Getting a new tattoo is fun and exciting, and it’s invigorating to come out of the shop with fresh new body art. But getting the tattoo is only half the story.
After leaving the tattoo shop, you’ll need to take care of the tattoo and the surrounding skin while it heals. Technically, a new tattoo is an open wound, and it should be treated as such. If you don't take care of your tattoo correctly, you might irritate the skin, cause bleeding, or even ruin the design that your artist spent so long getting just right!
To avoid any of these outcomes, keep reading. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about tattoo aftercare and how to take care of your new ink.
The State of Your Skin After Getting Inked
A new tattoo always looks great, but your skin is actually put under severe stress when you get inked. This makes sense, since getting a tattoo involves needles puncturing your skin over and over to get the ink where it needs to go! Plus, your skin has to deal with the ink itself at the same time. That’s a lot for anyone’s epidermis to handle!
The benefit is that most tattoos, when done properly, should last for decades and still look great. But the harshness of this process means your skin needs to be taken care of, both for your comfort and to ensure that the tattoo doesn’t get distorted during the healing process.
How to Take Care of New Ink and Your Skin
Tattoo aftercare is an intense process and you’ll have to be mindful of your tattoo (and the surrounding skin) pretty consistently for the next few weeks at minimum. Let’s break down how you should take care of your new tattoo and your skin over that timeframe.
Bandages – When to Replace and What to Do
When you leave the tattoo parlor, you’ll generally be given a bandage that’s soaked with an antibacterial gel solution. Your tattoo will be totally covered, which should protect you as you head home. But any tattoo artist worth his or her salt should give you an aftercare guide that will say something like this:
- Remove the bandage and gel solution and wash the tattoo with warm water and unscented soap.
- Alternatively, let the antibacterial ointment or gel sit for a few hours, then remove the bandage to wash the tattoo.
- Once washed, a new bandage should be applied. Some tattoo artists will give you their recommendation for ointment, or you can buy one from a pharmacy or grocery store.
- Bandages should be replaced whenever it soaks through or becomes uncomfortable.
- Wear a bandage at night. We all tend to toss and turn when we sleep, and there’s no way to stop yourself from rubbing your tattoo against your sheets or blankets as you slumber. Wearing a bandage can minimize the amount of wear and tear your tattoo experiences while you sleep.
You won’t need to wear your bandage beyond the first day (sometimes two days depending on how big the tattoo is and how irritated your skin looks). Your tattoo artist may recommend a slightly longer bandage regimen depending on the piece, so follow whatever they say if they have specific advice.
Washing and Drying
When it comes to washing your tattoo, you’ll need to be very gentle and careful. But it’s important to wash your tattoo thoroughly to get rid of dead skin cells, blood, bacteria, and other debris that have made their way into your skin.
- When washing your tattoo, do so with warm water and unscented soap.
- Be sure to actually rub the tattoo, gently, to make sure it gets thoroughly cleaned.
- To dry your tattoo effectively, gently pat it dry with a soft clean towel.
You’ll need to wash your tattoo between three or four times per day for the first few days after getting inked. Then you can slow down the frequency to once or twice per day and eventually only once per day as the weeks go on.
If your skin breaks or you can’t wash your tattoo without lots of pain, go easy on it and consider seeing a doctor or calling the shop.
One of the best ways to stay on top of your tattoo aftercare is with our Tattoo Care Salve.
It can soothe the pain and swelling associated with your new tattoo, and works to protect your skin so it can heal properly. The protective layer is especially helpful for preventing any unwanted invaders from getting into what’s technically your healing wound. Additionally, the herbal blend is full of vitamins and nutrients to nourish your skin, too.
The main ingredients at work include:
- Calendula to protect and hydrate
- Plantain to cleanse, soothe, protect, and help with the natural healing process
Feel free to use this salve at least once per day, usually in the morning or evening. It’s a good idea to add more of the salve whenever you change bandages. You can also use the salve to soothe your skin if it starts to itch or feel irritated. There’s no downside to using extra!
You can also use moisturizing lotions on your tattoo, especially after you remove the bandage and stop using the antibacterial ointment your tattoo artist should have provided you with or recommended.
Moisturizers can help your skin avoid becoming dried out, especially since you have to let it breathe and get enough oxygen to fully heal.
This is especially critical during the winter months when the air around you will likely be dry. Use moisturizer at least once per day and possibly more depending on how your skin feels.
The good news--our Tattoo Care Salve not only protects, but a ton of the ingredients also offer moisturizing and hydrating benefits, so it covers your bases for both protection and moisturizing!
Tattoo aftercare also involves some clothing strategy. Specifically, you should avoid wearing tight clothing that can rub against your tattoo or bandages. Tight clothing prevents your skin from breathing and can irritate or inflame the skin, especially after the bandages are removed.
After you remove the bandage, try to wear clothing that exposes the tattoo to the air so it can heal properly.
Other Aftercare Strategies
The one exception to the clothing advice described above is if it’s sunny outside. You shouldn’t expose your tattoo to the sun for too long, and not at all if you can. A little sun (say, for a few seconds) isn’t a big deal. Just don’t expose your tattoo long enough that the skin around it could become sunburned. Harmful ultraviolet radiation could also damage your skin and lead to fading or warping of the tattoo.
Similarly, don’t soak your tattoo in water. When you wash it, make sure to dry it thoroughly after cleaning. Don’t take any baths or overly long showers, and postpone your trip to the pool for another month or two. Again, preventing the tattoo from “breathing” can negatively affect the healing process and leave you with a warped tattoo or even an infection.
How Long Will You Need to Take Care of a Tattoo?
All in all, tattoo aftercare takes about a month when all is said and done.
- The first day after getting inked will be the most important. Your skin should be read and raw, so you need to treat the tattoo as an open wound and follow all of the advice above.
- During the next week, your tattoo will progressively heal and you’ll be able to dial down the aftercare a little bit over time.
- The following two weeks to a month will see the tattoo scab over and your skin fully heal. However, it may heal a little more quickly if you take good care of the skin without overly stressing it or damaging it further.
A month might seem like a long time to wait for your ink, but it’s a small price to pay when you remember that your tattoo should last and look fantastic for decades to come!
It can seem like a lot of work to observe proper tattoo aftercare. But we guarantee it’ll be worth it in the long run. Follow the above advice and use a tattoo aftercare salve, and you won’t have to deal with a warped or faded tattoo just after you’ve stepped out of the tattoo shop. Instead, your tattoo will look vibrant and awesome for years to come!