So you've finally gotten your new tattoo, how exciting! Now... how do you take care of it?
Your artist probably gave you instructions immediately afterwards, and it is recommended to follow their instructions as the tattooer knows best. But, in the case they didn't, or you just need a refresher, look below for our top tips from the pros at Third Eye Tattoos.
There are 2 main ways that tattoos heal - either the traditional "open" way, or with the use of an adhesive bandage, sometimes called a "second skin". We will go through steps for both healing processes down below.
Adhesive Bandage Healing/"Second Skin"
At Third Eye Tattoos, our artists prefer to heal tattoos using an adhesive bandage known as a "second skin". Once your tattoo is finished, your artist will cleanse your skin and do a final wipe-down of the area. Then, they will apply a clear, adhesive bandage over-top of your tattoo. This bandage allows the skin to heal, while protecting your tattoo from dirt and germs, minimizing loss of ink or details, and reducing scabbing and scarring.
Once the bandage is in place, it is recommended you leave it on for 6-7 days. During this time, we strongly discourage you to engage in activity that will cause a lot of sweating. You should avoid working out or any activity that cause the muscles in the area of the tattoo and bandage to become flexed (i.e., if you got your bicep tattooed, avoid arm workouts until the bandage is removed). While it is acceptable to get the bandage wet while showering, it is important that the area is not submerged in water (i.e., no swimming, hot tubs, or baths).
Occasionally, the tattoo may weep more than expected. In this case, you may notice pooling of inky coloured liquid underneath the bandage (some refer to this as an "ink sack"). A small amount of liquid is usually normal, however, if you notice a large amount of liquid, it is strongly recommended to reach out to your artist for follow-up.
After the recommended amount of time has passed, we suggest taking the bandage off in a warm shower. Let the water run over the area, lift up a corner of the bandage at the top, and slowly peel it downwards, letting water run over the area as well. Using a mild, scent-free soap, cleanse the area gently with warm (not hot) water. By this time, your tattoo should be mostly scab-free!
After showering, apply a small amount of mild, scent-free lotion, such as Lubriderm, or a tattoo-specific ointment. Apply the same lotion in the morning and evening for a few days. The area may be sensitive for up to 4 weeks, depending on the size of your tattoo, but the wound caused by the tattoo process should be mostly healed at this point.
Traditional ("open") Healing
When healing a tattoo the traditional way, without the adhesive bandage, it is important to remember that the tattooing process essentially creates an open wound in your skin. Protecting this area from dirt and germs is crucial to avoid infection.
Once your artist is done tattooing you, they will cleanse the area and wipe it down a final time. They will most likely apply some type of protective barrier over the tattoo, such as plastic wrap or a large bandage. This bandage can stay in place for up to 12 hours.
It is important to remember to wash your hands really well every time before touching your tattoo. Your hands can transfer dirt and germs to your tattoo, which can lead to infection and poor healing.
When removing the bandage, use lukewarm water to gently wet the area and remove the bandage slowly. Let the water run over the area to remove any liquid sitting on top of the tattoo. Using a mild, scent-free soap, gently cleanse the area using your hands. Make sure to rinse the area thoroughly, and pat dry with a clean towel.
Once you notice the tattoo starting to scab, usually within 2-3 days, you can start to apply a mild, scent-free lotion (such as Lubriderm) to the area 2-3 times per day.
Do not pick at the scabs or itch the area, as this can cause poor healing, scarring, and loss of detail in your tattoo.
A few more things to remember when you are healing your fresh ink:
If you have any concerns or issues while your tattoo heals, reach out to your artist first! They are the expert and will be able to guide you in the right direction if things are not going as expected.
If your tattoo doesn't seem to be healing as expected, or you are noticing symptoms such as: swelling and redness in the area several days after the tattoo, odorous discharge from the tattoo site, fever, or other symptoms, this may be indicating an infection. Let your artist know.
Never pick scabs forming on your tattoo, as this can cause scarring, poor healing, and increases risk for infections.
Once your tattoo is fully healed, remember to use sunscreen or cover the area from the sun to avoid premature fading of your ink.