Did you know there are really just 3 key factors you need to know about how caring for a new tattoo? Whether it's your first tattoo or your fiftieth, people still have many differing views on how long it should remain covered, when it should be washed and what, if any, tattoo creams should be used. But by paying attention to the following simple (yet CRITICAL) steps, you will avoid tattoo infection and have a design that not only looks great, but is healthy and vibrant for years to come.
After months of researching tattoo designs and ideas, I recently had my first tattoo done at Kat Von D's "LA Ink" studio (or High Voltage Tattoo, as it is officially named.) Although I was worried initially that it may hurt & I wouldn't like the experience, I actually did enjoy it!
However, I'd heard conflicting ideas on how to best care for a new tattoo, especially when it comes to moisturizing... Some people disagree with applying tattoo creams like Tatt Wax, Aquaphor, Bepanthen, Tattoo Goo, etc. Many believe the skin will not breathe and heal properly as it may become over-hydrated. Most tattooists though DO recommend moisturizers (non-petroleum, non-fragranced) to aid the healing process and stop the tat from drying out, flaking or peeling early.
From all the aftercare tattoo information I was bombarded with, there seems to be 3 consistent factors that tattoo professionals and tattoo fans do agree on:
1) Most importantly -- keep your new tattoo CLEAN
2) Keep it PROTECTED from SUN and WATER
3) Do NOT PICK or RUB the tat as it heals
After getting my new Gemini lower back tattoo I had no infections or problems, by following the simple tattoo aftercare instructions and advice from the guys at LA Ink:
CLEANSING: Initially your tattooist will apply a gauze bandage or patch to protect the freshly damaged skin, remembering that a tattoo is really an open wound, even if it looks artistic! This should be left on for about 4 hours then carefully removed, possibly even as you shower, to avoid peeling any areas of inked skin that may have stuck to the patch. Gentle washing with mild soap and warm water will be fine, but don't rub too hard and gently pat dry with a clean towel. To keep your tat infection free, make sure you avoid letting other people touch it and wash your hands thoroughly before YOU touch it. The tattoo does not need to be kept covered and heals within about 2 weeks, but take care and patch it temporarily if it will be exposed to dirt or bumped while working, playing sport, etc. It's a good idea to avoid excess sweating if possible.
PROTECTION: While showering is fine to clean your tattoo DO NOT SOAK in water and avoid swimming, or soaking in a bath or spa for at least 2-3 weeks. Over-hydration of the skin may cause the ink to wash out or fade and there could be a higher risk of infection in the soft tissue. The sun is also a problem for tattoos, both new and old. Even short periods of exposure can lead to fading and damage of your tattoo, (skin damage in general) so it's best to keep your new tat lightly covered or under loose clothing for at least 2-3 weeks. DON'T use sunscreen/sunblock creams or sprays until after the skin has fully healed, to help avoid infection!
HEALING: Avoid rubbing or picking at the tattooed skin, even if it itches or scabs. If you pick or scratch the healing layers of skin, you may end up with a design that appears faded or slightly patchy, as the ink needs time to settle into the middle layers of your skin. I highly recommend using a good moisturizer like Aveeno Daily Moisturizer Lotion. By cleansing and then applying just a small amount of that cream 2-3 times a day, my tattoo didn't scab! I simply had soft little inky flakes of skin wipe off each time I showered or moisturized for the first week -- no nasty, itchy scabs to deal with and my newly tattooed skin felt soft, without being greasy or over-hydrated.
For anyone contemplating getting their first tattoo done, or even if you're adding to the collection of skin art that you already have -- you'll find paying attention to these 3 points is essential to maintaining the colour and beauty of the awesome tattoo design that you've invested in!
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