Tattoo Aftercare

How to Care for Your New Tattoo

The surface of a fresh tattoo, with proper care, usually takes only two weeks to heal. Sometimes the new tattoo may have a hazy look around the two week period, this will go away after about a week. Also for some people there may be slight bruising or sensitivity around the general area of the new tattoo, especially in sensitive areas and may take a few days after being tattooed for this to subside.

  • After receiving your new tattoo remove your sterile bandage in 3-5 hours and wash the area with cool, soapy water. Only use your hands to wash the tattoo and avoid using a wash cloth on the area for two weeks.  Gently pat the area dry with a clean towel. Do not rub the skin. After the initial bandage is removed do not re-bandage the tattoo. Your tattoo will need to breathe.

  • Do not drink alcohol for 24 hours following the tattoo. This is because alcohol thins your blood and can cause you to ooze blood more than normal, which can flush the tattoo pigment out of your skin leaving light spots in your tattoo.

  • Once the bandage is removed immediately start applying a thin layer of triple antibiotic ointment * as often as needed to keep the tattoo moist at all times (at least 5 times a day). If the triple antibiotic ointment is too strong for you skin use Bacitracin ointment.  It is very important that you do not let the tattoo dry out during the first two weeks.  This is further explained in the Tattooing Process article.  After two weeks, you can switch to skin cream or lotion. A triple antibiotic ointment can be purchased at any pharmacy in the first aid section.  If you are allergic to any of the active ingredients found in triple antibiotic ointment or you find it too harsh for your skin, try using Aquaphor healing ointment.  Pay extra attention to areas where there is joint movement ie. elbows, knees, wrist, etc. If however, due to working conditions, etc. you will be unable to apply the ointment as often as needed or your clothing will be constantly rubbing against your tattoo, in such a case you should keep it covered until the first layer of skin regenerates itself (usually around the middle of the second week).  If you do cover it you can use either plastic wrap or gauze.  If you use gauze you may need to use a little more ointment because the bandage may soak up the ointment.

  • Never use lotions or petroleum jelly until the area is totally healed.  It is recommended that you use a triple antibiotic ointment, Aquaphor healing ointment or A&D ointment during the first two weeks because the tattoo is in the healing stage.  Excellent results can be had buy using just Aquaphor; however, using a triple antibiotic ointment for at least the first couple of days is recommended to be on the safe side. The worst  thing that could happen to a new tattoo is the possibility of it getting infected.  A triple antibiotic ointment will help to keep this from occurring and also helps to speed up the healing process.  Lotions and petroleum jelly do not help in fighting infection and can actually harbor bacteria.  Switching to lotion after a few days of getting a new tattoo is not a good idea because the tattooed area has not had a chance to fully seal itself and lotion does nothing to fight bacterial infection.

  • One should avoid swimming or immersing the tattoo in water for any prolonged period of time.  Showers are fine… but not baths. No swimming for two weeks.  Yes, you really do need to wait a full two weeks. Your tattoo may peel for a while. You may notice some of the of the old skin with bits of excess ink slough off when applying the triple antibiotic ointment.  This is normal and it is the first layer of skin regenerating itself.

  • New tattoos often itch and sometimes may develop a scab; however, it is imperative that one should refrain from scratching, picking, rubbing or wearing anything that may continually rub the tattoo. All of these could damage the tattoo at best and scar the area at worst. If the itching becomes unbearable do not scratch your tattoo but instead try slapping or applying ice to the area for relief.

  • Protect your tattoo from direct sunlight and it will be bright and fresh for many years. Use a sun block with a rating of "30" or stronger for prolonged sun exposure.  Exposing the tattoo to the sun without sun block is never a good idea, no matter how old it is. The sun can and will slowly fade your tattoo.  WCT recommends using a Zinc Oxide (non-nano particles) sunscreen, such as Emric's Essentials.

If you notice signs of infection (pus, rash, redness or swelling) or increased bleeding at the site of the tattoo, you should contact your doctor immediately.

* Triple Antibiotic Ointment – is a topical antibiotics to help prevent infections caused by bacteria that get into minor cuts, scrapes, burns and new tattoos. Treating minor wounds with antibiotics allows quicker healing. Some widely used topical antibiotics are bacitracin, neomycin, mupirocin, and polymyxin B. Among the products that contain one or more of these ingredients are Bactroban (a prescription item), Neosporin, Polysporin, and Triple Antibiotic Ointment or Cream.