Remove the bandage after one to two hours. All wounds need to breathe if they are to heal properly.
Wash the tattoo using a mild antibacterial soap (such as Dial or Provon) and warm water. Take care to remove all traces of blood and plasma, as this will cause scabbing. Do not scrub the tattoo with a washcloth during the two week healing period. Pat it dry with a clean, soft cloth or paper towel and leave it alone for about 20 minutes; basically until it starts to feel like the skin is a little tight and dry. This allows for excess moisture from the swelling under the skin, as well as moisture introduced by washing the tattoo, to evaporate out. It’s very important to let your tattoo breathe like this any time you get it wet before it gets into the peeling stage.
Once dry, apply a very thin coat of ointment to the tattoo. We recommend using Vitamin A and D or Aquaphor as ointment, or other such tattoo aftercare products. Only use enough to make it shine; a little goes a long way. Too much ointment traps bacteria into your new tattoo, which can potentially lead to infection. Just a dab will do. Work it in well. Dab off all the excess with a paper towel. There should be just enough to keep the tattoo moist and to keep it from scabbing. Do not re-bandage the tattoo.
Repeat the cycle of washing, drying, and applying ointment to the tattoo about 3-4 times per day for the first 3 days (while the tattoo feels tender).
Ointment can be applied whenever the tattoo is feeling stiff or dry but beware of over-moisturizing. Your body will absorb what it needs where it needs it. Apply ointment twice a day for two to three days then switch to a regular unscented moisturizer like Tattoo Goo Lotions, Out to Sea Lotions, or something over the counter such as Eucerin, Lubriderm, Curel, or Jergens. Apply moisturizer twice a day for the remainder of two weeks. Do not use lotions that contain color or fragrance at all until the healing is complete (usually anywhere from ten days to two weeks; possibly longer for slower healers).
You must keep your tattoo moisturized! When the tattoo is kept moist, it doesn’t have a chance to form a scab but does form a thin membrane to protect the tattoo while it heals. This layer peels off very similar to a sunburn (do not peel your tattoo, you will pull the ink out!) and it is perfectly normal to see small flakes of colored skin falling off during this stage of healing.
You must keep your tattoo clean! However, long showers or baths must be avoided for 2 weeks. Prolonged soaking can and will loosen scabs if any have formed, or will soak through the soft tissue turning it into a soggy mess and cause your ink to flow down the drain. This includes swimming in the Ocean or a Pool, Hot Tubs, and Saunas. Short showers are best, under 10 minutes if possible.
Please refrain from scratching or picking at the tattoo. Scrubbing with a washcloth can be very harsh on a tattoo and will cause your colors to fade. Disrupting the tattoo while it’s healing can also cause scar tissue. It is normal for the tattoo to become very itchy during the healing time. Just remember not to pick or scratch no matter what!
The sun is BAD for your tattoo! Whether the tattoo is new or old, if you want it to look nice and heal properly, keep it out of the sun. A sunburn on a new tattoo can cause a lot of problems. It will dry out your tattoo and could cause it to form a horrendous scab resulting in fading before it is even healed. It will also take much longer to heal completely and promotes scarring in a new tattoo. Wait until it is fully healed to go back in the sun or a tanning bed and make sure you put on a high quality sunblock. Never put sunblock on a tattoo that is still healing. Wait until it is fully healed before going into the sun.
Following all of these simple steps will ensure that you end up with the best result with minimal complications and your tattoo will stay looking bright and beautiful for many years to come.
Other Things You Should Know
Change Your Sheets
While you sleep you shed skin, sweat and hair. Anything in your bed can come in contact with your tattoo and increase the chances of infection.
Do Not Use Bar Soap
Bar soap is not sterile, can hold bad bacteria and can pass bacteria on to your tattoo. Gross. Invest in a small disposable bottle of antibacterial liquid soap.
Application of Ointment
Believe it or not, your hands are not clean. After you wash your hands, anything you touch afterwards (door handles, cups, hair, face, the list goes on…) has bacteria on it and therefore your hands become contaminated. You must wash your hands (thoroughly) and your tattoo (gently) with warm water and soap before applying any ointment to your tattoo.
They track harmful bacteria everywhere they walk, lie, or brush against. Wash and reapply ointment after contact with animals. This also applies to anything the animal comes in contact with such as sheets, furniture and clothing.
When you sweat you release toxins which sit on the surface of your tattoo, increasing the chances of infection. After heavy sweating, you must wash your hands (thoroughly) and your tattoo (gently) with warm water and soap and reapply ointment to your tattoo.
Do Not Wear Restrictive Clothing
If your tattoo forms a scab do not let it stick to anything such as sheets or tight clothing. A wet scab will stick to anything it dries against. When you pull that item away (sheets or clothing) the scab will pull off with it. This pulls ink out of the skin and can cause scarring and loss of color.