How to Look After a Tattoo When You Get Home
Tattoos are, to some, a wonderful addition to their bodies. They’re an expression of self; a work of art; symbolic of something we consider “special” or “important”.
They’re also expensive, and you can run the risk of your new ink looking less than ideal if improperly cared for. As a serial tattoo-getter myself I know the importance of taking care of your ink. The slightest error in aftercare can be the difference between a mess and a masterpiece.
Aside from ensuring your tattoo artist is reputable and their equipment of a high quality, aftercare is one of the most important factors to make your tattoo look fantastic and stay that way. Proper care is not timely, nor costly, yet is the best insurance to make certain your body art remains as good as it looked when you left the tattoo parlor.
Note: Your Tattoo will probably be itchy for at least two weeks during the healing process
There are several different approaches tattoo artists have towards aftercare but all encompass the same fundamental steps:
- Keep it clean.
- Dry it thoroughly after showering, but be very gentle and use a soft cloth to ‘dab’ it dry.
- Don’t over-use the aftercare products.
- Resist the urge to scratch, pick or peel – this will affect how your tattoo heals
- If something doesn’t look right or that area is very red – this could mean you have an infection. Always notify the tattooist and seek medical advice right away.
The advice provided by tattoo artists will vary from one to another, just as any general ailment or condition attracts different advice or approaches for treatment. The key thing to remember is you are treating a wound. Your aim is to keep the wound site as free from bacteria and dirt as possible and to provide an optimum environment for healing.
Your hands should always be thoroughly washed before touching your tattoo during healing. Every single time.
Cleaning Your Tattoo
Cleaning of the tattoo itself should always be carried out with a mild, fragrance-free soap. Check the ingredients list on the packaging – ensure no fragrance and no alcohol products. The first wash should be within an hour or two of the work being completed. The tattoo should never be soaked during the healing process. Avoid baths, swimming pools, spas, the ocean, anything that submerges your new ink. Aside from the risk of infection from chemicals or other nasties within the water, soaking the tattoo makes it overly wet and can turn it to mush.
After washing use several sheets of folded, new paper towel. Avoid using a hand or bath towel as they can harbor unseen bacteria, even when “clean”.
Once you’ve carried out the first wash there is no need to re-cover your tattoo. Your skin needs to be exposed to the air in order for it to breathe in order to heal. For the duration of the healing time washing your tattoo twice a day is sufficient. Overwashing can affect your body’s normal healing functions.
The first day you may notice seeping from the tattoo. This is plasma rising to the surface, which is normal and does not need to be covered or wiped away beside the normal twice-daily washing.
After-care products are a controversial area. Some tattooists will advise they are unnecessary entirely. Others will suggest either Bepanthen (Antibacterial version only, not the general one used for nappy rash) or Paw Paw ointment (without additives). If you do insist on using after-care products the amount required is absolutely nominal. Applying products coats and suffocates the skin, preventing adequate natural healing. This causes the site to get “sloughy” and can increase the chance of scabbing.
After approximately 3 days you are likely to see some scabbing and flaking. Whatever you do, under no circumstances “assist” these scabs or pieces of skin to fall away. “Helping” the tattoo along can cause colour-loss or loss of lines. Also refrain from wearing tight clothing over the tattoo as it has the same effect.
Once the tattoo is at a flaking stage for the sake of comfort you may use 1-2 drops – literally – only 1 to 2 drops – of a lotion completely free of fragrances (even natural ones) or any alcohols. Apply gently in circular motions, ensuring all of the lotion is absorbed entirely. If there is excess blot it with a clean paper towel. If you experience any burning or irritation, wash off immediately and dry as above, and discontinue that product.
Over the coming 2-3 weeks, follow this simple after care program and keep the tattoo out of direct sunlight. Sunshine is not a new tattoo’s (or an old tattoo’s for that matter!) friend, at all. Don’t apply sunscreens to the area, just keep it lightly covered with loose attire. Also avoid using anything you would not ordinarily put on a wound or abrasion – such as oils, glitters, make-up products, medical alcohol or first aid lotions/antiseptics.
While healing varies, tattoos should ultimately be healed within 3 weeks. Any signs of surrounding redness, excess swelling, heat to the area or red lines that appear to be “tracking” away from the tattoo require immediate attention from a medical professional. If ever unsure about the way it is healing – return to your tattoo artist and seek further advice. Any reputable tattooist cares as much about how their artwork looks post-healing as it does while you’re in their chair.
If in doubt – always ask! Do you have any tips to add?
“If you become concerned about any symptoms please seek immediate medical attention – we have some hotlines and suggested websites for further information and advice – http://www.stayathomemum.com.au/…/important-hotlines-websi…/
SAHM takes no responsibility for any illness, injury or death caused by misuse of this information. All information provided is correct at time of publication.