Before leaving your appointment, your artist will wrap your new tattoo with a bandage and thin coating of ointment. Brands like Saniderm and Recovery are popular, and these clear adhesive bandages ideally should be replaced within the first 24 hours. But are meant to be left on for up to 4 to 5 days. It’s okay to leave yours on overnight so long as the area feels secure and it won't bother you as you sleep. Keep in mind that healing tattoos can stick to and stain sheets, so the adhesive derm is a great option.
If your artist wrapped your tattoo in a non-adhesive bandage, such as Saran-wrap, you’ll follow a more traditional approach to aftercare. As soon as an hour post-session, remove bandaging in a clean bathroom with freshly washed hands. Using a basic antimicrobial, non-scented soap and some water, create a lather and gently wash the area in circular motions. Antimicrobial Dial or fragrance-free Dr. Bronner’s are both affordable options. Rinse lightly with water until excess blood and fluid is washed away.
Similar to piercings, avoid submerging the tattooed area in water — especially any lakes or beaches, pools, shared tubs or baths. If at some point in the healing stage you can’t avoid a soak, be sure to clean your tub with bleach to try and reduce exposure to accumulated bacteria.
Always pat healing tattoos dry with a new paper towel, being careful to avoid abrasive textures like loofahs or towels in the shower.
Aquaphor is a good ointment for the first few days of healing. After that, feel free to switch to a simple, perfume-free lotion from trusted brands like Lubriderm. Reapply to clean, dry skin once a day. You won’t need any additional bandaging, and should try to touch the area as little as possible.
Initially, ink and plasma will coat the skin. Known as weeping, this excess fluid can easily stain clothing and sheets. During the first couple weeks in particular, clean and replace your bedding often. Day to day, residue on the skin can be lightly dabbed away with a clean paper towel (never wiped or rubbed).
You'll want to keep any clothes that might cause friction or sensitivity away from the tattoo site as much as possible. This includes dirtied laundry and jewelry. Socks, bra straps, and itchy textures can all rub scabbed and tender skin. Some extra caution will help prevent tearing or irritation.
Basic tenants of aftercare can almost always be found directly on a shop or artist website. Listen to the aftercare instructions of your artist, and always feel free to call a shop directly with questions or concerns.
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