Getting a great piece of tattoo art on your body may seem like one of the biggest accomplishments of your life as you are leaving the tattoo shop, but sitting though the process of having needles forcing the ink into you is just the first part of the process. Getting inked isn’t just painful and tiring, it’s also risky: you have to be committed to caring for your tattoo until it is fully healed, or you open yourself up to lots of problems later. Your recently completed tattoo is the equivalent of a fresh injury that needs sufficient time and proper tattoo aftercare to heal completely. Taking proper care of your tattoo is a health issue, and also insures that the beauty of the ink work shines through and lasts.
Rule number one, the prime directive, the cardinal commandment is Listen to Your Tattoo Artist. Your artist has been through this many, many times, and has the keen eye to judge how your skin will best react to this particular tattooing. Ignore your friends, your family, and the people at the gym. Don’t think that all aftercare products are created equal – they are not. Again, your artist will make recommendations based on lots of experience. It’s part of what you are paying for. Take advantage of it.
Here are some general basics, but don’t forget to get care instructions that are specific to you.
Removing the Bandage
Your artist will tell you how soon to unwrap your initial bandage. After 2-4 hours is common, and keeping the initial wrap on for 5-6 hours is also usual. Don’t ever keep your new ink wrapped up for more than 8 hours. That would lead to a nasty mess, with plasma and bacteria fighting to ruin your new work.
Cleaning your Tattoo
Immediately after removing your bandage, it’s time to carefully wash it using plain lukewarm water and a mild, non-scented and non-perfumed soap. Clean your hands properly first, and then start rubbing soap on the tattooed portion, removing all the blood, ointment and extra ink from your tattoo. After cleaning, pat the tattooed area dry by using a clean paper towel only (never use a bath towel for drying your tattoo). Then let it air out, show it off, and prepare to…
…Continue with this cleaning regimen three times a day for the next 8-10 days, until your tattoo is completely healed.
Avoid going out in the sun or exposing your tattoo to the sun’s rays for the next 10-15 days, because UV rays can fade your tattoo ink, a lot.
Within a couple of days of getting your tattoo, your tattooed skin will start flaking and peeling off which is completely normal. It may also itch like a mother. Do not scratch it or play with it, this is just the dead skin wearing out and your nerves generating impulses as new skin appears. Don’t worry, your new tattoo can’t “come off,” even though you may think so the first time you see colored skin headed down the shower drain.