Whether you’re commemorating a special date or remembering your favorite quote, tattoos are a way to forever hold onto memories and symbols. Tattoos truly allow for an individual to express themselves and hold on to that expression forever, but in order to keep your tattoo looking fresh and beautiful, there are a few vital steps in caring for your tattoo after you receive it and in the long term.
It’s important to remember that getting a tattoo is basically like getting a procedure on your skin, so taking care of it and paying close attention to the healing process is vital. Getting a tattoo can affect your immune system if not cared for properly by causing infections or irritation. To keep your tattoo looking as beautiful as you want it and to protect your overall health, taking care of your skin around the tattoo is of utmost importance.
Immediately after getting your tattoo and in the weeks following, there are a few things to remember:
Touch your tattoo ONLY with clean hands!
Just like any other wound you might experience, keeping it clean and infection-free is extremely important. Getting a tattoo involves needles literally pricking your skin- leaving it vulnerable to any bacteria or irritants in the air. Before you do anything with your new tattoo, make sure you’re washing your hands with anti-bacterial soap or using hand sanitizer to keep the area clean and infection-free.
Clean the area and change your bandages frequently (as in every day or multiple times a day!)
Your tattoo artist may have already drilled this into your head, but changing the bandages and cleaning the area of your tattoo with a gentle cleanser is vital in helping your tattoo heal correctly and avoid infection. Keep in mind that avoiding proper care of your tattoo can actually cause it to fade or not look quite as you had imagined it. This needs to be done at least once a day, but if you’re sweating or just feel dirty, you can do it multiple times a day to make sure the area is clean and covered.
Apply calming ointments or creams, especially those provided by the artist or your derm.
If your skin is more sensitive or reactive than normal, you may be provided with a healing ointment or cream to help soothe the area and help the healing process. Even if your skin isn’t sensitive, it’s important to keep the area moisturized, so apply a fragrance-free moisturizer to the area at least once a day. If your tattoo starts to feel especially itchy or inflamed, go see your derm- they may be able to prescribe a soothing cream or double-check to make sure there’s not an infection.
Allow your tattoo to breathe- loose clothing is best!
You don’t want the forces of friction to cause your tattoo to become inflamed or to slow down the healing process- wear loose clothes for a few days to a week to give your tattoo some air to breathe.
Whatever you do, don’t pick at it!
Yes, it may be a little itchy, or the ink sac that forms might be begging for you to poke at it, but under all circumstances, do not pick at your tattoo! It may form a little scab, which is normal, but let it run its course of healing- picking at it can cause delays in healing, infections, or can cause your tattoo to not look quite as good as you wanted.
Apply sunscreen- but not on the tattoo quite yet!
You should be applying sunscreen every day anyway (if you’re not, now is the time to start!) However, with a fresh tattoo, it’s best to hold off for a few days to keep the area clean and dry- opt for covering the area from sun damage with loose clothing, or simply by avoiding the sun for a few days. Yes, a sunburn on a new tattoo would probably be pretty painful, but so will an infection! Once the area is fully healed, do apply sunscreen to avoid sun damage and burns.
When to go see your doctor:
If it’s been a couple of weeks and your tattoo still looks red and inflamed, or at any point if it feels or looks like it could be infected, go see your doctor. Don’t wait- this is an invasible procedure, after all. You want your tattoo to come out just as you imagined it, so taking care of it (and yourself) is super important.
Tattoos can be a really fun and memorable experience; make sure that the whole process stays enjoyable by taking good care of your tattoo in the weeks following and after every tattoo you get!