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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.