Follow your tattooer's instructions. Forgot? Follow these ones.
Please, please do not listen to your friends regarding aftercare. There are many right ways of healing a tattoo, but your tattooer is telling you their way for a reason. We cannot guarantee the quality of your tattoo if you do not follow our instructions.
Consider changing the sheets on your bed the day of your tattoo, as bedding harbors a tremendous amount of shed skin, sweat, and dust mites. Similarly, if you wear pajamas to bed, have them freshly washed and ready.
Tattoo bandages should be removed a few hours after getting the tattoo. We like to see the bandage stay on for 2 to 4 hours, unless your tattooer tells you explicitly otherwise. To remove the bandage, please have the following ready:
• paper towels
• a fragrance-free liquid soap
First wash your hands as though you are teaching a child to wash their hands: lather up with a lot of soap, paying special attention to the fingers and nails, and wash them for as long as it takes to sing the birthday song twice. Dry your hands with a fresh paper towel. If you are having someone help you because you cannot reach your tattoo, make sure their hands are equally clean.
Now for the tattoo:
• Remove the bandage over your tattoo and firmly wipe away the slime with clean paper towels. You cannot hurt the tattoo by wiping too hard. Do not be alarmed by a lot of excess ink in the slime – your tattoo is still there, this is normal.
• With lukewarm water, lather the soap in your hands and wash the area by firmly massaging it into the tattoo. Again, you cannot hurt the tattoo by washing it, though we understand the area is very tender. Go slowly, and turn the water cooler if the sensation helps.
• If the area still seems very shiny or slimy, repeat step 2.
• Pat the tattoo dry with clean paper towels.
• Repeat a minimum of three times daily for the next three days. You may shower as normal, but please do not take a bath for the next two weeks.
• Do not swim (ocean, lake, river, pool, puddle or through spacetime) or use a hot tub or sauna for two weeks after you get your tattoo. If you use a tanning bed, stop. Forever.
Your tattooer may have given you instructions for extended aftercare (this might include rebandaging your tattoo overnight with approved materials, or the application of a product) but if you are not explicitly told this, you should assume that keeping the area clean is all that is required.
Technically your tattoo will continue to heal over the next 60 days, but the surface will be healed in about 2 weeks.
While the surface is healing, protect the tender skin from direct sun exposure by wearing loose clothing to cover it. After the surface is is healed – when any scabbing is gone, and the surface is just shiny and/or lightly peeling like a sunburn – freely apply sunblock of your choice.
The sun’s rays operate like a tattoo remove laser, and will over time damage the tattoo. To maintain the quality and color saturation of your tattoo, apply sunblock every day, until you are dead.
There are other minor complications with healing that commonly occur, but be assured that infections are the rarest of those complications. In each of those rare events, the infection has been the direct result of the client repeatedly touching the freshly tattooed area with dirty hands.
Frequently Panicky Exclamations
What's your problem? Maybe it's one of these.
Help! My tattoo stuck to my shirt/pajamas!
My foot/leg/arm is very swollen!
It looks like I have a bruise somewhere near my tattoo!
My tattoo has little red, itchy bumps all around it!
This is not uncommon, and especially during warm weather. It is not an infection or an allergic reaction, but usually just a reaction to your own sweat. It will get better, and you might find that an icepack takes the edge off the itching. If it is still very itchy, you might consider trying a topical hydrocortisone cream (we really like Aveeno Active Naturals 1% hydrocortisone), but only if there is no scabbing on the tattoo. Application of any product to a scab may result in the scab becoming soggy and releasing before the skin underneath is healed, which is not good. Consult with your doctor before using any medications.