You may have gotten a great artist and chosen the perfect tattoo but it can still end up looking terrible if it doesn’t heal right. Once you walk out that studio door there’s nothing an artist can do but try and fix the damage if you don’t heal it right, and they won’t always do it for free either! If you don’t want to spend money on touch ups and reworks then taking measures in proper aftercare if your first step.
I did a tattoo recently and 6 days later saw a message from the client asking if it was okay for her to get it wet in the shower soon. She had not washed her tattoo in 6 days!!!! Fortunately she had at least wiped it down with a damp paper towel but this could have been bad. Your tattoo is an open wound and like with any wound you want to keep it clean. Wash your tattoo at least once or twice a day with an unscented and antibacterial soap. You want unscented because scents contain perfumes, alcohol, and dyes which can irritate the skin and affect healing.
Apply Ointment the First Few Days
While I’ve seen people using everything from Vaseline to Bacitracin, the accepted healing ointment is either Aquaphor or A+D. The reason an ointment is suggested instead of a lotion is that it provides a greater amount of moisture and acts as a barrier layer while the skin heals to prevent anything getting in. Lotion is usually absorbed into the skin and that’s it. It leaves the skin to dry out and allows anything to get into it. Apply a proper healing ointment using only a thin layer as adding too much will make the tattoo gooey and can cause it to get infected as the skin won’t be able to breathe.
After the first few days you can swap to a lotion or not, it’s personal choice and both will work equally well at this point. An unscented healing lotion is best if you’re finding the ointment too greasy.
Keep it Naked
Keep the tattooed area free of clothing as much as possible. Clothes are a magnet for dirt and dust which can cause infection. Tight clothing can rub and irritate a tattoo which may affect healing and pull ink out. It’s quite hard for some placement of tattoos, but just keeping clothing loose can do so much good. Think about those shoes you eventually wore through – they rubbed and rubbed and rubbed on the ground until a hole wore through them. You don’t want the same to happen to your tattoo. Normally your skin does shed skin cells through friction. But you’re trying to keep them there for as long as possible, so the skin heals over the layer of ink and the epidermis repairs itself.
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Don’t Stop Aftercare!
Aftercare does not stop once your tattoo is healed. Your tattoo is with you for the rest of your life which means you need to continue to take care of your skin afterward. Tattoos are especially vulnerable to sunlight which causes them to fade and breaks the ink down so they look fuzzy. A good sunscreen should be used on your healed tattoo every day, with a fresh application at least every 2 hours if you’re actively in the sun or in water. Factor 50 or higher is ideal. Don’t worry about those products that are designed “for tattoos”, it’s nothing more than a gimmick so you can put the same lotion you put on your kids on your own tattoos just fine!