Tattooing : Tattoo Healing and Aftercare

Over my personal history of being tattooed, I’ve heard many variations on how to best heal a tattoo. Essentially, one must keep the new tattoo from being soaking wet during the first healing phase. Once the surface has scabbed, it’s best to keep the area lightly moisturized for uniform shedding and to minimize itching.

Variations of this method are reported across a wide number of tattooists. Initially, the just-finished tattoo is bandaged, but even this carries differing methodologies. Some tattooists bandage with gauze pads and masking tape, some smear on antibiotic ointment and then cover with plastic wrap. Some say to keep the tattoo covered for an hour or two, and some say for the first twenty-four hours. My recommendation is to go with what the tattoo artist said unless you’ve got a lot of tattoos and have worked out a routine for yourself that goes best with your individual healing process.

People with sensitivities to antibiotic ointments should avoid their use, and be sure to tell your tattooist before they start working on you! This helps avoid any accidental applications of something containing a reactive ingredient. Some people don’t use antibiotic creams at all unless the tattoo is actually infected. This choice is up to the individual, as general opinions are quite mixed on this topic.

A fresh tattoo is an open wound and soaking it in water should be prevented as this is one of the main ways the tattoo can become infected. Public water such as pools, hot tubs and contaminated ocean water should all be avoided until the tattooed skin is fully healed. New tattoos can also be easily irritated by exposure to sunlight, sweat and by being rubbed by clothing. Take care to protect the tattoo surface until the scab has come off.

While the tattoo scabs, it can be quite itchy. Don’t scratch! Picking at the scab or scratching can cause it to pull off, and take some of the underlying ink with it. This is often called “healing out” and essentially looks like blank spots in the midst of the artwork. If a large enough spot heals out, it may require a touchup visit to the tattooist.

Applying moisturizer to the tattoo can ease the itching. You can use any hypoallergenic moisturizer, something like shea butter, or a product specially formulated for tattoos. Those who are looking for an organic product have the option of The Hemp Company’s Tattoo Aftercare.

Once the scab has fallen off, the tattoo is considered healed. Swimming and soaking is no longer a danger. Watch out for mosquito bites on your tattoo. Scratching can cause the ink to “heal out” and left missing spots in the artwork. Sunburn is the greatest danger a tattoo faces, as this will prematurely fade the color and blur the softer lines. Sunscreen or covering clothing is highly recommended for your tattoo when out in the sun.





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