Now that you've left the parlor, it's your job to maintain the healing of your beautiful new piece.
Each and every tattoo will go through a healing process, one that typically takes about 2-4 weeks time. Some collectors out there are blessed with forgiving skin, and their tattoos will heal with minimal upkeep and attention. Others are less fortunate, and their new tattoo will need to be kept under a close eye to ensure a proper healing. The first week of healing is critical to how your tattoo will look for the rest of its life, so let's take a look at the proper way to care for your new permanent accessory.
Where do I start?
Keep the bandage on for a minimum of two hours.
After removing your bandage, you should gently cleanse your new tattoo with an antibacterial, fragrance free soap (we like Dr. Bronner’s Hemp Baby Unscented, Pure-Castile Soap) & hot water. The hot water may cause temporary mild stinging, but will aid in opening pores for maximum cleansing. For larger scale pieces, you will want to opt for a shower instead of a bath during this time. When you exit the shower be certain not to rub your tattoo with a towel, let it dry on it's own. Keeping your tattoo clean is Rule #1 and washing a few times daily will avoid a potential infection.
What should I use?
Your new tattoo needs to breathe to promote the healing process — which is why most professional tattooers will recommend lotions, butters, or natural oils free of synthetic chemicals, ointments and fragrances that often clog and suffocate the pores and act as irritants to broken skin. The more organic & natural, the better for your tattoo, which brings us to our personal favorite healing method...
Coconut oil for the win.
Naturally antibacterial, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and free of synthetic chemicals (unlike most ingredients found on drugstore shelves) coconut oil has become an increasingly popular choice of aftercare for all skin types, especially those with hyper-sensitive skin.
When applied, coconut oil forms a layer which aids in the protection from external bacteria, fungi, parasites, and dust. Its natural lipids speed up the healing process by repairing tissues damaged by the process of tattooing.
In the market for coconut oil — there is a specific kind you want to look for. Organic, unrefined, Non-GMO, virgin or extra-virgin. It’s quite a mouthful — but easily found in most grocery and health food stores. Unrefined, virgin coconut oil is superior to the refined type as it is the most natural and nutrient dense, free from heat and chemical processing. Organic and GMO-free, because pesticides and genetically modified foods suck.
The process of tattooing impedes our skin's natural production of oil, which is why it is very important to moisturize your new tattoo regularly. There’s not an exact science to the amount of times you should be applying your aftercare, that said... it’s best to listen to your body. Whenever your tattoo is feeling particularly parched, or itchy — you can rub on a small amount. Keep in mind that coconut oil will take a bit longer to absorb, and a little goes a long way.
What to avoid...
Sunblocks and screens are typically not formulated to protect wounds and the like. You will feel your fresh tattoo burning if it's exposed to sunlight. Listen to your body. If your tattoo feels hot and irritated, stay out of direct sunlight. If you must be out in the sun, keep that baby covered.
When clothing and fabric abrade against your new tattoo, you run the risk of agitating the healing process. The least amount of contact with fabric is usually the best call while healing a new tattoo. Loose-fitting clothing should be worn around the area for a week minimum... aka the opposite of this photo above.
While in the healing phase, it is common for your tattoo to seep excess plasma, fluid, and ink — which may stick to sheets, blankets, or clothing. If you can sleep with your tattoo exposed, that would be best. To be safe, you can place a clean thin towel between you and the sheets. If in the morning your tattoo is stuck to fabric, this is no cause for alarm. Don’t peel it off! Instead, take the fabric with you to the shower and wet it off with cool or lukewarm water.
Picking and Scrubbing
Scabbing is a very normal part of the tattoo healing process. DO NOT PICK THE SCAB. Don't scrub it either. Scabbing will typically be the same color as the pigment that was used. If you pick or scrub your scab, you risk pulling out the color or causing hypertrophic scarring. Let the tattoo heal by itself. Patience is virtue.
Opt for showers instead of baths for 2-3 weeks as submerging a new tattoo in standing water may expose open skin to unwanted bacteria. This means no baths, pools, jacuzzis, lakes, ponds or quick dips in the ocean.
If you've noticed a sudden outbreak of pimples around your tattoo, chances are you've over moisturized. Dial back on the oil/lotion and try to maintain a moisture level even with the rest of your body.
Professional tattoo artists do everything possible to ensure safe tattooing practices. However, they are not medical professionals.
Contact your doctor immediately if the following symptoms arise:
*severe pain or swelling
*prolonged oozing of plasma with or without color
*thick, hard scabs that are bleeding red blood
So there you have it. By following all of this aftercare advice your brand new tattoo will soon mature into a phenomenally healed tattoo. Admittedly this is a lot to do, but considering that you're going to have that tattoo for the rest of your life what's a couple of weeks of paying close attention in the grand scheme of things?