Aftercare is very important when it comes to getting a tattoo. If you’ve chosen a tattoo artist who is friendly and responsive to your queries, you should ask him for detailed instructions regarding aftercare of your inks.
Try not to focus on what your friend’s artist told him because artists can have slightly different opinions about the best way of caring for your tattoo.
Most professional artists have had years of practice and experience so listen closely to their advice. Nonetheless, below are some of the necessary aftercare steps that should be followed closely for best results.
Removing the Plastic Wrap/Bandage
On the completion of your tattoo, an anti-bacterial cream will be applied and your tattoo will be covered with a bandage or dressing.
The bandage is applied to protect the tattoo from airborne bacteria and should be left on for at least two to four hours. Failure to do so can cause bacteria to penetrate through your open skin. Minimum time is two hours.
There are two different types of dressings used by tattoo artists. Some prefer the normal, thick, absorbent wound dressings that allow the skin to breathe and absorb very well. The other type of dressing is plastic wrap.
Plastic wrap can be preferable because it does not stick to the skin during removing. However, it prevents the tattoo from breathing and oxygen is necessary for healing of the skin. It is also not absorbent and raises the skin temperature which can cause bacteria to occur.
Also, a plastic wrap should not be left on for more than two hours.
While removing the bandage, soak it in lukewarm water. This prevents the bandage from sticking to the skin and it comes off easily.
Washing and Treating the Tattoo
After removing the bandage, tattoo should be washed and cleaned with antibacterial soap. Rub the tattoo very gently, removing traces of blood and residual ink. Cleaning should be done with hand, and sponge or washcloth should be avoided.
After washing the tattoo thoroughly, let it dry by leaving it uncovered for at least 20 minutes. This practice should be done every time you wash the tattoo.
After washing and drying if your skin starts feeling tight you can apply ointment recommended by your tattoo artist. Make sure you apply a thin layer and rub it gently. Applying too much ointment can suffocate the tattoo as well as encourage the bacteria to grow. Continue this practice for about 5 days then switch to a normal lotion.
Avoid products such as Vaseline because they draw the ink out from the tattoo and can cause the tattoo to fade. There are many products available on the market designed especially for healing your tattoos and some of them might be pricey but they work very swiftly and have good moisturizing properties.
Tattoo Goo and After Inked are the most effective ones. They are based on natural ingredients such as grape-seed oil.
Keeping Your Tattoo Moisturized
Continuing to wash and dry your tattoos is very important. Try to clean it with anti-bacterial soap in warm water for the next 3 to 6 weeks until it is healed completely.
Time required to heal depends on the size and location of the tattoo. Minimum of three times of washing per day is necessary. It should be increased if the tattoo is on an area more exposed to bacteria and germs such as hand, foot or wrist.
Anti-bacterial ointment should not be applied for more than 5 days. And after that make sure to apply lotion after every wash. Make sure your lotion is unscented and doesn’t contain glitter.
Moisturizing is important but applying more than enough lotion can cause over-moisturizing which can adversely affect the tattoo and cause bacterial infections.
Peeling of Tattoo
After the healing of tattoo is complete, which may take at least two weeks, it will start to peel or flake. Similar to sunburn, colored skin comes away as the tattoo starts to peel.
This is perfectly normal.
After peeling of skin, your tattoo will feel tighter and look glassy. White patches of skin might also be present, referred to as onion skin. Try not to scratch it off as it will fall off within a couple of weeks by itself.
What to Avoid
- Soaking Your Tattoo: Do not soak your tattoo until it is fully healed. Avoid swimming pools, seawater, and even bathtubs. Exposing your tattooed skin to water continuously can draw out your ink and damage the appearance. You can continue to swim and bathe normally once your tattooed skin has healed completely.
- Direct Sunlight: Sunlight can cause blisters and bleach the ink from your tattoo if it is exposed to sun for a long time. Keep your tattoo covered when you go out until the healing is complete. After the healing process, you will need to wear sun-block (at least SPF 30) to prevent your inks from fading and keeping the colors as they are.
- Scratching and Picking: During healing, tattoo will scab. This is completely normal and scabs should be allowed to dry and fall off. Picking at these scabs can cause them to leave holes and light spots on your inks. Scabbing or peeling skin becomes very itchy but scratching at it should be avoided. Gently rub a little lotion on it to get rid of the itchy feeling.
- Skin Tight Clothes: Wearing skin tight clothes can cause it to stick to the tattoo due to sweat. If this happens, do not rip off the cloth. Soak the cloth and then pull it off slowly. Tight clothes also restrict breathing of the skin and oxygen is necessary for healing of the skin. Wear loose clothes until the tattoo is fully healed.
- Working Out: Avoid working out while your tattoo heals especially if the tattoo is near ankle or elbow.
If you have followed all these guidelines, your tattoo will be fully healed and the skin will be regenerated in almost four to six weeks.