Tattoo Healing Process: A Guide To Looking After Your Fresh Ink

Butterfly And Moon Tattoo @tattoosbynirakar

So much thought and consideration goes into your tattoo design and where you want it placed on your body.

But, getting the tattoo you want extends beyond this – for an end tattoo result that you’ll love for years to come, it’s essential to pay attention to the tattoo healing process and to look after your fresh tattoo. 

When you walk out of the tattoo studio, how your tattoo heals is completely up to you. Not taking the right steps can result in a faded design and even a trip to the doctor. 

Memento Mori Tattoo @patatatstattoostudio

What To Do The Day Of Your Tattoo Appointment 

Getting a tattoo is essentially getting an open wound, and an open wound is a breeding ground for bacteria and infections.

So, while you may want to take off the bandage as soon as you exit the tattoo studio, don’t. Keep your fresh ink covered for at least two hours to keep bacteria away from this wound. 

However, if your tattoo artist covered your tattoo with plastic wrap, it’s better to take it off in order to let your ink breathe.

“This [plastic wrap] will prevent air from reaching your skin and may be extremely detrimental to a tattoo, so you should remove it immediately. You’re better off not having any covering than to be suffocating your new tattoo with plastic wrap. Better yet, ask your artist to use bandaging rather than plastic in the first place,”

Cat Paw Tattoo @adelaide.tattooing

How To Wash And Dry Your Tattoo

Once removing the bandage, you can begin washing your tattoo. Always wash your hands before touching or cleaning your new tattoo to prevent the transfer of germs. 

Use a gentle antibacterial soap to clean off the blood and plasma excreted from the tattoo. It’s important to get the plasma (the slimy stuff on the surface of your skin) all cleaned off – if it remains, it can turn into scabs.

Clean the whole area of the placement of your tattoo using your hand – don’t use any sponges or washcloths as these tools have a rougher exterior than your hand and can displace the tattoo ink. 

To dry your tattoo, again, avoid anything with a rougher surface. Instead of rubbing the area with a towel, you can use a paper towel to gentle dub the area. Rubbing the areas will disrupt the healing process and affect the ink. 

Matching Clover Tattoos @doran_tattoo

Then, after cleaning your tattoo, it’s time to moisturize. Use a gentle lotion all over the area, but avoid Neosporin, says Byrdie,

“This is a wonderful product for cuts and scrapes, but not for tattoos. Many people have allergic reactions to Neosporin, which can cause little red bumps. When the bumps go away, so does the ink, and you can end up with a polka-dotted tattoo.”

You can ask your tattoo artist about their favorite healing balm for fresh tattoos. 

For about two to three weeks while the surface of your tattoo is healing, you can wash your tattoo two to three times a day. Yes, you can wash your tattoo too much – going over the recommended amount can disrupt the body’s natural healing process. 

Mini Pink Saturn Tattoo @rolypolyc

3 Signs It’s Time To Seek Medical Help

Your Tattoo Won’t Stop Itching

After two weeks, your new tattoo should stop being itchy. If it doesn’t and the site of your tattoo continues to be uncomfortable, it may be a sign of an allergic reaction.

Prolonged Redness and Consistent Ooze 

If your tattoo continues to secrete a sticky substance or pus, and the redness hasn’t subsided after three days, this could mean your tattoo is infected.

Fever And/Or Chills

A fever and experiencing flu-like chills may be a sign of an infection.  

Rose Hand Tattoo @dianaregalado

Long Term Tattoo Aftercare

After around the two month mark, the redness, itchiness, and scabbing should have subsided, and by six months your tattoo should be completely healed. However, that doesn’t mean your aftercare process ends, too.

A tattoo is a long term commitment that requires consistent care and attention.

To keep your tattoo looking fresh and to push back any touch up appointments, wear SPF to protect your ink from the sun (UVA and UVB rays can cause your tattoo to fade), stay hydrated (hydrated skin results in a better looking tattoo), and of course keep your skin clean and moisturized.

Dragon Back Tattoo

How To Reduce Healing Time 

The healing process requires time and patience, however there are a few things you can do to speed it up. 

Don’t Scratch Or Pick At Your Tattoo

A natural part of the tattoo healing process is peeling and scabbing – this is how your body deals with wounds.

Because this part of healing brings about itchiness, you’ll be tempted to scratch and pick off the scabs. Don’t. You can seriously damage the design of your tattoo and prolong the healing process.

Snake Neck Tattoo @iminatattoo

Protect Your Ink From The Sun

A fresh tattoo is particularly sensitive to the sun. Unfortunately, you can’t apply sunscreen to a new tattoo, so your best bet is to cover your ink with loose clothing or stay out of the sun altogether until your tattoo is completely healed and you can apply SPF.

Avoid Scented Products

Go as basic and hypoallergenic as possible with your personal care products during the tattoo healing process. Fragrances in hygiene products – soaps, shampoos, lotions – can irritate healing skin.

“Fragrances in products can cause a reaction when it comes into contact with tattoo ink,”

Sword And Flower Tattoo @yeowool_tattooer

Don’t Swim

Avoid submerging your tattoo in any body of water.

“The risks of swimming while your tattoo is healing doesn’t only pose the risk of the tattoo healing poorly, fading, or scabbing off, it also poses risks from a bacterial infection that could compromise your health as a whole,”

Saved Tattoo

If you’re a big fan of jumping in lakes and spending days on the beach, get your tattoo during the winter months to make the healing process less impactful on your lifestyle.

Mini Sunflower Hip Tattoo @ally.tattooartist

It’s not just up to your tattoo artist to make sure you get a tattoo you love. Take care of your ink and pay attention to the healing stages to ensure an end result you enjoy showing off.

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