My Fresh Tattoo Care Instructions

 

My Fresh Tattoo Care Instructions

How you care for your new tattoo is vital to maintain its appearance for the years to come, especially since you took the time to find the right one.  Your skin at this point is one big open wound where your new tattoo is and should be treated as one.

There are many steps you should follow to ensure you are helping your skin to heal properly. I want to note you will see or hear different recommendations from all over the place and that is because everyone is different and what works for them may not work for you. These are my fresh tattoo care instructions that I personally use every time I go for a new session.

Immediately After Your Session

Take some Ibuprofen! It will not eliminate the pain but it will certainly help. I actually take some about an hour before my session because I know they are going to be long (over 3 hours) and then by the time I get out of there enough time has passed for a second dose.

Your artist should have wrapped your new tattoo well at this point.  I usually see recommendations to remove this wrap after 4 hours buy my artist has always told me to leave it on overnight so that is what I have always done.  I have not had a problem doing this. There are two things you want to prevent those first couple days: infection & drying out.

Most artists will spray your new tattoo with some sort of antiseptic like Bactine and apply some ointment like Vaseline before they wrap your new tattoo.  Both of these will prevent infection and drying out. Your new tattoo will be oozing blood, ink and plasma for well over four hours so in my opinion if you remove that wrap before then you may end up having to wash it over night to prevent scabbing.

If your tattoo did not get an antiseptic or ointment bath before it was wrapped or you don’t feel like it was thorough then go ahead and remove your wrap. Wash it and apply a thin layer of Aquaphor then re-wrap it for the night.

Showering with your new tattoo


tattoo care instruction sheetAlright, you made it through the first night!  How did you sleep? If your tattoo was large enough probably not well. Don’t worry it will feel nice to remove the wrap and let your skin breathe after your first shower.

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My whole arm was usually wrapped up so it would use scissors to cut the tape and then gently remove the wrap. Try to do this over a tile or wood floor as the ink could stain any carpet. After you dispose of the bandage you will want to hop in the shower with warm water.

Before you wash it let the water run over it to remove all of the blood, plasma and ointment from the night. If the water alone is not enough massage it gently until it is gone. You will only want to use the amount of water that is necessary, don’t let it soak your tattoo.

Most people will recommend an anti-bacterial soap at this point like Dial. I am actually going to recommend for the first couple days that your tattoo is still oozing plasma to use Hibiclens. It is a cleanser as well as an antiseptic and their website claims it can kill germs for up to 24 hours!

You can find it at Wal Mart and they even have a generic brand. It is a little more expensive than a soap but a little bit goes a long way. Gently massage your new tattoo with the Hibiclens for 30 seconds and rinse. When your skin starts to peel then switch to an antibacterial soap.

Just before you get out of the shower turn the water as cold as it will go. Let this cold water run over your tattoo, this will help the pores close up which will slow down the oozing during the first couple days.

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By: 561design

Days 1-3

When you are done showering gently pat your tattoo dry with a clean towel and let it air dry for at least 15 min. Then apply a thin layer of Aquaphor, the thinnest layer that you need to cover it. You do not want globs of it, less is more in this case because your skin needs to breathe. Try to wear loose clothing and if you have to wear something over it you may have to reapply the ointment more frequently if your clothes are absorbing it.

If you are still in a lot of pain I would continue on the Ibuprofen regimen. Your skin will also feel very hot now, this is from the all of the extra blood working to heal your skin. It may also be swollen (my arm always swells a lot) and I am a huge fan of ice! Just don’t put the ice directly on your skin, use a towel as a barrier but the ice will provide some nice relief. I would do no more than 20 minutes at a time with the ice.

Your tattoo will continue to leak plasma slowly through this period so I would recommend rewashing (don’t forget the 15 min air dry) it every 3-4 hours and reapplying Aquaphor. Depending on where your tattoo is you may or may not have to get back in the shower. You may want to have some paper towels with you so you can pat the tattoo dry as the plasma leaks out before you have a chance to wash it.

Avoid my rookie mistake!

After my first color session I was wearing a long sleeve shirt to bed the second night to help prevent my sheets from getting stained. I didn’t realize how much the tattoo was still leaking and I woke up to one giant scab. This was a very weird feeling.

Fortunately, by the third day, they started falling off when you would normally start to peel. All except one section of red, which is one of the harder colors to heal, the scab did not want to come off. It cracked and bled and pieces of it stayed on for almost 3 weeks. I will definitely have to get this section touched up as the spots that bled pulled the ink out.

Don’t worry, you can prevent this! Each night for the first few nights if your tattoo is still oozing plasma throughout the day you need to wrap in plastic overnight.  After you wash it, give it a fresh coat of ointment before bed just wrap it with plastic. This discomfort of the plastic the first couple nights will be much more comfortable than the discomfort of a huge scab on your tattoo, trust me!

When you wake up in the morning just continue washing it and applying ointment like you normally would.

Days 4-7

By now your tattoo should be peeling nicely and you must resist the urge to scratch! It can be uncomfortable but you do not want to pull off and loose skin or scabs, let them come off on their own. Encouraging the scabs to come off early can result in scarring, trust me, I know.

I continue to use Aquaphor at this point despite a lot of recommendations to switch to a fragrance free lotion. When you switch to a lotion you will have to reapply every 1-2 hours to prevent the tattoo from drying out and only applying this ointment every 4 hours is more convenient to me.


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Days 7-10

By now most of your peeling should be done however some colors heal faster than others. Black is always the fastest and for me red takes forever! I’ve had some spots peel for 5-6 weeks.  Some areas may even peel more than once which is fine just continue to keep it clean and moisturized.

If you need to go out in the sun during any of this and for the life of your tattoo please use sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. This will help extend the life of your tattoo.  After 3 weeks most of the hard work should be over unless you have an infection or complications. Regardless of how careful you were there still may be some spots that require touching up. Wait at least 6 weeks before you schedule this appointment.

Finally, I just wanted to remind you that everyone is different and this method is what I have had the most success with. I hope sharing this helps with your next tattoo! If you have any suggestions that I might have missed please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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25 Replies to “My Fresh Tattoo Care Instructions”

  1. Anthony

    Hi!
    Thank you for your sharing! To be honest, this is my first time to know that I have to take care the fresh tattoo. I always thought that I did not need to take care of it because it already dried out by the time when everything was finished.

    I think your post is very useful to newbies like me. Because some may just don’t realize it is important to do what you listed on your post.

    Reply
  2. Austin

    I knew that tattoos had to be taken care of, but I didn’t know the specific steps that were into this. This was very interesting to read, love the knowledge and enthusiasm you put into this!

    Reply
  3. Eric

    Hi there
    Great post! Very informative article! I got my tattoo back in my high school day fast few years already. When my tattoo finished my friend who did my tattoo he just put a normal oil (baby oil) and I used a plastic to wrap it, same what you say in your article. Every time I take shower, after I finished I always put the same oil until my tattoo become okay. It is true the worst part of body to get a tattoo is in back? Because it’s to much pain. Thank you for sharing!

    Cheers
    Eric

    Reply
  4. Eric

    Hi there

    Great post very informative! I get my tattoo back in my high school day back few years ago. My friend put some normal oil (baby oil) after he finished my tattoo. And like you say wrap it with plastic, I’ll do that also and every time I finished taking bath I just put an oil. It is true? In the back of the body is the worst to get tattoo? Because of to much pain. Thank you for sharing! I learned a lot!

    Cheers
    Eric

    Reply
    • Jeremy Post author

      Hi Eric, yes the back can be painful. Tattoos tend to hurt more closer to nerve endings which your back is full of near your spine. Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  5. Steven

    I think we tend to forget its an open wound as when we picture an open wound its more like a gash.

    I have to admit I didn’t follow the instructions of tattoo care but after seeing what can happen next time I have one done I definitely will

    Reply
  6. Ryan

    Great advice, i wish I would have came across this when I first got my tattoo. I’ll be sure to bookmark you though when I get my new one (soon).

    What exactly does scarring from peeling the scabs look like? Does it really mess up your tattoo?

    Reply
    • Jeremy Post author

      Not really, you can only see if you look close. I just looks like it got scratched a little, you can always get it re-touched as well.

      Reply
  7. Sandeep

    Loved it, especially the level of detail you go into. I am a newbie to tattoos and didn’t realise they are open wounds the first few days and require attention. Great article Jeremy, thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  8. Jim

    Very good instructions on caring for new tattoos. I don’t think most people think about the after care. I’ve never gotten tattoo, but a lot of them that I see are really cool. It sure is the thing isn’t it, to get tattoos. This business has grown incredibly over the past 10 years or more hasn’t it? Nice website too. Lots of things to look at. good job.

    Reply
    • Jeremy Post author

      Thanks Jim, yes tattoos have become increasingly popular recently. Especially when millennials, I think close to 50% of that generation have at least one tattoo. However, it is important to make sure you take good care of your new tattoo. This will help keep it looking its best for many years to come.

      Reply
  9. janelle

    Hi. I wish I had known this a couple of years ago when my husband got a full back tat. He has a skin condition called psoriasis and the fresh tat went crazy with scab growth. I was worried, real worried…but it all came good in a few weeks.
    It seems like his experience is kind of normal. Thanks for the great advice!
    Janelle

    Reply
    • Jeremy Post author

      Yes Janelle, in my experience, the scabs form if you let the tattoo dry out when it is still fresh. My last couple sessions I wash it several times a day and re-apply ointment, usually aquahphor. The minute is starts looking dry I repeat this process. For the first couple days I will even re-wrap in plastic if it seems like t is still oozing ink or plasma.

      Reply
  10. David

    Nice article! It’s very informative and in depth. I don’t have any tatoos but my brother got one the other day haha.

    Sounds like a lot of hassle to maintain the tatoo in a proper way the first few days. But I guess it’s worth it if you want to keep the tatoo uninfected, this article helped us a lot acctually because my family doesn’t have any experience from the past.

    Cheers

    Reply
    • Jeremy Post author

      It is definitely worth it David, when you are spending hundreds of dollars, possibly more, you will want to make sure you take care of it. Otherwise you might have to get areas of the tattoo re-touched which will just end up costing more money in the long run.

      Reply
  11. Dan

    I never knew tattoo care was this complicated. Makes sense when you think of it as an open wound. I like the idea about taking ibuprofen! Very smart!

    Reply
    • Jeremy Post author

      It is not necessarily complicated, you just have to make sure you stay on top of keeping your new tattoo clean for the first few weeks. The ibuprofen is a life saver!

      Reply
  12. Albert C.E.

    Great detail on care. Like you said everyone has there different process to take care of their fresh tattoo. I agree with most but I usually don’t use hot water at all the first 5 days or so after the tattoo. Opening your pores up isn’t always a good idea because it could make the ink run. I just use auquaphor and tattoo goo for cleaning and care. But like you said almost every artist recommend different and what works for some may not work for all.

    Reply
    • Jeremy Post author

      You are right Albert about the hot water, which is why I always rinse with cold water immediately after washing to close those pores back up. I have not tried tattoo goo yet, I will have to get some for my next session!

      Reply

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