Please consider that everyone heals different and each tattoo should be given the appropriate attention to aftercare every time. It should not be assumed that all heals will be the same even if you have previously been tattooed. The following aftercare is a general guide for the average heal. However, when necessary, you may have additional steps which will be addressed during your session.
1. Clean your tattoo. Remove the bandage after three (3) hours, but no more than twelve (12). DO NOT remove the bandage until you can properly clean the tattoo with mild soap and warm water. Rinse it well with cold water, thoroughly cleaning off all of the slimy coating that may have formed over the tattooed area while underneath the bandage. Gently pat it dry with a clean paper towel, then allow it to air-dry for ten (10) minutes.
2. Apply healing ointment to the tattoo. Sparingly, but thoroughly, massage a very small amount into the skin to keep the tattoo slightly moist, but NOT smothered. Use just enough ointment to give the tattoo a slightly satin shine, and blot with a clean paper towel. Your skin will take in all the ointment it needs, so do not leave excessive ointment on the skin. For the next three (3) to seven (7) days, clean and apply ointment to your tattoo every six (6) hours, (about 3-4 times daily), blotting the small amount of excess fluid that may be secreted from the tattoo in between cleaning. Ensure that extra moisture doesn’t get trapped under the ointment by blotting and air-drying after every washing. Only apply ointment for as long as it takes for your tattoo to peel or become flakey, usually three (3) to seven (7) days. When the peeling begins, the tattooed skin will flake like a sunburn. AT ALL COSTS avoid picking at the cracked and flaking skin.
3. You are now in the peeling phase. DO NOT apply any more ointment. The area will become dry and itchy, sometimes very itchy. A good quality, fragrance-free lotion (Lubriderm for Sensitive Skin) can now be used three (3) times daily INSTEAD of the ointment. Repeat each day until the skin returns to its normal texture.
If you feel a heavier lotion is required to prevent over drying in between application (physically dry to the touch and not just skin that feels tight), you may switch up to a heavier lotion like Lubriderm for Normal to Dry, or Dry Skin.
If you get any pimples in the area tattooed during this phase, you need to decrease lotion application times or switch down to a lighter or different lotion.
4. SCABS are the body’s natural way of protecting wounds while they are healing. HOWEVER, it is very important to maintain the appropriate aftercare to PREVENT scabs from forming as they can prolong and complicate the healing process which can lead to uneven healing and even scarring.
The first signs that may lead to scabbing often are moisture bubbles that appear during the first few days of a new tattoo, usually caused by negligent cleaning or the over application of ointment. At the first sign of these, clean the tattoo thoroughly and allow to completely dry. Do not waterlog (soak) the tattoo. Only apply ointment sparingly to the areas of the tattoo that do not have bubbles, allowing the bubbles to dry on their own.
If scabs do form, once the tattoo is in the full peeling phase, sparingly apply lotion to the entire area making sure to thoroughly massage and not over apply or soak scabs with lotion. Any developed scabs should not be picked at or prematurely removed.
DIFFICULT & SLIMY HEALS
1. Clean your tattoo as explained in the previous section.
2. When the tattoo is dry to the touch, cover it completely with a new piece of plastic wrap, using tape as needed to hold it in place. Do not use any healing ointment or moisturizer.
3. For the next one (1) to three (3) days, the tattoo is kept completely covered with plastic wrap, 24 hours a day. It is crucially important to wash the tattoo every four (4) to six (6) hours, except at night for a maximum of 8 hours, or after any period of sweating. Let it completely air dry after washing. Apply a new piece of plastic wrap each time. After the tattoo no longer forms a slimy coating underneath the wrap, and just body moisture is left, it is okay to cease wrapping and switch to applying ointment.
4. It is also important not to over-wrap the area as covering large areas of untattooed skin can trap excess moisture. Too much plastic wrap on the surrounding skin - or not changing the wrap often enough - can lead to MOISTURE RASH. This will appear as bright red irritation with tiny pimples in the affected area, and will likely feel painful and itchy. If this happens, ice the area for no longer than 20 minutes at a time while it is covered with the wrap. If this does not relieve the pain or itching, unwrap the area, clean and let it completely dry, switching to using ointment ONLY on the tattooed area, allowing any moisture rash to clear up before applying ointment of lotion to that area.
WHAT YOU SHOULD NOT DO AFTER A TATTOO SESSION
1. The healing tattoo should never be submerged or soaked in water. You should also avoid saunas or other steamy and sweaty environments until the tattoo has finished flaking and peeling. Therefore, limit yourself to only short showers that DO NOT allow steam to build up on bathroom mirrors.
2. Do not swim until the flaking and peeling is all gone naturally by itself. Usually this takes around two (2) to three (3) weeks. The Texas health department lists that there should be at least a two (2) week waiting period.
3. While your tattoo is healing, do not allow it to be exposed to sun or other forms of UVA/UVB radiation including tanning beds. This significantly increases your risk of scaring as the tattooed area is still an open wound. Also be aware that there is an increased risk to skin cancer as the skin is highly vulnerable in any healing condition.
Refrain from any workout or physical activity heavier than walking, especially in cases where the new tattoo is in a direct sweat zone of the body. It is also important that a fresh tattoo be kept out of the sun and dirty environments, as it is still an open wound. ?
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO AFTER A TATTOO SESSION
1. After all flaking and peeling is gone, normal activities in water can be resumed.
2. The use of sunblock on the tattooed area may be resumed after all the flaking and peeling is gone. When in the sun or swimming, it is vital to apply and allow to dry, a sunblock of at least 60 SPF every two (2) hours as listed by FDA regulations. Please be aware that sunblock of 100 SPF and higher is available. Sun burning will permanently damage and fade your healed tattoo.
3. Intentionally tanning your skin will make tattoos look dingy. If you must tan, use a minimum of 60 SPF on your tattoos even if you choose to use other methods for the rest of your non-tattooed skin.
4. After all flaking and peeling is gone, light to moderate cardio may be resumed. However, muscle specific training involving the tattooed area may be resumed when the collagen returns to the area. This takes roughly three (3) to four (4) weeks to allow for complete return of elasticity to the skin.
5. Daily moisturizing and staying hydrated (8 glasses of water a day – 64 fl. oz. or 2 liters) keeps the skin healthy which inevitably keeps the tattoo looking good. The healthier the skin, the better the tattoo will look. Exfoliating and/or shaving/trimming the hair on the tattoo can also keep the tattoo looking better.