How your tattoo ends up is going to, in some part, depend on how you treat it for the first few weeks of it’s life. Your tattooist will give you a list of aftercare instructions and herein is the first problem. Here are 6 of the very best tattoo aftercare recommendations:
Keep it clean but not soaked
A fresh tattoo is effectively a wound, so it’s important to keep it clean in order to avoid infection. “It will need to be cleaned regularly, particularly in the first 24-48 hours”. You can get them wet, but ‘they shouldn’t be submerged or soaked’, for instance, in the bath or swimming.
Avoid too much sun and be extra diligent with sun cream
While your tattoo is healing, stay out of the sun as much as possible, especially if you have a coloured tattoo. “After it’s healed, regular sun cream should be fine to use”. “If you want to keep the colour vibrant, use a high SPF.
If it wasn’t obvious already, coloured tattoo post-care is a little different. This is because colour tattoos often mean more trauma to the skin and a longer healing time. Whatever you do, do avoid picking any scabs. “It will pull the ink out and probably scar, making it difficult to touch up.”
Moisturise 2-3 a day
Keep your tattoo well hydrated while healing with a good fragrance-free moisturiser. Apply 2-3 times a day, or just when the skin/tattoo has dried out, which can vary depending on your skin type, size and placement of the tattoo.”
Good skin means good tattoos
It’s as simple as that. Everything that is good for your skin – nutritional diet, drinking lots of water and being mindful in the sun – will benefit your tattoo, too.
How long do I leave the bandage on my new tattoo?
We recommend leaving it on just a couple of hours until it stops weeping; Once the cling film is off wash the tattoo with plain, unscented anti-bacterial soap and lukewarm water. When you wash your tattoo and the surrounding area use only the flat of your hand and whatever you do, don’t scrub. While the tattoo is still tender it’s not actually too painful to touch (if your gentle about it), and while you shouldn’t touch it unnecessarily, you are going to need to keep it clean.
Don’t use anything even slightly abrasive while your tattoo is healing. So, no sponges, flannels etc.
You can recover the tattoo with cling film at night, if you find that clothes or bed sheets rubbing on it is too uncomfortable, however if you do this remove it as soon as you get up and give the tattoo a thorough cleansing.
It’s important to note that while the tattoo is healing you don’t want it getting too wet, so you’ll want to avoid baths if the tattoo is in a place where it is likely to be submerged and when you have a shower make sure that the tattoo is not in the direct flow of the shower. While you’re at it, avoid water which is too hot. Your fresh tattoo is going to feel a lot like sunburn for a few days so you can imagine what hot water on sunburn is going to feel like.
Once you’ve cleaned the tattoo, pat it dry with a clean towel, you can try other ways of drying it but when you come down from off the ceiling you’ll accept that patting it dry is the way to go. After I’ve patted it mostly dry I tend to let it air dry for a little while before I put on a very old t-shirt.
What to expect after a new tattoo: Days 1-3
For the first few days your new tattoo is going to feel a lot like sunburn. The skin will feel, tight, sore and inflamed.
During this first few days the tattoo will still weep slightly meaning that any fabric you come into contact with for any length of time will become imprinted with a faint copy of your tattoo. Wherever possible, wear something old and baggy.
It’s very important to keep the tattoo clean at this stage, the fluids that your body will continue to produce need to be washed off and you want to avoid letting them dry over the tattoo. If these fluids dry and become crusted on they can damage the end result, tend to wash the tattooed area two or three times a day.
What to expect after a new tattoo: Day 3 and beyond
Once the healing process will start to kick in, you can also get in the shower as usual. We advise against long showers and soaking in the bath is probably best left until the tattoo is fully healed.
My new tattoo is really itchy
Itching is part and parcel of the healing process, it’s normal, it’s to be expected. You can’t scratch your tattoo, even if you can reach it.Scratching your tattoo will lead to the scabs coming off before they are ready and when that happens, colour comes with it.
Scratching a new tattoo is the best way to completely ruin what you’ve worked so hard to attain. You’re likely to end up with a tattoo which looks faded and patchy and if you happen to leave a scar because you picked too deep, you’ll have an area which can’t even be touched up by your tattooist, because the ink won’t take.
My tattoo is healed
Once your tattoo is healed, you can pretty much treat it like the rest of your skin, you may want to use skin products to keep it looking as fresh as possible but which one is down to your own personal choice.
The only further recommendation is that if you are going to be out in the sun with tattoo exposed use a high factor sun cream on your tattoo, regardless of the level of protection you use on the rest of your body. Feel free to go higher if you like, it’s better to get too much protection than not enough.
A final point is tattoos and the sun. You may find that in hot weather your tattoo will occasionally become raised, i.e. you’ll be able to feel the tattoo on your skin. This is very common and nothing to be concerned about, the lumps and bumps are created by the reactions of your skin and ink to the heat. There are instances when raised tattoos should be of concern but these tend to be permanent lumps and bumps rather than occasional.
How soon can I give blood after getting tattooed?
One further point to consider after you have a tattoo applies to people who regularly give blood. In the UK you will have to wait at least four months from the date of your tattoo to resume donating blood.
While there is almost no chance that you will contract any blood borne diseases such as Hepatitis or HIV, if you have gone to a reputable tattoo studio that conforms to all legal health and hygiene standards, infection can still occur if you don’t look after your new tattoo properly. Once you’re out of the “quarantine” period, you’re good to go.
How soon can I go to the gym after getting tattooed?
Can you go to the gym with a new tattoo? Well the answer is yes but, we would advise that if the tattoo is in area that is likely to be rubbed by your clothing while working out, that you apply some form of covering to your tattoo to avoid direct contact with your clothing. Wrap some cling film or a non-stick bandage around the area to form a barrier between your new tattoo and your clothing to avoid unwanted chaffing or snagging.
We recommend that you wait at least 48 hours before strenuous physical activity and heavy sweating. The important words are “at least.” It generally takes weeks for a wound to heal.
Don’t exercise for at least two days after getting the tattoo. If you must, work out a few hours before your tattooing session so that you can get through the 48 no-workout hours without feeling the eagerness to hit the gym. Note that exercising too soon can get the tattoo dirty and contaminated, plus you don’t want to remove the bandages before the recommended first day.
Swimming exercises and excessive sweating
Swimmers leave their sweat, urine, feces, body oils, spits and many other body excretions in water after swimming. These excretions may contain bacteria that can infect your tattoo. And even if the pool water is treated, the cleaning chemicals aren’t any better. If you swim in natural water bodies such as lakes and rivers, watch out for algae build up as it can react severely with the skin around your tattoo.
Besides causing infections, swimming or taking part in activities that over-moisturize your tattoo can cause the ink to break down, leak out, and fade away. If you know your body sweats excessively after certain workouts, it is advisable that you avoid them for a couple of weeks and when you eventually resume, be sure to wear moisture-wicking clothing in order to keep sweat away from your new ink. Using a towel to wipe out sweat would also be a great idea.