You finally got that tattoo you’ve always wanted! Do you have all the information you need to take care of your tattoo? The process of getting a new ink requires hundreds of needle sticks to achieve the desired image. However, unlike other breaks in the protective skin barrier, people often forget to care for their skin in a safe way after getting a tattoo.
Wash Your Tattoo
When you first get your tattoo, you will typically have a bandage in place. This bandage can be left in place for 2-3 hours, or overnight if you have it done late in the day. When you remove the bandage, promptly wash your tattoo with warm soap and water, preferably fragrance-free soap as it is less irritating. Wash with clean hands. Don’t use a loofah or washcloth, as they can be abrasive to delicate skin. Do not be alarmed if the tattoo appears to be seeping ink – this is excess ink mixed with fluid from your skin. It is normal. A good way to remember to clean your tattoo is to wash it during your daily shower. After washing the tattoo, pat it dry with a towel and avoid rubbing that area of skin. You should not need to apply additional bandages, however if you do, make sure the bandage is sterile to avoid infection, and change it frequently.
Apply Ointment to Your Tattoo
Once you’ve washed and dried your tattoo, apply a barrier ointment such as Aquaphor or Vaseline for the first 2-3 days. When you apply this ointment, massage it into the tattooed skin. This will protect and provide moisture to help your skin heal. During this time, you may see your tattoo “weeping”, or leaking fluid or excess ink. Keep the skin clean and moist with ointment, and as needed dab seeping fluid from skin with a clean, dry paper towel. After the first few days you can switch from protective ointment to unscented lotion to moisturize your tattoo as it dries out. Keep applying a moisturizing lotion to your tattoo and in 2-4 weeks it should be completely healed. If you notice the skin around your tattoo becoming red or irritated, try switching to a hypoallergenic lotion, or reducing the number of times you apply lotion each day.
Wear Loose and Clean Clothing
During this time of healing make sure to wear loose, clean clothing over the tattoo area. Also make sure to sleep on clean sheets until your tattoo is healed. It is important to protect skin from germs that build up on clothing and bed linens that could potentially cause infection. Wearing tight clothing over a fresh tattoo can cause a delay in healing. Avoid any article of clothing that will cause direct friction or rubbing over your tattoo until it is healed. Try to wear breathable fabrics over your tattoo, such as cotton.
Don’t Scratch Your Tattoo
After the first few days of healing, your tattoo may become itchy as it scabs over. Don’t scratch your tattoo as this can lead to infection or scarring. Some tattoo inks can cause an allergic reaction. If your tattoo is excessively itchy, you can talk to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter allergy medicine for relief. If your tattoo is showing signs of infection such as prolonged redness, swelling, feeling hot-to-the-touch, or if it is raised, hard, or painful, notify your doctor immediately. You may require an antibiotic.
A tattoo is body art that, if cared for properly, will last you a lifetime. By keeping your new tattoo clean and following the guidelines above you can avoid infection and complications that could cause you discomfort or additional skin issues. A few days of proper care after getting your tattoo will ensure that your art, as well as your skin, will be preserved.