You’ve just spent time and money getting a new tattoo. The procedure was probably uncomfortable, and the price tag was probably high. After going through all that, you want to be sure your tattoo lasts. You also want to make sure you don’t develop any medical complications.
The first 48 hours is the key to a healthy great-looking tattoo.
Proper tattoo aftercare will:
- Keep your colors bright.
- Help your skin heal.
- Prevent an infection.
- Help your tattoo look its best.
What’s the Right Tattoo Care in the First 48 Hours?
The first 48 hours after you get a tattoo are the most important. You should take extra care in the first two days.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Protective ointment or moisturizer. You can use coconut oil, cocoa butter or shea butter.
- Mild soap. Use soap that has no perfume or harsh ingredients.
- Specialty tattoo salve.
1. Get a Bandage Before Leaving the Shop
Before you leave the shop, the tattoo artist should coat the tattoo in ointment and bandage it. Some shops use a specialty salve or antibacterial lotion. Leave this on until you get home.
Once you’re home, be careful not to disturb the bandage. Don’t take a shower, go swimming or go outside if it’s raining. Keep the tattoo and the bandage dry.
2. Remove the Bandage
After 24 hours, remove the bandage. Using a mild soap, wash the tattoo area. Pat your skin dry gently. Add your protective ointment or moisturizer, but don’t replace the bandage. Your skin needs to breathe.
Use cool water to protect your tattoo’s colors.
Note: You may notice some oozing from the tattoo. This is probably leftover ink and plasma from your blood. Your skin may also feel sore. All these reactions are common and normal after getting a tattoo.
3. Follow This Routine for 48 Hours
Follow this routine for the first 48 hours after getting a tattoo. Wash the tattoo area twice a day, and apply the ointment on your dry skin. Monitor your skin to be sure it doesn’t show signs of infection.
Note: The tattoo may start to look dull and cloudy after a few days. This is from tiny scabs forming as your skin heals. In a week, your skin will clear and your tattoo will look bright again.
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4. Keep Up This Routine for Four Weeks
Continue doing this for two weeks. Wash your tattoo area twice a day. Continue applying your protective ointment. If you take showers, don’t let hot water hit your tattoo.
5. Protect Your Tattoo
It’s important to preserve your tattoo’s colors. Follow these tips:
- Apply sunscreen on your tattoo when you’re in the sun.
- Don’t use loofahs, sponges or brushes to wash your tattoo.
- Don’t rub your tattoo or push on it.
- Wear loose clothing until your tattoo heals completely.
How Do You Care for a Tattoo the Following Days and Weeks?
Here’s a weekly guide to caring for your new tattoo.
You’ll notice the redness in your skin starting to fade. You may also notice flaking, scabbing skin that may feel uncomfortable or itchy. These are spots where your skin is healing. Don’t pick at them, rub them or try to pull them off. Let your skin heal.
The scabs will usually start falling off two weeks after getting your tattoo. Your skin may also become extremely itchy. Don’t give into the urge to scratch. You could destroy your tattoo. You can use an anti-itch cream or a specialty tattoo salve to get relief.
Weeks Three and Four
During these weeks, most of the remaining scabs will heal. The flaking and peeling will stop. Your skin will feel smooth and free of scabs. Continue washing and moisturizing twice a day.
After 90 Days
It takes about three months for all your skin’s layers to heal. During this healing time, your tattoo may look dull. Once it heals, your tattoo will look vivid and fresh.
Why Tattoo Care Is Important
Don’t skip any of these steps. Improper care of your tattoo can cause the ink to come out. Pulling, rubbing or scratching the skin around your tattoo can undo all the work your tattoo artist did.
There are other risks. If you don’t follow the right aftercare steps, you could develop a serious infection. An infection can be a lot more serious than a ruined tattoo.
What To Expect as Your Tattoo Heals
You don’t just walk out of the tattoo parlor with a perfect-looking tattoo. You have put your skin through some trauma, and your body needs time to heal. During this time, you may not like the way your tattoo looks. It’s important to be patient. Here are some things you can expect as you wait.
Oozing and Slight Bleeding
You’ll see oozing and bleeding the first few days after getting a tattoo. This isn’t very pleasant, but it’s an important stage. The worst of it should stop after a few days. If you’re concerned about staining your clothes or your sheets, cover it with plastic wrap sealed with medical tape.
Many people say the peeling you get with a tattoo is like the peeling you feel after a sunburn. You can expect to see extensive skin peeling after the first week. It should stop by the second week, but it may not. Don’t try to pull it off the way you would for peeling sunburn. Leave it alone.
Watching for Signs of Infection
A small percentage of people get infections from getting tattoos. Monitoring your skin is an important part of your aftercare. Call a doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms:
- Severe itching that continues for several days.
- Red, swollen skin around the tattoo.
- Discharge or pus draining from the tattoo.
- Red streaks on your skin.
Enjoy Your New Tattoo
Getting a new tattoo is exciting. Taking care of it the right away will keep it looking its best. Aftercare will also protect your skin from infection. The process of waiting can be difficult, but it will all be worth it when you see your new tattoo looking its best.