Care & Feeding of a New Tattoo
Basic & Indepth How and Why's
Providing you have picked a reputable studio* with a competent artist who has done the tattoo correctly, this is only half of the equation. It will now be your responsibility to ensure that it will heal correctly and look good the rest of your life. But no matter what you do for it, if done wrong, it will not heal properly and will never look right.
I am a firm believer of leaving the bandage on for 24 hours. NO PEEKS! This gives the skin proper time to start the healing process, allowing epidermal layers to seal around the pigment. A couple of hours one way or the other won't hurt, but once the bandage is removed, don't rebandage it.
We use thick, absorbent, non-stick ABD wound dressings to protect the tattoo. Unlike scratchy telfa-pads, plastic wrap or other thin bandages, which become saturated and need to be removed within a few hours. Remember, a tattoo is like a mild abrasion and needs time to stop oozing and seal itself. The thickness of the bandage also protects the area from any bumps or grabs, which can fracture the new, tender skin cells which are trying to heal.
Once the bandage is removed, wash the tattooed area throughly with cool to warm water and a mild soap, avoid the extremes. Make sure all residue is removed from the skin's surface. The area will be mildly sensitive to the touch, so pat and blot dry with a clean towel or paper towel. Check it out and let it breath for a moment. Now it is time to apply the ointment. If there is any questions or concerns, please feel free to call.
We recommend using ointments like Bacitracin or A&D, as opposed to lotions and creams. Ointments tend to last much longer in preventing the skin from drying out. This will allow time to set and begin healing without the constant rubbing of lotions into it, thus disturbing the healing process. Normal moving and actions in life can disturb it enough. We supply all of our customers with ointment, plus oral and written instructions for after care free of charge, to try and guarantee piece of mind.
Gently massage the ointment into the skin until it disappears. Do not under any circumstances, leave a coating or a layer of it on the new tattoo. More is not better in this case. Too much ointment will suffocate the skin, leaving it mushy and cause oozing which can turn into thick, crusty scabs taking a month or more to heal, not to mention the light spots from where color fell out because of the scabs cracking and falling off too early. Do not scratch or pick at the tattoo. If in doubt after massaging in the ointment, use a tissue to blot off the excess. This will allow it to get air and start healing properly. If rashes or heavy scabs do occur, discontinue use of ointments and leave it to heal on it's own.
Avoid direct sunlight on the tattoo for at least the first couple of weeks. The sun is the #1 enemy of a new tattoo. This is a tough call, especially in the warmer months when you would like to show it off, but believe me when I tell you that a tattoo is very fragile in it's infant stage. The sun can blister and cook the new epidermal cells trying to heal over the pigment and protect it from getting bleached out. After the initial healing you can pile on the sun block and have at it, if you so choose. Over the years a tattoo will slowly fade somewhat in the sun, but nothing to compare to the first 6 months of excessive sunlight. You'll pay good money for it, so why not keep it sharp?!
Also to be avoided is the soaking of a new tattoo. This means no swimming at all or long baths, quick showers or washing only. Soaking will turn a new tattoo to slush and have the same after effect as using too much ointment and take a long, long time to heal.
The initial healing of a new tattoo is about 2 weeks, if taken care of properly. The tattoo will lightly flake and peal like a sunburn, but with colored flakes of skin. This is normal and will take place all within the first 4 to 7 days. In some instances a second clear flaking may occur, after which it will become tight, itchy and glassy looking. Try not to scratch it to hard. Massaging in a lotion at this time can satisfy the itch. Total regeneration of the healing skin can take from 4 to 6 weeks.
In my opinion, this is the best and safest, tried and true way to take care of a new tattoo. I have been recommending and using this method myself since 1978. Heal it right to keep it bright. It's there forever. Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope it leads you to a better understanding of what you may be getting yourself involved in.