Hello! I’ve been in this business for seven years and have listened to my customers ask the same questions about Aftercare again and again. They also tend to freak out when unexpected things happen during healing. To stop further panic attacks, I’d like to explain the very basics of tattoo aftercare and tell you what to expect throughout the healing process.
Before we start, I should let you know that I will not tell you exactly how you should care for your tattoo. There are so many different aftercare methods out there, and I cannot presume to say which of those is best. Your tattooist will tell you exactly how you should do it.
I would also like to point out that these tips are based entirely on my own experience healing my own tattoos and feedback from the hundreds of customers I have tattooed in the past. These tips are, however, very general, don't forget everyone is different and heals differently. So here we go!
Do exactly what your tattooist tells you. If he is a real professional, he will know which method works best for his work and customers. Your best friend, mom, or anyone else will not know better than your tattooist, even if they are all tattooed from head to toe. Remember, if you change the aftercare for whatever reason, the tattooist is not obliged to touch up your tattoo for free. Chances are you ruined your tattoo all by yourself!
Keep the tattoo clean after the dressing has been taken off. It is an open wound, do not forget that! Most tattooists recommend hand-washing the tattoo very carefully with an anti-bacterial soap. Allow it to air dry or very carefully pat dry with a kitchen roll.
You can expect your newly done tattoo to be sensitive, red, and swollen. Most people find that this goes after a day or so, some a little longer (this is dependant on the size, placement, and style of the tattoo). If it is still swollen by the third day, contact your tattooist.
Your tattoo will weep in the first couple of days. The fluid is colored the same as your tattoo. This is normal, and it does not mean that your tattoo is coming out!!
Keep your tattoo moist. Allowing it to dry out will result in a thick scab forming. This is not desired; it slows the healing process and will possibly damage the tattoo. Your tattooist will recommend a cream to use.
Do not overdo the cream! The tattoo must be allowed to breathe if it’s to heal properly. A thin layer two to three times a day is enough.
A thin layer of skin will start to peel or flake away from the entire tattoo after a few days to a week, much like the feeling you get from sunburn. Again, this is totally normal. It is essentially the scab coming off. Do not pick it or play with it! It will itch during this time, do not scratch! Your tattoo will still be very sensitive, and you may end up scratching or picking it open. No-one wants holes in their tattoo.
Do not soak your tattoo for at least two weeks after it’s been done. No bathing or swimming (sauna is also not recommended). Showering is totally fine; in fact, washing your tattoo under the shower is probably the easiest way to do it. Your tattooist may advise you to avoid these things for a longer period of time; it depends on which aftercare he uses. Do what he says!
Do not go on a sunbed or expose your tattoo to direct sunlight for at least two weeks! UV rays damage the skin and fade tattoo color.
Your tattoo will take one to three weeks to heal. This is again dependant on the aftercare method, size, position, and style of the tattoo. A full-color tattoo will typically take longer to heal than a grey shaded piece. If you get a rash or any unusual symptoms on or around the tattoo, you should immediately contact your tattooist.
Well, there you have it! Healing a tattoo is really not all that difficult. Usually, people make mistakes when they think too much and start to overdo things. The body is an amazing healing machine. The Aftercare doesn’t heal the tattoo; the body does. Aftercare reduces the risk of infection and helps prevent scabbing, thus helping the body heal the tattoo more quickly.
Stay relaxed, and trust your body to handle it! Don't forget caring for your tattoo isn’t just for a week or two after it’s been done. It’s for life! The better your skin is, the better the tattoo will look and last over the years. Moisturize daily and use sunscreen. Not only will your tattoos continue to look great, but you will also have fewer wrinkles. Bonus!