How to care for your new tattoo
This is a guide to help you properly heal your tattoo. If you are expecting anything that requires urgent attention please call us immediately or contact a doctor.
After your tattoo is completed, your artist will bandage your tattoo. Leave the bandage on for one to two hours. When you take the bandage off, wash it with very warm water (as hot as is comfortable) and mild liquid hand soap (Dr. Bronner’s, Dial, just no perfumed or exfoliating body washes). Pat it dry gently with a paper towel, and let it air dry the rest of the way (never scrub the tattoo with a towel or sponge). Then you will apply a very small amount of Aquaphor Ointment or plain, unscented skin lotion (we recommend Aveeno, Lubriderm, Curel, or any of their generics) to the tattoo, just enough to lightly moisturize. A nice thin amount will be enough. Do not slather a big, thick coat of product over it; just enough for it to stay moist and flexible. If you are using Aquaphor, you can switch to a plain fragrance-free lotion after the first few days.
- Every day from then on, you will wash the tattoo in the morning and at night, and apply lotion 3 times a day or so, or whenever the tattoo feels dry or tight.
- Always wash your hands before touching the tattoo.
- DO NOT apply Vaseline, Neosporin, Bacitracin, or any other medicated or perfumed product to your tattoo.
- After a few days, the tattoo will form a thin scab over it, and in about a week the scab will begin to flake off in the shower. DO NOT pick or scratch at the scab, just keep it clean and moist and the scabs will all fall off by themselves in about two weeks. Picking any of the scabs off will cause faded color and damage to the skin.
During healing DO NOT:
- Wrap the tattoo after the first night (wearing breathable clothes over it is fine as long as they are not causing friction. (Keeping tattoos wrapped in plastic or bandages will stop air from getting to the tattoo, slow healing, and possibly create a breeding ground for bacteria)
- Submerge the tattoo in water. This means baths, pools, and oceans. Regular showering is fine.
- Expose it to strong sunlight such as a day at the beach or other long-term outdoor activities. A few minutes outside here and there won’t hurt.
- Shave over the tattoo or pick at it.
When all the scabs fall off and the skin feels smooth again to the touch, it is all healed and you can shave over it again, and swim and everything else. Sometimes after the scab falls off there is a secondary shiny, raised or waxy coat over the tattoo. This is just another healing layer of skin. Continue to moisturize it and it will smooth out by itself over time.
Some of our artists will provide you with a Tegaderm (also known as Saniderm or Tattooderm) bandage. This method of healing is a little different, so it’s essential to follow these steps. Tegaderm is a sterile, breathable, waterproof, germ-proof barrier to protect your new tattoo. Tegaderm will protect your tattoo from contamination and will also protect your clothes and sheets from excess ink, blood, and fluid that are the normal by-products of healing a tattoo. You can shower normally while healing, but please still abstain from swimming or submerging your tattoo in bodies of water.
- Your artist will bandage your new tattoo with Tegaderm. He will provide you with a second bandage. Leave the original bandage on overnight.
- Remove your bandage slowly and carefully the next morning. Discard this Tegaderm. Wash your tattoo with warm water and liquid soap. Gently dry your tattoo.
- Re-cover your tattoo with the second Tegaderm bandage. Leave this one for 3-4 days.
- When removing the second bandage, clean thoroughly again with liquid hand soap and warm water. You can use a fragrance-free lotion on your tattoo for the next few days.
If you have any questions about your tattoo while its healing you are always welcome to come by the shop and have us check it out, or email the artist who did the tattoo with “AFTERCARE” in the subject line for an immediate response.
If something doesn’t look perfect after your tattoo is finished healing, we’ll do our best to make it right. Sometimes with excessive scabbing or other unpredictable reactions during healing, your skin can reject some ink, leaving a “light spot” that is closer to your skin color in the tattoo. This is common as it’s unlikely your body will accept every spot of pigment uniformly, so just contact your artist via email after your tattoo is finished healing with a photo to see if a small touch-up is in order. Unless you were negligent during the care of your tattoo, touch-ups are very minor and quick and guaranteed by our artists if you contact them about it within 3 months of getting the tattoo. Because older tattoos that have settled in fully and aged require more work to make uniform, we suggest coming in as soon as possible when it’s healed, as touch-ups are performed for a fee at the artist’s discretion after 3 months. While we deal with the healing of tattoos often, we are not doctors, and can only give guidelines on tattoo care, not medical advice.
If your tattoo develops any type of rash or discharge during healing, do not hesitate to see a doctor or dermatologist.