Did you know that there are really only 3 key factors you need to know about taking care of a new tattoo? Whether it’s your first tattoo or your fiftieth, people still have many different opinions about how long it should stay covered, when it should be washed off, and which tattoo creams, if any, should be used. But by paying attention to the following simple (but CRITICAL) steps, you’ll avoid tattoo infection and have a design that not only looks great, but is healthy and vibrant for years to come.
After months of researching tattoo designs and ideas, I recently got my first tattoo at Kat Von D’s “LA Ink” studio (or High Voltage Tattoo as it’s officially called).
However, I’ve heard conflicting ideas on how to best care for a new tattoo, especially when it comes to moisturizing… Some people disagree with applying tattoo creams like Tatt Wax, Aquaphor, Bepanthen, Tattoo Goo, etc. Many believe that the skin will not breathe and heal properly as it can become overhydrated. However, most tattoo artists DO recommend moisturizers (petroleum free, fragrance free) to aid the healing process and prevent the tattoo from drying out, flaking, or peeling prematurely.
From all the tattoo aftercare information I have been bombarded with, there seem to be 3 consistent factors that tattoo professionals and tattoo fanatics alike agree on:
1) Most importantly: keep your new tattoo CLEAN
2) Keep it PROTECTED from SUN and WATER
3) DO NOT PICK or RUB the tattoo as it heals
After getting my new Gemini tattoo on my lower back, I had no infections or issues, following the simple tattoo aftercare instructions and tips from the guys at LA Ink:
CLEANING: Initially, your tattoo artist will apply a gauze bandage or patch to protect the newly damaged skin, remembering that a tattoo is really an open wound, even if it looks artistic! This should be left on for about 4 hours and then carefully removed, possibly even while showering, to avoid peeling off any inked areas of skin that may have adhered to the patch. Gentle washing with mild soap and warm water will be fine, but don’t scrub too hard and gently pat dry with a clean towel. To keep your tattoo free from infection, be sure to prevent other people from touching it and wash your hands thoroughly before touching it. It is not necessary to keep the tattoo covered and it heals in about 2 weeks, but take care of it and repair it temporarily if it is exposed to dirt or bumps while working, playing sports, etc. It’s a good idea to avoid excessive sweating if possible.
PROTECTION: While showering is fine for cleaning your tattoo, DO NOT SUBMERSE yourself in water and avoid swimming or soaking in a bath or spa for at least 2-3 weeks. Over-hydrating the skin can cause the ink to wash out or fade and there could be an increased risk of soft tissue infection. The sun is also a problem for tattoos, both new and old. Even short periods of exposure can lead to discoloration and damage to your tattoo (general skin damage), so it’s best to keep your new tattoo lightly covered or under loose clothing for at least 2-3 weeks. DO NOT use sunscreen/sunblock creams or sprays until after skin has fully healed to help prevent infection!
CICATRIZATION: Avoid rubbing or touching the tattooed skin, even if it itches or scabs over. If you pick or scratch at the healing layers of skin, you may end up with a design that appears faded or slightly irregular, as the ink needs time to settle into the middle layers of your skin. I recommend using a good moisturizer like Aveeno Daily Moisturizer Lotion. By cleaning and then applying just a small amount of that cream 2-3 times a day, my tattoo didn’t scab over! I just wiped away little inky soft flakes of skin every time I showered or wet for the first week, didn’t have to deal with nasty itchy scabs, and my freshly tattooed skin felt soft, without being greasy or overhydrated.
For anyone contemplating getting their first tattoo, or even adding to their existing skin art collection, you will find that paying attention to these 3 points is essential to maintaining the color and beauty of the stunning tattoo design you have invested in.