So you got a tattoo, now what!?
Getting a tattoo is an exciting process, with several equally important stages. Deciding on what you want to get, finding the artist, booking your appointment and getting it done. But even when the tattoo is finished, it doesn't end there, there's one last step that is as important as every step before and that's the healing process.
Every tattoo artist you decide to work with will in the end give you a set of instructions on how to take care of your tattoo. And just like every artist works on the skin, in a technical and artistic level differently, they will also give different instructions.
In this article I list the instructions I give to my clients, which are based on my personal experience as a giver and receiver of tattoos. In no way is this article meant to be used as an argument against the instructions given by other artists. So lets go!
If you just got a new tattoo from me, I most likely covered it with a transparent self adhesive bandage. You will have to keep that bandage on your tattoo for 1 to 6 days.
What does that mean?
It means that minimum time you should keep the cover on is 1 day and the maximum is 6. Any day you take it off in between is perfectly fine. However it’s recommended to keep it on as much as you can (with a maximum of 6 days) because you won’t need to start the aftercare while the cover is on.
Can I shower with the cover on?
Yes! This kind of bandage is waterproof yet breathable, so as long as you don’t stay in the shower for too long and don’t soak into a bathtub or pool, it should stay on your skin just fine.
What if it comes off?
Different skin types and intensity of work on the tattoo can make the skin ooze a lot and some times the bandage doesn’t hold on for too long and starts leaking, when that happens, take the bandage off and start the aftercare process.
Can it get too sticky and hard to remove?
Yes! That is also possible and very common. In that case take a warm shower and slowly remove it under running water. Don’t try to pull in one go, as that could damage both your skin and the tattoo. Take your time and be gentle.
So once I remove the bandage, now what?
Wash your tattoo with unscented soap. If there are sticky bits accumulated on your skin, persist a little more with your hand but don’t scrub. Once you’re done washing your skin dry it using paper towel and apply a very thin layer of unscented lotion or creme. A thick amount of creme won’t let your skin breathe, which is bad for your tattoo.
How often do I do the aftercare of my tattoo and for how long?
If you removed the bandage early on (in 1 or 2 days) then I recommend doing the aftercare in the beginning and end of your day, so twice. If you managed to keep the bandage on for 6 days then the tattoo will probably be a lot more healed so doing the aftercare once a day will be enough. In either case you should keep doing the aftercare for about 2 weeks.
What if my tattoo gets itchy?
Some time during the middle of your healing period, your tattoo will peel off and look like a shedding sunburn. Usually during that time it gets itchy. Both the shedding and itchiness are normal and expected. However annoying it might get, you must refrain from scratching yourself. Eventually in 2 to 3 weeks after the day you got it, your tattoo will be healed. Some times the skin still looks a little shiny because it takes a few more weeks for it to settle completely.
What about exercising?
You shouldn’t exercise while the bandage is on you, because the sweat that comes out of your pores will be trapped inside. Once the bandage is off, my personal recommendation is to not exercise (or at least not stretch the area the tattoo is on) until after it sheds. However if you absolutely have to exercise, you can do so by doing the aftercare before and after training. Before, so that your skin has more elasticity and moisture which will help it handle sweating and stretching, and after so that it’s cleaned from the sweat.
If you see redness and feel irritation on the area the bandage covers, you might be intolerant or even allergic to its adhesive. It’s very rare but possible. If that happens remove the bandage and start the aftercare as mentioned above. The redness usually subsides the following days but in some rare cases can leave marks on your skin that might take a while to go away.
If the bandage falls off as soon as a few hours after you got the tattoo due to excessive oozing, don’t worry at all. Start the aftercare as mentioned above. Besides, only a few years ago we used to cover tattoos with Saran Wrap and tape and would remove it a few hours later.I still use Saran Wrap and tape for large areas as for example if I outline an entire arm in one day, so its still absolutely ok if the tattoo is uncovered even 3 hours later.
Soap and creme: The plainest soap and creme as long as its unscented, works. In Europe I used to recommend Bepanthol and in Canada I recommend Aveeno. The soap can be a white Dove bar or anything unscented from the baby section.
There are also great products created specifically for tattoo aftercare but it can get overwhelming trying to figure out what’s the best for you.
Some clients have told me they use vitamin E cremes or Aloe vera and it works for them, whatever you have used before, whether drugstore product or tattoo specific product, if it worked for you keep using it.
What NOT to do
Do not cover the tattoo with any kind of bandage after you’ve removed the one I placed on you. As I mentioned above, even if the bandage comes off too early, its fine and its no reason to fret. Start the aftercare and don’t worry.
Once you remove the cover (especially if you remove it early) be careful what your tattoo touches against. Make sure you clothes and bedsheets are clean, avoid pet hair and if your tattoo is on your lower arm or leg, be mindful of dirty surfaces like the subway, or public bathrooms.
Do not clean your tattoo with any kind of antibacterial product, needless to say alcohol is absolutely out of the question.
Don’t go into a pool or beach before your tattoo heals. Before it’s completely healed there’s always the chance of infection so just like you wouldn’t get into a pool with a cut on your foot, don’t go with a fresh tattoo.
If you came to this article looking for information on tattoo aftercare I hope it was helpful and you had a smooth healing process.
If you came to this article after having been tattooed by me, thank you for choosing me as your artist and enjoy your tattoo!