In the last hundred years healing a tattoo has changed significantly. In fact, even in the last ten years. For example, what you’re supposed to put on your tattoo (or not put on) has changed over and over. As technology and products are improved there’s always something new to try. Wet tattoo healing, while not new, is still much less common. I know, you’re thinking about how your tattoo artist told you not to get the tattoo wet or let it get too moist. Seems like an oxymoron?
What is Wet Tattoo Healing?
Wet healing is when the skin is not allowed to dry out. It is riskier than dry healing because it creates the perfect environment for bacteria. Closed off, moist areas of damaged skin are perfect scenarios for tattoo infections.
When Should I Wet Heal a Tattoo?
The reason some artists use wet healing is that many problem areas, such as joints, are constantly in motion. This means that every time your skin tries to heal itself your movements cause micro tears in the healing skin. This can prolong healing or cause scabbing that damages the tattoo. Dry healing in these areas is often much more painful and uncomfortable because of this.
How to Wet Heal a Tattoo?
When a tattoo is wet healed the area is cleaned and then covered with an ointment, like Aquaphor or A&D. This is then wrapped in plastic wrap and secured down. Twice a day the wrap is removed and the process Is repeated (with clean wrap). This allows the person to heal the tattoo without the skin drying out enough to form a hard scab and therefore stops the micro tears from happening. It also works well for those who have especially dirty jobs and may be at a higher risk for infection. This should be done for 3-4 days or until the tattoo begins to flake and peel, at which point the wrap is left off and the tattoo heals as normal using the same method as dry healing.
What if I Don’t Want to Risk Wet Tattoo Healing, But Have Dry Skin?
The biggest question most face with dry healing is lotion or ointment. The difference between the two is just how much moisture the skin can absorb. A lotion is not as moisturizing because it is absorbed and then moisture can evaporate from the skin while the petroleum nature of an ointment creates an oil barrier that keeps the moisture in the skin. If you’re especially dry skinned or you’re allergic to lotion the ointment is probably better, while others may find they get breakouts from the excess oil.
Neither wet healing nor dry healing is the “correct” kind of aftercare. Both have their own uses and it’s often up to your tattoo artist which they prefer. You should always follow their directions and advice before making a decision of which to use on your tattoo.