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You’ve endured tattoo needles like a champ, you’re out of the hot seat, and the sore part is over. But before you flaunt your fresh ink, there is an essential part of the aftercare that will ensure your tattoo is like new long after it heals – and it has everything to do with the soap you use to clean it. If you neglect this part of the process, you run the risk of ruining the tattoo you worked so hard to design or, worse, getting an infection – and no one wants that. The tattoo artist has done their part, and now it’s time to do yours.
According to three certified dermatologists who spoke to POPSUGAR, new tattoos should be treated with a lot of TLC. “A tattoo is a wound,” Reagan Anderson, DO, FAOCD and dermatologist explained to Colorado Institute of Dermatology. “And like all other sores, if we can keep her moist and covered while she heals over the next six weeks, it’ll be much better than if you let her dry and crack and crust.”
To promote and maintain a hydrated skin barrier, Tiffany Jow Libby, MD, FAAD and dermatologist at Brown dermatology, highly recommend using a mild liquid cleanser instead of bar soap. “Many bar soaps have a pH between 9 and 10 and therefore tend to be more alkaline, which can upset the pH of the skin,” said Dr Libby. As a general rule, you should not wash your tattoo more than twice a day with lukewarm (not hot) water, but do not use a washcloth or loofah as this will interfere with healing.
Andrea Suarez, MD, dermatologist at Premier Derm, pointed out that using a mild liquid cleanser alone will not be enough to effectively heal your tattoo. Right after cleansing your skin well, she recommends applying a layer of fragrance-free moisturizer while it’s still wet to seal the skin barrier. “When the skin barrier is altered, it loses water very, very quickly,” she said. “And to cure it well, having a good barrier cream can really pay off.” Not only does this decrease the amount of scabs and prevent holes from forming in your new ink, it also makes the healing process a lot smoother, literally.
From the moment you leave the tattoo parlor until the last day of the six week full healing period, watch out for any changes in your skin. If you start to notice rashes, bumps, and pus, it’s a good idea to contact your doctor. But a slight swelling, redness, and even a little blood is perfectly normal. As long as you diligently clean and moisturize your tattoo, you should keep infections away effectively. To optimize the healing of your new tattoo, we’ve compiled a list of six dermatologist-recommended soaps to use during your six-week tattoo aftercare.