AFTERCARE OF YOUR TATTOO - TRADITIONAL
1. General Care: 3-5 hours after your tattoo, wash hands well, remove bandage gently, and clean as outlined in #2. Keep tattoo covered for two weeks with clean, loose-fitting cotton clothing, but DO NOT RE-BANDANGE. Make sure anything that touches your tattoo while healing is clean and sterile, including: hands, clothing, sheets, towels.
2. Three times a day: Wash hands thoroughly. Cleanse tattoo with unscented liquid soap (Dr. Bronners unscented is my personal favorite) and let a weak stream of water run over it to rinse off soap. Blot dry with a CLEAN paper towel. Apply a THIN film of unscented lotion. Cover with clean, loose-fitting cotton clothing. DO NOT walk around with your tattoo in open air for two weeks. Protect from contaminates such as pets. Clean as indicated 3 times a day for the next 2 weeks. Tattoo may take longer to heal but this is the minimum window for full aftercare.
3. Precautions: DO NOT over moisturize or use non-recommended ointments (such as Aquaphor, AD ointment) as these can fade tattoo or cause a reaction. If you notice irritation, it is most likely your aftercare ointment, so try switching it. Showers are fine. Stay away from sweaty work-outs for the first week. Stay out of beach, sunlight and tanning booths at least 14 days. Do not soak tattoo in tub, sauna, Jacuzzi or go swimming for 14 days. Do not rub or pick the treated area while it is healing. Loss of color and/or infection will occur. Extreme sun and exposure over the years will fade your tattoo. This can be minimized using a strong sunscreen, at least SPF30.
4. Your tattoo should heal in 2-3 weeks. Swelling and pain are common during the first week or so and you may ice the area or take common painkillers such as tylenol to lessen symptoms.
5. Tattoos can become infected when exposed to air-borne bacteria or contaminated hands/surfaces. Ink allergies are not uncommon, especially with colored ink, and will cause problems with healing. Consult a physician if any symptoms develop such as the following: redness at site, green/yellow foul smelling discharge, bumps and/or fever. If you notice subtle irritation beyond the first three days, first review your aftercare. If you are doing everything right, you may consider switching up your aftercare routine as some clients develop sensitivities to aftercare ointments, even when they haven't had them in the past.
OPTION 2 - USING TRANSPARENT SURGICAL DRESSING
This low-maintenance method utilizes transparent surgical dressing that allows skin to breath while keeping bacteria off of your tattoo. It is more costly than traditional aftercare, but is a worthy addition to the healing a life-long investment. I especially recommend it for anyone who has had trouble healing tattoos in the past, is sensitive to lotions/ointments/inks, tends to be active, or is in an extenuating circumstance that may compromise normal aftercare (such as travel, work schedule, or unusually hot or dry climates). While it's still necessary keep your tattoo out of open air, saunas, soaking, etc, it's great for protecting your skin in warmer seasons when you may wear less protective clothing. I've found that clients who use this method usually skip the "peeling" phase entirely and their tattoos heal brighter with no need for touch-ups.
PRECAUTION: A small percentage of people are sensitive to the adhesives used on bandages, tape, and surgical dressing. If you notice any sensitivity such as a rash while using surgical dressing, discontinue usage immediately and switch to traditional aftercare. The area around the tattoo may take a few days to clear up.
1. Purchase Transparent Surgical Dressing to fit your tattoo: You may piece bandages together with a one inch overlap if they are not large enough.
- 3M Tegaderm is the best option for small tattoos on those who do not get tattooed often enough to warrant purchasing a bulk roll. It is readily available at drugstores near the band-aids for $10-17 a pack. It comes in smaller pieces and is more costly per square inch than other options.
- Google and Amazon have several brands, including products like Landerm and Tatu-derm. This product is one of the most affordable generic options and comes in a roll that's large enough for several tattoos.
2. For the first 24-48 hours, follow traditional aftercare. Try to get past the "weepy" phase of healing. If you decide to use the surgical dressing right away, change it every time excessive fluid collects under your transparent bandage to avoid infection.
3. When you're ready to start using the surgical dressing: With clean hands, wash your tattoo with mild soap. Pat dry with a clean paper towel or allow it to air dry. DO NOT APPLY LOTION OR OINTMENT. Carefully apply Transparent Bandage to tattoo with a one inch border on all sides. Cut pieces to fit if necessary and overlap pieces one inch if you need more. Do not reposition, or it won't stick.
4. You may leave transparent dressing on tattoo for up to 3 days, as long as you don't notice any irritation. Some fluid is beneficial to healing. If excess fluid collects under bandage to the point where it may burst, remove, clean, and apply a new bandage.
5. After 3 days, remove bandage under warm running water and reapply. Bandage may be uncomfortable to remove. Remove slowly in shower with soap and water to avoid harming your tattoo. You may continue this method for up to 2 weeks. If you decide to discontinue before 2 weeks, follow traditional aftercare as described above.