Concept: Taking care of your tattoo right from the end of the tattoo procedure is paramount. It will help your tattoo look good for years to come & prevent near-term problems in the healing process. You must think of your tattoo as a wound, because- it is a wound. When the skin is broken, it is susceptible to bacteria & infection if not properly tended to, so take proper precautions by following these guidelines.
Something to consider: Everyone is different & how you heal will vary from other people. The following are guidelines, but should be followed in the spirit of what is stated.
You will likely leave the tattoo studio with a cover/bandage on your tattoo. With little exception, that should be the only time your tattoo is bandaged throughout the healing process. 1 of 2 different bandages will be used- either an absorbent pad or a clear plastic film. The absorbent pad should not remain on your skin for more than 4hrs. It is recommended that you go home after your tattoo procedure to wash/shower, but in the case you cannot, the bandage will cover your new art until you can wash it. If the bandage is stuck to the skin, soak it with warm water & gently remove the covering. If the plastic film (Saniderm/Tegaderm) is used, it stays on for 3 full days. During this time, the space between your skin & the film will fill with fluid secreted from your body. Though it will appear to be yucky & the fluid discolored with some of the ink, this is normal & should not be taken off. However, there are 2 reasons to take the film off before the end of the 3rd day. 1) If you show signs of being allergic to the film’s adhesive, the film should be removed. A little redness is generally okay, but if you see blisters or red, hive-like bumps forming, the film should be taken off. 2) The film forms a seal around the tattoo, but if the fluid that builds up inside ends up working its way out & you “spring a leak”, the film must come off. Again, once the initial bandage is removed, do not re-bandage the tattoo (unless you are doing an activity where the tattoo stands a probability of getting dirty. A bandage should only be used if clothing cannot cover/protect the tattoo during said activity).
Wash your tattoo with an antibacterial soap. Do not use bar soap, bath gels or a soap with added ingredients like oils, fragrances, aloe, etc…. If you don’t have any, spend the few extra dollars & do it right!
To wash your tattoo, squirt some soap into your hand, massage it into the tattoo & then rinse it clean with warm water. Do not use a face cloth or anything else to scrub or exfoliate the skin. After washing, dry the tattoo with a clean towel. With clean hands, apply a thin layer of aftercare. Our studio sells aftercare cream if you do not have plain, white hand cream (Lubriderm/Aveeno) at home. Again, make the investment in proper aftercare & do it right! If your hand cream has added fragrances/dyes, sunscreen, exfoliants, aloe or is formulated for dry skin- do not use it. A little bit goes a long way. There is no reason to glop it on & smother the tattoo. Look at the tattoo 10 minutes later & if it looks wet or greasy, wipe off any excess. Wash your new tattoo in the morning & evening and moisturize your skin 3-4 times a day. The purpose of moisturizing the tattoo is to minimize any scabbing that may occur. Aftercare will not heal your tattoo- your body does that. Additionally, do not apply anything to the tattoo to help advance, aid or quicken the healing process like Neosporin/bacitracin. This type of product can see the ink as a foreign body & try to kill it- ruining the tattoo!
The general healing time for a tattoo is about 2 weeks, but it could be longer based upon individual uniquenesses from one person to the next. During the healing timeframe, there should be no extended exposure to water, such as bathtubs, hot tubs, pools, lakes, oceans, etc. This is for 3 reasons… 1) Fresh water environments like lakes or bathtubs carry bacteria. 2) Chlorine environments like pools or hot tubs expose your tattoo to various chemicals, including chlorine, which are bad, bad, bad for your tattoo during the healing process. 3) Extended exposure to water can cause any scabbing (or the new top layer of skin) to come off prematurely, leaving blank spots in your tattoo. Short-term exposure to actively running water, like showering, is perfectly okay.
Other avoidances to be aware of: While your tattoo is healing, avoid UV light exposure (sun or tanning beds). Wear clothing that will cover your tattoo since you cannot put sunscreen on a healing tattoo. There are many personal care/hygiene products that should also be kept away from your tattoo. These products include make-up, hair care products, deodorant, baby powder/talc, etc… As well, exposure to toxins/bacteria/irritants in places like nursing homes/hospitals or animals/pets may cause infection. The best frame of mind to put yourself into while healing your tattoo is to think of it as a wound. Use common sense- keep it clean, dry, washed & in an open/breathable environment.
Do Not use Vaseline or other heavy petroleum jelly product as the initial healing agent.
Do Not pick or scratch at the tattoo while it is healing.
Do Not expose your tattoo to the water-based environments (pools/lakes) as noted above until you are fully healed.
There are 3 phases of healing. Your tattoo will be tender to the touch, maybe swollen, potentially red & irritated for a few days after the tattoo procedure. It may even sweat or weep a bit, secreting plasma. Between the 4th & 6th day, the top layer of skin will start to come off & be replaced by a light crust or scab layer of skin. This is your body healing itself & building a new top/protective layer of skin. All new skin tends to look a little shiny. For some, new skin may also appear a bit cloudy. When your skin is no longer glossy & has returned to a clear matte appearance, you can consider yourself healed.
Consult a healthcare professional for: *unexplained rash, *unexpected drainage at or from the site of the tattoo procedure, *if a fever develops within 24-72hrs or *if you experience prolonged redness/tenderness/swelling.
As well, your artist is very well versed in the healing process. If you have questions about something you are experiencing, please call the shop & ask for them – they will be glad to help you!