All tatted up and ready to show off your masterpiece?
Not so fast.
The urge to show everyone your new work will be high; especially when your tattoo is at its freshest. The urge will be even higher if this is your first tattoo. But to ensure the longevity of your work, proper aftercare is an essential, ongoing part of the tattoo experience. Keeping your ink under wraps and properly cared for means fewer touch-ups and fewer chances for infection.
Like all great works of art, maintenance and care are essential to maintaining the appearance of your freshly inked tattoo. Read on to learn about the importance of aftercare, and steps you should take post-session.
Why Aftercare is Important
Casually a tattoo is often seen as an artistic form of expression; both for the wearer and tattoo artist. But it’s equal parts art and medical procedure. In some countries like Japan, tattoo artists were previously required to hold a medical license. Imagine if painters were required to have medical training, we’d probably never see a Picasso come to life!
Given that a tattoo is just as much a medical procedure as getting a shot—or a thousand shots in one sitting—it’s extremely important that the tattooed area is cared for correctly. In the parlour, the onus lies on the artist to do the prep work (e.g. applying ointments and bandages). A proper artist should also give you some direction on caring for your tattoo in the first week. But once you leave the partner, it’s 100% your responsibility to maintain a high standard of care well beyond that first week.
Proper care prevents infection. It also keeps your skin protected at a time where the sun could easily damage it.
Remember: that forearm piece is more than just a memento; it’s being embedded into your skin for life! Taking care of it early, with the right products, will help your skin heal correctly and completely.
The artist just put the final touches on your new tattoo; congrats! Immediately after, the tattooist should dress the area with a layer of antibacterial ointment or petroleum jelly, followed by a bandage wrap. If the artist skips one or both of these things, make sure you ask! A professional will always complete these steps before letting you leave the studio.
On the way home, keep the tattooed area out of direct sunlight. It may help to bring long-sleeved clothing to wear home if it’s sunny. Also, avoid any exposure to water.
Keep the bandage on for the time recommended by the artist. This could be anywhere from a few to 6 hours, or longer depending on the ointment and bandage type used.
Remove the bandage and do your first wash of the area. Use clean hands, a delicate soap, and water. This first wash removes any excess ink, oil, and blood. It also preps the area for your ongoing care routine. Apply moisturiser after this first wash, or when suggested by your tattoo artist.
From this point on, feel free to keep your bandage off to give the affected area some air to start the healing process. If you’re concerned about excess fluid getting into bedsheets, feel free to rewrap your tattoo overnight.
2 to 4 Days
Your skin may feel warm to the touch; an almost sun-burning slightly painful sensation. Rest assured this is normal. We recommend avoiding hot showers during this phase as this warm feeling is more pronounced under hot water.
Wash your tattoo a few times daily using the method mentioned on Day 1. The frequency of your wash really depends on how active you are throughout the day. The goal is the keep the area clean enough, while allowing your skin to form scabs to complete the healing process.
Avoid the sun with protective clothing. Avoid the water (outside of showers). And most importantly: DO NOT pick the scabs forming on your tattoo.
Redness, and the burning sensation will start to subside in the affected area. By now, any excess ink will have risen from your skin’s surface and washed away. Continue the wash/moisturise routine at least twice daily.
Scabs and skin will continue to flake. As tempting as it is, don’t peel at it. Let the dead skin fall off on its own. Continue to moisturise daily and keep the area clean.
If redness is largely unchanged since the previous week and accompanied by swelling, contact your doctor and/or tattoo artist. Your skin may be at risk of infection.
Once again, wash and moisturise! By now, you should be in the habit of doing this daily. This consistency will pay off; giving vibrancy back to skin dulled during the healing process.
Some exposure to the sun is okay. But if your tattoo has colour or white ink you might want to consider avoiding the sun at all costs for an extended period. The lower layers of your tattoo may take months to heal. Sunscreen is your best friend in any season.
If you already have a daily skincare routine, make sure you add your fresh tattoo in the mix. Continued moisturising over the next few months will keep your tattoo looking newer, for a much longer period.
Sunscreen is equally as important. Except you may want to apply it on every sunny day, not just the ones in summer.
Your body is a temple, within which this tattooed art hangs on the wall. Take care of the temple, and maintain the relics inside of it.
Follow the same steps as above, but avoid moisturiser. This alternative is sometimes tried by those with really sensitive skin, who fear the effects of an allergic reaction by an over-the-counter moisturiser. Keep in mind that with this method, sun avoidance is absolutely necessary and essential to a proper heal.
Although more research is needed, coconut oil is the moisturiser of choice among quite a few skincare aficionados. It is commonly used in Polynesian tattoo history to be applied right after completion of a work.
Although coconut oil has some natural benefits, more work needs to be done to rate it against some of the leading glides and ointments on the market (some of which are already all-natural).
Your One-Stop Shop For Aftercare
The tattooing process doesn’t start and end in the studio. The first few hours, days, weeks, and even months, are crucial in ensuring your permanent art heals in the way you intended. Check out our Aftercare products today, and get everything you need to create your own aftercare routine.
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