Tattoo Aftercare: The Definitive Guide

Always using fragrance-free, hypoallergenic soap and moisturizer when caring for a tattoo, as harsh chemicals and fragrances can irritate and even damage freshly tattooed skin.
Using a moisturizer that allows the skin to breathe, as clogged pores can cause an infection.
Making sure the area is completely dry before applying aftercare moisturizer, as trapping excess moisture under the skin can lead to irritation and heat rash.
Washing the tattoo regularly but gently, especially after dirty or sweaty activities.
Drinking plenty of water to help keep the skin moist and supple.
While healing, covering the tattoo with clothing or a bandage whenever it might be exposed to the sun.
Avoiding soaps and moisturizers with any fragrances or harsh chemicals. Even if a product does not normally irritate the skin, it may irritate the tattooed area.
Not picking at scabs, as this can cause scar tissue to form.
Not scratching the tattoo even if it becomes itchy.
Avoiding non-cosmetic grade petroleum moisturizers, which will clog the pores.
Not using sunscreen on the tattoo until it has fully healed.
Not swimming and bathing until the tattoo has healed.
Avoid removing your bandage before the 3 hour mark
Your bandage keeps dust, dirt and bacteria from infecting your skin. It will soak blood, ink, excess skin numbing anesthetic, and helps keeps the colors from soiling your clothes.
Keep your tattoo clean by washing it with soap
Your non-scented soap will sanitize, disinfect and hasten the healing process. It’ll wash away all the any left over product that was not earlier absorbed by your bandage or tattoo cover.
As much as possible, keep your tattoo away from contact
Avoid any unnecessary friction or pressure on your skin. Try to wear clothes that won’t rub against your skin and don’t sleep directly on it.
Protect your skin from extreme heat and wetness
Keep your showers short and warm to avoid burning your skin with hot water. If possible, avoid pools, beaches, tubs, or activities that would lead to excessive sweating during the first 2 to 3 weeks your tattoo.
Mind your fingers
Though it may be tempting to pick scabbing layers or scratch your skin, to prevent any damage keep your hands off of your tattoo.
Keep your skin protected
Extreme sun exposure will damage your tattoo, but if you are headed outdoors apply sunscreen until your tattoo has fully healed.
Keep your skin hydrated
Moisturize your skin with a lotion every day to keep colors bold and vibrant, dry skin will fade your tattoo faster.
To keep your tattoos looking fresh, just by following these tips.
Remove the bandage after 2 to 3 hours.
Wash the tattoo area with lukewarm water and Glycerin soap.
Pat it dry with a clean paper towel.
Apply a thin layer of H2 Ocean or Tattoo Goo.
Don’t scratch or pick at scabs or peel at the tattoo
Avoid hot tubs, swimming pools and the beach during the healing process (approximately 10 days)
Always apply a high SPF sunscreen on the tattoo before exposure to the sun
Remove bandage within 1-2 hours after getting your tattoo. Do not re-apply your bandage. Your tattoo needs to breathe, just like any open wound.
Wash your tattoo with an anti-bacterial liquid soap. Be gentle, do not use a washcloth or anything that will exfoliate your tattoo. Only use your hands.
Gently pat your tattoo dry with a paper towel. Do not rub, or use a fabric with a rough surface.
Always wash your hands before touching your tattoo.
Wash the tattoo using your fingertips or hand only.
Use a mild antibacterial soap and warm water.
Take care to gently wash away all traces of blood (if dried blood is left to dry on the tattoo it can form a scab).
Do not scrub the tattoo with a washcloth during the two week healing period.
Always gently pat the tattoo dry with a clean soft cloth or just let it air dry.
Do not pick, scratch, peel, slap, rub or irritate your tattoo.
You can shower, but you may not soak your tattoo for 2 weeks. No swimming, soaking or hot tub.
You may not expose your tattoo to the sun for at least 3 weeks, after that you must use sun block.
Do not wear abrasive materials, jewelry, or shoes that rub against your tattoo.
Do not let anyone touch your tattoo, unless they wash their hands.
Beware of gym equipment; wash it well before using it.
Ice your tattoo to reduce swelling.
Elevate your tattoo, to reduce swelling.
Take short showers.
With clean hands, use your fingertips to gently wash the tattoo with a clear antibacterial soap.
Rinse the area thoroughly with warm water.
Pat dry with a clean disposable towel.
Once tattoo is completely dry, apply a thin layer of H2Ocean Aquatat tattoo ointment or A&D to prevent from cracking and drying out.
With clean hands, use your fingertips to gently wash the tattoo.
Rinse the area thoroughly with warm water.
Pat dry with a clean disposable towel.
After you’ve ensured the area is completely dry, apply a scent free lotion.
Repeat 3-4 times a day.
Every day from then on, you will wash the tattoo in the morning and at night, and apply lotion 3 times a day or so, or whenever the tattoo feels dry or tight.
Always wash your hands before touching the tattoo.
DO NOT apply Vaseline, Neosporin, Bacitracin or any other medicated or perfumed product to your tattoo.
After a few days, the tattoo will form a thin scab over it, and in about a week the scab will begin to flake off in the shower. DO NOT pick or scratch at the scab, just keep it clean and moist and the scabs will all fall off by themselves in about two weeks. Picking any of the scabs off will cause faded color and damage to the skin.
Do not wrap the tattoo after the first night (wearing breathable clothes over it is fine as long as they are not causing friction. (Keeping tattoos wrapped in plastic or bandages will stop air from getting to the tattoo, slow healing, and make gross stuff grow in there.)
Do not submerge the tattoo in water. This means baths, pools and oceans. Regular showering is fine.
Do not expose it to strong sunlight (Like outdoor activities or beach days. Walking to your car is fine)
Do not shave over the tattoo (ouch!)
DON’T re-bandage your tattoo, rub, scratch or pick at your new tattoo.
DON’T apply alcohol, Neosporin, Vaseline, or petroleum jelly (they can trap dirt and germs and cause infection).
DON’T apply a heavy coat of lotion (remember the skin must breathe in order to heal).
DON’T expose your tattoo to direct sunlight, swim, sauna, steam or tub for 2 weeks. The sun, salt water, and chlorine all act as a bleaching agent; any one of them can ruin your tattoo. The healing process usually takes about 2 weeks, however, this time may vary from person to person.
Do NOT listen to friends or “tattoo experts”. If you have questions, call or visit the Studio, we tattooed you and have your best interest at heart!
If you notice fever, drainage that smells or contains pus from the procedure site, or streaks running toward your heart from your tattoo, go to the emergency room immediately
Keep the initial bandage on for a minimum of two hours. Your artist knows which length of time is best for you and your tattoo, so ensure you listen to their advice.
After removing your bandage, you should gently cleanse your new tattoo with an antibacterial, fragrance-free soap (we like Dr. Bronner’s Hemp Baby Unscented, Pure-Castile Soap) and hot water. The hot water may cause temporary mild stinging, but will aid in opening pores and killing bacteria for maximum cleansing.
For larger scale pieces, you will want to opt for a shower instead of a bath during this time. When you exit the shower, do NOT rub your tattoo with a towel. Let it dry on its own.
Keeping your tattoo clean and washing it 2-3 times daily will avoid a potential infection.
You might get different instructions from different artists, there isn’t one solution for all. So listen to your artist’s instructions.
You might get different instructions from different artists, there isn’t one solution for all. So listen to your artist’s instructions.
Which Products Should I Use for Tattoo Aftercare?
Your new tattoo needs to breathe to promote the healing process — which is why most professional tattoo artists will recommend lotions, butters, or natural oils free of synthetic chemicals, ointments and fragrances that often clog and suffocate the pores and act as irritants to broken skin. The more organic and natural, the better for your tattoo. This brings us to our personal favorite healing method.
Keep the initial bandage on for a minimum of two hours.
For your tattoo to heal the best, it’s very important to use lotions, butters, or natural oils recommended by your tattoo artist.
Can I Use Coconut Oil on My New Tattoo?
Naturally antibacterial, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and free of synthetic chemicals (unlike most ingredients found on drugstore shelves) coconut oil has become an increasingly popular choice of aftercare for all skin types, especially those with hyper-sensitive skin.
When applied, coconut oil forms a layer which aids in the protection from external bacteria, fungi, parasites, and dust. Its natural lipids speed up the healing process by repairing tissues damaged by the process of tattooing.
Coconut oil is great for moisturizing your new tattoo.
In the market for coconut oil — there’s a specific kind you would want to look for. Unrefined, virgin coconut oil is superior to the refined type as it is the most natural and nutrient dense, free from heat and chemical processing.
Place a sterile absorbing pad and bandage over fresh tattoo to absorb all the ooze, ink, topical anesthetic, and blood.
Remove bandage after 6 to 8 hours, and then clean the area with mild antibacterial soap to keep it from getting the numb skin
Pat dry skin after washing.
Apply pain relieving cream or ointment after washing.
If you prefer topical anesthetic spray instead of cream or ointments, go ahead!
Keep your tattoo exposed to air for faster healing.
Put disposable sheets on top of your bed sheets. You don’t want them to get stained.
Wear loose fitting clothes if possible.
If you really hate your tattoo because it didn’t turn out exactly how you pictured it, you may have to use tattoo removal cream or have it removed by laser or surgery.
Be mindful if you are allergic to certain adhesives used in covering your fresh tattoo because an allergic reaction near it might affect your tattoo. Inform your tattoo artist about this.
Do not remove bandage immediately. Keep it for 2 to 8 hours. Why? The bandage will absorb all the excess blood, ink, topical anesthesia, and etc.
Do not put your fresh tattoo directly under running water or soak it.
Hot or lukewarm water may feel nice when you wash your tattoo but be careful not to overdo it because it will open the pores and cause leaching of ink out of your skin. It will also make it easier for the germs to get in. So at the end of your quick shower, use cold water or cold compress to close the skin pores.
If bandage is stuck on your skin, do not pull it off. Just let a bit of cool water soak on it until it becomes easy to remove. You do not want to add more pain to your already present tattoo pain.
Do not re-bandage your tattoo. It needs air to breathe!
Do not pick the scabs! It’s a normal part of the healing process and it will just fall off by itself. After all, you don’t want to damage your tattoo, right?
Do not expose the tattoo under the sun if possible. Use tattoo sunscreen lotion with a minimum of SPF 30 if you really have to.
If possible, avoid swimming, soaking in the tub, excessive sweating, steam baths or anything that will make it wet.
Keep your tattoo out of contact from clothes or avoid leaning on it. It’s a fresh wound just in case you forgot!
Weeks of healing and a little help from our Hush gel would probably get you through it all. Once, your tattoo has fully-healed, you can show it off to your family and friends with pride! Ain’t that sweet?
Wear sun-protective clothing whenever you go outside
Call your tattoo artist or doctor if you have any signs of infection or other problems
Don’t cover your tattoo with sunblock until it’s fully healed
Don’t scratch or pick at the tattoo
Don’t wear tight clothing over the tattoo
Don’t go swimming or immerse your body in water (showers are fine)
Be sure your artist covers your new tattoo in a thin layer of petroleum jelly and a bandage.
Remove the bandage after 24 hours. Gently wash the tattoo with antimicrobial soap and water and pat dry.
Apply a layer of antibacterial ointment twice a day, but don’t put on another bandage.
Gently wash your tattoo area several times a day with soap and water and gently pat dry.
Keep applying a moisturizer or ointment after you clean it to keep it moist.
You should repeat this process for 2 to 4 weeks. Also try not to wear clothes that will stick to your tattoo, and avoid swimming and the sun for about 2 weeks. And take cool showers. Scalding hot water will not only hurt, but it can also fade the ink.
Keep initial bandage covering your new tattoo on for at least two hours.
Clean tattoo with antibacterial, no fragrance soap and hot water. Let air dry!
Wash 2-3 times a day in the first two weeks of having your new tattoo.
A&D, Aloe Vera lotion,Coconut oil, and others are great for a light moisturizing layer after cleaning.
Do not use sunscreen to moisturize. Cover your new tattoo with clothing, and stay out of the sun.
Do not itch or pick at your scabs and flakes!
If you have severe pain, swelling, bleeding scabs, or continual plasma oozing, contact your artist and a doctor.
Apply a thin coat of Fragrance Free lotion to the tattoo. Aveeno, Eucerin, Keri, Lubriderm, Curel, or Jergens will do.
Apply moisturizer five to seven times a day for the remainder of two weeks. Do not use lotions that contain color or fragrance or sparkles until the healing is complete. (Usually anywhere from ten days to two weeks; Possibly longer for slower healers.)
For larger color-work tattoos we recommend: Aquaphor ointment (Just enough to make it shine, a little goes a long way ) Work it in well. Dab off all the excess with a paper towel. You should barely be able to tell that it’s there This is just enough to keep the tattoo moist and to keep it from scabbing. Your body heat will liquefy the ointment and it may become glossy looking or runny. This means there’s too much on there. Dab more off. Too much ointment will only suffocate the tattoo and liquefy any scabs that may have formed causing the ink to fall out and look blotchy. Aquaphor or Lotion can be applied whenever the tattoo is feeling stiff or dry but beware of over-moisturizing. Your body will absorb what it needs where it needs it. Your skin will form a protective layer no matter what you do. If you do not keep it moist or keep it too moist (it’s a personal balance, different for each individual), it will form a thick, hard scab that may crack when you move. When you form this kind of a scab the ink sits within it and slowly heals into the skin. When the tattoo is kept moist it doesn’t have a chance to form a scab but does form a thin membrane to protect the tattoo while it heals. This layer peels off very similar to a sunburn (do not peel your tattoo, you will pull the ink out!) and it is normal to see small flakes of colored skin falling off during this stage of healing.
Long showers or baths must be avoided for 2 weeks. Prolonged soaking can and will loosen scabs if any have formed, or will soak through the soft tissue and cause your ink to flow down the drain. This includes Swimming in the Ocean or a Pool, Hot Tubs, and Saunas.
Short showers are best under ten minutes if possible.
Refrain from scratching or picking at the tattoo.
Scrubbing with a washcloth can be very harsh on a tattoo and will cause your colors to fade. It is normal for the tattoo to become very itchy during the healing time. To relieve this spray the tattoo with rubbing alcohol or slap it with your hand (this will sting it and take away the itch).
Hands and feet reproduce skin cells much faster than other parts of the body. A tattoo in these areas will sometimes take an extra two weeks to heal. During this time refrain from washing dishes, wearing gloves, or wearing socks and shoes (sandals must not rub the tattoo). Any friction of this type WILL wear away the tattoo within a very short period of time. Tattoos in these areas are almost never guaranteed.
The sun is bad for your tattoo even if you’ve had it for a long time.
A sunburn on a new tattoo can cause a lot of problems. It will dry out your tattoo and cause it to form a horrendous scab much of the time causing the tattoo to fade before it is even healed. It will take much longer to heal completely. It promotes scarring in a new tattoo.
Wait until your tattoo is fully healed to go back in the sun or a tanning bed and make sure you put on a high quality SUNBLOCK.
Do not apply sunblock while the tattoo is healing.
The tattoo is under your skin, and your tan will form above it. If you get too dark, some colors (white, yellow, pink, and orange) may not show up as brightly as they could.
Excessive exposure to sunlight will cause your tattoo to fade no matter what colors are used.
Individuals heal in so many different ways, it’s hard to tell (especially for first-timers) exactly what will happen whether the tattoo will scab or peel. A tattoo in one spot may heal completely different from a tattoo in another spot. The way an artist works the skin can also make a difference in the way a tattoo heals. There is no way to fortell exactly what every tattoo is going to do while healing or how to heal it. Yes, it’s probably better for a tattoo to peel, but sometimes people just don’t heal this way. Sometimes a scab will form no matter what you do. For some, it’s hard to tell whether or not a scab is forming. Sometimes a piece will look like it’s scabbed over but will peel, other times it’s obvious that a thick, hard scab has formed. If a scab does form you may have to do things a bit differently You should always check with your artist before you change any of your aftercare procedure. In most shops, if you follow their directions and the tattoo heals badly, they usually offer a touch up. If you deviate from their aftercare without seeking their advice and the tattoo heals badly, you usually forfeit that guarantee.
Keep the tattoo moist. This can keep it from forming a scab.
We notice a lot of people over-applying ointment and lotion too frequently or just too much of it. Keeping it too moist, to the point that it’s nearly turning any repairing tissue to mush. Then, while they sleep the mush hardens, turning to a scab. Morning comes and on goes more goo that then absorbs into the scab turning it to mush again and later, dries out to form a thicker scab. More is not better. It won’t make healing go any faster. This is not a scraped knee.
The first 3-4 days: Rub a small amount of ointment on your tattoo. You may use Bacitracin, A&D, an unscented lotion (with no alcohol in the lotion) or H2Ocean Aquatat tattoo ointment – whatever you know you’re not allergic to. Always use clean hands and do not place your fingers back into the ointment after touching your tattoo. Make sure to rub the ointment in so that it is not shiny, or greasy– you want the thinnest amount possible. Pat off any excess ointment with a clean paper towel. Do not use Vaseline, petroleum, Neosporin, or Bag Balm. Wash, dry and apply ointment 3-5 times daily, as needed.
On the first night, you may want to wrap your tattoo in saran wrap to prevent sticking to your bedding. Do not use any cloth bandages or pads, as the fibers of this material can adhere to your open tattoo and hinder the healing process.
Wear clean, soft clothing over your tattoo for the first 2 weeks– nothing abrasive or irritating. For a foot tattoo: go barefoot as much as possible. If you must wear shoes, first wrap your clean tattoo in saran wrap, then cover with a clean cotton sock before putting on your shoe. Avoid sandals or flip-flops for this period to prevent chafing and damage to the tattoo.
After day 3 or 4: On the 3rd or 4th day your tattoo will begin to peel. This is normal! Do not pick at the skin. Begin using a mild, white, unscented lotion, free of dyes or Perfumes.
Use lotion for minimum 2 weeks, 1-2 times daily.
After your tattoo is completed, your artist will bandage your tattoo for your trip home. Leave the bandage on for one to three hours. When you take the bandage off, wash it with very warm water (as hot as is comfortable) and mild liquid hand soap (like Dr. Bronner’s, Dial or Softsoap, just no perfumed or exfoliating body washes). Pat it dry gently with a paper towel, and let it air dry the rest of the way (never scrub the tattoo with a towel or sponge). Then you will apply a very small amount of Aquaphor Ointment or plain, unscented skin lotion (we recommend Aveeno, Lubriderm, Curel, or any of their generics) to the tattoo, just enough to lightly moisturize. Do not slather a big, thick coat of product over it; just enough for it to stay moist and flexible. If you are using Aquaphor, you can switch to a plain lotion after the first few days. Lotion is generally fine for everyone, your artist will recommend if you would benefit from ointment.
Your first night sleeping, your artist might recommend you re-wrap the tattoo with plastic wrap (like Saran Wrap) to sleep without the tattoo sticking to your sheets. This is generally for larger or solid-color tattoos. If your artist did not recommend re-wrapping, just let the tattoo stay exposed to air overnight.
When all the scabs fall off and the skin feels smooth again to the touch, it is all healed and you can shave over it again, and swim and everything else. Sometimes after the scab falls off there is a secondary shiny, raised or waxy coat over the tattoo. This is just another healing layer of skin. Continue to moisturize it and it will smooth out by itself over time. If you have any questions about your tattoo while its healing you are always welcome to come by the shop and have us check it out, or email the artist who did the tattoo with “AFTERCARE” in the subject line for an immediate response.
Sure, tattoo artists have to follow precise procedures to limit blood borne pathogens, it’s what they’re licensed to do! However, when it comes to tattoo aftercare, ultimately each artist is responsible for their client’s ultimate safety and satisfaction.
It’s a good reason as to why most tattoo aftercare tips and advice tends to greatly vary shop by shop.
The truth is, not everyone agrees 100% on what works to heal a tattoo properly and what doesn’t. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s still the issue of certain tattoo professionals giving out advice that’s simply outdated.
However, at least there is one thing we can all agree on: All tattoos are skin abrasions with lots of blood, plasma and ink oozing it’s way on out!
For the first day or two, everyone experiences this process universally.
A science and fact-based approach to tattoo aftercare
Determined to uncover the truth, I set out to put together a definitive after care guide that you can trust.
From industry-leading artists, to scientific findings, dermatologists and countless interviews, I wrote this guide based on facts and first-hand experience.
Just remember, while a new tattoo may be a very specific wound, it’s on different people!
The tattoo healing process and stages
From the moment you’re bandaged up to the moment you’re 100%, fully healed. The full tattoo healing process can take at least six weeks for most people.
However, don’t worry, usually within two to four weeks you’ll notice your skin going back to normal stage. Just remember your new tattoo is permanent and will last a lifetime! Be patient for the present moment.
The process is quite easy when you get down to the basics: Keep it clean, moist and protected. From day one to the last day when you are 100% healed, I’m going to walk you through every single step below. Let’s start with day one, your new bandaging.
Plastic wrap such as this clear adhesive antibacterial wrap from Saniderm is an old-school and traditional favorite that varies state by state. It’s often used for larger pieces of the body where bandages may be a challenge.
Under that plastic wrap creates an occlusive seal which prevents air from getting in and out. In return, all of your bodily fluids will pool together on the surface of your skin. When this happens, the body temperature will often rise to around 103 degrees. At this temperature, it creates the ideal breeding ground for unhealthy bacteria growth.
However, it should be noted that as the pool of body fluids builds up, they often will leak out the bottom of the plastic wrap. If you were to put a paper towel in there, it would be ineffective at relieving the oozing and reducing the temperature.
On the plus side, it’s see-through which means you don’t have to remove it to show friends and family your new ink. Not to mention, it won’t stick to your new tattoo.
All in all, plastic wraps are not the end of the world. Don’t worry if you get one, many do! Sure, it may not be as ideal as a bandage, but to the testament of myself and many others, the end result can be just as positive.
Bandages: Your other choice of protection. Ensure your tattoo artist uses medical tape to secure the bandage! If you have allergies to adhesives you may substitute other appropriate taping options.
Remove the bandage: Wait a minimum of 4 to 5 hours before taking off your initial bandage.
Remove your bandage before you reach 24 hours.
After removing your bandage, you’ll want to wash with hot water; the hotter the better. No, this will not be an enjoyable process but it’s critical.
The key here is to loosen up any dried lymph and coagulated blood. Note the most important word here: “Loosen”.
Do so with your finger tips and soapy water. Know that the shower is perfectly acceptable, but you can also hand wash the area over an empty tub too. If you do decided to take a shower, limit the time spent to a minimum; no more than ten minutes. Don’t be there in too long! In any event, avoid getting your new tattoo soaked or drenched. That means no bath tubs, pools, hot tubs, etc. Even if it’s a chlorinated pool, avoid it!
Never use a washcloth or sponge! Ensure you wash thoroughly and slightly aggressively to ensure you have removed all the dried lymph and coagulated blood. Understand, that if you fail to remove these, you can set yourself up for a scabbing and a rougher healing process.
Remember to use the right soap! There have been studies that show antibacterial soap as truly being ineffective at limiting bacteria, but I still recommend them for a reason. Often normal bars of soap will be loaded with fragrances and lotions among other things.
Aim for a soap/cleanser such as Hibiclens, an antiseptic antibacterial cleanse. You can also use Dial, popular the clear anti-bacterial soap. Again, just ensure its fragrance/scent-free. For some men, Dove and Ivory soap will fare just fine, though, my advice is more on the cautious side.
Now, some recommend using cold water to “close your pores” after washing. This is incorrect and a complete myth! Understand that hot water helps to loosen build up inside the pores, not expand the pores themselves. Cold water on the other hand, doesn’t nothing to seal, shrink or close your pores. It just doesn’t work like that.
Before letting your hands touch your tattoo, deep clean them! Don’t just wash them for five seconds. Get soap everywhere into the knuckles, palm, fingertips, etc. Make sure your fingernails are spotless too!
Remember to avoid long showers and baths for at least two weeks.
Pat dry with a towel or soft wash cloth. You can also use a paper towel as well. The overall key here is to be gentle, don’t scrub! Never use an old towel that’s lying around, ensure it’s clean.
Once dry, you can now proceed to apply a thin film of ointment to your new tattoo. You’ll want to do so with a great occlusive like Tattoo Goo, Aquaphor or Bepanthen, or Vitamin A and D.
Now, some men have asked me if Neosportin or Bacitracin is appropriate. My advice is to always avoid Neosportin, while Bacitracin can often be safer alternative. In general, if you don’t need Bacitracin, don’t use it!
The truth is, numerous men had to make trips to the hospital due to toxic reactions from Neosportin. For some, their body can’t handle it, making for a fatal situation within only a few days. Remember, the last thing you want to do is to potentially put yourself in the hospital where there are gobs of bacteria!
Yet, one of the most important things to consider is the amount of ointment you apply. Do not coat your new tattoo like you are applying a thick coat of paint. Only apply enough for the tattoo to absorb; this means an ultra-light surface coat. Should you notice it becoming shiny and runny dab the excessive amount off with a towel.
Once you’ve finished, do not re-cover with your tattoo with a new bandage.
Use hydrocortisone cream very sparingly and only for a short period time to treat extra troublesome cases of inflammation. While it’s better to use an anti-itch lotion, hydrocortisone cream can greatly help in extreme cases of itchiness.
The reason why some tattoo artists will advise you not to use ointments is to reduce the risk of allergic reactions. Typically these allergies showcase themselves with tiny red bumps around your new tattoo. If this occurs, stop using the ointment and re-wash your tattoo.
A clean tattoo is more than vital for a healthy healing process, it’s critical!
Repeat the process above every couple of hours, for the next three days. I am going to say it again, 3 days! This means wash, dry and apply ointment.
After those three days have passed, you will want to start washing two to three times per day. Now is the time to also stop applying ointment and switch to lotion/moisturizer.
Apply tiny dabs of skin lotion or moisturizer to your tattoo as needed, but not too frequently. If you over apply it, you’ll end up pimples and clogged pores around the new tattoo area.
Ensure the skincare product is fragrance/scent-free and doesn’t contain any colors. Good options include Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream and Lubriderm Daily Moisture.
Apply lotion or moisturizer for around twenty five days.
At this point, if you followed these tattoo care instructions precisely, you won’t notice any scabbing. You will however, notice your skin starting to peel off similar to a bad sunburn. Relax, this is perfectly normal and natural!
Now, chances are you will freak out once you see the colors of tattoo peeling off. Your new tattoo will appear incredibly awful, but again relax, don’t let your eyes fool you!
What’s really happening is the epidermis exfoliating, which means it’s any excess pigment gets carried away. Again don’t worry, your new tattoo is resting safely under the dermis.
Under no circumstance should you pick at or scratch your new tattoo! Regardless if the skin is peeling or scabbing. Allow it to naturally fall off on its own. Now, for some men, all of their tattoos will scab! No matter if they follow the proper after care procedure or not. Should this happen to you, most scabs will generally start to come off within two weeks.
Once your new tattoo has peeled, you’ll notice a shiny tone and somewhat waxy finish to your skin. This is completely normal.
Go ahead and continue to apply lotion as needed, but only do so when your skin becomes overly dry. Know that at this point, your skin is no longer exposed nor abraded. If your skin feels tight or tense, try applying some Palmer’s cocoa butter or Aquaphor to relieve any discomfort.
Continue to care for your new tattoo for the next two weeks. Within two to four weeks your skin should adjust back to its normal state. However, you must remember, that a tattoo does not fully heal for at least six weeks!
Also understand that different parts of the body regenerate skin cells faster than others. Take for instance your hands and feet in comparison to the back and ribs.
During that time frame where it is not 100% healed, you’ll want to avoid any exposure to the sun. Know that this is even more important within the first two weeks. The reason why is because your skin has no protection against harmful UV rays that can cause damage.
Never apply sun block to a new tattoo. If you tan while in the healing stages, you’ll affect the vividness of the pigment and colors like white, orange, pink and yellow. Too much exposure and you’ll end up fading the entire tattoo, regardless of color.
The amount of time required for your tattoo is dependent on a few things: Your skin, the detail of the artwork, and the overall size of the piece.
You’re all healed up! Great job.
Remember to apply SPF 50 or higher sunscreen in order to protect your tattoo (we like EltaMD UV Sport Sunscreen). It’s true that any tattoo will fade with age, however over the long term you’ll better help protect your investment.
A word on letting your new tattoo breath and dry out
Perhaps one of the biggest myths in tattoo aftercare is to “let your wound breath or dry out”.
The truth is, dry wounds will actually slow down cellular activity and delay healing. When that occurs scabs will form blocking the skin from growing across the wound. Not to mention, you’ll also create an excellent food source for bacteria, and increase the chances of infection.
In contrast, when your new tattoo wound is kept properly moist, you’ll allow healing cells to travel across and close the wound. It’s a lot like dressing prescribed for burns, which not only promotes a healthy moisture but also prevents outside contamination.
In other words, moist wound healing is important! I know the old wives tale may be convincing, but look at responses from Luke Wachewicz, a certified wound specialist at Mayo Clinic Health System, Dermatologic Surgeons Steven Swengel and Andrew Kaufman, among many others. Even plastic surgeons like Norman Baksandeh have said the same.
Don’t let “clogged pores” worry you when keeping your new tattoo moist. No, keeping your skin moist won’t pull the ink as some claim.
Friction, avoid it! With any new tattoo on the foot you’ll want to stay away from wearing shoes for at least a minimum of two weeks. In the worse case scenario where you have a job that requires shoes, do yourself a favor and request three days off work. Again, that’s assuming the worst here.
The reason I mention that is because your foot will swell up like a balloon, making it impossible to move around in shoes. Should you end up wearing shoes, wrap your foot in plastic wrap or a bandage and use medical tape to secure.
With that said, the proper way to care for a new foot tattoo starts with wearing sandals. Avoid putting on socks, as not only does it cause rubbing issues, but they’ll also stick to the skin. When that happens you can potentially pull out some of the color.
Remember to avoid prolonged periods of standing on your feet! Give them plenty of time to rest throughout the healing process.
Clothing: Avoid wearing tight or restrictive clothing during the tattoo healing process. Do not allow your clothes to rub up again your tattoo! An oversized t-shirt and pair of gym shorts will usually be good choices due to their looseness.
Environment: Don’t put yourself in a dusty or dirty environment. If you are working on a carpentry project and using a belt sander, put it on hold till you fully heal. If you are laying bricks or smashing down drywall, it’s going to be difficult to avoid all the dust!
Exercise and Activity: While healing don’t participate in any strenuous activities. This means avoid lifting weights at the gym, going for a jog around the park, or taking the bicycle for a spin on the road.
Clean your home first: Before getting a tattoo, clean your home first, it’s important! Your clothing, towels, bed sheets and pillows all need to go through a cycle in the wash. If your washer or dryer has a steam clean option, use it to eliminate any lingering bacteria.
Leave the covering on for 2-3 hours. Once the tattoo is complete, your tattoo artist will clean the area, apply an antibacterial ointment and cover the tattoo with a bandage or plastic. Once you have left the tattoo parlor, resist the temptation to open the bandage. The bandage is there to protect your tattoo from dirt and bacteria and should be left on for up to 3 hours before you remove it.[1]
Since different tattoo artists have different methods of wrapping new tattoos, ask your tattoo artist when they recommend removing the bandage. Some artists may not wrap the tattoo at all, depending on the products and technique they use.
If you leave the bandage on longer than the artist suggests, you are more prone to infection and the ink may bleed.
Wash your hands before carefully removing the bandage. Washing your hands beforehand will help prevent your tattoo from getting infected when you go to touch it. To remove the bandage more easily, you can apply warm water to it to prevent the bandage from sticking to your skin. Pull the bandage off slowly and carefully so you don’t damage your new tattoo.
Throw away the used bandage.
Wash the tattoo with lukewarm water and antibacterial soap. Instead of soaking your tattoo in water, cup your hands together and scoop lukewarm water over it. Use a mild, unscented liquid antibacterial or antimicrobial soap to rub the tattoo gently with your fingers, removing all traces of blood, plasma, or leaked ink. This will help to prevent the tattoo from scabbing too soon.
Do not use a washcloth, loofah or any sponge to clean the tattoo, as these may harbor bacteria. Do not resume use of the items until the tattoo has healed completely.
Avoid holding the tattoo directly under the water—the stream of water from the faucet may be too harsh on your new tattoo.
Let the tattoo air dry or pat it dry with a clean paper towel. While it’s best to let your skin air dry after the tattoo has been cleaned, you can also use a clean, dry paper towel to gently blot the tattoo until it’s dry. Avoid rubbing the tattoo with the paper towel to avoid irritating your skin.
Regular towels can irritate your tattoo or cause little bits of fluff to get stuck in them, so it’s best to only use a paper towel for drying.
Apply a non-scented antibacterial cream. Once your tattoo is fully dry, apply a little moisturizing ointment, preferably an all-natural aftercare, to the tattoo. Make sure to apply only a very thin layer and pat it in gently until it’s absorbed by the skin. If you’re not sure what kind of ointment to use, ask your tattoo artist what they recommend for your skin.
Aquaphor is a good, recommended option for a moisturizer.
Don’t use petroleum-based products, such as Vaseline or Neosporin, as these are too heavy and may clog the pores.
Once your tattoo is clean and moisturized, avoid rewrapping it.
Listen to your tattoo artist’s advice. Your tattoo artist will explain how you should care for your tattoo immediately after getting it, so try to follow their instructions. The way they bandage your tattoo may be different from other tattoo artists, so take the advice they give you seriously to ensure your tattoo heals correctly.[6]
Write down the instructions they give you on a piece of paper or type them up on your phone so you don’t forget.
Wash and moisturize your tattoo daily until the scabs are gone. You should continue to wash your tattoo 2-3 times a day with antibacterial soap and lukewarm water until it’s fully healed. This can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks, depending on the size and location of the tattoo.
While moisturizing is important, be careful not to smother the tattoo in lotion or ointment—a thin layer is all you need.
Continue using an unscented mild soap when washing.
Avoid scratching or picking at your tattoo. As it heals, your tattoo will start to scab over, which is normal. Let the scabs dry out and fall off by themselves, and don’t speed up the process by picking or scratching at the scabs. This can cause the scabs to fall off too soon, which can leave holes or light spots on the tattoo.
Dry, scabbing or peeling skin can become very itchy, but scratching at your tattoo may also cause scabs to fall off.
Keep using moisturizing ointment to combat itchiness if it is a problem.
Keep your tattoo out of direct sunlight. The harsh rays of the sun may cause your skin to blister and bleach some of the colors from your tattoo. For this reason, it is best to keep your tattoo covered and away from the sun for at least 3 to 4 weeks until the initial healing is complete.
Once your tattoo is healed, you’ll want to wear sunscreen to prevent the tattoo from fading.
Avoid soaking the tattoo in water. Until your tattoo is fully healed, don’t swim in a pool or the ocean. Avoid soaking in the bathtub as well. Exposing your tattoo to lots of water can pull the ink out of your skin and do damage to the tattoo’s appearance. The water may also be carrying dirt, bacteria, or other chemicals that can infect your tattoo.
It will be safe to resume these activities once your tattoo is healed, but for now you should stick to rinsing your tattoo in the sink or shower.
Wear clean, loose-fitting clothing to avoid irritating your tattoo. Try not to wear tight or restrictive clothing on the area with your new tattoo, especially at first. As your tattoo heals, it will seep plasma and excess ink, which may cause the clothing to stick to the tattoo. The clothing will then be painful to remove and may rip off any freshly formed scabs.
If your clothing does stick to your tattoo, do not pull! First wet the area with water, which should loosen the clothing to where it can be removed without damaging your tattoo.
Tight clothing will prevent enough oxygen from getting to your tattoo, and oxygen is essential for the healing process.
Wait for your tattoo to heal before doing strenuous workouts. If the tattoo covers a large surface area or is near your joints (such as elbows and knees), it may take longer to heal if the skin is forced to move around too much during physical activity. The movement will cause the skin to crack and become irritated, prolonging the healing process.
If you work in a job that involves physical activity, such as construction or dance, you may want to consider having your new tattoo done right before you have a day or 2 off so it has time to heal before you return to work.
Remove bandage after a minimum of 2 hours. If the dressing sticks, wet area with COOL water to loosen it and remove the dressing carefully. Once your tattoo is exposed, wash it gently but thoroughly with a mild soap and COOL water. Be sure to remove any surface blood and rinse off any remaining soap.
Lightly pat dry and then, with clean hands, apply a small amount of lotion. Use a good quality, light lotion without added fragrance or color and massage it in. Try one of these: Lubriderm or Curel or Aquaphor or our own Studio City Tattoo brand healing salve Tattoo Majik. We recommend you wait a day before starting lotion.Remember Use a small amount to allow the skin to breathe.
Depending on the nature or location of your work, it may be necessary to wear clothing heavy enough to protect your tattoo, particularly if you work around grease, oil, metal dust, etc. Your tattoo will develop a layer of dry skin. (It will be the same color as the tattoo.) Apply a thin layer of lotion as needed (3-5 times a day, or whenever the skin feels tight or itchy), until the layers flake off naturally. After the tattoo has healed and the dry skin has flaked off, there will be a period of adjustment for the new skin. It is advisable to continue applying the same non-fragrance hand lotion. You may notice redness, swelling and tenderness and this is to be expected but should not last longer than a few days.
While the long-term quality of a tattoo has a lot to do with the skill of the tattoo artist, the ink used, the placement, and so on — there are also quite a few mistakes you can make that can ruin your tattoo in the days, weeks, and months following your appointment, that can affect how the art looks years down the road.
When tattoos aren’t properly cared for, it can result in blurry-looking or faded designs, and even patches of ink that appears to be missing from the overall tattoo. But most mistakes that ruin tattoos can be avoided by simply following your artist’s suggested aftercare tips — as well as proper tattoo maintenance going forward.
“To keep your tattoo looking as good as possible for as long as possible; stay hydrated, avoid sun exposure by applying sunscreen or wearing clothing that covers your tattoo, [apply moisturizing] lotion regularly, and [follow] proper tattoo care during healing,” Leo Palomino, a tattoo artist at Atomic Tattoos in Orlando, tells Bustle. By staying clear of some of the mistakes people make during the tattoo healing process, you can ensure that your ink will stay intact. Here are a few of the worst mistakes, according to experts.
In order for it to look great, a new tattoo needs time to heal properly. So it’s important to listen to your tattoo artist’s suggestions when it comes to washing and cleaning the area — which usually means avoiding rubbing it with anything abrasive, like a loofah or sponge.
You really don’t want to scratch the area or rub off scabs, since that can cause your tattoo to fade or smudge. But that doesn’t mean you need to avoid washing your skin altogether. “Your new tattoo should be washed in warm water with a mild liquid antibacterial soap,” Palomino says. “Just put some soap in your hand and use your palm to gently wash your skin.”
Or, hop in the shower. “Showering is fine,” board-certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD tells Bustle. “But avoid submerging the tattoo in water (bath, swimming pool, ocean/lake) for at least two to three weeks, until it is completely healed.”
After a shower, it’s not uncommon for folks with a new tattoo to dry off like they always do — by rubbing a towel vigorously over their skin. But this is another thing you’ll want to avoid. “You should always gently pat the tattoo dry and allow [it] to be open to air afterwards,” Palomino says. (Of course, once the tattoo is fully healed, you can dry off however you like.)
While you might think it’s helpful to coat your tattoo in ointment to help it heal, doing so can actually be harmful. “Applying too much ointment or tattoo aftercare product … suffocates the tattoo and encourages the growth of bacteria,” Palomino says. “Always rub only a thin layer of ointment.”
To help it heal correctly, “you should continue applying the ointment after each time you wash the tattoo and only after it has completely dried; at least twice a day, for three to five days or until the tattoo starts to peel. Then, you can switch to a regular, fragrance-free lotion.”
Speaking of peeling, don’t give into the urge to scratch or pick at your tattoo — no matter how tempting or itchy that peeling skin may be. As Palomino says, “Your tattoo will begin to scab and the scabs should be allowed to fall off … naturally. Do not try to help the process along by picking at the scabs.”
If you do, it “may cause the scabs to fall off prematurely, leaving holes or light spots on your tattoo,” he says. So do your best to avoid picking at the area, and instead relieve the dryness or itching by patting the tattoo with the palm of your hand, Palomino says, or gently rubbing on fragrance-free lotion.
Let’s say it’s summer, you just got a new tattoo, and the glittering waters of a pool are calling your name. While you may really want to dive in, don’t do it.
“Until your tattoo is fully healed, you should avoid swimming in a pool, the sea, or soaking in the tub or a jacuzzi,” Palomino says. “Exposing your tattoo to too much water may draw ink out of your skin and damage the tattoos appearance.”
And then there’s the whole germ factor. “The water in swimming pools, jacuzzis, sea, and the tub may be carrying dirt, bacteria, chemicals, and other impurities that could cause your tattoo to become infected,” he says. “It will be safe to resume these activities once your tattoo is healed in about 14 days.”
If you want your tattoo to stay looking great, stay out of the sun as much as possible when you first get your tattoo. “Sunlight is the worst enemy of new tattoos,” Palomino says. “The sun may cause your skin to blister and affect some of the colors from your tattoo,” which can make your tat look bad now, and even worse years down the line.
To prevent that from happening, “always keep your tattoo covered and away from the sun and avoid getting sunburned for at least three to four weeks, until the initial healing is complete,” Palomino says.
And then, make a point of protecting it forever more. “Once healed, always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30+ and limit [ultra violet] exposure to the tattoo site, both to prevent skin cancer and to prevent the pigment in the ink from oxidizing (and changing color) or fading,” Dr. Shainhouse says.
While you can obviously resume your usual activities once your tattoo is healed, try not to hit the gym whilst it’s still fresh — especially if you have a large tattoo, or one that’s on your joints.
“Tattoos that cover large areas and near joints (such as elbows and knees), may take longer to heal,” Palomino says. And “if the skin is forced to move around too much during intense workouts or other physical activity, [the movement may] cause the skin to crack and become irritated, delaying the healing process.” So be careful.
It’ll be important to protect a foot tattoo from dirt while it heals, so “avoid wearing sandals … to decrease the exposure to dirt and bacteria,” Palomino says.
Instead of sandals, “wear a loose-fitting tennis shoe and try to clean it during the day,” he says. “Also avoid shoes that are tight [or will rub, as that can cause] the tattoo to heal poorly.”
Once it’s all healed, though, you can obviously wear whatever type of footwear you want, to show off your tat.
Even though everyone will want to touch your new tattoo, don’t let anything come in contact with it. “You don’t know what germs are on your hands, so it is best to avoid touching your tattoo at all unless you have literally just washed your hands,” Palomino says. “Don’t let your children play with it, and don’t let your friends get touchy-feely while admiring it.” Same goes for pets, too.
When a tattoo is fresh, and the skin is still open, it’s at risk for infection. “The most common localized skin infections within a fresh tattoo is a Staph aureus skin infection that occurs due to secondary infection of the needled sites,” Dr. Shainhouse says. “It can cause a weeping, blistered or pustular rash, or a single, painful abscess.”
So if anything looks strange, let your tattoo artist or a doctor know. “It should be seen right away,” she says. “It is treated with local and sometimes oral antibiotics.”
Did you get a tattoo on your leg? Do you fancy shaved legs? If so, you’ll want to avoiding shaving for a while, and let your hair grow out whilst your new art heals.
As Palomino says, “Avoid shaving the tattoo and allow your new tattoo two weeks to four weeks to fully heal before shaving that site again.” Again, this is all about allowing the area time to properly heal without introducing bacteria, or shaving off those all-important scabs, so that your tattoo can look its best.
Your tattoo artist will send you home with instructions for taking care of your tattoo. So make sure you follow them to the T. “Listen to your tattoo artist, because they know what they’re talking about,” Palomino says. “Do not take advice from your friends about what they did, [as] it might not be right.” And if anything seems like it’s going awry, don’t be afraid to call up the tattoo shop, or stop in, and ask a few questions.
By following aftercare instructions, allowing your tattoo to properly heal, and then protecting it with sunscreen from now on, you’ll be far less likely to end up with art that looks blotchy or faded.
Besides choosing your tattoo design and getting the ink done at a studio, tattoo aftercare is by far the most important aspect of your tattoo journey. Post-tattoo care should not be taken lightly – you need to know how to take care of a tattoo as best as possible. Failing to follow your tattoo artist’s advice could lead to damaging consequences.
Throughout the history of tattooing, the healing process hasn’t always been considered an important part of the process, but as time has gone on, we’ve been able to learn just how fundamental this section of the journey is.
When you initially finish getting your sparkling new tattoo at a studio, your skin will essentially be a big raw wound, open to all sorts of nasty germs and bacteria.
Correct tattoo aftercare procedures ensure the tattooed area of skin remains infection-free in an environment that is perfectly set up to ensure the healing process proceeds as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Suggested Aftercare for New Tattoos
Leave your bandage/wrap on until told by your artist. While some artists may ask you to leave your bandage on for only an hour, others may ask you to keep it on for a whole day. Your tattoo artist knows which length of time is best for you and your ink, so ensure you listen to their advice.
Wash your tattoo well after removing the bandage/wrap. Wash your tattoo thoroughly (but carefully) using warm water and an unscented and alcohol-free soap to remove any excess dried blood and plasma.
Pat your tattoo dry after cleaning it. Use a clean paper towel to dry your tattoo by gently patting the area. Do not rub.
Apply a thin layer of lotion. After cleaning your tattoo, ensure the area is completely dry before applying a very thin layer of your chosen tattoo aftercare lotion to help moisturize and nourish the area.
Repeat the cleaning process until the tattoo is fully healed. Remember that your tattoo isn’t completely safe from germs and bacteria until it has completely finished scabbing and peeling. Continue to wash the tattoo until this point (usually 2-4 weeks).
Don’t pick and pull at the flaking/scabbing skin. Picking away at your healing tattoo can delay healing, cause fading, and increase the chances of infection.
Stay away from the sun. Don’t expose your new tattoo to intense sunlight and don’t apply any sun lotion to the area until it has fully healed.
Stay away from water. All bodies of water can contain nasty bacteria that can ruin a new tattoo if you’re not careful. Stick to short showers until your skin has fully healed, and don’t go swimming.
Continue to look after your tattoo once healed. Once healed, keep your tattoo well protected from the sun and ensure you continue to moisturize the area regularly. Healthy skin means a healthy-looking tattoo.
What NOT to do While your Tattoo is Healing
There are a number of things that definitely shouldn’t be done in the first stages of tattoo care. Below is a list of the most fundamental things that you should not do while your tattoo is healing.
If you would like any clarification on the below points, we explain most of them further down in this section.
Pick the Scabs – This is vitally important. After a few days, your tattoo is going to begin to scab over. This scabbing should be mostly light, but some thick scabs can appear over certain areas depending on how much the area was worked on, and how rough the tattoo artist was.
These scabs should not be picked or pulled off under any circumstance. Scabs that are not ready to fall off are potentially still connected to deeper skin layers where the ink is still in the process of setting, meaning that pulling a scab off could cause tattoo ink to be pulled out of the skin along with the scab.
Pick Off Peeling Skin – Once your tattoo has finished the scabbing phase, the skin will begin the peel and flake away. This flaky skin, no matter how inviting, should not be played with, picked, or peeled off.
This skin may look like it’s only literally hanging on by a thread, but it can still be connected to pigments of setting ink, meaning that by picking at the skin, you could be removing bits of ink too.
Scratch your Tattoo – This is probably one of the most important rules when it comes to caring for a new tattoo. So many things can go wrong with a tattoo if you begin to scratch it.
Firstly, by scratching your tattoo you can very easily pull off multiple scabs and many pieces of peeling skin all at once. This can affect large amounts of ink, making your tattoo look patchy, and probably guaranteeing that you’re going to need a touchup over the damaged area by your tattoo artist at some point in the future.
Heavy scratching can also cause pits to develop in scabbing areas of the skin – this can lead to much longer healing times for the tattoo, as well as permanent scarring in some cases.
Not only this, but your fingernails harbor some pretty disgusting bacteria (think poo, uncooked food and public toilets – you get the picture).
By scratching your tattoo with your dirty fingernails, you are opening the wounded area up to all of these millions of types of nasty bacteria, greatly increasing the chances of getting your tattoo infected – which can become very serious in some cases.
Submerge your Tattoo in Water – Most bodies of water harbor many different kinds of nasty germs and bacteria, and it’s imperative that you avoid coming into contact with any of these as best as possible.
Places like baths, lakes, ponds, puddles, washing up sinks and many other areas all contain large amounts of nasty little germs, so keep your tattoo away from all of these areas as best as possible.
If you do happen to accidentally come into contact with any of these types of water-bodies, wash your tattoo as soon as possible with a fragrance and alcohol-free antibacterial soap.
Stay away from swimming with a new tattoo or bathing in any type of water for at least three weeks, or until the tattoo has completely healed.
You can bathe safely with your tattoo after 3-4 weeks
Expose your Tattoo to the Sun – Another extremely important rule. If you didn’t already know this, the sun is the number one tattoo killer. You must keep your tattoo covered at all times if going outside in blazing sunshine.
When your tattoo is new and your skin is red raw and swollen, it is an extremely sensitive area, and even tiny amounts of UV rays from the sun can cause lots of damage to the area in a short space of time.
During this important healing stage, the sun (and sunbeds too, for that matter) can swell and blister a tattoo, as well as prolong the healing times and fade the ink, so keep out of it as best as possible.
Please keep in mind that UV rays can also penetrate cloud-cover easily, so even if it’s not sunny outside, you must still be cautious.
Finally, sunbeds are just as bad in terms of UV production when compared to sunlight, so skip the indoor tanning, too.
Re-wrap your Tattoo – Unless specifically advised by your tattoo artist, and told in detail how to do this properly, you mustn’t rewrap your ink once the initial wrap has been removed.
Your tattoo needs to breathe in order to heal properly, and the re-wrapping could suffocate the area of valuable oxygen, leading to poorer healing – which will also take longer than normal compared to if the tattoo was able to breathe optimally.
Not only this, but when wrapped, the area becomes very moist and warm, which is a perfect environment for bacteria to grow and thrive. The longer you leave a poorly sterilized wrap on a tattoo for, the more likely the area will get infected.
Smother the Tattoo in Lotion/Ointment – As with the re-wrapping, if you put too much aftercare cream/lotion onto the tattoo, the thick layer of product is going to prevent the area from getting enough air and oxygen, which will affect the quality of healing and potentially cause the tattoo scabs to bubble.
You should only apply a thin layer of lotion to your tattoo so the area is barely shiny. If you accidentally apply too much, then you should gently dab off the excess lotion with a paper towel until you’re left with a more appropriate amount.
This is FAR too much lotion and some should be blotted off with a paper towel
Use Petroleum-Based Products – Most of these product types (such as Vaseline) are very dense and heavy, and should not be used on tattoos. Even applying a thin layer can prevent your tattoo from breathing properly. Not only this but some petroleum-based products contain ingredients that can actually draw ink from your tattoo if used too often.
Use Fragrance/Alcohol-Based Soaps to Clean the Tattoo – The main reason not to use products containing artificial fragrances is that these ingredients are highly likely to irritate the very sensitive skin at this stage of the healing process.
Many artificial fragrances can cause your skin to react adversely in many ways such as causing a rash, inducing extreme itching, and making the area extra tender.
Alcohol-based products shouldn’t be used either as alcohol is generally a very harsh ingredient (hence why it’s added to the majority of household/industrial anti-bacterial cleaning products).
Like artificial fragrances, alcohol can cause problems with sensitive skin. The main issues with alcohol are that it can make the tattooed area extremely dry, flaky and irritable.
Use Abrasive or Dirty Cloths/Towels to Clean or Dry the Tattoo – For the first month or so, nothing should be used to clean your tattoo apart from your sparkling-clean fingers.
Even after coming straight out of the tumble-dryer, a cloth/towel can still carry many different types of germs. Therefore, it’s always recommended to only clean your tattoo by using your recently-washed fingers in a circular motion to gently rub the area with lukewarm water and soap.
You should also never use an abrasive or fluffy washcloth to dry your tattoo. Abrasive cloths can pull off layers of skin and ink, potentially damaging the tattoo, and fluff can get stuck onto the unsettled scabs.
And remember – always blot the area dry with a clean paper towel, or leave the area to air-dry naturally. Never rub or scrub the area to clean or dry the tattoo.
Wear Tight-Fitting Clothing – Depending on the location of the tattoo, tight-fitting clothing can rub against/irritate the sensitive area. This can result in outbreaks of rashes and other symptoms, such as scabs being rubbed off and pieces of healing skin being pulled loose.
What not to wear after getting a new tattoo
Workout/Exercise too Soon – There are a couple of reasons why you should hold back from working out too vigorously for a couple of days after getting a tattoo.
Firstly, depending on the length of time spent in the artist’s chair, getting a tattoo can sometimes affect the immune system due to the trauma carried out to your skin over long periods of time.
Proceeding to push your body even further by exercising while carrying an already weakened immune system can cause ‘burn out’, making it more likely for you to catch an illness, or for your tattoo to take longer to heal.
Sweating can also be a problem. When the tattoo is brand new, the ink is still settling into the deeper layers. As your body temperature rises with exercise, your skin pores will start to open, increasing the chance of some of your ink seeping out.
Another problem is that gyms are naturally very dirty places, with lots of germs sitting around on various pieces of exercise equipment. Do not let you tattoo rub against any of the equipment, and make sure to wash the area well as soon as you’re out of the gym.
Finally, be careful when exercising a body part where a joint has been tattooed over. Excess joint movement underneath a new tattoo can cause rubbing, irritation, and potential fading.
Wash your Tattoo with Hot Water – Your skin is extremely sensitive during healing, and hot water running onto the tattooed area can cause irritation much easier than if the area was fully healed.
Hot water can also cause the pores to open wider on your skin, potentially causing unsettled ink to seep out of position.
Use Saunas/Steam Rooms – Same as above – the heat from the steam and the humid atmosphere can really open your pores up, not only increasing the risk of ink-loss, but also making it easier for bacteria to enter the wounded area.
Touch your Tattoo with Dirty Hands – I see so many people get a brand new tattoo and proceed to rub and prod the area with their dirty, grubby hands. This is an extremely bad idea, as the risk of infection at such an early stage of the healing process is so great.
Let Anybody Else Touch your Tattoo – An even worse crime than above. Do not under any circumstance let anybody else apart from your tattoo artist touch your tattoo for at least several weeks; you have no idea where their hands have been.
Shave the Tattooed Area – Don’t shave the area for at least a few weeks after getting a new tattoo. Trying to shave within this timeframe will probably cause you to shave right through a scab, or a patch of peeling skin.
If you’re a girl with a new tattoo and don’t want a hairy leg on show when you go out, it might be best to wear trousers or tights for the next few weeks.
After a few weeks, run your fingers over the area with your eyes closed, and if you can’t feel any raised areas of skin, then you should be fine to shave the area. If the skin is still a little raised or bumpy then leave it for another week and repeat the test.

Drink Too Much Alcohol – Drinking alcohol with a new tattoo can be detrimental during the first 48 hours of healing, as your tattooed area is still oozing blood and plasma. This advice is due to alcohol’s ability to cause your blood to run thinner than usual. This is also true if you happen to take blood thinners before or after a tattoo.
This blood-thinning can prevent scabs from properly forming as quickly as they should do, delaying healing and increasing the risk of infection.
Not to mention, getting too drunk could quite easily cause you to fall over and graze or scrape your new tattoo on a hard/rough surface, delaying healing and potentially causing permanent damage to the area.
Without a doubt, the time in which aftercare is at its most important is directly after getting the tattoo, and right through until about 3 weeks afterwards. This is when the top layers of your skin should have completely healed.
This time-frame is when the risk of infection is at its greatest, and is also when a tattoo’s appearance can get easily ruined through not following tattoo aftercare instructions properly.
As previously mentioned, aftercare starts from the moment your tattoo is completed at the studio.
Once your tattoo artist is happy with their work, they will gently wipe the area clean with mild soap, water and most likely some type of antibacterial ointment. This may sting a bit. You can read more about reducing tattoo pain here.
Once the artist has finished cleaning the area they will proceed to wrap your tattoo. This is primarily to keep the area protected against bacteria, and also helps to prevent rubbing. The bandaged area should be 99.9% bacteria-free at the time of wrapping thanks to the previous soap/antibacterial cleaning.
The wrapping will most-likely be make made from either a sterile cloth dressing, or a cling film-like plastic material. Either of these materials serve their purpose effectively, so don’t worry if you get one or the other; the choice usually comes down to the personal preference of what the tattoo artist prefers the most. There are a couple of differences between each material, though:

Cloth Bandage

Pros: Will help to soak up any oozing fluids (ink, blood, plasma) that may seep from the tattooed area.

Pros: The material is more breathable, ensuring the area doesn’t become too hot and sweaty, which could create a welcoming environment for bacteria.

Cons: Can stick to your skin if the area starts to scab, potentially causing tattoo ink to be pulled out if a scab tears off.

Cons: Can be difficult to cover large or awkwardly placed tattooed areas.

Plastic Wrap:

Pros: The plastic material won’t stick to your tattoo, meaning that scabs won’t get pulled off.

Pros: The material covers larger and more awkwardly placed tattoos easier when compared to bandaging.

Pros: The plastic is clear, meaning you can show your friends and family your amazing new tattoo as soon as you’re home.

Cons: The material can cause the area underneath to become very warm and sweaty, creating an ideal environment for bacteria if left on for too long.

Cons: No fluids are absorbed by the material, meaning your tattoo can become quite messy and slimy by the time you’re ready to take the wrap off.

A newly wrapped tattoo
How to Care for a Tattoo on the First Day
Remove The Bandage
How long you should keep the wrapping on your new tattoo varies a lot. Tattoo artists can recommend 2 hours, 24 hours, and anywhere in-between.

Disclaimer
Please be aware that there are many different wrapping methods. Many tattoo artists use their own specific wrapping techniques, and will advise of their own specific lengths of time in which a tattoo should remain covered.

Just because one wrapping method is popular, it doesn’t mean that other methods are wrong. Always follow your artist’s advice, they are the ones that know your specific tattoo best, and what is right for it. This section is designed to give you a general idea of what the wrapping stage normally entails.

Generally, it’s regarded safe for you to remove the bandage after 2-3 hours as long as you’re able to clean your tattoo immediately after removal. After a couple of hours of wrapping, your tattoo should have stopped oozing so heavily (although it may continue to ooze slightly over the next couple of days).

On the other hand, some artists recommend you sleep your first night in the tattoo wrap/bandaging to prevent rubbing over the raw area, and to stop any fluids that are still oozing from sticking to bedsheets.

Another reason why you may be advised to keep the wrap on for longer periods is tattoo placement. Any tattoos that are likely to rub against other parts of the body may be better to remain wrapped for a night to allow the healing process to begin without any immediate rubbing and irritation.

Wrapped sleeve
When the wrapping time advised by your tattoo artist has passed, you’re finally able to remove your wrap and present your brand-new piece of art to the world.

Gently remove the wrap by undoing, or carefully cutting through the medical tape used by your tattoo artist to stick it to your skin. If your wrap is plastic, gently peel the material away from your skin, it shouldn’t stick at all.

If you had a cloth bandage applied to your tattoo, very gently start to peel the material away from the skin. If you begin to feel any pulling or sticking whatsoever, run some lukewarm water and pour it over the bandage until it’s soaked enough to be pulled away from the skin with ease.

Initial Clean – Tattoo Aftercare Instructions for your First Wash
This is a very important stage of the aftercare process. The first wash of your tattoo can easily give your skin problems if not done correctly.

After you’ve removed your wrap, your tattoo is likely to be covered in a thick gooey layer of blood, plasma, ink and lymph fluid. The clear plasma is what you will want to clean off most thoroughly, as this is the stuff that will eventually start to set and harden in order to begin the scabbing process.

Although you certainly do want your tattoo to scab (and it will), a heavy layer of plasma left over the area will cause your skin to scab much heavier than is required, making your tattoo look much more unsightly during the healing process. Heavier scabbing will also increase the probability of getting a scab accidentally torn off.

Before cleaning your tattoo, you will want to clean your hands thoroughly to kill any bacteria present.

Cupping Water
Proceed to gently cup lukewarm water over the tattoo, wetting the area with your palm and fingers, not a rough/dirty washcloth.

Ensure the water is not overly hot, as the heat/steam can open up the recently inked pores in your skin, potentially allowing ink to leach out of the area, making your tattoo appear patchy.

Your tattoo is likely to be red and sore at this point, so it may be relatively painful to wash this area; just suck it up and try your best!

Once the area is wet, rub a good amount of clear/fragrance-free mild antibacterial soap over the wound and proceed to try to get all of the gooey and dried bits of blood and ink off of the surface.

Always check the ingredients of the soap before you rub it over your tattoo – if it contains any artificial fragrances or alcohol, do not use it. Fragrances and alcohol can burn the sensitive area and dry the skin out.

Don’t Worry!
If you see any flakes of ink coming off as you wash or dry your tattoo, this is completely normal. A good artist will pack the area with as much ink as possible, and some ink will naturally get trapped in the upper of layers of skin and will continue to leak out slightly over the next week or two as you wash and pat the area dry.

If there are any stuck-on bits of dried blood or ink that refuse to come off with gentle rubbing, leave them as they are – they will fall off in the coming washes. Don’t force them off as this could cause damage.

After a thorough but gentle cleansing of the area with soap, cup some more lukewarm water over the skin to ensure all remaining soap is washed away.

After washing is complete, you can either let your tattoo air-dry, or you can pat it dry with a paper towel. Do not rub or scrub your tattoo with anything, as this can abrase the delicate, healing surface. Always pat dry.

Try not to use a fabric cloth/towel, as pieces of fabric can come off and stick to the area. A thick cloth will also probably be full of bacteria too, even if it’s ‘fresh’.

Once the area is completely dry, it will generally help to very lightly rub in some sort of specialized ointment/lotion to moisturize the area and help with healing. You will only want a very thin layer to cover the tattoo – your skin needs to breathe in order to heal effectively, and a heavy layer of lotion will prevent this from happening.

You can choose specially formulated tattoo healing products, natural products such as coconut oil, or more generalized skincare creams such as Neosporin.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a (vegan) aftercare product called Hustle Butter. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process – not only to keep your tattoo really well hydrated, but it’s also very good at soothing any annoying itchiness or irritation.

You must ensure the area is completely dry before adding an ointment or lotion because any moisture trapped between your skin and the layer of lotion can cause your scabs to soak up the moisture and swell/become gooey, which will increase the likelihood of them sticking to materials/objects, and being pulled off.

Cleaning Process Roundup:

Clean your hands thoroughly, you don’t want any bacteria getting into the raw tattooed area
Run the tap until the water is lukewarm, not hot. Cup the water with your hand and very gently wet the area with your palm/fingers
Rub a fragrance/alcohol-free mild soap over the area and make sure as much excess ink/blood/plasma has been washed away
Use more water to wash away any leftover soap
Allow the tattoo to dry completely, either through air drying, or with a paper towel (not a dirty or rough washcloth, though). Always pat dry, do not scrub
Apply a very thin layer of ointment/lotion to help moisturize the area and help with healing

The Rest of Day One

Your tattoo will likely be very sore for the rest of the day (and for the next few days). It will probably look red and swollen, and the area will also likely feel warm to the touch due to the increased blood flow to the wound (your body’s way of aiding healing by sending larger amounts of oxygenated blood and nutrients to the area).

A new tattoo still looking red and sore
The above is all completely normal for the first several days, especially if the tattoo is a larger piece, or if the tattoo artist had to go over the same areas multiple times for shading.

Depending on where the tattoo is on your body, your first few nights of sleep will probably be rough. Your tattoo will be sore if it’s pressed against the bed, and you will be consciously trying to prevent your tattoo from rubbing on anything. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can really do about this and you will just have to prepare for a few nights of uncomfortable sleeping.

Some people recommend using old/cheap bed sheets for the first few days after getting a tattoo in order to prevent your best sheets from getting all bloody and inky; so if you’re worried about ruining your sheets, consider pulling out an old set.

Some people even resort to wearing gloves at night to stop them from scratching their tattoo in their sleep if it begins to itch (which could also probably help if you have bed bugs).

Another important thing to mention with regard to sleep is that it’s quite common after getting a tattoo to wake up the next morning being stuck to the bedsheets.

If this ever happens to you, do not just pull the sheets away from your skin. This could rip ink out from your tattoo. Instead, you need to soak the stuck area with warm water until the sheets peel away easily. If you need to drag your sheets into the shower with you then so-be-it.

Days 2-3 – Continued Soreness and Rawness
For the next couple of days, your tattoo will likely look and feel the same as it did on day one. Redness and swelling will have probably gone down slightly, but it will probably still look and feel sore for the next several days (and will possibly remain so for up to about a week).

The tattoo could still be oozing small amounts of ink, lymph and plasma, but this is completely normal.

Warning
Although your tattoo will likely still be sore and red for up to about a week, if the soreness or redness does not start to ease (or continues to get worse), then you should proceed to get checked by a doctor to make sure there is no infection present.

Along with the soreness, redness and oozing, the area will probably also feel slightly raised above the skin and could look bruised. Again, this is nothing to be worried about.

Bruising is normally very minimal, but can be slightly worse in some cases if the tattoo artist was quite heavy-handed, or if they needed to go over the same area a few times.

Just to reiterate – if you experience anything extreme (like heavy tattoo bruising or swelling), or are worried about anything at all, go and see a doctor.

Sleeping will likely still be quite uncomfortable depending on tattoo size and placement, but with each day that passes, your comfort levels should slowly start to increase again.

Making sure your tattoo is clean is still extremely important at this stage. You will likely start to see some very light scabs forming over your tattoo at around day three, but your skin is still essentially an open wound at this point, and you will need to ensure the area stays bacteria-free as best as possible.

Days 4-5 – Let the Scabbing Commence
Heavy Scabbing
This tattoo is scabbing quite heavily, so will probably peel away in larger chunks
At this point, you’re going to see scabs popping up all over your tattoo. As mentioned previously, this tattoo scabbing should only be a light layer of crusty skin covering all of the inked areas, as long as you were able to wash away most of the oozy plasma in the first couple of days.

Carry on cleaning your tattoo exactly as you have been for the last several days, washing the area using your fingers with a mild soap, and drying completely before applying a very thin lotion/ointment to keep the area hydrated and moisturized.

Your tattoo is going to start looking slightly dull and cloudy at this point as the scabs start forming over the ink. Don’t worry though, as this stage doesn’t last for too long, and the sharpness will return.
It is absolutely crucial that you do not pick or pull at any of the forming scabs. At this stage of the tattoo healing process the scabs will not yet be ready to come off, and by picking at them you risk pulling ink out along with the crusty skin.

Even if a scab looks like it’s ready to come off, or if it’s only slightly still hanging onto the skin, just leave it alone. Don’t do anything that you may instantly regret afterward – it’s always best to play it safe.

If you do pick off a scab, or one accidentally gets pulled off, there is a chance of ink coming out which may result in a patchy looking area, or a pit forming in the skin. These problems will increase the healing times of your tattoo and may require you to go for a touchup at the studio.

Cracking ink
Tattoo cracking and dryness
Avoid wearing any very tight clothing, or anything that may be able to rub or catch against a scab, potentially pulling it off.

Although most scabbing should only be light, you may have some areas that are thicker than others. This can be expected, especially if the tattoo artist had to go over the same area multiple times.

However, if many/most areas of your tattoo are covered in thick, ugly scabs, this may be the result of the tattoo artist being too rough and pressing the needle deeper than it needed to go. Go back to the artist if you are concerned.

Alternatively, don’t get worried if your tattoo doesn’t look like it’s scabbing at all. Some tattoos will scab extremely lightly, to the point that it may look like nothing is happening (but your tattoo will be healing). This is especially true for very fine tattoos, or tattoos that are made up of a very light color pallet, like white ink tattoos.

Also, tattoos can begin to scab before days 4-5. They can even scab after a day or two. This, again, is completely normal and you shouldn’t get worried. Some people will just generally heal faster than others.

Days 6-14 – Things are About to Start Getting a Little Itchy…
This part of the tattoo healing process is the part that most people dread. This is mainly due to the intense itching that some people suffer, and also because your tattoo can really look quite dreadful for a few days as it begins to peel and flake.

As you reach roughly day six (give or take a day), your light scabbing should be well-formed and covering the whole area. As the scabs and old pieces of skin begin to reach maturity, they will now begin to peel and flake away.

Your skin is going to become very dry, and in most cases, it’s this dry skin that brings on the itching that so many people can’t stand.

Your tattoo will start to look a little dry at first, and as the days go by, you will start to see more and more peeling and flaking skin.

Peeling Tattoo
A peeling tattoo
Although it’s going to be very tempting to pick at the peeling skin, do not pull any off or otherwise mess with it. Although the flaking skin only appears to be hanging on very slightly, it’s still attached enough to be able to potentially pull some ink away with it.

If you do begin to itch, do not scratch your tattoo. This is amongst the absolute worst things that you can do in the whole of the tattoo healing process.

Scratching the healing skin not only pulls away scabs and skin prematurely, pulling out ink in the process, but the bacteria on/under your fingernails can cause an infection around the area, too.

If you do find that your tattoo regularly starts to itch quite badly, this is normally a sign that the skin is becoming too dry. Once your skin starts to peel this is the perfect time to find a great moisturizing lotion to apply to the area. Myself and many others find instant relief after rubbing a quality lotion into the tattoo.

Other methods that could help to prevent extreme itching include:

Cooling the area with cold water or ice
Gently tapping the area instead of scratching
Taking a short shower
Distracting yourself with other activities
Read our great guide to itching to learn why tattoos itch, and how to prevent it
As your skin reaches the peeling stage, you’re going to want to moisturize as often as possible. Some people advise that moisturizing 6-7 times a day is required during this stage, but as long as you moisturize after each wash and before bed, this should be enough to keep the area well-hydrated.

You can either use a general skin-sensitive moisturizer, a specialized tattooing lotion, or even a completely organic and natural product such as coconut oil or cocoa butter to try to soothe your new tattoo and to promote healthy and quick healing.

Don’t Worry!
During this stage, as you wash your tattoo, you may start to see the peeling skin come off colored in ink. This is completely normal and your tattoo isn’t getting washed out.

All tattooed skin will peel away along with excess ink at this stage, and personally, all of my tattoos have done this, and every single one was turned out absolutely fine. Continue following your aftercare instructions and you should have no problems.

flakes of ink
Tattoos can peel a lot while being washed
Unfortunately, your skin is going to look very unsightly for a few days as the top layer of damaged skin sheds in preparation for the brand-new layers below. Your tattoo will look dull, scaly, flaky and dry – but as mentioned, this only lasts for a few days.

Tip:
If you’re going out with your tattoo on show, and it’s looking at its absolute worst as it’s peeling away, applying a thin layer of lotion should dampen the loose skin, causing it to stick down and look much nicer than it does when it’s dry and hard. Your tattoo should look marginally better for the next few hours using this trick.

You will notice that as time goes by, the more you wash your tattoo, the more flakes that will fall off, and as soon as very loose areas begin to come off, you will start to see glimpses of a much clearer, sharper tattoo breaking through from beneath.

Below is a great video showing first-hand experience of a healing tattoo throughout its first week.

Days 15-30 – Nearly There
At this point, your tattoo should have largely completed peeling, apart from the odd small areas of flaky/dry skin.

Sharper colors beginning to appear from underneath the peeling skin
Your tattoo should no-longer be red or sore (and if it is, it should be subsiding every day). Any raised areas should be slowly flattening to the point where you cannot tell where the tattooed parts are compared to your un-inked skin when running your fingers over the area.

You will notice, however, that your tattoo will likely still look a little dull and scaly, and it will continue to look and feel slightly dry, so continue moisturizing 2-3 times a day.

There is typically still a very thin layer of dead skin covering the area at this stage, which is contributing to the lack of sharpness, but this dead skin will gradually flake away over the next 4-8 weeks. The flaking will be extremely light, and will be nowhere near as bad the initial peeling phase.

There may still be the odd bout of itchiness, although nothing too extreme; however, you should still not scratch your tattoo for the next month or two if possible, because although the top layer will appear to have healed up nicely already, the lower layers of the tattoo could still be healing, and can actually take up to 6 months to completely regenerate back to normal.

Did You Know?
The upper layers of skin will always heal faster than the layers below. This is because of the greater importance in getting the outer layers of a wound sealed up as quickly as possible to prevent any kind of infection-causing bacteria from getting inside.

Continue to wash your tattoo every day, up until the 1-month mark. Your tattoo may not be as prone to infection as it was in the first couple of weeks, but it’s best to be completely sure that your tattoo clean and healthy.

I’m sure some of you will also be wondering when it’s possible to shave your tattoo if some of it is hidden amongst a hairier region. The best method of determining when you’re able to shave your tattoo is to close your eyes and run your fingers over the area.

If you cannot feel any raised or bumpy areas, then you should now be fine to shave over your tattoo. If it’s still a little raised or bumpy, give it another week or two and try the test again.

This is also a good time to inspect your tattoo closely to ensure there are no blemishes, faded spots, or areas of tattoo blowout. If you find any problems with your tattoo at this point, then contact your tattoo artist so they can give you advice on what to do next.

Be Aware
From time-to-time, some tattoos, no matter how old, can raise above the skin slightly, or go dry all of a sudden for no real reason. More times than not, this happens when a tattoo has been exposed to the sun, heavy sweating, or other elements such as salt water and chlorine.

These changes are normally only temporary and should subside after a few hours to a few days. If you’re overly concerned with any changes to your tattoo, see your tattoo artist or book an appointment to see a dermatologist or your doctor.

Summary
So then – probably the most comprehensive list of tattoo aftercare instructions you’re ever likely to come across.

The month immediately after getting out of the tattoo artist’s chair is definitely going to be the most important time for your tattoo, and you’re going to be wanting to do everything in your power to ensure the area heals as perfectly as possible.

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 how to care for your tattoos. 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.

How long does the tattoo healing process generally take?
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.

How long should I wait before removing the bandage?
Remove the bandage no sooner than 3-4 hours after, though it can also be left on overnight, especially if you received the tattoo in the evening. If you were tattooed early in the day, you may remove the bandage before going to bed. At most, the bandage should be removed within 24 hours of receiving the tattoo. We don’t recommend re-bandaging after the first bandage is removed.

There is a new type of bandage called Saniderm, which allows for quick, easy and clean healing of your tattoo. It is a thin, clear film that can stay on the tattooed area for as long as 5 days, and can be worn to bed and in the shower. Not all tattoo shops carry Saniderm, so it is recommended to ask the shop in advance, or bring your own if you wish to use this method.

How often should I clean my tattoo? What kind of soap should I use?
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 it) 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, such as Dial 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. You can use antibacterial soap for the first 3-5 days and then regular soap or body wash is fine.

Should I apply lotion to my tattoo? What kind of tattoo care products do you recommend?
Yes! Moisturizing your tattoo regularly is extremely important. You should moisturize your clean 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! We recommend these fragrance-free, white cream lotions: Aveeno, Curel, and Eucerin. Be warned: your favorite fragranced lotion is not a good option for moisturizing your tattoo – this can cause an excruciating burning sensation when applied to the tattoo, which is essentially an open wound. The fewer chemicals in the product, the better! Pure cocoa butter or shea butter is also popular for darker skin tones and is a fine option. 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, as the oil in these products can extract some of the ink from your tattoo.

Should I expect tattoo peeling? How should I handle peels and scabs?
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.

How can I tell if my tattoo is infected and what should I do if it is?
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.

Can I get a staph infection from a new tattoo? What should I do if I think I have staph?
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.

Is there anything I should avoid while my tattoo is healing?
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.

#1 LEAVE YOUR BANDAGE ON FOR A MINIMUM OF 1 HOUR:
Leave your bandage on for a minimum of 1 hour and no longer than 4 or 5 hours. (we would rather you left it on longer as opposed to washing it in a dirty bar bathroom) DO NOT REBANDAGE unless you speak with us and we decide it is a good idea, etc.

#2 AFTER REMOVAL OF BANDAGE WASH THOROUGHLY WITH HOT WATER:
After removal of bandage wash thoroughly with hot water and preferably a mild, liquid, UNSCENTED, soap. (dial, equate, etc…)

#3 PAT DRY WITH A CLEAN PAPER TOWEL:
Pat dry with a clean paper towel and let air dry for one hour or more before applying aftercare.

#4 APPLY A THIN LAYER OF PRODUCT:
Apply a THIN layer of product (FRAGRANCE FREE HAND LOTION, TATTOO GOO) and massage in to the skin to the point where it just barely looks moist. DO NOT GOOP ON A PILE OF A & D OINTMENT. If using lotion, make sure the product has the words “FRAGRANCE FREE” on the label, otherwise there may be a small amount of chemical additive to make it smell just a little better and that is what will irritate it. We do not recommend A&D ointment because of its high petroleum content. This will block your skin from breathing which is the most important thing for not only healthy but especially healing skin. It needs to be able to breathe to avoid clogging pores, etc.

#5 KEEP YOUR TATTOO CLEAN WITH SOAP AND WATER:
THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF HEALING YOUR TATTOO IS KEEPING IT CLEAN WITH SOAP AND WATER! It is a mere matter of common sense. If you are out and about, working, getting dirty, wash it more than if you are sitting on the couch watching Scooby Doo re-runs.

#6 REPEAT THIS PROCESS FOR A WEEK OR TWO:
Repeat this process for a week or two depending on the how the tattoo looks. It will peel like a sunburn after a few days. (It is totally normal to see colored flakes of skin shedding) If it does scab in a few areas this is nothing to worry about, just let them fall off on their own. DO NOT SCRATCH OR PICK AT THEM and do NOT over-saturate in the shower. This could soften them up too much and cause them to come off prematurely which will leave blank spots that will need touching up.

#7 NO SUN, NO SOAKING IN WATER OF ANY KIND:
DURING THE HEALING PROCESS….NO SUN, NO SWIMMING POOLS, NO JACUZZIS, NO OCEAN, NO SOAKING IN WATER OF ANY KIND!

#8 AFTER YOUR TATTOO IS HEALED:
AFTER YOUR TATTOO IS HEALED….USE SUNBLOCK, THIS WILL KEEP IT LOOKING LIKE NEW LONGER.

#9 THE BETTER YOU TAKE CARE OF THE GLASS/SKIN THE BETTER THE PICTURE/TATTOO LOOKS UNDERNEATH:
Think of it this way, you are looking THROUGH the skin at the ink underneath much like a picture in a frame with glass over it. The better you take care of the glass/skin the better the picture/tattoo looks underneath.

#10 AFTER YOU ARE ALL HEALED:
After you are all healed (usually about 2 weeks) stop in and say hello so the artist can give it a good looking over to make sure it does not need to be touched up and to get a nice healed portfolio picture. All touch up work is included in your original price for up to a year or so, unless you desire to CHANGE the tattoo in some way. If this is the case there may or may not be a small fee.

How to care of a Tattoo? As you leave the parlor with your fresh new piece, this is the question you will find yourself asking.

Tattoo Aftercare Timetable
Which Products Should I Use for Tattoo Aftercare?
Can I Use Coconut Oil on My New Tattoo?
What Should I Avoid in the Process of Tattoo Aftercare?
What Are the Symptoms I Should Be Aware of in Regards to My New Tattoo?
We know that tattoo aftercare is one of the most important aspects of the tattoo journey. Though, for some reason the tattoo community has had a hard time reaching a general agreement on how to properly care for a tattoo after being inked. With tens of thousands of parlors in the United States alone, you are likely to get different instructions from one artist studio to the next. The main reason why it’s so difficult to agree on a single solution is simply that tattoo aftercare has many solutions to it.

The primary reason for this may lie in the many different standards for tattoo shops all over the world. Artists from the very same shop recommend different types of aftercare to their clients. Most artists even offer different aftercare instructions based on the location of the tattoo that their client has received (such as a tattoo on a foot getting different treatment than one on the arm). In this post, we will highlight the most important guidelines to keep your new piece looking shiny and clean.

Tattoo Aftercare Timetable
Each and every tattoo will go through a healing process that typically lasts 2-4 weeks. Some collectors out there are blessed with forgiving skin, and their tattoos will heal with minimal upkeep and attention. Others are less fortunate, and their new tattoo will need to be kept under a close eye to ensure proper healing. The first week of healing is critical to how your tattoo will look for the rest of its life, so let’s have a look on how to take care of your new permanent accessory:

The process of tattooing impedes our skin’s natural production of oil, which is why it is very important to moisturize your new tattoo regularly. There’s not an exact science to the amount of times you should be applying your aftercare. No matter what, it’s best to listen to your body. Whenever your tattoo is feeling particularly parched, or itchy — you can rub on a small amount of coconut oil. Keep in mind that coconut oil will take a bit longer to absorb, and a little goes a long way.

What Should I Avoid in the Process of Tattoo Aftercare?
Sunblock and sunscreens are typically not formulated to protect wounds like a fresh tattoo. You will feel your fresh tattoo burning if it’s exposed to sunlight. If you must be out in the sun, keep it completely covered with sun-protective clothing at all times!

After you get a new tattoo, one of the things to avoid is direct sunlight.
After you get a new tattoo, one of the things to avoid is direct sunlight.
When clothing and fabric abrade against your new tattoo, you run the risk of agitating the healing process. The least amount of contact with fabric is usually the best call while healing a new tattoo. Loose-fitting clothing should be worn around the area for a week minimum. After a solid 2-3 weeks, you can probably wear your tight clothing again like the picture above.

While in the healing phase, it is common for your tattoo to seep excess plasma, fluid, and ink — which may stick to sheets, blankets, or clothing. If you can sleep with your tattoo exposed, that would be best. To be safe, you can place a clean thin towel between you and the sheets. If in the morning your tattoo is stuck to fabric, this is no cause for alarm. Don’t peel it off! Instead, take the fabric with you to the shower and wet it off with cool or lukewarm water.

Avoid sleeping on your fresh tattoo and cover your bed with clean towels.
Avoid sleeping on your fresh tattoo and cover your bed with clean towels.
Scabbing is a very normal part of the tattoo healing process. DO NOT PICK THE SCAB. Don’t scrub it either. Scabbing will typically be the same color as the pigment that was used. If you pick or scrub your scab, you risk pulling out the color or causing hypertrophic scarring of your tattoo. Let the tattoo heal by itself. Patience is a virtue.

If your tattoo itches, don’t scratch it!
If your tattoo itches, don’t scratch it!
Opt for showers instead of baths for 2-3 weeks as submerging a new tattoo in standing water may expose open skin to unwanted bacteria. This means no baths, pools, jacuzzis, lakes, ponds or quick dips in the ocean.

Avoid standing water that may expose open skin to unwanted bacterias.
Avoid standing water that may expose open skin to unwanted bacterias.
What Are the Symptoms I Should Be Aware of in Regards to My New Tattoo?
Some symptoms might raise concerns when it comes to your new tattoo. You don’t have to be worried about every single signal your body emits, but a few of them should alarm you.

If you’ve noticed a sudden outbreak of pimples around your tattoo, chances are you’ve over moisturized. Dial back on the oil/lotion and try to maintain a moisture level even with the rest of your body.

Professional tattoo artists do everything possible to ensure safe tattooing practices. However, they are not medical professionals. Contact your doctor immediately if the following symptoms arise when you’ve gotten a new tattoo:

Severe pain or swelling
Prolonged oozing of plasma with or without color
Thick, hard scabs that are bleeding red blood
So, there you have it. By following this aftercare advice your brand new tattoo will soon mature into a phenomenally healed tattoo. Admittedly this is a lot to do, but considering that you’re going to have that same tattoo for the rest of your life, what does it actually mean that you have to pay close attention to the aftercare for a couple of weeks?
If you want your tattoo to last, before-after care is crucial—and not just in terms of treating the tattoo itself. “Internal preparation is just as important as external aftercare,” says Anka Lavriv, tattoo artist and co-owner of
“Keep in mind that a tattoo is an invasive cosmetic procedure and it does take a strain on your immune system. Your immune and lymphatic system will be working hard on healing a fresh tattoo, so partying and anything excessive is definitely not recommended.” In other words: take it easy. But just about how lightly should you tread? And since this is all the information you should consider before even walking into a tattoo parlor, what should you do after your appointment?
Wash Your Hands Before Touching Your Tattoo

Most tattoo artists have their own personal set of aftercare instructions. But one thing they all have in common is the advice to only touch your tattoo with clean hands. “The most important step would be to clean your hands before you clean your tattoos,” says Tuki Carter, rapper and tattoo artist to Wiz Khalifa, Rick Ross, and Gucci Mane. “[I recommend that] you listen to the verbal directions [from your tattooer] first, then refer to the written directions after.” Also, take into consideration that washing your hands shouldn’t be a quick three-second rinse. With soap, rub your palms together for as long as it takes to recite a full alphabet (or for whatever jingle lasts 20 seconds or more).

Remove the Bandage and Wash With Antibacterial Soap Only

The original bandage your tattoo artist employs to wrap you up post-ink session can be removed within two to three hours after completion, or however long your tattoo artist recommends. Do not re-bandage. The plasma from the original tattoo should surface after the first couple hours, and then it’s time to clean the art and allow it to breathe hence more.

To cleanse the tattoo, use anti-bacterial soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s Baby Unscented Pure-Castile Liquid Soap ($11), or any unscented antibacterial liquid. Refrain from using any type of cloth to cleanse the tattoo, because it will cause exfoliation to the area—which, remember, is a wound. Next, rinse with warm-to-mild temperature water and pat the area dry with a towel. Allow it to sit for at least 10 minutes before proceeding.

Carter says to always use an ointment recommended by the artist who gave you the tattoo. “Every artist has their own aftercare ointment—Shea butter, artificial skin, lotions, etc.,” he explains. “Make sure you don’t over-medicate the tattoo by applying too much ointment, because it could clog the pores and create a rash that would definitely disturb the healing process.” Some tattoo blogs even suggest that it is okay to leave the area free of ointment after the first cleansing, or only applying a very thin layer.

“I always recommend using Aquaphor ($7) for the first two to three days of healing,” says Anka. “It delivers the right amount of moisturization without feeling heavy or suffocating. It also minimizes peeling and flaking.” One thing to note: Aquaphor does contain petroleum, so if you’re looking for vegan alternatives, she recommends Hustle Butter ($20), a tattooing glide made of Shea, mango and aloe butter, with coconut and vitamin e oils; it’s great for using before, during and after the healing process. Once your tattoo starts healing, you can switch to unscented lotions, such as the ones from Aveeno, Lubriderm, Eucerin, or dabble in natural Shea body butter to moisturize until your masterpiece is fully healed.

Allow It to Breathe
During the first three to four days post-tattoo, you’ll repeat the process of washing your tattoo about two to five times a day, then following with a light layer of ointment. Carter explains that during the healing process, a good amount of air is great for the ink, so it’s critical to make sure the skin can breathe. On the first night, it’s normal to wrap the area in plastic wrap so it doesn’t stick to your bedding, but after that, make sure the design is free from coverage and getting ventilation.

Let It Heal

The time it takes for your tattoo to fully heal depends on the size and execution of the tattoo, but Carter says it should be around six weeks. (He notes that those with immune disorders might need to consult a physician or dermatologist before getting a tattoo.) He also says that tattoos with colored ink take longer to heal than non-colored tattoos, especially if it’s large in size or on the inside of a joint. “The bending can ‘crack’ the healing tattoo and cause a scab, which can delay the healing process,” he says.

Etched tattoos and link work cause minimal trauma to the skin, so they tend to heal faster. On the third or fourth day, the art will begin to peel, which may be uncomfortable or itchy—but refrain from picking and scratching the design. The area will still be hypersensitive even after the peeling stage, so it’s recommended to keep up with your moisturizing routine. Continue to use unscented soap and lotion without scent, dye, and perfume.

Avoid Prolonged Sun Exposure

As time goes on, it’s natural for a tattoo to go through changes, which include fading. “According to new research, tattoo ink stays suspended in the dermis and is held there by a certain type of white blood cell called macrophage” explains Anka. A fibroblast is another type of cell known to absorb ink particles, so together, the macrophage and fibroblast bind enough ink particles for the tattoo image to actually stay put and appear on your skin. These cells hang around for years and eventually when they die, the ink molecules get reabsorbed by a new macrophage. Your tattoo becomes part of your organism, which involves shedding and change. And just like it’s important to keep your actual epidermis safe from harsh chemicals and sun exposure, you’ll need to care for your tattoo by always make sure you wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 35. Remember: prolonged sun exposure is damaging to your art. Resist tanning to keep your tattoo looking fresh.

1. FOLLOW YOUR TATTOO ARTIST’S ADVICE
Aftercare advice will vary from studio to studio, and sometimes even artists in the same studio will have different ideas of what heals best. Listen to the instructions your artist gives you – most will have a leaflet with their advice printed out for you to take away.

2. AFTER A FEW HOURS GENTLY WASH THE TATTOO
The majority of advice will tell you to leave the covering on the tattoo for the first 2-5 hours, then to carefully remove it and gently wash the tattoo with lukewarm water and mild liquid soap, like Carex.

3. APPLY A THIN LAYER OF UNSCENTED MOISTURISING CREAM
You should then apply a thin layer of an unscented moisturising cream like Bepanthen (nappy rash cream) – your artist will tell you which they recommend. You can either then recover with clingfilm/gauze, or leave it open to the air, depending on your artists advice. Generally, studios will advise you to repeat the cleaning process 3-5 times a day.

4. KEEP THE TATTOO CLEAN AND DRY
Keep the tattoo clean and dry, and avoid soaking it in water for at least a month (showers are ok, baths are not). If your clothes are likely to rub on it, keep it covered with gauze/clingfilm and medical tape.

5. AVOID DIRECT SUNLIGHT
Avoid exposing it to direct sunlight unless necessary. Healed tattoos, especially coloured ones, can fade in the sun – so when it’s completely healed, make sure it’s covered in a high SPF (check out our best sun creams here), if you’re going to be catching some rays.

6. BE PATIENT WITH HEALING TIMES
Healing times depend on how well you heal and the size of the design. This can range anywhere from around a week for simple, small line designs, to several months for complex, larger designs. Keep following your aftercare instructions for as long as the artist told you to, and make sure the tattoo is kept well-moisturised and clean for a good few months after that, avoiding abrasive skin products.

7. DO. NOT. ITCH.
As the tattoo heals, it may scab or flake slightly. Avoid picking at it, as this may remove the ink in that area and lead to patches fading or being removed altogether. If it itches, don’t scratch – slap it lightly instead. This should only last for the first few weeks or so – if it stays raised, itches uncontrollably, is red around the design, keeps bleeding for more than a day or so after having it done, or is continuously hot to the touch, go back to your artist or seek medical advice. Infected tattoos are very rare but can happen, and it’s always worth getting it checked out if you’re worried about it.

8. GO BACK TO THE STUDIO FOR TOUCH UPS, IF NEEDED
If you do lose ink, your studio should retouch it for free – bad tattoos and service lead to bad reputations, so it’s in their interests to make sure you’re happy with the final product. After about 6 weeks, go back if you need touch-ups on any area of the tattoo.

1. Remove bandage in a CLEAN bathroom after 2-3 hours. Bandage may be left on overnight if it feels comfortable and secure. If the bandage is removed on the first night, the tattoo may stick to or stain bed sheets. Maintain clean bedding throughout the healing process (about 2 weeks).

2. After removing bandage, wash the tattoo immediately with warm water and soap. We recommend plain Dial soap out of a pump bottle. No soap with fragrance moisture beads or scrubs.

PROCESS FOR WASHING A FRESH TATTOO:
Carefully remove bandage and tape
Make a lather in your hand with soap and warm water
Gently clean tattoo using a circular motion, until all ointment, blood, and lymphatic fluid are removed
Rinse the tattoo and wash once again, gently, until the skin is clean
a hair dryer on the ‘cool’ setting may be used; a clean paper towel may also be used to dab the tattoo dry
3. Only use CLEAN HANDS to wash your tattoo. NO washcloths, bath towels, bath sponges or loofahs on a fresh tattoo.

4. Once the tattoo is dry apply AQUAPHOR healing ointment, made by Eucerin. Apply a thin layer and rub it in, then dab excess off with a clean paper towel. Use the Aquaphor for the first 2-3 days then switch to a regular FRAGRANCE FREE lotion such as Lubriderm, or any other fragrance free brand.

5. Fresh tattoos sometimes “weep” during the first couple of days, meaning that plasma and ink form a thin moist coating on the skin. This can be DABBED with a clean paper towel. Press the paper towel to the skin and remove. Do not wipe the tattoo or be rough with it. Do not panic when you see the colors of the tattoo on the paper towel, or on your hands as you clean it. This is simply excess ink being sloughed from the surface or the skin.

6. Once a day, in the shower, is usually enough cleaning for any new tattoo. Consult your artist if you plan to do any strenuous activity within the first ten day of having your tattoo. Lotion may be applied to the tattoo as it dries out; however if your skin is extremely sensitive, lotion may cause acne- like break outs. This can be taken care of by reducing the number of lotion applications per day.

7. Wear loose, preferably cotton clothing over the fresh tattoo. The tattoo need not be rebandaged except in certain, rare instances. A bra strap, tight waistband, sweaty gym shoe or itchy cotton sweater can potentially create healing problems. Consult your tattoo artist for advice on what clothing to wear/avoid. If you choose to re-bandage your tattoo after washing be sure that only sterile bandages are used.

8. After a few days, the tattoo will begin to form flaky scabs that will fall off on their own. DO NOT PICK OR SCRATCH AT YOUR TATTOO. Keep it moisturized and the scabs will slough eventually. Once again, they will be the color of the tattoo. It normally takes 2-4 weeks for a tattoo to completely heal. If you have ANY questions about your healing, please contact one of our artists at (512) 392-0938. Please do not consult your friends about healing issues, as everyone’s experience is unique. Our artists are more than happy to help with any concerns you might have.

A tattoo is a personal and permanent work of art. It is also a type of wound, as a tattoo gun uses a fast-moving needle to inject ink deep into the skin. Just as proper care ensures that a painting can hang in a gallery undamaged for years, tattoo aftercare is an important part of preserving a tattoo.

Tattoo aftercare can be confusing, especially if it is a person’s first tattoo. This guide will provide detailed instructions on how to care for a new tattoo and tips for keeping tattooed skin looking young and healthy.

Step-by-step aftercare instructions
Proper aftercare in the first few weeks after getting a tattoo can help prevent an infection and keep the tattoo looking good.

The initial bandage
After the tattoo is completed, the tatoo artist will moisturize the skin and apply plastic wrap or bandages to the area.
Tattoo aftercare starts in the tattoo shop. Once the tattoo is done, the artist will apply a thin layer of tattoo jelly or moisturizer over the entire tattooed area. They will then cover the area completely with plastic wrap or a bandage.

As tempting as it can be to remove the protective cover to look at the tattoo, the bandage or plastic wrap should stay on for at least a few hours after the process. The length of time will depend on the size and location of the tattoo.

This covering protects the open skin from bacteria, sunlight, and from rubbing against clothing.

The first wash
After usually no less than 5 hours, it is safe to remove the bandage and wash the tattoo.

After thorough hand-washing, a person can gently wash the tattoo with hypoallergenic soap and warm water using their fingers.

The moisturizer on the skin will come off, and the tattoo may appear as if it is oozing ink or a thick, sticky substance. This reaction is not usually a cause for concern, as it is just the excess fluid and ink from the tattoo process.

After washing, a person should pat the skin with a clean paper towel and allow it to air-dry for up to an hour. When the area is completely dry, they can apply a thin layer of moisturizer to the tattoo, but leave it uncovered to allow the skin to breathe.

Week one
For the first couple of days, the tattooed skin may feel warm to the touch and have a reddish appearance. The colors may also appear very bright against the rest of the skin. The tattoo will become less vibrant as the healing process continues.

A person should avoid submerging the tattoo in water or getting the tattoo wet during the first 3–6 weeks, except for when washing it.

A person can continue using the washing technique above throughout the first week when needed. How often washing is necessary will vary depending on a person’s activity levels and environment.

Someone who is sitting in an air-conditioned office all day may only need to wash the tattoo once a day. But someone who is working in a hot or dirty environment and sweating may need to wash the tattoo every few hours.

It is best to wash the tattoo with clean fingers only and not a cloth or towel, which may irritate the skin and prematurely remove any scabs that may have formed.

Scabs will often form in the first few days, and ink may still come up through the skin and need to be washed away. It is important not to pick the scabs or scratch the skin.

Any redness or mild swelling usually goes away near the end of the first week.

Week two
Around the beginning of the second week, the scabs will start to flake off. It is important to be especially gentle with washing and moisturizing during this week, as it is easy to tear away scabs and damage the tattoo.

The skin is likely to feel very itchy during this week, but it must not be scratched. Additional moisturizer may help relieve the itch. Using a moisturizer that is kept in the refrigerator may also soothe itchy or irritated skin.

If necessary, an over-the-counter product, such as Benadryl, may be taken by mouth to help relieve the itching.

Week three and beyond
The final stage of healing can be slow but requires patience. Most of the larger scabs will have flaked and fallen away by now. Small scabs and bits of dead skin may appear, but these will also clear up as the healing process continues.

Scabs and flaking skin can cause the area to look dry and dull. Applying moisturizer, and protecting the tattoo from the sun, will help with these issues.

The outer layers of skin should completely heal by the end of week three. The inner layers of skin can take longer to heal but require much less care.

The chance of infection is reduced once the outer layers of skin have healed, as there is no open wound for bacteria to infect.

Moisturizing regularly in the months following the tattoo will help keep it looking bright and clear. Protecting the tattoo from the sun with clothing while it is healing, and applying sunscreen after it has healed, is especially important in the first few months.

Ink rejection or allergy
At any stage in the healing process, the body may reject an ink color. If the body is allergic to an ink, a raised and painful rash may form on the skin.

To avoid ink rejection, some tattoo artists will do an allergy test with the color in question by applying a small amount to the skin. If it causes a reaction, it is not safe to use.

Ink allergies may occur because tattoo ink colors contain many different substances. For example, the black ink contains carbon and the red ink contains mercury sulfide.

Anyone experiencing a rash on or around a tattoo should visit a doctor, who can identify and treat the rash. The person may also wish to contact their tattoo artist.

Lotions for tattoo aftercare
Pure shea butter may be used to moisturize the tattooed area.
Each tattoo artist is likely to have a different recommendation for what moisturizer someone should use. Common recommendations include:

alcohol-free healing ointments, such as Eucerin or Curel
coconut oil
tattoo-specific cream, such as Tattoo Goo
pure cocoa butter or shea butter
It is important not to use any scented creams or lotions. Harsh chemicals can irritate the wound and damage the tattooed skin.

A person should also avoid using sunscreen on a tattoo until it is fully healed, as this can clog the pores and trap bacteria.

Eucerin, Curel, coconut oil, Tattoo Goo, pure cocoa butter, and shea butter
are available for purchase online.

Tips on tattoo care
Tattoos are a lifelong commitment and require some special care to keep them looking good for many years to come.

When to see a doctor
If the skin is painful to touch or warm, or there is a rash, then it may be infected.
Tattoo care is simple once the process is understood, but there are still times when a doctor may be needed.

Infection is the most common reason to see a doctor after a tattoo. If a person does not care for it properly, a tattoo can become infected with bacteria.

An infected tattoo will be warm, inflamed, and painful to the touch. The skin may also ooze pus or have a rash.

Blood-borne infections can occur if the tattoo artist used dirty needles or ink. These infections can include:

tetanus
hepatitis B
hepatitis C
HIV
mycobacterial skin infections
A person should contact a doctor if any signs of infection occur.

Takeaway
The most important factor for tattoo care is working with a professional, highly-recommended tattoo artist. This helps avoid any complications and makes the healing process much easier.

Following the tattoo artist’s instructions on self-care is often a person’s best line of defence against infection and poor healing. Regular care for a tattoo can help prevent infection and keep both the skin and tattoo preserved for years to come.

You finally did it. You got the tattoo you always wanted. It’s bright and it’s colorful. But now you have to take care of it to make sure you don’t get a skin infection. So how do you even know what the right steps are? Should you trust the tattoo artist? Ask your dermatologist?

It depends on where you live, really. In the United States there are few guidelines for tattooing, and even fewer for aftercare.

Currently, in the U.S.:
Seven states have no regulations at all on tattoos.
Six states license tattooists but don’t have any aftercare rules.
Thirty states license tattoo artists and require written or verbal instructions on aftercare.
Only seven states — Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, and North Dakota — require tattoo artists to provide their customers with aftercare instructions mandated by the public health department.
Dermatologists think this needs to change so that everyone who gets a tattoo also gets instructions on how to take care of it to prevent infections and serious complications.

Aftercare for Your Tattoo
So, how can you make sure that new tattoo is something you don’t end up regretting? Follow these steps while your new tattoo heals.

If your tattoo scabs a bit or develops hard layers, don’t worry. It’s normal. But never pick, scratch, or peel it. You could get an infection or remove the color. If you think your tattoo is infected, or isn’t healing properly, go see your doctor.

A tattoo is more than just a piece of art and a way to assert your personal style. It’s a medical procedure, because the artist uses a needle to insert the ink underneath your skin. Any time you open the skin, you leave yourself vulnerable to scarring and infections.

Caring for your tattoo can prevent these complications and ensure that it heals properly. Both you and your artist play equal roles in this process. Along with going to a licensed and reputable tattoo artist, you need to take care of your new tattoo at home.

Figuring out how to care for your tattoo can be tricky, though. Many states don’t require their tattoo artists to provide aftercare instructions. And among the 30 statesTrusted Source that do require it, the artist often decides which information to provide.

Keep reading for a day-by-day guide to help you care for your tattoo, tips on which products to use, and more.

How to care for your tattoo
Aftercare starts as soon as your tattoo is done. The artist should apply a thin layer of petroleum ointment over the tattoo, and then cover the area in a bandage or plastic wrap. This covering prevents bacteria from getting into your skin. It also protects the tattoo from rubbing on your clothes and getting irritated.

Keep the dressing on for a few hours. It will help absorb any fluid or excess ink that leaks from the tattoo.

After a few hours, you can remove the bandage. Wash your hands first with lukewarm water and soap. Then gently wash the tattoo with fragrance-free soap and water.

Pat your skin dry with a soft cloth. Apply a small amount of petroleum ointment to the tattoo. You can keep the bandage off at this point to let your skin breathe.

While your tattoo heals, you should:

How quickly you heal depends on the size of your tattoo and how intricate it is. Bigger tattoos will stay red and swollen longer, because they cause more trauma to your skin.

Day 1
You’ll come home from the artist with a bandage over your tattoo. After a few hours, you can remove it. You should ask your artist for specifics about how long to wait.

Once the bandage comes off, you’ll probably notice fluid oozing from the tattoo. This is blood, plasma (the clear part of blood), and some extra ink. It’s normal. Your skin will also be red and sore. It might feel slightly warm to the touch.

With clean hands, wash the tattoo with warm water and a fragrance-free soap. Apply a petroleum ointment. Leave the bandage off so the tattoo can heal.

Days 2 to 3
Your tattoo will have a duller, cloudy appearance by now. This happens as your skin heals. Scabs will start to form.

Wash your tattoo once or twice a day and apply a fragrance- and alcohol-free moisturizer. When you wash, you might notice some ink running into the sink. This is just excess ink that’s come up through your skin.

Days 4 to 6
The redness should start to fade. You’ll probably notice some light scabbing over the tattoo. The scabs shouldn’t be as thick as scabs you get when you cut yourself, but they will be raised. Don’t pick at the scabs — this can cause scarring.

Keep washing your tattoo once or twice a day. Apply moisturizer.

Days 6 to 14
The scabs have hardened and will begin to flake off. Don’t pick at them or try to pull them off, let them come off naturally. Otherwise, you could pull out the ink and leave scars.

At this point your skin may feel very itchy. Gently rub on a moisturizer several times a day to relieve the itch.

If your tattoo is still red and swollen at this point, you might have an infection. Go back to your artist or see a doctor.

Days 15 to 30
In this last stage of healing, most of the big flakes will be gone and the scabs should be going away. You might still see some dead skin, but it should eventually clear up too. The tattooed area might still look dry and dull. Keep moisturizing until the skin looks hydrated again.

By the second or third week, the outer layers of skin should have healed. It may take three to four months for the lower layers to completely heal. By the end of your third month, the tattoo should look as bright and vivid as the artist intended.

If you’re looking for an idea of what bright and vivid looks like — check out these inspiring diabetes tattoos.

Tattoo aftercare products
Always use a mild, fragrance-free soap or a specially formulated tattoo cleanser to clean the area. Your tattoo artist can recommend a tattoo-specific cleanser.

Soap options include:

Dove
Dial
Neutrogena
For the first day or two, use a petroleum-based ointment like A&D or Aquaphor to help the tattoo heal. Cosmetic grade petroleum jelly is non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog your pores and cause infection. But just apply a thin layer. Putting on too thick of a layer won’t allow your skin to breathe.

After about two days, you can switch to a regular moisturizer, such as:

Lubriderm
Aveeno
Curel
Eucerin
Whatever you choose, make sure it’s fragrance-free and doesn’t contain additives, such as colored dye, that could dry out your skin. When taken care of, your tattoo can be as brilliant as one of these inspiring breast cancer tattoos.

Can you use coconut oil for tattoo aftercare?
Polynesian people have long used coconut oil on their tattoos. They apply it after the tattoo heals to make the design shine.

Some websites claim that coconut oil keeps the skin under your tattoo moist and protects against infection. Yet there’s no scientific evidence that it works. Check with your doctor before putting coconut oil or any other unproven products on your tattoo.

Potential side effects and complications
For the first few days after you get your tattoo, your skin may be red, itchy, and sore. You may notice excess ink, along with blood and fluid, leaking from your skin. This is normal.

If you begin experiencing symptoms of any of the following complications, see your doctor:

Infection
A tattoo that isn’t properly cared for can get infected. Infected skin will be red, warm, and painful. It may also leak pus.

If the equipment or ink your artist used was contaminated, you could get a bloodborne infection such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C, tetanus, or HIV. There have also been reports of other infections, like nontuberculous mycobacterial skin infectionsTrusted Source, being transmitted through tattoos.

Allergic reaction
If you’re sensitive to the ink your artist used, you may develop a red, itchy skin reaction at the site. Red, green, yellow, and blue dyes are the most likely to cause a reaction.

Scarring
Damage from the needle, or from picking at the tattoo, can cause your body to produce scar tissue. Scars can be permanent.

Long-term tattoo aftercare tips
Once your tattoo has healed, you move into maintenance mode. Though you don’t have to specifically care for it after three or four months, there are things you can do to prevent the ink from degrading.

You should
Keep it clean. Wash your skin daily with a gentle, unscented soap.
Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to keep your skin moisturized.
Watch what you wear. Wear SPF clothing so the sun won’t fade your tattoo. Avoid scratchy fabrics, such as wool, which can damage the art.
Avoid excess weight gain or loss. You could stretch out or distort the tattoo.

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