How to care for your tattoo

Aftercare starts as soon as your tattoo is done. The artist should cover the area in a bandage (e.g. Tegaderm) or plastic wrap. This covering prevents bacteria from getting into your skin. It also protects the tattoo from rubbing on your clothes and getting irritated.

While your tattoo heals, you should:
  • wear sun-protective clothing whenever you go outside
    • call your tattoo artist or doctor if you have any signs of infection or other problems
    You shouldn’t:
    • cover your tattoo with sunblock until it’s fully healed
    • scratch or pick at the tattoo
    • wear tight clothing over the tattoo
    • go swimming or immerse your body in water (showers are fine)

    Tattoo aftercare by day:

    Day 1-7

    How quickly you heal depends on the size of your tattoo and how intricate it is. Bigger tattoos will stay red and swollen longer, because they cause more trauma to your skin.
    You’ll come home from the artist with a Tegaderm bandage over your tattoo. Tegaderm lets your skin breathe through microscopic holes but still gives your body strong protection. Your body will, over time, fill the Tegaderm with the fluids, that are basically a natural ointment. If the wrap overfills, you can use a sterilised lancet (I’ll make sure I give you a few before you leave the studio) to pierce a hole and drain the fluid out. The wrap will ‘heal’ itself.
    During the first week, it’s normal for the skin to feel red and sore and scabs may start to form, but this will all be controlled under the Tegaderm dressing. Don’t pick the scabs! Let them heal naturally. Also, in order to keep the Tegaderm stable, its needs to be kept cool and free from excessive sweat, which probably means skipping gym for a week.
    If the dressing does break (which can happen if it’s in a bendy area like the elbow or hips), then remove the wrap fully, and then give the area a gentle wash with dial soap, rinse and let it dry, again gently; don’t scrub or wipe aggressively. Then you can reapply the dressing.
    Day 7
    At this stage you can take off the Tegaderm dressing. The scabs will have hardened and will begin to flake off. Don’t pick at them or try to pull them off, let them come off naturally. Otherwise, you could pull out the ink and leave scars.
    At this point your skin may feel very itchy. Gently rub on aquaphor several times a day to relieve the itch.
    If your tattoo is still red and swollen at this point, you might have an infection. Go back to your artist or see a doctor.
    Days 15 to 30
    In this last stage of healing, most of the big flakes will be gone and the scabs should be going away. You might still see some dead skin, but it should eventually clear up too. The tattooed area might still look dry and dull. Keep moisturizing until the skin looks hydrated again.
    By the second or third week, the outer layers of skin should have healed. It may take three to four months for the lower layers to completely heal. By the end of your third month, the tattoo should look as bright and vivid as the artist intended.

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