Proper Aftercare For Your New Tattoo

Posted on: 10 February 2016

Whether or not a new tattoo ends up looking sharp and clean in a few years is all determined during the first few days after it's finished. How you care for your tattoo after you leave the artist's chair makes all the difference, not just in the appearance of the art but also in determining whether or not future touch-ups will be done. While the jury is still out on a few details, there are some practices that are almost universally accepted as a good way to preserve a new tattoo.

The First Few Hours

After the buzz of the tattoo gun ceases, your tattoo artist will apply an antibacterial ointment to the new work and cover it with either a breathable gauze or a sheet of plastic. There is some disagreement about which is best, but what is clear is that the dressing should remain in place for a few hours to allow initial healing to begin. After this point, the dressing should be removed to allow the area to breathe.

Once the dressing is off, it's important that you gently clean your tattoo using luke warm water, but avoid using a direct stream. Instead, splash water across the tattoo with your hand and lightly rub away blood, ink or lingering ointment from the area. Avoid using washcloths, sponges, brushes or anything else that might be abrasive or contain bacteria. Allow the tattoo to breathe and air dry for a while, and once dry use a thin application of antibacterial or generic A&D ointment to protect it and promote healthy healing.

The Days that Follow

The next 3-5 days will be critical to the longevity of your tattoo, so make sure to wash it twice daily and apply the same ointment in the same thin layer after each washing. This will help prevent scabbing and keep your tattoo from becoming infected. If scabs do form during this period it's important that you leave them alone, as picking or rubbing at them can pull ink out of your skin and ruin the tattoo.

Eventually, your tattoo will begin to look like it's peeling, similar to a mild sunburn. This is much like what happens to your lips when they dry out, so keep your tattoo moisturized using an unscented hand lotion or the same ointment from the previous days. If it itches, feels particularly dry or shows signs of cracking, then it's time to reapply your lotion. Just make sure you continue washing the area as before to clear away build-up and prevent clogged pores.

Properly caring for your tattoo will ensure that it stays with you for years and accurately commemorates that moment in your life for a long time to come. Getting it wrong can leave you with an unidentifiable mess, or worse. If you're ever not sure how to proceed, make sure you contact the artist who did the work and ask for advice.