Whether it took you five minutes, fifteen hours or more to get your new tattoo, you’ll want to take care of it properly. The right follow-up can be the difference between an ink that stays beautiful and a tattoo that becomes blurry, discolored, and worse, infected.
Only 7 states require their health departments to approve follow-up instructions, according to research by JAMA Dermatology– so in other states you may not receive the most complete information. Even if you receive instructions, “each state has different regulations, so your follow-up instructions can vary widely depending on where you live,” says researcher Jared Jagdeo, MD, assistant professor in the University’s Department of Dermatology. from California. . “In general, it’s best to know how to take care of your tattoo before you get one.”
So, to keep your ink intact and your skin free of issues, infections, and drama, you’re going to want to treat yourself to the very best after tattoo care. Here’s what you need to know before you get more ink so you know what to do and what not to do after getting a tattoo:
Tattoo tip # 1: do some pre-care before your appointment
While most tattoo treatments are done after the fact, there are a few things to keep in mind beforehand, according to Dr. Jagdeo.
Make sure your store is licensed by your state – a license will likely be prominently displayed in the receiving area. Also check the general cleanliness around you, including work surfaces or visible equipment. Artists who tattoo should wear gloves throughout, and all items like needles or dyes should be in single-use packaging.
Stay out of the sun a few days before your appointment. Sunburn not only makes the tattoo experience even more painful, the burn can also cause inflammation, which can affect the quality of the tattoo and subsequent healing.
Then, when the date of the appointment rolls thin, clean the area to be tattooed with mild soap and water. Do not rub, as this can cause micro-abrasions which can inflame the skin.
At the appointment, make sure the tattoo artist uses an antiseptic before doing the job, to prevent bacteria on the skin’s surface from entering the tattoo.
Your tattoo artist should cover your art with a bandage before leaving.
Tattoo Tip # 2: Relax
A common mistake Dr Jagdeo sees is a return to vigorous activity the day after a new tattoo, or even the same day.
“People who do body art tend to be active, so they do what they always do, which is rock climbing, swimming or weight training at the gym,” he said.
But outdoor activities can expose the new tattoo to the elements, like sun and water, while it is still healing. Inside, you might have sweat and gym bacteria in the tattoo. Because tattoos are created by micro-abrasions on the skin, it makes it easier for bacteria to enter if you’re not careful, and it can increase your risk of infection.
Exposure to any of these factors can cause a condition called inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which can create a kind of “tan” under and around the tattooed area. Dr Jagdeo says it is very difficult to treat and changes the look of a tattoo in terms of color and lines.
Also, try to resist bathing or swimming in the ocean for a few weeks after getting a tattoo (showers are fine).
Tattoo tip # 3: don’t use antibacterial lotion
While you don’t want bacteria to get into your tattoo, you should avoid products like Neosporin, Triple Antibiotic, and CURAD. Dr Jagdeo says it can make the skin more sensitive and, again, create the conditions for inflammation.
Tattooed skin that becomes inflamed can become a long-term problem, says Dr. Jagdeo. You might see swelling and redness in the area recurrently, even for years afterward.
“Scabs can lead to scarring, and it can ruin your tattoo,” he says. If any scabs do form, resist the urge to pluck them as this can change the look of the tattoo, make the colors uneven, or blur the lines.
Tattoo tip # 4: ditch the loofah
When washing a new tattoo, be gentle using a mild soap and avoid rubbing with a washcloth or loofah as either can cause small tears that can lead to infection.
Dr Jagdeo advises waiting at least a week before returning to a washcloth and making sure the area is well healed before doing so.
Tattoo Tip # 5: Use More Sunscreen
Tanning and especially sunburn can create mild to severe inflammation on the skin, which can affect tattoos in the long run. You may see faster discoloration, patchy healing, and even allergic reactions, says Dr. Jagdeo. (See the best sunscreens for men here.)
Even long after you’ve gotten a new ink, you’ll want to keep your skin smeared with sunscreen to keep your tattoo from fading. You are also going to want to keep your skin hydrated. Arizona-based tattoo artist Anthony Michaels told us it was like putting “wax on a car.”
Dr Jagdeo also says that if you’re having trouble with a tattoo when you’re doing everything right, you could be having an autoimmune response to your new tattoo. In this case, be sure to consult a dermatologist so that the situation does not worsen.
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