let the tattoo air out for 20-30 minutes before applying moisturizer. We recommend using a gentle, liquid antibacterial soap, though other hand or body soaps can be used as long as they are thoroughly rinsed from the tattoo. You want to avoid excess absorption of water by the tattoo, so washings should be efficient and deliberate to minimize time.
Yes!! Moisturizing your tattoo regularly is extremely important. You should moisturize your tattoo 3 – 6 times per day, for roughly two weeks (though proper skincare is always important, and most tattoo enthusiasts moisturize their tattoos daily for life!). A white cream lotion or moisturizer, preferably unscented, should be used. The fewer chemicals in the product, the better! Pure cocoa or shea butter is also popular for darker skin tones. There are some manufacturers who design products specifically for tattoo aftercare that work well for long-term care (such as Tattoo Goo, H2Ocean, and Hustle Butter). Do NOT use aloe vera gel to moisturize, and we don’t recommend A&D ointment either.
A well-done tattoo is expected to flake or peel much like a sunburn, though in some lower-quality tattoos, a level of tattoo scabbing is normal as well. Scabs are usually the same color as the tattoo ink. In high-density color tattoos, two or three stages of tattoo peeling is common and can take longer to heal than a single-color tattoo. Do not pick or peel the scabs because you may damage the design and have to get it retouched after it heals.
If your tattoo is scabbing or peeling in the days after you received it, this is NORMAL and no cause for alarm. However, infection is possible, especially if you do not clean your tattoo at least once daily. Persistent redness around the perimeter of the tattoo that lasts for several days is an indication of infection (normally, irritation should subside within the first day or two). A mild infection can be treated with an antibiotic ointment, which can be purchased from your local drugstore.
The short answer is yes, there is a possibility you can contract a staph infection from the tattoo process. However, a staph infection from tattooing is rare, and generally isolated to tattoos inked in an unclean environment. If your tattoo artist does not wear sterile gloves, use new, sterile needles, and disinfect the skin before inking, do NOT get a tattoo. If you already got inked and are experiencing staph-like symptoms, consult a doctor immediately. Symptoms generally include persistent painful red & irritated skin, swelling, and honey or amber-colored pus. Keep in mind that not all infections are staph infections, and can also result from improper tattoo aftercare.
Yes. Although there are many healing techniques recommended, it’s commonly agreed upon that avoiding soaking for the first week is advisable. This includes swimming in pools, especially chlorinated pools, as the chlorine can bleach the color on your new tattoo. You should also avoid saunas, jacuzzis, or anything that leads to excess sweating during the first week. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight should be avoided while healing.