People with tattoos, tattoo studios, and tattoo artists have different approaches and methods that are used for caring for new tattoos. Some tattooists recommend keeping the tattooed area covered for the first 24 hours to decrease the chance of infection. Others suggest that the new tattoo should only be covered for up to two hours and then allowed to “breathe.” Almost all tattoo artists counsel against soaking the tattooed area in a bathtub, sitting in a hot tub, or swimming in a pool. This restriction usually lasts for two weeks.
These precautionary procedures all attempt to prevent the tattoo ink from fading out or washing away right after it’s applied. They also help to prevent infection from bacteria. In contrast some tattoo artists recommend soaking the affected area in a very hot tub immediately after receiving the tattoo. A good rule of thumb is to protect the affected area as much as possible and treat it the way you’d treat any part of the skin that has suffered a form of trauma.
However, a few activities should definitely be avoided right after getting a tattoo: do not remove the scab that forms over your tattoo and avoid prolonged sun exposure. These activities can accelerate the fading of your tattoo.
Every tattoo artist will stress the importance of keeping the tattoo area clean. Washing it with a gentle soap and lukewarm water is the best recommendation. Additionally, you can use over-the-counter products that help decrease the pain and scarring. Some common products to try are lanolin, and cocoa butter, which are good for treating cuts, scrapes, and burns. Another product is Aquaphor Healing Ointment which protects dry or irritated skin to help enhance the natural healing process and help restore healthy, smooth skin.
Some of the best products to use are those that are oil-based because they can be used in thin layers and tend to evaporate into over-hydrate perforated skin. It’s best to select light oils or ointments that have been developed specifically for tattoo aftercare. There are many commercial products available for this purpose. You may use these in combination with soap and water or as standalone treatment; ask your tattoo artist what he/she recommends. Remember, the overall goal is to prevent infection.
Your ability to preserve the amount of ink initially injected into your skin while it’s healing will determine how vivid and bright your tattoo will be once the healing process is over. If you over-hydrate the tattooed area you run the risk that the scab may either scrape off or fall off too soon. Over-hydrated newly tattooed skin also runs a higher risk of infection. All of these issues can prevent the tattoo ink from properly affixing itself to the skin and alter the vividness and clarity of the tattoo. So, the best rules of thumb are:
1. Keep the new tattoo clean by keeping it covered from 2-24 hours.
2. Clean the tattoo using a gentle soap (like Ivory or Dove) and water, by using a commercial product specifically designed to treat tattoos, or both.
3. For the next two weeks refrain from soaking the new tattoo in a hot tub, a swimming pool, or a bathtub.
4. Avoid overexposure to the sun.
5. Do not peel off your scab; it should fall off on its own naturally.
Remember, when in doubt, ask your tattoo artist for his/her recommendation.