Caring for your Tattoo
Please follow the recommended aftercare instructions below for optimum healing and care for your new tattoo. My job finishes when you leave the studio, so it is important to know your job on how to look after your tattoo.
PLEASE: Always wash your hands before touching your tattoo!
After your tattoo session:
When your tattoo session is finished, the tattooist will lightly coat your tattoo with a layer of cocobutter/A+D Ointment and cover with a dressing. This will prevent the tattoo from exposure to contamination from foreign objects and avoid any air-borne infections. Your new tattoo is still a wound and open flesh is a breeding ground for bacteria and infection, therefore you must leave the dressing on the skin for 2 hours after your tattoo session. It is very important that you are in a clean environment where you can clean your tattoo approximately 2 hours after your tattoo session. You may find that the area is swollen and is hot to touch, this is completely normal and is a sign that healing has begun.
The evening after your tattoo session:
Ensure for the first evening of getting your new tattoo that you are able to rest and prepare for your tattoo aftercare needs. It is advisable that you have a relaxing evening and try to avoid alcohol (one or two is fine - no wild partying!), especially after a long tattoo session. The body has experienced 'trauma' to the skin and the more relaxing and gentle the evening the quicker you will heal.
Cleaning your tattoo:
With clean hands, remove the tattoo dressing and wash the tattoo with luke-warm water and a preferably a mild anti-bacterial soap, but any sensitive cleanser will do. Make sure you gently rub the tattoo with your hands to remove all traces of blood, plasma and ink. Do not use a flannel to clean your tattoo as this will be too harsh for the healing skin and abrasive on the new tattoo. It is normal for your tattoo to feel slimy and slippery, you are oozing plasma and part of the healing. Once clean, pat the tattoo dry with a soft CLEAN towel, DO NOT rub it dry.
Ointments and healing creams:
Once your tattoo is clean and dry you must now cover the tattoo with a thin layer moisturiser, I would personally recommend using Cocobutter (Palmers) for for the next 2-4weeks. If your tattoo is heavy colour work I would suggest Bepanthen for the first two nights. Palmers CocoButter can be found in most supermarkets/pharmacies and Bepanthen can be found in the baby section supermarkets. DO NOT use Vaseline, E45 cream or Savlon or harmful astringents and antiseptics such as TCP or Dettol to cover your tattoo as these creams do not allow the skin to breathe and may fade the colour of your tattoo and/or cause infection. The moisturiser is to prevent the skin from drying out too much that consequently causes scabs. (Special note: please avoid using tan lotions or spray tans within the first 3 weeks of healing as this WILL DULL the colours of your tattoo and prevent optimal healing).
If the skin on and around the tattoo starts to itch with little red bumps, then you are likely to be sensitive/allergic to whatever moisturiser you are using. If this happens, discontinue the use of the ointment, wash and let it dry up. You can change from the Bepanthen to Cocobutter or vice-versa. Always read the ingredients label to determine suitability for your skin.
Covering your tattoo:
It is advisable to cover your tattoo for your first nights sleep in clingfilm. This will help avoid staining your bedlinen but also important to get a good nights sleep to aid with healing without your tattoo sticking to your sheets, giving you a broken nights sleep. Try to avoid re-covering your tattoo the following day as the tattoo will need to be exposed to the air as much as possible in order to heal. However, if you work or play in a dirty environment it is advisable to cover your tattoo with a little Clingfilm or bandage for the first two days - but ensure you remove the cover when you are home and always clean the tattoo before and after covering. Remember that it is a fresh wound and needs to breathe to heal. Wear loose fitting CLEAN clothes. Ideally wear clothes that you don't care about as you're tattoo may ooze plasma and ink during the healing process. If your clothes or linen gets stuck to the tattoo, wet them a little with warm water and they will come off.
Be careful of the new tattoo oozing through nice cloths at work! You can cover the tattoo temporarily with a clingfilm - but for short periods of time only as you need to let the tattoo breathe - I cannot repeat this enough!
It can take up to 4-6 weeks for your tattoo to fully heal. Your tattoo will be sore and feel ‘tight’ during the two or three days, and leak pigment, this is normal and any discomfort will fade and the tattoo will begin to itch or peel. It is common for a small amount of bruising to appear around some tattoo's - especially on the inside or arms and legs, or where the skin may be sensitive. The itching is a sign of healing, but please DO NOT scratch your new tattoo. Instead, lightly 'slap' your tattoo if the itch needs to be scratched or rub some more lotion onto the skin! If you tattoo starts to peel, this is also a sign of healing and you can re-apply more lotion to keep it moist. You can take ibruprofen to help with any discomfort during healing. With regards to foot tattoo's it is advisable to elevate the foot as much as possible for the first two days to aid the healing, as feet are notorious for taking longer to heal and 'redness' and/or swelling may stay around the edge of the tattoo for a few days.
DO NOT PICK SCABS. This is really important. Do not pick or scratch the skin as this will remove the scabs and consequently remove the ink from the tattoo! Your tattooist will not be happy if all the hard design work ends up a patchy tattoo because you couldn’t resist a pick! After the scabbing phase, your tattoo may appear 'flaky' or ‘milky’, this is normal and still part of the healing phase and you can apply a thin layer of moisturiser.
Daily Care of your tattoo:
Wash your tattoo at least twice a day for the first week, reapplying the lotion 4-5 times a day or especially when you feel the tattoo is dry. Keeping your tattoo moist will prevent it from scabbing and peeling and thereby reducing any fading of the colour. Ensure your HANDS ARE CLEAN each time you apply your ointment as the introduction of bacteria or dirt can cause the tattoo to become infected.
What to avoid:
Yes, you can shower! It is very important to keep your skin clean during the healing process. However, it is advisable to avoid swimming baths, lakes and soaking in the bath for the first 7 days of healing. It is believed that chemicals like chlorine and the bacteria found in these places can cause the tattoo to become infected or fade. Soaking in the bath will cause any scabs to come off quicker and along with it some of the ink.
Avoid direct sunlight/sunburn/sunbathing/sun beds/tanning for the first 3 weeks of getting your tattoo. You can go into the sun but you will need to put a layer of SPF25 or higher sun block to cover and protect your tattoo. This is especially important for tattoos with lots of colour work. The UV light can break down the ink under the skin and cause the colours to fade or may make black work patchy. You may then end up having to get the tattoo work re-done in a few years to brighten it up. It is therefore advisable to continue to cover your tattoo with an SPF 25+ cream for years after the tattoo has healed as this will help prevent fading and keep your tattoo vibrant for many years to come.
Avoid wearing tight fitting clothes for the first couple of days to allow the skin to breathe. And stay away from fluffy jumpers... the fibres can stick to the healing skin. Ouch.
Avoid any excessive physical exercise for the first couple of days – especially for those with large tattoos as it may cause the skin to take longer to heal due to all the movement and stretching. Any combat style classes I would postpone for a week.... unless you quite like the pain of getting your new tattoo whacked!
Avoid shaving the area for the first 2 weeks, you will pull off scabs and skin that is healing! Also, the shaving creams will not be good for the tattoo.
Just to repeat, my job finishes when you leave the studio and your job is to look after your tattoo. If you stick to the above advice you should have no trouble with the healing of your tattoo. Your tattoo should heal within 3-4 weeks, but remember everyone is different and heals differently; you know your body best! Even after your tattoo has healed, it may feel a little bumpy. This is because the ink still needs to "settle." This usually takes about four weeks, sometimes 3 months. However, do consult a doctor if any signs or symptoms develop such as the following: redness at site after 3 weeks, green/yellow discharge (foul smelling) and/or fever.
And that's it! Look after yourself and enjoy your new tattoo xx