Creative Tattoo Aftercare Instructions – How to Care For New Tattoos

Did you know there are really just 3 key factors you need to know about how caring for a new tattoo? Whether it’s your first tattoo or your fiftieth, people still have many differing views on how long it should remain covered, when it should be washed and what, if any, tattoo creams should be used. But by paying attention to the following simple (yet CRITICAL) steps, you will avoid tattoo infection and have a design that not only looks great, but is healthy and vibrant for years to come.

After months of researching tattoo designs and ideas, I recently had my first tattoo done at Kat Von D’s “LA Ink” studio (or High Voltage Tattoo, as it is officially named.) Although I was worried initially that it may hurt & I wouldn’t like the experience, I actually did enjoy it!

However, I’d heard conflicting ideas on how to best care for a new tattoo, especially when it comes to moisturizing… Some people disagree with applying tattoo creams like Tatt Wax, Aquaphor, Bepanthen, Tattoo Goo, etc. Many believe the skin will not breathe and heal properly as it may become over-hydrated. Most tattooists though DO recommend moisturizers (non-petroleum, non-fragranced) to aid the healing process and stop the tat from drying out, flaking or peeling early.

From all the aftercare tattoo information I was bombarded with, there seems to be 3 consistent factors that tattoo professionals and tattoo fans do agree on:

1) Most importantly — keep your new tattoo CLEAN

2) Keep it PROTECTED from SUN and WATER

3) Do NOT PICK or RUB the tat as it heals

After getting my new Gemini lower back tattoo I had no infections or problems, by following the simple tattoo aftercare instructions and advice from the guys at LA Ink:

CLEANSING: Initially your tattooist will apply a gauze bandage or patch to protect the freshly damaged skin, remembering that a tattoo is really an open wound, even if it looks artistic! This should be left on for about 4 hours then carefully removed, possibly even as you shower, to avoid peeling any areas of inked skin that may have stuck to the patch. Gentle washing with mild soap and warm water will be fine, but don’t rub too hard and gently pat dry with a clean towel. To keep your tat infection free, make sure you avoid letting other people touch it and wash your hands thoroughly before YOU touch it. The tattoo does not need to be kept covered and heals within about 2 weeks, but take care and patch it temporarily if it will be exposed to dirt or bumped while working, playing sport, etc. It’s a good idea to avoid excess sweating if possible.

PROTECTION: While showering is fine to clean your tattoo DO NOT SOAK in water and avoid swimming, or soaking in a bath or spa for at least 2-3 weeks. Over-hydration of the skin may cause the ink to wash out or fade and there could be a higher risk of infection in the soft tissue. The sun is also a problem for tattoos, both new and old. Even short periods of exposure can lead to fading and damage of your tattoo, (skin damage in general) so it’s best to keep your new tat lightly covered or under loose clothing for at least 2-3 weeks. DON’T use sunscreen/sunblock creams or sprays until after the skin has fully healed, to help avoid infection!

HEALING: Avoid rubbing or picking at the tattooed skin, even if it itches or scabs. If you pick or scratch the healing layers of skin, you may end up with a design that appears faded or slightly patchy, as the ink needs time to settle into the middle layers of your skin. I highly recommend using a good moisturizer like Aveeno Daily Moisturizer Lotion. By cleansing and then applying just a small amount of that cream 2-3 times a day, my tattoo didn’t scab! I simply had soft little inky flakes of skin wipe off each time I showered or moisturized for the first week — no nasty, itchy scabs to deal with and my newly tattooed skin felt soft, without being greasy or over-hydrated.

For anyone contemplating getting their first tattoo done, or even if you’re adding to the collection of skin art that you already have — you’ll find paying attention to these 3 points is essential to maintaining the colour and beauty of the awesome tattoo design that you’ve invested in!

Tattoo Aftercare – Instructions on Caring For Your New Tattoo

Without the proper tattoo aftercare, the dream of a perfectly designed tattoo can become a total nightmare. It matters not if it’s small or large, your first or many, proper care is critically important, not only to the preservation of your tattoo, but to your health as well. The good news in all of this, is that if the aftercare instructions are followed and common sense used, there’s less chance of infection to your body, or damage to your new tattoo.

Once you’ve gotten your tattoo, you are the only one responsible for the care of it! The artist is definitely not responsible for any problems, like infections that you may acquire after the tattooing procedure.

Here are some basic instructions for the aftercare of your new tattoo:

1. Leave the bandage on for at least 2-6 hours, no more than 10 hours. The reason for the bandage is to keep air-borne bacteria and other contaminants from invading your wound.

2. Your new tattoo must be thought of as an open wound, so wash your hands thoroughly BEFORE touching or cleaning the area. Remove the bandage with care – Do NOT force it’s removal! If it sticks, carefully wet any part that won’t come off easily, and continue to pull the bandage off slowly so as not to damage any dried parts or scabs that might have formed.

3. Once the bandage is removed, clean the area with lukewarm water and a mild antibacterial soap, then rinse gently with a soft cloth, or preferably your hand, removing any ointment, blood and plasma. Do not scrub or rub the tattoo, but pat it dry with a clean soft towel.

4. Let it dry completely for approximately 10 minutes – then apply a thin layer of tattoo aftercare products that you’ve chosen, or ones advised by your tattoo artist, such as a mild medicated ointment like Bacitracin or something similar; vitamin A&D ointment, or special tattoo aftercare products like Ink Fixx. Do not use Neosporin, it is not for tattoos. There are some people known to have allergic reactions after using Neosporin, that cause red bumps, and when the bumps leave so will the ink. So take heed.

5. No need to re-bandage. For the next 3-5 days, keep the new tattoo very clean and apply the ointment 3-4 times a day. Make sure to gently remove any old ointment before applying fresh ointment – and apply only enough to make the skin shiny. The main thing is to NOT allow your tattoo to become dry. When the scab forms, do not pick at it – allow it to heal on its own.

After that, continue to keep it clean, and use a good aftercare lotion as needed, to keep the skin soft and your colors bright. Healing generally takes about 14 days in a normally healthy person.

After your tattoo has healed, you’ll want to protect it from the sun’s rays, so use a good sun block that will protect it from sun damage. Take the advice your tattoo artist offers, and use the most efficient tattoo aftercare products, and you will keep your tattoos vibrantly alive for many, many years to come.

Tattoo Aftercare: 7 Essential Procedures

Firstly, always listen to the advice given to you by your tattoo artist for your tattoo aftercare. Make sure you ask what the aftercare procedures are throughout the whole healing process for your tattoo.

Wrapping

Normally the tattoo artist will apply some ointment and wrap-up the tattooed area before you leave the parlour, to help prevent infection of the tattoo. Infection can be caused by dirty hands, dirty clothes and any airborne bacteria that are allowed to reach the raw area. There are two trains of thought between tattoo artists when wrapping up the tattoo.

  1. The artist uses gauze which allows the tattoo to breathe which is essential to the healing process. However, as fresh tattoos weep blood and lymph fluids this may seep through the gauze and onto your clothes. Also sometimes the gauze gets stuck to the tattoo so when you take off the gauze you may need to apply a cold damp (watered) sponge to soften the area before removal, so none of the tattoo colour is taken-off.
  2. The artist uses cling film/wrap which keeps the blood and fluid from seeping onto your clothes and doesn’t stick to the tattoo. The downside is that tattoos need to breath so you should only leave the cling/film wrap on for no longer than 2 hours. If body sweat occurs under the cling film/wrap this will cause bacteria to develop and lead to infection of the tattoo.

Washing

Upon removal of the wrap, take a shower and wash the tattooed area with warm water and a non-fragrant antibacterial or antimicrobial soap like Provon. Only use your fingers to gently wash away ointment, blood and fluids and do not use a wash cloth. Wash cloths are too harsh for the wound and could cause bleeding of the ink. Pat dry the area (do not rub) with a paper towel or clean towel.

Ointment

For 3 to 5 days, twice daily, apply an antibacterial healing ointment such as Bepanthen or a vitamin A and D rich cream. Don’t use Vaseline, lanolin, alcohol, calamine lotion or Neosporin, which can cause red bumps that can remove the ink in your tattoo. Basically only use ointments that are fragrant free and have no chemicals that can harm your tattoo. When applying the ointment, only a thin layer is required, it should leave the tattoo moist but not mushy, so wait 10 minutes to allow the ointment to soak into the skin and wipe off any excess ointment. You want the tattoo to be moist but also to breathe to help prevent too much scabbing of the skin.

Clothes

Wear loose fitting clothes that won’t rub against the tattoo. Tight fitting clothes may remove the protective skin layer over the tattoo which will increase healing time and could remove colour from the tattoo and possibly cause infections. New clothes should be washed first before use as many new clothes have toxic chemicals contained in them and a can also have a surplus of dye.

Moisturise

After the 5th day you should be moisturising the tattoo for approximately 2 weeks. A suggestion would be to use Keri or Vaseline Intensive Care cream. Don’t re-bandage the tattoo, as the bandage could stick to the tattoo upon removal and also remove ink from the tattoo. If it is necessary to re-bandage because of your work environment seek advice from your tattoo artist.

Sun and Water

The first 3 to 4 weeks is a crucial time to maintain the look and longevity of your tattoo. Keep your tattoo away from direct sunlight as it causes fading. It only takes approximately 3 minutes to get your tattoo sunburnt as the skin is so sensitive. After the tattoo is totally healed and you venture out into the direct sunlight always apply 30SPF sun block to ensure the tattoo does not fade. Don’t “water log” your tattoo – no swimming in salt water, pools, spas, hot tubs or allowing your tattoo to be pounded by water in the shower.

Scabbing and Peeling

From about day 3 to 10, your tattoo may scab or peel. Apply a warm moist compress to the scab for 5 minutes, 2-3 times a day, to soften the scab and allow it to fall off on its own accord. Don’t pick the scab. Only use moisturiser to peeling skin and not scabs, let scabs dry. If the scab is itchy leave it, do not pick it! Slap the area to control the itchiness with your hand instead.

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