Tattoo Aftercare: No Fancy Potions Required
Did you guys check out my new artwork? I decided a while back to go for a (mostly) full sleeve on my left arm – with just enough blank space for makeup swatches – and last week I had the first session for it. All the line work is complete, and I’m SO EXCITED about it! Because peonies, amiright? When I posted a pic on instagram aftercare came up in the comments, and I thought to myself, that’s probably a good idea for a skincare post. I’ve been using the same basic routine for years, and my husband & friends have also done it with good results, so I’m pretty comfortable recommending it. Disclaimer though: always talk to your artist about aftercare. They’re the professionals, I’m just a skincare addict with kind of a lot of tattoos.
While I’m at it, I have to brag on the artist a little bit – this one is my first tattoo from Joey Strong. He works at Oracle Tattoo Guild, which is a new shop that opened up recently smack dab in the middle of downtown Lexington. Everyone there is great, and the whole process was as painless as a tattoo can be :-D You should definitely check them out. Now, on to the aftercare process….
Keep It Clean
The first few days after getting a new tattoo, the most important thing to remember is your skin is wounded. And you need to treat it accordingly, which mainly boils down to keeping it clean and making sure it doesn’t get any extra injuries. The goal is to prevent infections as well as any irritation or inflammation that could mess up the artwork.
- Wash your hands before touching the tattoo, always. And it should go without saying, don’t let anyone else touch it without washing their hands either.
- Once a day, wash the tattoo with water and a mild, unscented soap. Johnson’s Baby Wash is great for this, and it doesn’t hurt that I usually have a bunch on hand for washing my makeup brushes.
- After washing, pat it dry (don’t rub!) with a clean towel. Fabric can harbor bacteria, so I usually just use a paper towel to be on the safe side.
Since this is summer, let me just add another word of advice: don’t go swimming with a new tattoo! Pools and natural bodies of water are full of who-knows-what, so wait at least 2-3 weeks. Personally I don’t even sit in a bathtub with a healing tattoo, I shower instead.
Just like any other healing process, keeping your new tattoo lightly moisturized will cut down on irritation and itching. The tattooed skin will also start to flake off after a few days, so this helps prevent hard, scabby bits. And just fyi – this is the step where there are all sorts of balms, salves and sprays out there. They’re really not necessary though! I have a single go-to that I’ve been using on my tattoos for at least five years: Eucerin Skin Calming Creme. Seriously, it was in my long-term favorites for a reason. If you don’t like the Eucerin for some reason, most fragrance-free lotions will do just fine. I’ve also had Aveeno and Lubriderm recommended to me by artists before.
When to put it on? That’s pretty easy-
- First day – after you take the bandage off and wash the tattoo. Your artist will tell you how long to leave the covering on, but it’s usually a few hours.
- After that – at least once a day, up to a few times/day if your skin is feeling dry or tight.
Wounds need oxygen to heal, so be sure to only put on a thin layer of lotion to avoid ‘smothering’ it.
Picking, scratching or scrubbing is the quick road to a badly-healed tattoo, so don’t do it. At best, you’ll irritate your skin and maybe lose a few spots of ink. At worst, you’ll open up the wound and end up with an infection. Either way it won’t be good, and why ruin something that you just paid a pretty penny for?
Of course, that’s all easier said than done. Your skin will flake, and itch, and I guarantee you’ll be tempted to mess with. Resist! The flakes will come off in their own sweet time (usually when you wash it in the shower). If the itchiness gets really intense, slapping the skin will usually help. That’s another reason I like my Eucerin lotion for tattoos – the colloidal oatmeal in it helps a lot with itching.
By the way, the ‘leave it alone’ principle includes tight clothes that would rub against your tattoo and irritate the skin. The relaxed fit trend is your bestie right now.
Sun, Sun, Go Away
Sun exposure will age your skin, and that includes skin with tattoos (shocking, huh?). I’ve never gotten a sunburn on a fresh tattoo but I can only imagine it would be really unpleasant. You don’t want to put sunscreen on it for at least a couple weeks, so covering up is the best option. And that’s how I ended up walking around wearing long sleeves in July.
Once it is healed up, you still want to limit sun exposure for basically the rest of your life or risk fading your sweet artwork. So stock up on sunscreen! One of my friends is a golfer, and he uses a golf sleeve to cover up his arm tattoos while he’s playing. I’m considering trying that out too, since I’ve got some outdoor events at work in my near future.
And that’s it! Two products (three if you include the paper towels, I guess) and odds are you’ve already got them in your house.
Do you have tattoos, or would you get one? What are your favorite aftercare products?