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Tattoo Care

Wednesday Jul 13, 2011

So you got a new tattoo! Now you need to take care of it to make sure that it heals properly. How you care for your tattoo will determine how it turns out and just how quickly it heals. The are some controversies over aftercare techniques. However, you are best off following the tattoo artist’s instructions. Specific laws are there to protect your health, and your tattoo artist must abide by these.


After you receive your tattoo, the artist will probably apply a bandage. They should not use plastic or saran wrap for several reasons. Plastic wrap traps body fluids, moisture, and bacteria inside which will promote infection. A tattoo is an open wound. It needs air to heal. It is against regulations in most states to use plastic wrap. The primary reason it was ever used was because it made it easier to show a tattoo to friends rather than having to pull up a bandage. If plastic wrap was a good idea, we wouldn’t need bandages. When you skin your arm, you don’t cover it with plastic wrap, you use a bandage.

Leave the bandage on for no longer than two hours. After you take off the bandage, there is no need to re-apply one. In order to avoid tearing the skin, wet the bandage with water if necessary to pull it off with ease. This will also avoid pulling the ink up. Then, carefully wash it in warm water and mild antibacterial soap to remove all of the blood and discharge. Gently blot dry with paper towels. Do not soak your tattoo. Stay out of pools, saunas, hot tubs, etc., until it’s completely healed.

Ointment or Lotion

Always clean your hands thoroughly before applying anything to the affected area. You can apply either an ointment or lotion. If you use an ointment, only use it for the first couple of days. Some recommended ointments are A&D ointment or Aquaphor. Apply a very thin layer (a little goes a long way.) Anything else specifically made for tattoo care will suffice. Most tattoo artists will warn against using petroleum based products such as antibiotic ointment, Vaseline and Neosporin. Never use Preparation H. These products will pull out the ink and don’t give the tattoo breathing room.

After the first day or two, it is usually recommended to apply lotion, sparingly, a few times a day or when the affected skin feels dry. Make sure the lotion is basic and unscented. Try Curel, Lubriderm, or Jergens. Do not scratch or pick off scabs, this will prolong healing time and possibly alter the tattoo. Do not expose it to the sun. Once it is healed, use sunscreen to protect it. The average healing time for a tattoo is about two weeks.

If you suspect infection, go to the doctor immediately. Symptoms of infection are swelling, painful to the touch, pus, odd discharge, and extreme redness.

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