Now that you have your new tattoo, you need to take good care of it. From this point on, your artist is not responsible for any infections or problems you may have with your tattoo resulting from poor maintenance. Everything depends on you. And safety aside, a really beautiful tattoo can turn into a disaster if you don’t follow the proper aftercare guidelines. Now that we have your attention, here are a few things you should do (or not) to get the most out of your investment in this beautiful body art.
Leave this bandage alone
Open wounds are a breeding ground for bacteria and infections, and no matter how pretty your new tattoo is, it’s a sore. Your artist took care to cover it to prevent airborne bacteria from invading it. Leave the dressing for a minimum two hours. The excitement of having a new tattoo will make you want to take the bandage off so you can show it off to your friends, but you have to resist the temptation.
The only exception to this rule is if your artist has covered your tattoo with some kind of plastic. This will prevent air from reaching your skin and can be extremely damaging to a tattoo, so you should remove it immediately. Better not to have a cover than to smother your new tattoo with plastic wrap. Better yet, have your artist use bandages rather than plastic in the first place.
Wash and treat
After removing the bandage, you need to wash your tattoo. Use lukewarm water and mild antibacterial or antimicrobial liquid soap to gently remove any ointment, blood, and plasma and to thoroughly cleanse the area. Provon Antimicrobial Lotion Soap is a good choice; it is a gentle moisturizing cleanser specially designed for the care of piercings and tattoos. Never use a washcloth; it’s too abrasive. Your hand is your best tool.
If your tattoo is slimy and slippery, you’ve probably oozed plasma. Try to gently remove as much as possible; scabs may form if allowed to dry on the surface of the skin.
Then pat – don’t rub – the area firmly with a clean towel or paper towel to make it dry completely. Follow with a very light application of A D, Bacitracin or a similar antibacterial ointment, but not Neosporin. It is a wonderful product for cuts and scrapes, but not for tattoos. Many people have allergic reactions to neosporin, which can cause small, red bumps.When the bumps go away, so does the ink, and you may end up with a dot tattoo.
If you prefer, you can also use a specialized product such as Tattoo Goo Aftercare Balm. It is petroleum free and made with herbs and oils meant to soothe and heal your new tattoo.
After that, continue to keep your tattoo clean. After a while, you can use a lotion without dye or perfume if needed instead of an ointment to keep the skin soft.
Bathing, showering, hot tubs and swimming
Wet your tattoo is fine, but soaking it is not. Yes, you can (and should!) Shower with a new tattoo, as long as you don’t soak it completely. Avoid swimming, whether in a pool, lake or ocean, and submerging your tattoo in a bath or hot tub for two to three weeks; it can cause serious damage. If you have soap or shampoo on your tattoo, quickly remove it with water. No shaving either.
Scabs and flaking
After a few days you will notice some peeling and maybe a little scabbing. Excessive scab could indicate a poorly done tattoo, but a little is normal and there is no need to panic. Apply warm, wet compresses to the scabs for about five minutes two or three times a day to soften the scabs, and they will eventually go away on their own. (Do not apply ointment or lotion to a softened scab, wait for it to dry.)
Your tattoo will start to itch as it heals, just like a sunburn. It might also peel more. Whatever you do, don’t pick or scratch! If your skin is itchy, slap it. Your tattoo is almost healed. Why waste it?
Once your tattoo has healed, you still need to protect it from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. These can fade and damage a shiny tattoo very quickly. Get in the habit of protecting your tattoo with at least SPF 30 sunscreen whenever you plan to be outside for any length of time. It will go a long way in keeping your tattoo glowing for many years to come.