Updated: Jan 6
So ya just got this really bad ass tattoo, now what? Well, at Speakeasy Tattoo in Los Angeles, Scott Glazier’s voice rings in my ears… “don’t go prancing around like a pixy and trying to infect it”. So, that being said, cleanliness is of the utmost importance. The last thing you want to do is let all the ugly bad germs floating through the air creep into freshly tattooed skin. You should keep it bandaged at first and remove the protective bandage after one hour, two hours maximum. As with most things, balance is key. It needs to be covered at first to stay protected but also open to breathe to heal properly.
The next step is to make sure to clean it thoroughly. Using only the fingertips or hand, remove all traces of blood with a mild antibacterial soap and warm water. The first 24 hours are the most important and can drastically change the longevity of a tattoo. It is very important to keep the tattoo clean from bacteria while allowing the skin to breathe and regenerate. During the healing period, always be sure to either allow to air dry or pat gently with a soft clean cloth. Pay close attention to always clean with freshly washed hands and never scrub the tattoo as it’s going through the healing process.
Now it’s time to make it shine. Apply a thin coat of ointment (A+D or aquaphor) at this time. This is where the story of the three bears comes to mind. You want it to be juuuuuust right. Under moisturizing will make it feel tight, hot, and, itchy, and the last thing you should ever do is scratch your tattoo. Over moisturizing will only smother the tattoo and cause the scabs to dissolve and fall out creating a blotchy tattoo. The scabbing over process is important because it allows the ink to set into the skin as the dermis heals and epidermis grows over and sloughs off. NEVER pick at scabs or peel off flacking skin! The skin will fall off on its own as you wash it daily for the first month. and don’t worry, it is natural for the skin coming off to have pigment in it as the skin heals, peels off, then becomes crisper. The ointment will need to be applied two times a day for two to three days after the initial session. After that you can switch to a traditional non-fragrant moisturizer, two times a day for the remainder of two weeks. Sometimes longer for slow healers, best tip is to always listen to your body.
Here’s a couple do’s and don’ts as you go through the first month of tattoo ownership. During the first three weeks of healing your new tattoo, do not completely submerge the skin in water. This means lakes, oceans, baths, swimming pools, or any local puddle swimming with bacteria. Keep it clean; and bacteria out! It’s always best to refrain from working out and causing the skin to sweat as well. The sun is horrible for a new tattoo and should just be kept away all together as it’s healing. Wait until the tattoo is fully healed before exposing it to sun or tanning beds. After the tattoo is entirely healed, Sun block is a MUST, and that’s for the lifetime of the tattoo.
I know it seems like a lot to do, but, as with all things, it will become automatic over time. Just remember to listen to your body, always stay hydrated and hydrate your skin. And just know, at the end of it all you get to become a living canvas for a beautiful work of art, and that’s priceless.
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” -Jalaluddin Rumi-