So you’ve just got inked for the first time… except now you have no idea what to do to take care of your fresh new tattoo. Or maybe you think it’s unnecessary to follow up with an aftercare routine? If so, stop right there and please think again—it goes way beyond just a piece of artwork on the skin. As tattooing involves using needles to puncture the skin, the process leaves it more vulnerable to infections. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to follow the proper steps to preserve the quality of your tattoo and prevent unwanted skin conditions. Without further ado, let’s tackle all the do’s and don’ts of tattoo aftercare.
Tattoo Aftercare: The Do’s
Keep It Wrapped Up
Right after getting inked, your tattoo artist will first apply an antibiotic ointment over the tattoo before wrapping it up to cover the area. This keeps the airborne bacteria from invading the skin and prevents your clothes from rubbing against the print. How long you’ll need to keep the wrap on will depend on the size of your tattoo and your tattoo artist’s instructions. Though typically, most artists would advise leaving the bandage on from two hours up to four days.
Tip: To remove your wrap, slowly peel off the wrap in the shower with lukewarm water and the wrap should glide off easily.
Wash With Clean Hands
So now that you’ve removed your wrap, it’s time for the second step of your tattoo aftercare: washing your tattoo. You might notice some blood or plasma and ink leaking out, but don’t panic, it’s completely normal. Just make sure your hands are clean and use lukewarm water and mild, antibacterial soap to wash away all the gunk and liquid. Then, use a paper towel to dry the tattoo. Remember, dab and don’t rub! Let it rest for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the next step.
Apply the ointment your tattoo artist recommended to aid the healing process. This creates another protective layer over your ink while providing sufficient moisture to minimise flaking or peeling. As your tattoo gradually begins to heal, you can start focusing on moisturising your tattoo instead of protecting it. Swap up your ointment with unscented lotions and moisturise two to three times a day after each wash to keep it from becoming dry and itchy.
Related: These 9 Body Lotions Are Best For Soothing Dry, Itchy Skin
Let It Breathe
It’s important to let your new tattoo breathe as much as possible for it to heal smoothly. Unless recommended by your tattoo artist, keep the bandage or cling wrap off! At most, you can rewrap your tattoo on the first night to prevent it from sticking to your bedding. Otherwise, it’s better to leave the print exposed.
Tattoo Aftercare: The Don’ts
Pick The Scabs
As tempting as it may be to pick at the peeling scabs, don’t do it. And regardless of how badly it itches (because it will), we repeat, do NOT pick or scratch your scabs. Remember, a healing tattoo is still an open wound at this point. While your new tattoo heals, it’s normal for it to itch, but scratching it will only irritate the skin and cause it to be more prone to infections.
Use Hot Water
You should never use hot water to wash your tattoo. During the early phases of tattoo aftercare, your skin is extremely sensitive. Using hot water will cause it to sting and possibly make the swelling even worse than it already is. Hot water can also open up your pores, which can lead to ink leakage and bacterial contamination. Hence, it’s best to use cold or lukewarm water to wash the tattoo or when you shower.
Soak/Submerge Your Tattoo Under Water
Showering with your tattoo is completely fine. However, it shouldn’t be soaked in water for too long of a period. So, bathing is definitely out of the question. Similarly, try to avoid swimming or any other water sports or activities that involve being underwater for two to three weeks as this can severely damage your ink.
Use A Towel To Dry
Try not to use a towel or a washcloth to dry your tattoo. The material can be far too harsh on the skin. Plus, chances are, it’s probably been hanging up on the rack long enough to be a host for germs and bacteria. If you still prefer using a towel, make sure it’s freshly clean and made out of microfibre material.
Prolonged Sun Exposure
We’re sure you all know how important sunscreen is for your daily skincare routine, but it’s also just as essential in tattoo aftercare. Prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can break up the tattoo’s pigment and if you get a sunburn, it can really slow down the healing process of your new tattoo. So, make sure to limit your time out in the sun whenever possible in the first month of getting your tattoo. Don’t forget to protect your design with a minimum of SPF 30 to keep your tattoo from fading.
Related: The Best Sunscreens For Your Face, According To Skin Type
Wear Tight Clothes
As we mentioned earlier, ventilation is key in your tattoo aftercare process. Wearing tight clothing may be incredibly suffocating to your ink as it will obstruct the healing of your tattoo. The plasma and ink might also get stuck on your clothing, which will not only leave stains but smear your tattoo as well. Or worse, your tight clothes could potentially pull against the peeling scabs and risk infection.
You know what they say, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. And that’s certainly the case when it comes to over-moisturising your tattoo. Over (as well as under) applying your moisturiser or lotion may crack the skin along with your tattoo design. It could also clog your pores and lead to breakouts, inflammation, and infection. Thus, just a thin layer of moisturiser will do, but if you accidentally put too much, gently wipe the excess off with a paper towel. Be careful not to swipe the skin.
Preserve Your Fresh New Ink With These Proper Tattoo Aftercare Tips
As with any beauty regimen that you put effort into, the same should be done for your tattoo aftercare. Even after your new tattoo is fully healed and settled in, try to maintain your basic wash and moisturise routine to preserve its pigment and glossy sheen. Thinking about getting a tattoo but don’t know what to get yet? You can start by experimenting with tattoo stickers to find out which design you like best. Or if your BF is feeling inspired by Song Kang’s neck tattoo in Nevertheless, he could also consider these 11 neck tattoo designs.