Tattoo Aftercare: It’s Not Over Just
Because the Buzzing Stopped…

Tattoo Model

Right Aftercare Makes All The Difference

Tattooing isn’t just magically creating new colors and designs on a client’s skin. It’s forcing colored ink beneath their skin by piercing it repeatedly with needles. It is art-by injury, perhaps not to the same degree as piercing or more obscure body art such as branding, but still, you cause bodily trauma in order to make a tattoo.

As with any wounds, this means that care must be taken to ensure they heal cleanly and quickly

Unfortunately, the recommendations on just how to do this vary from artist to artist, but almost all agree a bandage should be used. Some tattoo artists, reportedly, use saran wrap to cover wounds, but this is actually a rather bad idea. Wounds need to breathe, and such a wrap becomes a haven for bacteria!

A closer look at the bandages…

One of the matters of real contention, however, is in how long the bandages should be left on. Some recommend definitely taking the bandages off after an hour. Others say, instead, that the bandage should be left on for at least two hours. Each tattooist passes on what has worked for their clients, or at least what they were taught during their training. Given that most of the time, only really poorly cared for tattoos will have any real problems, there is likely a large amount of flexibility in the timing of the particular details.

Another near-universal recommendation is, whether after one hour or over two, when the bandage is removed, the area must be cleaned with a mild antibacterial soap and water…

It is important that this soap is not too harsh or drying, as this could irritate the tattoo wound. This must be done regularly, cleaning off any blood, plasma, and dirt that might have accumulated. Some, however, suggest that you avoid any hot showers, or anything else that could cause the pores to open up too much, and possibly allow water infiltration or ink loss. If a client does need to take a shower, it is best to protect the tattoo from direct exposure to the spray for the first few days. Submerging the tattoo in a bath or pool should be avoided for at least two weeks. Ocean water should be avoided until it is fully and truly healed. New tattoos should also be kept out of direct sun as much as possible.

Whenever the tattoo is cleaned, which should be regularly, a clear, fragrance-free ointment should be applied…

It should be stressed that the ointment needs to be fragrance-free, as fragrance compounds can be irritants, and you definitely don’t want to do anything to encourage irritation in a new tattoo. Ointments are best to use during the first stage of healing, but once scabbing and peeling begin to occur,  this needs to be changed to a lotion.

While excessive scabbing can be a sign of a poorly done tattoo, some is inevitable. Piercing the skin causes blood seepage into the wounds, and as they heal, some of this congealed blood will be pushed out and dry. In addition, the heavily damaged top level of skin will not shed normally, so as the skin heals it will shed in large pieces, which can be unsightly and disturbing. Rest assured, this is a normal part of the healing process. Continue cleaning and using moisturizers as normal, and it will pass quickly once the top layer has been shed and the skin renewed.

There are indications to watch out for, which show that medical care should be sought…

While some scabbing is to be expected, excessive scabbing is an indication of undue injury, and greater risk of infection. Seeping and inflammation are signs that an infection, or at least an unusual reaction, has already begun, and medical care is critical to prevent further health problems, or damage to the tattoo. A rash is also a sign of worse inflammation, as well as a strong indicator of irritation or even allergic reaction to the inks. Such reactions are especially common with red pigments.

All the safety measures in the world, while tattooing, won’t protect a client if these measures aren’t followed. If you want your tattoo art to last, the utmost care must be taken. Fortunately, major tattoo problems are pretty rare, and the steps are simple and common-sense. Make sure, if someone is willing to pay the time, pain, and money to get a tattoo, they’ll be willing to give the really minimal care needed to  keep it.

Elite Tattoo Artist Insider