After careful planning and saving, you’ve finally got the tattoo you always wanted. It’s fresh, the lines are perfect, the colors are popping.
You’re probably going to want to admire your new tattoo and take pictures for the world to see, right?
Sorry, but that’ll have to wait.
This is when the healing process begins, and proper tattoo aftercare is essential.
If you want your new tattoo looking vivid and feeling healthy, follow this list of do's and don'ts for best tattoo aftercare practices.
6 Tattoo Aftercare Do’s and Don’ts
You’ve just got a new piece of artwork that’ll stay on your body forever, the last thing you want to do is mess up the healing process or the tattoo itself. Or worst case scenario, ending up with an infection.
A tattoo might look great right away, but the healing process could take several months.
If you want your tattoo to look incredible and stay clean, be patient, trust the process, stick to what your tattoo artist tells you.
Follow these tattoo aftercare do’s and don’ts for a healthy healing process.
Do listen to your tattoo artist’s personal instructions.
Do treat your tattoo like a fresh wound.
Do use tattoo foam soap or fragrance-free, mild soap to clean your fresh tattoo.
Do choose reputable, trustworthy tattoo shops.
Do let your tattoo breathe to help with healing.
Do see a doctor if you find the pain is getting worse
Don’t expose your tattoo to direct sunlight.
Don’t heavily exercise the first 48 hours after getting tattooed - at the very least.
Don’t pick, rub, or scratch at your tattoo.
Don’t shave over your tattoo.
Don’t swim or soak in a bathtub until your tattoo is completely healed.
Don’t use a washcloth or loofah to wash your tattoo, just use your hands.
Let's go now deeper on each point and explain a bit more about it.
Things you should do:
1- Listen to your tattoo artist’s personal instructions.
Beforehand, be sure to let them know about any allergies or concerns you may have.
2- Treat your tattoo like a fresh wound.
If you fell and scraped up your knee, you wouldn’t want to touch it with dirty fingers, right?
3- Use tattoo foam soap or fragrance-free, mild soap to clean your fresh tattoo.
Our tattoo cleanser is specifically created for the purpose of cleaning fresh tattoos. It easily washes excess blood and ink off without having to scrub/rub the tattoo, calms red skin and relieves the pain during the first few days of healing.
Read also: How often should I wash my tattoo?
4- Choose reputable, trustworthy tattoo shops.
You have to be sure the shop is licensed, produces quality work, and operates safely, cleanly, and responsibly. Not only that, a shop that isn’t diligent about sterilizing their instruments could cause infection, allergic reactions, and other complications.
5- Let your tattoo breathe to help with healing.
Once you’ve taken off the original wrapping that your tattoo artist put on, let it breathe. If you rewrap it, it could trap moisture and lead to bacteria growth and infection.
This includes avoiding tight clothes over the tattoo. Depending on the fabric, it could rub, cause you to sweat, and lead to more moisture, which means more bacteria--you get the picture.
6- See a doctor if you find the pain is getting worse
If you get a rash, and if fluid oozes for extended periods of time from the tattoo you should start worrying about it. Other symptoms to look for include fever, swelling, pus coming from the tattoo, red lesions, or hard, raised tissue.
Things you shouldn't do:
1- Don’t expose your tattoo to direct sunlight.
New tattoos cannot be exposed to direct sunlight until the tattoo is completely healed. After that period, then remember to use sunscreen of SPF 30 or above.
2- Don’t exercise the first 48 hours.
Sweating increases the risk of bacteria infecting your new tattoo. And that is always bad news.
Therefore, many tattoo artists recommend to wait at least 48h until you can exercise.
Read also: Can You Workout After Getting a Tattoo?
Depending the type of exercise - heavy, moderate -, and the placement of the new tattoo, the precautions will be different.
3- Don’t pick, rub, or scratch at your tattoo.
As it heals, the tattoo will scab or start to flake in the first few weeks.
Contrary to popular belief, picking scabs doesn’t speed up the healing process, it actually slows it down.
If you pick at the scabs, it could lead to scarring and ruin the ink.The scabs will fall off by themselves, or can be gently rinsed off. If you can’t stand the itchiness, pat it gently or put a bit of balm on.
4- Don’t shave over your tattoo.
You’re going to have to live with a little bit of body hair for about a month, or until your tattoo heals.
Running a razor over a healing tattoo is equivalent to shaving over a fresh, open wound. It could yank off healing scabs and put a detour in your healing process.
5- Don’t swim or soak in a bathtub until your tattoo is completely healed.
Think of your new tattoo as a vulnerable, open wound -especially the first days-. Submerging it in water exposes it to all kinds of bacteria that could seep into your bloodstream and cause infections, problems with your immune system, and in extreme cases, death.
Not only that, swimming could make your brand new tattoo leak or be diluted.
6- Don’t use a washcloth or loofah to wash your tattoo, just use your hands.
Erum Ilyas, MD, says “It’s best to just wash with our hands. Loofahs have been well-documented reservoirs of bacteria...If you couple the fact that the bacteria are trapped in the fibers of the loofah and that these sponges are used to exfoliate the skin, the risk of infection is much higher.”
Internal Aftercare Tattoo Tips
So now that we’ve covered the proper care for the outside of the body, let’s talk about internal aftercare.
Anka Lavriv, co-owner of Black Iris Tattoo says, “Internal preparation is just as important as external aftercare.”
Tattoos affect more than just our skin, they impact our immune system, bloodstream, and overall health.
Drink plenty of water.
It’s always good to drink lots of water, but it's especially beneficial for your skin.
You can tell when someone isn’t drinking enough water as their skin is dry and dull...when you have a tattoo on that same skin, it immediately shows that dehydration.
Read also: Is dry healing a good idea?
It’s recommended you drink at least 8 glasses of water every day to keep your skin and tattoo looking healthier.
Maintain a consistent, healthy weight
Not only is that healthier for your body, it’ll also preserve your tattoo’s shape and size.
This includes gaining or losing weight quickly and getting pregnant. It could stretch the tattoo, cause it to fade, or create stretch marks. If you do plan on changing your current weight, try and do so gradually.
Eat Vitamin C rich foods
Berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and spinach will help fight off bacteria and speed up the healing process.
Ginger and garlic have anti-inflammatory properties that nourish your body during trauma like getting a tattoo.
What Tattoos Do to Our Immune System?
A tattoo affects not only your skin, but your immune system and bloodstream as well.
Our immune system responds to tattoos by sending white blood cells to destroy invading ink cells.
It also produces proteins, known as antibodies, in the blood to fight off foreign material.
Additionally, ink cells have been found to penetrate lymph nodes, which serve as filters of bacteria and infectious cells within the immune system.
Therefore, if your immune system is weak, a tattoo will render it more vulnerable to infection and other health risks.
Keeping your immune system healthy could protect you from infection before, during, and after getting a tattoo.
REMEMBER: eating healthy will help your tattoo heal faster and better
Tattoos and Sun
It’s always important to keep your skin protected from the sun’s harmful rays, but it’s particularly important when you have a new tattoo. UV rays break up the pigments in your skin, meaning your lines will blur and the color will fade.
After it’s healed though, use sunscreen with high SPF (sun protection factor).
Is Your Tattoo Infected?
If you haven’t been careful about following your tattoo artist’s instructions and slipped up the do’s and don’ts of tattoo aftercare, infection is a real possibility.
There’s a chance that infection could go away entirely on its own without you even noticing you had one, or it could lead to much more serious consequences.
These are some signs that you are infected, and it might be a good idea to see a doctor:
- Prolonged swelling
- Redness and radiating heat from tattoo site
- Pus draining
- Firm bumps (granulomas)
Getting a new tattoo is exciting & invigorating. But you’re also investing in a piece of art that will stay with you forever, so it’s no doubt you want the best of the best.
With all the time you spent researching which design and artist you want, it’s worth the extra effort to care for it afterwards.
Aftercare sometimes takes the backseat to the commotion that comes with getting a tattoo. If you’re not careful about following your tattoo artist’s directions to a T, it could cause damage to your fresh ink and even lead to infection.
However annoying or inconvenient it may be, stick to the tattoo aftercare do’s and don’ts, and you’ll have a beautiful, healthy tattoo that’ll last for years to come.