Stick and poke aftercare is a necessary step to ensure a good homemade tattoo result. Stick and poke tattoos are usually smaller and simpler than tattoos done with a machine, and therefore heal faster and rarely make a scab. Nevertheless, they stick and pokes need aftercare, and you should always inform the person you’re tattooing about what they can do to help the healing and preservation of their tattoo. Here are the basic stick and poke aftercare measures:
- After completing the stick n poke tattoo, immediately protect it with a bandage;
- Keep the skin clean, but don’t wash it excessively and don’t scrub;
- Keep the skin moisturized and don’t apply ointment excessively;
- If a crust appears, don’t scratch it. The scab prevents the ink from oozing;
- Avoid submerging the stick n poke tattoo in water for a few weeks;
- Avoid direct sun for a few weeks.
Reworking on a Stick and Poke Tattoo
Depending on your project, it could take few sessions to complete your stick and poke tattoo. For example, you could do the lining in a first session, and the shading in another one. If the skin swells so much that the ink seeps out, you should stop, clean and bandage the skin, and wait to continue the tattoo. In any case, wait for complete healing before reworking the stick n poke tattoo.
Even when it looks healed, a tattoo could be still healing under the surface of the skin. It takes three to four weeks for stick and poke tattoos to heal. The basic stick and poke aftercare measures mainly concern those first few weeks.
Applying a Bandage on a Stick and Poke
Because of the context in which they stick and poke, many artists don’t bandage their stick and poke tattoos. The first stick and poke aftercare measure is to bandage it. This will prevent contaminating the newly poked skin.
First, clean the tattoo with a green soap and distilled water solution using a 1 to 8 ratio. If you don’t have green soap, rubbing alcohol is better than nothing. Then, apply an antiseptic ointment and bandage the tattoo with a sterile absorbing pad or gauze. To fix the pad, use a sterile self-adhesive fabric tape; avoid any other tapes you would find at home. Bandages should be kept between 2 to 6 hours.
Don’t use plastic wrap to bandage stick and poke tattoos as it creates a low oxygen, wet and warm environment that helps bacteria grow.
Cleaning a Stick and Poke Tattoo
Another mandatory stick n poke aftercare measure is cleaning. All homemade tattoos should be washed after removing the bandage and during the healing process. Wash the stick and poke tattoo by hand under lukewarm water, avoiding scented soaps and patting it gently to dry it. Note that rubbing the tattoo could damage it. Also, to preserve the appearance of the tattoo, avoid submerging it in water for at least two weeks.
Ointments for Stick and Poke Tattoos
Antiseptic ointments shouldn’t be applied excessively on stick and poke tattoos. Although they help the healing process, they also draw body fluids to the surface of the skin, which can damage the ink. Using antiseptic ointments such as A+D® Ointment is commonly recommended, but only for the first two days. Afterwards, you want to avoid skin dryness to prevent damaging the tattoo. To keep it moisturized, you may use an unscented lotion free of medication and alcohol. Avoid petroleum-based products. Regardless of the product you are using, apply it lightly.
Sun Exposure and Stick and Poke Tattoos
Sunlight will fade the tattoo. Avoid direct exposure during the first weeks and then apply sunscreen on the stick and poke.
Notice: All the information in this article shouldn’t be taken to be medical or professional advice. This information is specific to stick and poke aftercare. If you are using a tattoo machine or working on a big project, make sure to research thoroughly what safety measures are required. To greatly improve the safety of your stick and poke tattoos, you should also learn about bloodborn pathogens.