Taking proper care of a fresh tattoo isn’t hard, but there are ways to do it wrong. While you can do most of the same activities that you would normally do right after getting a new tattoo, there are some things you need to avoid. It takes about 3-4 weeks for a tattoo to fully heal, so until then, these are 12 things you need to avoid.
This doesn’t mean you can’t shower for a month while your tattoo is healing, but it does mean that you need to keep an eye on how much moisture is getting into your fresh ink. “Two weeks is typically the minimum before you should soak a new tattoo”, says Philip, a tattoo artist out of Toronto. Showering and washing it in the shower is fine, provided you don’t let it fully submerge for more than a few seconds while you rinse.
Avoid swimming altogether for a few weeks while you have fresh ink. Chemically treated water like pools aren’t good for your tattoo, and natural bodies of water are even worse. Lakes and oceans are full of all kinds bacteria and amoebas that can get into the tattooed area and cause potentially serious infections. Avoid any risky business while your tattoo is healing by not going swimming.
Letting direct sunlight get to your fresh tattoo can seriously damage the effect you’re going for with the ink. You’re risking the tattoo becoming bleached and fading, and it could blister if the area gets too much sun for too long. Once the healing process is coming along, and your scabs have come off, always apply sunscreen to your tattoos before going out into the sun. It helps them last longer and prevents premature fading.
Removing The Wrapping Too Soon
Whatever wrapping your tattoo artists puts over your fresh ink, it’s there for a good reason! They’re sealing it to keep out any bacteria or airborne particles that could get into the fresh wound – remember, your new tattoo is essentially hundreds of tiny puncture marks, so you want to keep that protected for the first few hours.
The time you need to keep it on for varies, so listen to what your artist tells you. Generally, it’s considered a good idea to keep the wrapping on for at least 2 hours, but some artists will advise longer. Lisa, 24, explains that for her, “my last tattoo I got done at 7PM and she told me to keep it wrapped overnight”. Do what your artist tells you, and don’t remove it any sooner than they say.
Rewrapping Your Tattoo
Once you’ve taken the wrapping off of your tattoo, it’s officially ready to breathe, so there’s no need to rewrap it again. At this point, you want your tattoo to stay mostly dry, and adding plastic to it will trap in heat and create too much moisture. Too much dampness in the area can lead to bacteria growth, and that’s the last thing you want on a fresh tattoo.
Sweating too much in the first 2-3 weeks after getting a tattoo is a no-no, so if you’re into saunas or intense workouts, take a break for a couple weeks. Again, excessive moisture on a healing tattoo isn’t good, and sweat counts. You’re obviously going to sweat to some degree, you’re only human, but avoid activities that make you so sweaty you feel like you need to jump into water to cool off.
Picking Your Scabs
Photo: Authority Tattoo
Picking scabs is something you shouldn’t be doing no matter what kind of wound you have, but especially avoid picking at the ones on your tattoo. As part of the healing process, the inked area will form some light scabbing, and you need to leave these be. The scabbed parts will fall off on their own, so expect to find little black bits everywhere for a couple of days while it sheds. Picking them off will absolutely not speed up the healing process, and could even end up prolonging the process altogether.
Using Medicated Ointments
Applying poly or neosporin might seem like a logical idea, but these are products that you actually want to avoid putting on your fresh ink. The reason for this is that these ointments do their jobs too well, so your tattoo might heal too quickly.
Having a fast healing tattoo might, again, seem like a good thing, but the zinc and other products in this ointment actually take the ink out of your skin, and keep it on the surface of your skin. Your tattoo will fade if this happens, so steer clear of medicated ointments for your tattoo.
Photo: The Odyssey Online
This doesn’t apply to everyone, and very much depends on where you get your ink. If your fresh tattoo is in an area where you would normally shave, like your armpits, legs, scalp, or face, hold off until it’s fully healed. Yes, ladies, this might mean you’re going Amazonian for about a month, so plan ahead if you require smoothness at all times.
Running a sharp razor over a fresh tattoo isn’t a good idea. Aside from scraping over a fresh wound, it could strip off any healing scabs you’re getting before they’re ready to come off. Once your scabs have naturally come off, and you’re 3-4 weeks into the healing process, depending on the size and placement of your tattoo, you should be okay to start shaving again.
Using Scented Soaps
Photo: Beauty Crafter
Avoid any and all scented soaps for cleaning your fresh tattoo. Fragrance can irritate the sensitive area of your new tattoo. Use only unscented, antibacterial soaps on the area for the first few weeks to keep it clean. To take care of her new tattoos, Lisa will “wash twice a day with unscented soap or spectro-gel, and then go down to once a day once it stop[s] being gross”.
For larger pieces you’ll need to wait closer to a week before you reduce how frequently you wash your tattoo in a day, but smaller piece should stop showing immediate healing effects much sooner. For Lisa, “my big colour one was seeping so [it was ] a week maybe, but my simple line groundhog one was like a day or two”.
Wearing Tight Clothing
Don’t wear anything too tight over the freshly tattooed area. You want your tattoo to be able to breathe and get air, and it can’t do that if it’s smothered by tight fabric. You even run the risk of creating moisture through sweat, depending on the type of material you’re wearing. Choose loose, flowy clothes to cover your fresh ink for the first couple of weeks with your new tattoo. Breathable fabrics like cotton are even more ideal.
Healing tattoos are itchy as hell, but you need to resist the urge to scratch! As satisfying as it may feel, scratching your healing tattoo is a terrible idea. You could scratch off your scabs too soon, not to mention the potential bacteria that’s under your fingernails and on your hands. This is one itch you must not scratch!
Photo: Authority Tattoo
Moisturizing your tattoo is an extremely important part of the healing process, but you don’t want to overdo it. A thin layer of moisturizer a few times a day is perfect – anymore could be too much. If your tattoo has too much moisturizer, it has too much moisture, which could harbor and grow bacteria. Keep it light on the creams and your tattoo will be in good shape.
If you can manage to avoid those 12 things while your tattoo is healing, you’re guaranteed to have a longer lasting, healthy tattoo for life. Have you been given any odd tattoo aftercare advice? Let us know in the comments!