Common Aftercare Mistakes

A huge part of tattooing is creating a piece that will last for years to come. Making sure that your clients know how to take care of their tattoos will allow them to get the best results and heal safely.

In this article, we’ll be looking at the most common aftercare mistakes, as well as giving our best advice on tattoo healing.

In this article, we’ll explain:

  • The most important aftercare points to remember
  • The Do’s and Don’ts of tattoo healing
  • What to do when clients have issues with healing

Being able to teach your clients how to care for their tattoos is a skill you’re going to need for the rest of your career. Once you’re done with tattooing, it's mostly going to be up to the client to have the tattoo heal up correctly. If you give them clear instructions, they’ll be more likely to get good results.

General Tattoo Aftercare Instructions

Because every tattoo artist works a little bit differently, they will also have slight differences in their aftercare instructions. However, if you’re not sure where to start, here’s what we recommend:

  • At the appointment, wrap up the tattoo.
  • Tell them to keep the wrap on for about two hours or until they get home. (You don’t want them taking off their wrap in some random bathroom in a store or friend’s house where they won’t have antibacterial soap to clean it and protect it from infection.)
  • Take the wrap off and clean off all the plasma that is on the tattoo.
  • Change the wrap every 3 hours to avoid infection and be sure to wrap it before sleeping so it does not stick to the sheets. (If you have a job where you'll come into contact with dirt or contaminants (construction, medical, etc.), keep the tattoo wrapped while at work)
  • Apply a thin-layer of Lubriderm or similar water-based, unscented lotion with a glove the night after the tattoo. (Apply a thin layer of lotion every 2-3 hours if the tattoo is not wrapped.)

Tattoo Aftercare Do’s and Don’ts

Tattoos are technically open wounds, so it’s important that the healing process not only protects the tattoo, but also prevents infection and other health issues. Here’s the top do’s and don’ts when it comes to aftercare:

Do NOT Use Vaseline

Vaseline is great during the tattooing process for protecting the tattoo while you’re working. However, it will not help tattoos heal well after the appointment is over. Always go for a water-based, unscented lotion. 

Aquaphor and A&D are petroleum-based, like Vaseline. Petroleum-based lotions create a seal over the tattoo. It doesn’t have time to breathe and doesn’t hydrate them. They’re also super thick, and if you’re not washing your hands before you put them on, they can create a perfect breeding ground for bacteria to grow, which leads to infections.

DO Use Products You’re Comfortable With

You’ve probably seen the sticky sheets that make tattoo “ink bubbles.” We’ve used them, and the healing was great. However, a few other tattoo artists have had some complications with the client being allergic to something that was in it. This caused the area to become inflamed and affected the healing of the tattoo. 

If you’re concerned about how a product might affect someone’s healing process, it’s usually better to stick with what you’re most comfortable using.

DO Make Sure Your Instructions Are Crystal Clear

If something does go wrong with the tattoo, 80% of the time the client will not blame themselves. They're going to blame you. So therefore, you want to make sure you're doing everything you can to give them the correct knowledge (and so you don’t put your name on a bad tattoo).

DO Wash the Tattoo Frequently

Anytime you are around anything that could cause bacteria, you want to make sure that you wash the tattoo with antibacterial soap. That is what will keep it clean and keep it from getting infected.

Do NOT Over Moisturize

Over moisturizing could cause a problem with clogging your pores, which will lead to a breakout and affect your tattoo. Putting on lotion about 5-6 times a day should be enough to keep it from drying out and scabbing.

Do NOT Exercise

Tattoos are an investment to your clients, so it's important to explain why exercising during the healing process could cause problems:

First, gyms are a breeding ground for bacteria. Exposing your tattoo to gym equipment before it's fully healed puts you at greater risk for infection. It also risks your general wellbeing, as your immune system will be down during the healing process.

On the flip side, working out while your tattoo is healing could get others sick, since you could get plasma and other bodily fluids on the gym equipment.

However, this doesn't mean you should just work out at home. Accidental bumps could rip the scabs off a tattoo, taking chunks of ink out with it.

Do NOT Go Swimming

You want to make sure that you tell your clients to stay away from pools, lakes, ponds, etc. You don't want to submerge your tattoo in any water for a long period of time, especially in lakes or ponds where the water's not clean.

Do Stay Out of the Sun

The sun can be super dangerous to tattoos. It could dry it out very quickly, and sunburns completely destroy a new tattoo. A sunburn lightens tattoos a ton, which means it’ll need to be touched up and it won’t look good for a long period of time.  It’s best to cover the tattoo if you work outside.

What to Do if a Client’s Tattoo Gets Infected

When a client leaves the studio, it is up to them to take care of their tattoo. If your client ends up getting their tattoo infected, they’re going to come to you for help. 

However, the only thing they can really do is go see a doctor. They may need medicine, and we don't have the ability to get those things or prescribe them to people. So let them know that they should seek medical attention. 

Eventually, if they need a touch up, you could handle that. If it's their fault, you can either have them pay for it, or if you want to help them out, you can just do it. That is completely up to you.

What to Do if a Client’s Tattoo Gets Scabbed Up

It's important to let your client know that scabbing is a natural part of the healing process and that it's important to never pick at the scabs because it will tear up the tattoo. 

They can reduce how much scabbing occurs by applying aftercare cream 2-3x per day to avoid it drying out.

Prepare for a Tattooing Career with the Artist Accelerator Program

Learning proper aftercare is an important step in your journey, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how difficult tattooing can be. Without the right knowledge, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional tattoo artist. 

However, finding the straight-forward information you need to progress is difficult. And with so much out there online, it’s hard to avoid picking up bad habits from incorrect and outdated resources.

This is one of the biggest struggles new tattooers face, and too many talented artists have given up their goal of getting into tattooing because of the years it would take to unlearn their bad habits. 

That’s why aspiring artists are learning to tattoo with the Artist Accelerator Program’s structured course. As a student, you learn every step of the tattooing process from professional artists with the experience and advice you need to build your skills and create incredible tattoos. 

With the Artist Accelerator, you can stop wasting time searching through incorrect information. You just get the clear, easy-to-understand lessons you need to start improving fast… along with support and personalized feedback from professional artists in our online Mastermind group.

Over 2500 students have already gone through the course, with many of them opening up their own studios. If you want to join them and learn the skills you need to start tattooing full time faster…

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
  • Professional tattoo artist coaches
  • Private mastermind community
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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