Tattoo Aftercare: Best Practices and Tips

tattoo aftercare

Did you know that psychologists recently discovered that there are mental health benefits that come with tattoos? This discovery might help explain why tattoos have become much more socially acceptable in recent years.

Unfortunately, despite this popularity, there is still a lot of misinformation regarding one important subject: tattoo aftercare. Whether you’re a tattoo artist, or the person getting the tattoo, it’s essential to know at least the basics of taking care of a new tattoo.

That’s why we made this guide. In it, we’ll be going over some of the best practices for ensuring that your tattoo remains safe after you get it. Let’s get started!

Cover Up Your Tattoo

Immediately following the tattoo, it’s crucial for the artist to cover it adequately. First, they should put a thin layer of antibiotic ointment over the tattoo.

Then, the artist should put either a bandage or plastic wrap over the tattoo. This covering does two things: it prevents bacteria from entering your body and your clothing from irritating the tattoo area.

However, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t leave it covered for that long. Your tattoo needs to breathe to heal correctly. So, how long should you keep it covered?

Ultimately, it depends on the type of tattoo and its size of it. Your artist might recommend keeping it covered for one to two hours if it’s a smaller tattoo.

However, larger ones might need to be covered for twenty-four hours or more. If your artist doesn’t tell you, ask them how long you should keep it covered. 

Wash the Tattoo Regularly 

Keeping your tattoo area clean is one of the most important parts of preventing a potential infection. You should first wash your tattoo after you take off the covering for the first time.

Before you begin, make sure you first wash your hands with warm water and soap. Then, you can turn to the tattoo. Make sure you’re using warm water and a type of soap that’s fragrance-free.

Any type of soap that’s labeled as gentle is likely a good option. Once you’re done cleaning, you can dry the area with a clean cloth.

During the first few days after you get your tattoo, you should wash the area one to two times per day. Once it starts to heal, you can switch to once per day for two to three weeks. 

Keep the Skin Around the Tattoo Moisturized

Applying moisturizer frequently is another important part of preventing an infected tattoo. Moisturizer helps hydrate the area, which can prevent scabbing.

Scabbing can slow down the healing process, so it’s important to do everything you can to stop them from forming. We recommend moisturizing two to three times per day for at least two weeks.

Make sure you go with a thick moisturizer like Vasoline. Some people also recommend coconut-based creams and ointments. The fatty acids in these products can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the tattoo site.

In fact, if you want, you can just put straight-up coconut oil on your tattoo, though it might be a little greasy. Keep in mind that even if you’re diligent about moisturizing, there’s still a chance that your tattoo could begin to scab.

If you notice a scab, the most important thing to do is leave it alone. When you pick at your scab, it can cause scarring that ruins your tattoo and leaves behind an unsightly scar.

In addition to this, you should avoid shaving while your tattoo heals. 

Wear Sunscreen When You Go Outside

Proper sunscreen protection is essential even when you don’t have a tattoo. However, after you get one, it’s even more vital. Remember that the ink in new tattoos goes into your dermis (or the deepest layer of your skin).

This is the same area where UV rays from the sun penetrate. When UV rays do this, they can damage the collagen in your skin. This can cause a fading tattoo rapidly right after you get it.

If you’re able to, try your best to keep the tattoo completely out of the sun. Either stay inside or wear coverings when you go out. However, in a pinch, you can turn to sunscreen too.

Just make sure that it’s a broad-spectrum product that comes with SPF 30 or higher. Apply it every day before you go out. 

Avoid Swimming or Hot Water

When you get a tattoo, you should avoid swimming in a pool. For one thing, the chemicals in pools can irritate your tattoo. Certain pools might also have a lot of bacteria in them, which can cause infection.

In addition to this, you should also avoid hot tubs and hot baths. As most people know, hot tubs are bacteria breeding grounds. So, they pose the same infection risk as pools.

However, even hot water can be a skin irritant. So, until your tattoo is properly healed, make sure to avoid these settings. 

Complications With Tattoo Healing

Any time you get a tattoo, there is always the risk of complications occurring. The most serious of these tend to be infections. These infections are often caused by clients not following proper aftercare instructions.

However, they can also be the fault of the tattoo artist. For example, if the artist uses contaminated needles or ink, they could give the client a bloodborne infection.

These infections, including HIV, hepatitis C, hepatitis B, and tetanus, will require severe treatment. You can usually tell you have an infection if the area is red, swollen, and painful to the touch.

In some cases, it might also leak pus. If you notice any of these signs, you should see a doctor right away. Next, it’s possible that the client might have an allergic reaction to the ink you’re using.

Red, blue and black dyes are usually the most common culprits for tattoo allergic reactions. Lastly, there’s the issue of scarring. Sometimes this can happen if the artist is using the needle aggressively.

However, more often, it’s because the client is picking at the tattoo during the healing process. Scarring related to tattoos can be permanent. 

How Long Will It Take Tattoos to Heal?

Usually, it will take a tattoo between two to three weeks for it to heal correctly. However, keep in mind that this just refers to the epidermis or the surface of the skin.

So, after three weeks, you should notice no more peeling, scabbing or open areas. It takes a lot longer for the deeper dermis to heal. In order for this area to properly heal, connective tissue needs to form.

This can take quite a long time, usually between three to six months. Your tattoo’s specific amount of time depends on the size and location where you get it.

Remember that the healing process requires stem cells found in our hair follicles. So, if you get the tattoo in an area with thick skin (like your legs or back), it will heal more quicker.

That’s because this part of the skin contains more blood vessels which will bring stem cells to the area, thus healing it faster. 

Communicate Tattoo Aftercare With Your Clients

If you’re the one giving someone a tattoo, it’s important to provide your clients with detailed information about tattoo aftercare. Whether or not this is legally required depends on where you live.

Thirteen states in the United States have little to no regulations when it comes to tattoos. Thirty states require you to give written or oral aftercare instructions, while seven states require instructions that the health department mandates.

However, remember that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the legal obligations are. It’s still your ethical responsibility to take care of your clients.

This is one of the things that our tattoo instructors teach at the Florida Tattoo Academy.

It doesn’t just affect how the tattoo will turn out when it’s healed. Aftercare instructions can prevent infections and potentially save lives. So, make sure you’re always communicating them clearly to your clients. 

Interested In Becoming a Tattoo Artist? Attend Florida Tattoo Academy

We hope this article helped you learn more about tattoo aftercare. If you’re interested in becoming a tattoo artist, you might feel ready to tackle your piece.

However, remember that an article on the internet can only teach you so much. If you’re serious about becoming a professional, consider attending an institute like the Florida Tattoo Academy.

We know you likely have a lot of questions about our academy. So, schedule a tour today so you can learn more about it and decide if it’s the right decision for your career.