Must haves for proper tattoo aftercare:
- Dial Antibacterial Hand Soap
- Softsoap Antibacterial Hand Soap
- Burt's Bees Milk and Shea Butter Hand Soap
- Hustle Butter Deluxe
- Eucerin Fragrance-free lotion
- CerVe Fragrance-free lotion
- Lubriderm Fragrance-free lotion
- Burt's Bees ResQ Ointment Salve
Congratulations! You've acquired new ink! Now's time for the most crucial part of the process: the aftercare. Even though skin is diverse, there is a healing process that may vary slightly between person to person. With this in mind, understand that your healing process may not be exactly like your friends' or coworkers'. So, if you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me!
It is critical that you treat the tattoo as an injury - one that is highly susceptible to infection and/or further trauma should you not take precautions. Our skin acts as a barrier - or shield - to outside forces, and we've repeatedly punctured it with needles only god knows how many times. So, in truth, a new tattoo is an open wound.
First off, you will be sent off from the shop with a glistening new tattoo, lovingly slathered with ointment and safely snug beneath bandages. Depending on the size and location of your new ink and on the type of bandages used, you will be removing the bandage anywhere between 2 - 24 hours. The bandage is not to be removed until after the time the artist has instructed has passed. But of course, this is assuming all is well and something hasn't happened to the bandage that could put the tattoo in jeopardy. If the bandage falls off or slips away from the tattoo – immediately proceed to wash it.
The first wash is critical to the rest of the heal. I cannot stress enough how important it is to wash the tattoo as thoroughly as possible! You want to rid it of plasma and blood. After removing the bandage, wash the tattoo with your clean hands. Do not use anything else to scrub the tattoo. Use an unscented, antibacterial soap to clean it. It will feel uncomfortable, like a really sore bruise, and it may even sting. Bear through the discomfort to ensure that the tattoo is well cleaned. It may feel slimy depending on how long it was bandaged, but do not fret, just get it clean. I have two favorite soaps to use for this process: the commonly used Dial antibacterial handsoap, and Burt's Bees milk and shea butter hand soap.
Once you've dried that tattoo by air or by patting it down with a clean, disposable paper towel, you must moisturize it. Use a reparative lotion that is unscented and free of petroleum jelly. Take care to not over moisturize your tattoo – apply a thin layer and work it in until there is barely a shine. Lotions I personally have used and highly recommend are the unscented, skin reparative lotions made by Eucerin and CerVe. If you want to invest in an aftercare product specifically for tattoos, I recommend Hustle Butter.
Continue to wash and moisturize your tattoo 2-3 times a day through the first week. Additional washes may be necessary depending on your daily activities. Healing time is determined by many factors from colorwork, linework, black and gray, size, location, and your immune system. The average time is approximately 3-5 weeks. Mild redness, discomfort, and swelling is normal for the first few days and should improve day by day – not get worse!
Things to keep in mind:
-Do not rewrap the tattoo after the first wash – let it breathe! You can cover it and protect it with clean clothing. I recommend wearing soft, loose, breathable fabrics for the first week to minimize discomfort and irritation. Be sure to wash your bedding before allowing your tattoo to touch it!
-Do not submerge your tattoo in water for the first two weeks. This includes bathing and swimming.
-Avoid tanning, especially during the healing process! After your tattoo is healed, you should be adamant about protecting your tattoo with sunblock. Doing so will further preserve the tattoo's vibrancy.
-Keep your pets away from the tattoo – fido cannot possibly help the tattoo heal by licking it.
-Do not let anyone touch the tattoo! If you have dumb friends who think slapping a tattoo is funny, please, by all means, bring them to me so I can set them straight. You should also hold them responsible for paying for any and all extensive touchups should they damage the tattoo with their idiocy.
-You can still workout, but keep in mind you may not want to for the first few days while the tattoo is sensitive. Be sure to thoroughly wipe down equipment before letting it touch the tattoo.
-Your tattoo, like most wounds, will develop a sort of scab. The thickness of this scab will depend on many factors. Do not pick at it! A tattoo is much like a sunburn in that it will eventually flake or shed. Do not think that you are assisting it by picking at it. Doing so can pull out ink, so let the dead skin/scab fall away naturally on its own.
-Over moisturizing can cause the tattoo scab to soften and "bubble", this is a sign that you are not completely drying the tattoo after washing and then proceeding to trap moisture with a lotion/ointment. Stop using lotion, and let the tattoo dry out for the rest of the day. Do not cover it or touch it; let it breathe until the scab hardens again. Afterwards, proceed with normal aftercare and be sure to let the tattoo dry before applying lotion.
-A healing tattoo is very itchy – refrain from scratching by patting it and/or by washing it. Your nails will only harm it and risk infection!
-Your tattoo may look bluish or dull during the healing process, but once all the layers of skin have fully healed, it'll again look vivid and sharp!
-The sun is your tattoo's worse enemy! After healing, use sunblock (at minimum 30spf) to prevent fade. Of course, it is still best to just cover your tattoo if possible.
Signs of infection (If any of these occur, do not hesitate to go see a doctor!):
- Redness, swelling, and pain that does not reduce or improve after first few days.
- Tattooed skin feeling hot to the touch – like a fever. Will be hotter than surrounding skin.
- Red lines extending outward from the tattoo.
- Rashes: they can appear zit-like or bumpy.
- Open lesions and ulcers on or near the tattooed area.
- Draining pus from tattooed area.
Again, if you have any concerns or questions regarding your tattoo and healing, please contact me! I'm happy to help!