Going in for your first tattoo or healing from your umpteenth? No matter if you’re a seasoned pro or new at this, tattoo aftercare is extremely important. Not only does it help protect you from getting an infection (remember, tattoos aren’t just works of art, they’re also medical procedures!), but also proper tattoo aftercare helps ensure your tattoo looks great and lasts for years to come! Here are 5 essential tattoo aftercare tips you’ll want to follow next time you get some ink.
Keep It Covered
Aftercare starts the moment the tattoo artist puts away his gun. Your artist should apply tattoo jelly or moisturizer to the tattoo and wrap it in a bandage or plastic wrap before sending you home. This protects the fresh wounds from rubbing up against your clothes and other objects, keeps bacteria out, and also absorbs any excess ink or fluid leaking from the tattoo.
You might be tempted to rip off the bandage right away to check out your new piece, but don’t! Keep the bandage on for at least 5 hours. Before removing your bandage, make sure to wash your hands.
Once the bandage is off, gently wash your tattoo with fragrance-free soap and water. Carefully pat the area dry with a soft cloth or paper towel. After washing, apply a thin layer of petroleum ointment to the tattoo. You can leave the bandage off at this point to let your skin breathe.
Keep It Dry
For the first 3-6 weeks, your tattoo should never be submerged in water (no swimming!) or get wet except for when you’re washing it. If you sweat throughout the day or work in a dirty environment, you might need to wash your tattoo every few hours to keep bacteria and dirt out of the wound. However, if you’re sitting in an AC-blasting office from 9-5, you’re probably safe to wash it once a day.
Although it’s extremely important to wash your tattoo often, it can get dried out quickly, so you’ll need to moisturize. During the first week, avoid lotion and go instead for ointment or anesthetic gel. After a week has passed, you can start using lotion to keep it moisturized, but stay away from scents until your tattoo’s outer layers of skin have healed completely (3 weeks to 1 month).
Don’t Touch It
About a week after getting your tattoo, you may notice it starting to itch, scab up, and flake. This is completely normal, however, do not touch it! Scratching and touching your tattoo will only prolong the healing process and you can even pull out ink with the scabs or leave scars. You don’t want that! Leave it alone, and if the itching bothers you, apply some extra moisturizer throughout the day (cold moisturizers can really help relieve the itch, so pop your lotion in the fridge!), or if necessary, take an over-the-counter product like Benadryl.