Tattoo Aftercare: Everything You Need to Know (2021 Updated)

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If you thought that enduring the pain of tattooing is all it takes to get an amazing tattoo, then you must have forgotten about the healing and aftercare part. Taking care of a tattoo until it heals is one of the most important steps if you want the tattoo to turn out great and not cause any infections.

So, if you’ve just received some fresh ink, or you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, then the following paragraphs are mandatory for you to read and to remember. So, without further ado, let’s show you how you can take care of your new tattoo and keep everything from infecting. But, remember; your tattoo will heal as good as the tattoo artist is!

Tattoo Aftercare: 4 Important Tips

Let’s start first with the most essential recommendations for tattoo aftercare. The following 4 steps are important for everyone who just got a tattoo, regardless of its size or style. With new tattoos, it is crucial to be patient and refrain from all sorts of scratching, touching, and picking.

Let’s see how you can take care of the tattoo and mitigate the changes on the skin;

1. Only Touch The Tattoo With Clean Hands

Touch The Tattoo With Clean Hands
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One of the most essential pieces of advice you can get is to never touch your fresh tattoo without washing the hands first. Cleaning your hands will prevent all kinds of bacteria to transfer to the irritated and tattooed skin, which would otherwise cause infections and health issues. So, when you want to touch the tattoo or apply ointment on it, wash your hands for 20 seconds at least, using lukewarm water and soap.

2. Wash The Tattoo With Antibacterial Soap

It is not only important to wash your hands when handling the tattoo; you also have to wash the tattoo and the tattooed area as well. Apply Antibiotic Ointment Or MoisturizerTo do this, make sure to remove the bandage that is covering the tattoo (the tattoo artist will wrap the tattoo after the session is completed), and wash the area with antibacterial soap and lukewarm water.

However, you cannot wash your tattoo immediately after it is done. The bandage needs to cover the tattoo for several hours, or how many hours the tattoo artist recommends. Only after several hours can you remove the bandage and clean the tattoo, when all the blood or plasma starts oozing from the tattoo.

3. Apply Antibiotic Ointment Or Moisturizer

Applying antibiotic or recommended ointment is essential for the healing of a fresh tattoo. The majority of tattoo artists will recommend you to use some kind of ointment they believe works the best, like certain kinds of lotions of shea butter.

It is important you use fragrance-free and alcohol-free ointment or moisturizer, or you can even go for antibiotic ointments to prevent any sort of infection.

Regardless of your choice, however, you must at this point apply enough ointment to cover the tattooed area, but not overdo it. Applying too much can clog the pores and cause skin irritation or rashes; a thin layer would be perfect enough.

Also, after you’ve applied the ointment, make sure not to re-cover the tattoo, so that the skin can breathe and soak in the ointment properly.

4. Wait For The Tattoo To Heal

fresh and healed tattoo
Saved Tattoo

It may take your tattoo some time to heal, so it is essential you stay calm, take care of your tattoo, and let it heal completely. The majority of tattoo artists will let you know the estimated time you can expect your tattoo to heal, but the time usually revolves around 6 weeks, depending on the size and type of the tattoo.

For example, colored tattoos take longer to heal than black & white ones, or if there’s any trauma to the skin, you can also expect the healing process to last longer.

You should also be aware of the fact that the tattoo will become itchy and uncomfortable, so you need to control yourself and not scratch it, or peel and pick it! Here are some other tips to follow if you want your tattoo to heal fast;

  • Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun
  • Avoid working out or doing strenuous work
  • When exposed to the sun, make sure to wear sunscreen (SPF 35)
  • Wear loose clothes over the tattoo
  • Apply a small amount of ointment or lotion; putting too much can suffocate the skin and cause healing issues
  • Stay away from water and swimming (but you can take showers)
  • Avoid covering the tattoo with sunblock until it’s healed
  • Call your tattoo artist or doctor in case you notice any irritation, infection symptoms, or any other health and skin issues!

Read More: How Long Does It Take For A Tattoo To Heal: Step By Step Guide

Tattoo Aftercare: More FAQs

Why Is Tattoo Aftercare So Important?

After we’ve seen the basic aftercare recommendations, we have to explain why the aftercare matters so much. Here are some reasons why taking care of the tattoo is essential;

  • Tattooing is a medical procedure; the process comprises a needle being inserted underneath your skin, so naturally, we can conclude that every medical procedure, as well as tattooing, requires aftercare.
  • Because tattooing is a medical procedure, it can cause infections and scarring unless the tattooed region isn’t taken care of.
  • Tattoo aftercare prevents skin complications and health issues.
  • Tattoo aftercare promotes faster healing and lowers the chances of infection.
  • Even though many tattoo artists don’t provide aftercare instructions, it is essential you as a client are informed about it before and after you get a tattoo.

How Can I Take Care Of The Tattoo By Day?

  • Day 1 – during the first day, your tattoo will be wrapped in plastic and a bandage. The tattoo needs to stay covered for several hours (2 to 4 hours). After removing the covering, the skin will ooze with plasma or blood, and the skin will be red and irritated. After cleaning the hands, you will wash the tattoo with antibacterial, fragrance-free soap, and lukewarm water.
  • Days 2 to 3 – during these days, the ink is still fresh, so you may notice some excess ink when washing the tattoo. You will notice some scabs forming and the tattoo becoming duller in appearance. These are the signs that the skin is healing. You can continue with the proper washing of the tattoo. At this point you don’t need to moisturize the tattooed area; instead, let the tattoo and skin dry naturally. Since a fresh tattoo is considered to be a fresh open wound you don’t want to be putting creams and lotions on it (this might prolong the healing process).
  • Day 7 – the scabs will surely start to form by now, so you need to refrain from picking them. If you do pick the scabs, the skin will end up scarred, and we don’t want that. You will still need to properly wash and clean the tattoo, at least once or twice a week. It is essential you moisturize the tattoo at this point, but don’t aggravate or overwash it.
  • Day 14 – the formed scabs will start to come off, but you still shouldn’t pick them. You will start experience extreme skin itchiness, so it is essential to stay calm and refrain from scratching the tattoo. You can use the moisturizer to mitigate the itching. By now, if your tattoo and the skin is red, sore, and warm to touch, make sure to contact your tattoo artist or your doctor, since you might have an infection.
  • Days 20 to 30 – at this point, the tattoo is still healing, but the scabs are gone and the skin isn’t flaky. You still need to keep washing and moisturizing the tattooed area. The itching should be gone too.
  • 3 months – by now, the tattoo should be completely healed, including all of the tattoo and skin layers. It should look bright and vivid, not dull and cloudy in appearance.

Is the Aftercare Routine The Same For All Tattoos?

Short answer; no, the aftercare routine is NOT the same for all tattoos, and your tattoo artist should explain that thoroughly. The aftercare routine differs in regards to the tattoo style.

For example, simple black and white tattoos don’t require as much aftercare as colored or portrait tattoos since they’re not too damaging to the skin.

Let’s take at some other examples of how the aftercare routine differs from tattoo to tattoo;

  • Line and dot style tattoos are usually covered with saran wrap since the skin doesn’t need to be sealed for too long. But the wrap should stay on at least overnight; the longer it stays on, the faster will the tattoo heal, and the brighter it will turn out.
  • Colored tattoos should only be washed with hands. So, avoid using anything abrasive to clean and wash the tattoo. Create some soap suds with your hand and gently wash the tattooed area. After you’re done, pat the tattoo to dry, using a paper towel. This process could be applied to all types of tattoos since it is the best approach to aftercare.
  • Black or grey tattoos need to be washed by lathering the soap into the tattoo as well. They should also be moisturized twice a day; once in the morning and once in the evening. You should only apply a very thin layer of moisturizer to avoid skin suffocation and clogging.

What Aftercare Products Should I Use?

What Aftercare Products Should I Use
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Your tattoo artist might recommend you some moisturizers or ointment products to use as a part of your tattoo aftercare routine, but they also may not. In that case, here’s what tattoo artists usually recommend people use to take care of the tattoo and the tattooed area properly;

  • Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap – this anti-bacterial liquid soap is suitable for baby skin, or generally sensitive adult skin, which makes it perfect for tattoo cleansing since the tattooed area is highly sensitive and irritated. You can use this soap to wash your tattoo daily. Make sure to wash the tattoo with this soap and some lukewarm water, and tap to dry using a soft cloth or paper towel.
  • Aquaphor Healing Ointment – for the first few days after receiving the tattoo, make sure to use this healing ointment. Tattoo artists recommend it widely because it provides the right amount of moisturization without preventing breathing of the skin or causing the skin to clog. This healing ointment does contain petroleum (Vaseline), so you need to apply a thin layer only. However, bear in mind that some tattoo artists do NOT recommend this gel, since it does contain Vaseline and can prevent the skin from proper breathing.
  • Eucerin Intensive Repair Lotion – after a week, the tattooed area will start to form scabs and cause itching. The skin will become dry and flaky, but you must resist scratching it. This repair lotion is made for such cases; it mitigates the itching sensation caused by dry, flaky skin. It is recommended to apply after washing the tattooed area. The lotion is moisturizing and keeps the skin hydrated and radiant.
  • Hustle Butter – this product is primarily made for tattoo aftercare, so you cannot go better than Hustle Butter. The cream is made from shea butter, an ingredient rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and fatty acids. The butter will moisturize and nourish the treated skin, and leave it smooth, hydrated, and protected. The butter is made to prevent itching, and promote the healing process as well.

Also Read: 8 Best Tattoo Aftercare Products Based On Experience (2021)

Is It Safe To Use Coconut Oil For Aftercare?

For a long time, people believed that coconut oil is a miracle skincare product that is affordable and highly effective. Many even went so far as to draw conclusions from the practices of indigenous people in terms of how they use coconut oil for their skincare.

However, even though there is some truth to such claims, others claim that using coconut oil for skincare (or tattoo aftercare) can cause clogging and other skin issues, like irritation or redness.

We have to say that all of this is currently anecdotal and not proven scientifically. Therefore, if you want to use coconut oil for your tattoo aftercare routine, make sure to talk to your doctor, a dermatologist, or your tattoo artist.

Can I Use Vaseline For Tattoo Aftercare?

We believe it is best to avoid products like Vaseline since they are made from 100% petroleum. This ingredient can cause clogging and prevent the skin from breathing.

Furthermore, it can affect the tattoo itself and cause the ink to fade quickly. However, some tattoo artists recommend you apply a thin layer of Vaseline before taking a shower, to create a barrier between the water and the tattooed area.

Some even recommend you use Vaseline for the skin around the tattoo in case it becomes dry and flaky. But, what we recommend is you talk to your doctor or dermatologist before you use petroleum-based products on your skin.

Final Thoughts

We hope this quick insight was helpful for those of you who just got a new tattoo or thinking about getting one. Aftercare is a long process and it requires determination and a strong will not to pick and scratch the skin.

So, try to distract yourself during the healing process, and make sure to take care of the skin using proper moisturizers and ointments. Proper aftercare will mitigate all the uncomfortable aspects of tattoo healing, so it will surely help you and ensure the healing completes faster.

For more information, always make sure to talk to your tattoo artists, your doctor, or dermatologist.

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