Getting your tattoo is always an exciting and rewarding experience. It is so exciting that aftercare is sometimes an afterthought.
Wrapping your tattoo is an integral part of that proper aftercare. Knowing how long and when you should cover your tattoo plays a large role in effective aftercare.
So, how long should I have my tattoo wrapped? Keep your tattoo wrapped for 2-4 hours after leaving the tattoo shop. If using protective tattoo film instead of plastic foil, keep the wrap on for 3-4 days.
We know that many questions may arise during this process, which is why we laid out all of the necessary answers below.
Keep reading to learn more about wrapping your tattoo!
Tattoos and the Wrapping Process
Wrapping occurs once the tattoo artist has finished their work:
- First, they disinfect the area using an antibacterial cleanser or mild soap.
- Once the skin is entirely sterile, well-protected from germs and bacteria and dry, the artist will wrap the area with professional tattoo bandage (recommended) or simply plastic foil.
The wrap is meant to act as a shield from harmful bacteria and germs that can cause unwanted infections.
This wrap protects your tattoo and wound until a fresh layer of new skin has grown over the area.
Knowing how long you should keep your tattoo wrapped is usually the most confusing part for people after getting a new piece.
This confusion comes from the fact that each tattoo artist tends to have their own recommendation as to how long you should keep it wrapped.
In most cases, you are fine to remove your wrapping after a few hours as long as you are comfortable washing your tattoo with warm soapy water. However, it is not unusual for a tattoo artist to recommend keeping your tattoo wrapped for the first night.
If you are unsure, the best thing to do is to take the advice of your tattoo artist.
Protective Tattoo Film Vs Plastic Foil
The use of plastic foil has been common practice (still is) in the tattoo community for many years. It was a practical and effective way to keep your tattoo protected from bacteria the first hours after leaving the studio.
Protective Tattoo Film / Tattoo Bandage
Not so long ago, the industry evolved for the better, and new products specifically designed for tattoo care were introduced. And that's when the first regenerative tattoo films came into the picture.
Instructions: Your tattoo artist (or yourself) will put it on the tattooed area, then keep it on for up to 5 days.
Is it better than plastic foil? Big YES.
The benefits are many:
- More comfort. No bleeding messing up your bed for the first days.
- Regenerative. Help your skin to regenerate faster.
- Breathable. We know how important it is for a new tattoo to breath.
- Waterproof. Easy to get a shower without thinking much of your new tattoo.
- Easy to apply. You can do it at home, no need of professional supervision.
Should I Keep My Tattoo Wrapped After the First Day?
Depending which type of product (tattoo bandage or plastic foil), your tattoo may require a wrapping for more than one day.
It is also reliant on a couple of factors, including your tattoos' location and whether it is easily exposed to germs, or if you have a condition that may cause you to heal at a slower than average speed.
If using regenerative tattoo film:
- Keep your tattoo wrapped for the first 3-5 days, then remove it and start your cleaning routine.
- If there is excessive bleeding, remove the film, clean the tattoo with antibacterial soap and put on a new one.
If using plastic foil/cling-wrap:
- Some artists will recommend that your tattoo remain wrapped for more than just one day after completion.
- Depending on the size of your tattoo, an artist may recommend that you keep it wrapped for a day or two for simple, small line-work pieces.
- Larger pieces may require a longer frame of time.
- If your artist has suggested that you keep your tattoo on for more than a few hours, you will have to replace the film periodically.
- If you look under the wrapping, you may notice a build-up of ink and plasma. This can worry first-time tattoo recipients, but it is entirely normal. Plasma and an ink build-up are a sign that the tattoo is healing, but it also means that it is time to get a fresh wrapping.
- Rewrapping a tattoo is a straightforward process. All you need is antibacterial, non-fragrant soap, medical or micropore tape, and fresh wrap.
Should I Wrap My Tattoo at Night?
Knowing how long you should keep your tattoo wrapped includes knowing whether to keep it wrapped while sleeping.
As we've spoken before, if using regenerative tattoo film there's no discussion: the answer is yes, we should keep our tattoo wrapped at night.
But what if we use plastic foil?
Many tattoo artists believe that sleeping with a freshly inked tattoo may be uncomfortable and put you at an elevated risk of infection, which is why they recommend putting on a fresh wrapping before bed for the first night only.
It's important to understand that keeping your tattoo wrapped hinders the healing process by restricting air from reaching the tattoo, therefore we should let it breath as much as possible.
Some artists argue that consistently wrapping your tattoo promotes germs and bacterial growth on the healing skin.
This contention is why it is imperative to listen to the guidance of your tattoo artists. And, if it is a particular concern, inform your artist.
During the first two days after getting tattooed, your skin will secrete both plasma and blood. This is a completely normal part of the healing process, but these fluids can cause itching and possibly cause the skin to stick to your bedding.
Read Also: How Should I sleep With a New Tattoo?
What Happens if You Leave a Tattoo Bandage On Too Long?
Leaving the bandage on may seem like a sound way to ensure that your tattoo is safe from infection and other forms of potential harm. However, this theory is a bit misguided.
Leaving the bandage on for too long can actually result in infection.
This is why it is crucial to regularly change the dressing if you keep your tattoo wrapped for an extended period of time. If the wrapping becomes compromised or there is an abundance of blood or plasma inside the wrapping, it may be necessary to change it more frequently.
Keeping your wrapping on for too long without changing it or giving your skin time to breathe can have adverse effects. As mentioned above, it can cause infection by keeping the area too moist, and keeping your wrapping on for too long compromises the healing process.
Without the proper exposure to oxygen, your freshly tattooed skin takes longer to heal.
This elongated healing period can actually put you at a higher risk of infection. This is because the moisture of the area prohibits your skin from creating a new, protective barrier.
What are the benefits of wrapping my tattoo?
There are many reasons that your tattoo artist will recommend wrapping your tattoo:
#1 Creates a safe environment
Because the tattoo is sterilized and adequately moisturized before applying the wrap, the wrapping creates the perfect environment to ensure your new tattoo's safety.
#2 Keeps Bacteria Away
Most importantly, wrapping your tattoo creates a protective barrier from bacteria and other germs that can cause infection. By taking control of your tattoo’s environment, you greatly discourage these risks.
#3 Protection against irritants
Certain things that you are exposed to, such as bedding, rough fabrics, or even germs, can compromise your new tattoo's healing process and comfort. Proper wrapping can protect your freshly inked skin from irritants.
If you have ever had someone accidentally bump or knock your tattoo, then you know how painful it can be to your healing skin. Wrappings provide an extra layer of protection from these possible accidents.
We love getting new tattoos, but it is no secret that aftercare can be a bit confusing and not something that many of us look forward to dealing with.
Many different things must be done to ensure that your tattoo heals quickly and without any complications. Wrapping, if recommended by your artist, is a vital factor in this process.
Ensuring that you adhere to your tattoo artist’s guidance regarding how long you should keep your tattoo wrapped, how often to change it, and when to take it off is an essential part of the tattooing process.
Once the wrapping is off and you are all healed up, your tattoo will undoubtedly look fantastic!