Fall is the most popular time to get a new tattoo. There’s something about nature changing around us that makes us crave our own bit of change. For some, it’s a new haircut. For others, it’s a new work of art to adorn your epidermis. Whether you’re planning your first tattoo or your 82nd (congrats either way, love that for you), it’s important to brush up on your tattoo after-care knowledge. Plus, you’ll want to have all the products you’ll need before going under the needle (let’s be honest, we’ve all made that frantic post-tatt drug store run).
Sometimes, tattoo care recommendations are all over the place. Ask one person, and they’ll tell you that dry healing is the way to go. Ask another, and they’ll tell you that the key is a few globs of Vaseline (it’s not). Figuring out how to best take care of your new ink so that it stays looking fresh and fine for as long as possible can be overwhelming. When the recommendations are so conflicting, how can you know you’re doing it right?
We’re here to give you some tattoo after-care tips that apply to just about every new tatt and some of the industry’s most recommended products.
1. Talk to Your Artist
First, ask your artist for their recommended after-care products and procedures. The “how” of healing can vary based on the size and shading of your tattoo, as well as factors specific to your skin, such as allergies and sensitivities. Your artist should instruct you on what they believe will be the best course of action for your new ink. And if they’re a pro, you can take their word for it.
2. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
In the weeks leading up to your appointment, make sure you’re hydrating your body as much as possible. Your body must be well-hydrated to heal properly, so don’t wait until the appointment is over to play catch up. Instead, try to focus on hydration both before and after getting inked.
3. Keep it Clean
Following your appointment, your artist will likely cover your new ink with second skin (medical adhesive) and/or gauze. They’ll let you know how long to keep your tattoo covered. When it’s time to remove the wrap, wash your hands with gentle, fragrance-free soap before touching the tattoo or the surrounding area.
4. Treat it Like a Wound (Because it is One)
When you get that new ink, you just want to take it out on the town to show it off, right? We get it. It can be hard to remember that the skin beneath your new work of art is an open wound. Chances are you wouldn’t go play a game of softball or hit a crowded bar in a crop top with an open wound, so it’s best to avoid those kinds of activities while your tattoo is in the early stages of healing. Give it a few weeks, and it’ll be ready to turn heads.
5. Keep it Moisturised (But Don’t Smother It)
While a few artists out there might tell you to let your newly tatted skin dry heal without any lotions or moisturizers, this technique can leave you more susceptible to intense itching, which could damage your skin and the appearance of your tattoo. Unless your artist has recommended this technique due to sensitive skin and allergy issues, this method probably isn’t for you.
At the same time, you should avoid over-moisturizing the area or covering it in thick, petroleum-based products like Vaseline, which trap moisture in the wound and prevent it from healing properly. Cover it, but don’t smother it.
Most tattoo artists recommend using products like the ones listed below:
- Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar
- Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Hemp Baby Unscented Pure-Castile Soap
- Dial Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap in Gold
- A+D Original Ointment
- Aquaphor Healing Ointment Advanced Therapy Skin Protectant
- Hustle Butter Tattoo Aftercare
- CeraVe Healing Ointment
- Badger Tattoo Balm
- Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion
- Lubriderm Daily Moisture Lotion
6. Cover Up
Throwing on that bikini and hitting the beach or showing off your new sleeve with some tattoo shop t-shirts can be tempting when sporting a new tattoo. We know you’re ready to get your tattoo fashion on, but sadly, those UV rays can cause severe damage to healing skin, so try to keep it covered and protected from sun exposure for the first two to three weeks (it’s a good idea to check with your artist on their recommended timeline).
The same applies to anything that could make its way into the wound, such as sand, dirt, dust, and other pollutants. When in doubt, cover up before you go out.
7. Monitor Your Symptoms
When healing after getting a new tattoo, it’s totally normal to experience some mild symptoms. You might notice fluid oozing from the skin during the first day or two. This lovely concoction of plasma, ink, and blood might be gross, but it’s normal and should clear up in a few days. You’ll probably also notice redness and mild pain for the first day or two and potentially a bit longer for larger tattoos.
Over the next couple of weeks, you might notice minimal scarring. It shouldn’t resemble the kind of scarring you get after you scrape your knee after a bad (and probably embarrassing) fall or an unfortunate encounter with barbed wire, but you might notice that the skin beneath the tattoo is raised and feels rough to the touch. After a couple of weeks, the scabs will start to flake and get itchy. Don’t scratch them! Apply a little moisturizer and resist the intruding thoughts of going at it with your fingernails.
If you’re still experiencing intense pain, itching, flaking, oozing pus, fever, chills, or anything else that seems less than normal, contact your artist, as these could be signs of an infection.
8. Don’t Submerge It
Unless you’re down to sit on the sidelines, you’ll probably have to skip the beach and pool until your tattoo has fully healed. And that self-care Sunday bath? Better rain check it. Avoid any situation that might cause your new ink to submerge in water or any other liquid. Yes, that means you’ll have to wait to wade through slime on a Nickelodeon game show. We know it’s a bummer, but it’s temporary.
9. Be Patient
Last but certainly not least, the key to a successful healing process is patience. The healing game requires a lot of the “p” word (see mom, you can learn life lessons from tattoos). But before you go thinking that the next few weeks will surely be the end of your social life, remember that the waiting won’t last forever. With the proper care and patience, you’ll be showing off that fresh, new ink in no time at all.