This is a helpful list of things to do to keep your tattoo looking great after you leave the studio. The healing process is just as important as the tattoo process so please follow the directions and contact us if you have any questions.
How to Take Care of your Tattoo
Your tattoo isn’t done after you leave our shop. The (for some people) hard part is over, but the healing process is just as important as the application. Good hygiene (and a bit of common sense) will ensure that your body art heals properly and looks great for a long time to come. We put together this page of aftercare tips to help walk our clients through the important healing process. If you have any questions, give us a call 503.231.1199 or stop by the shop and we’ll be happy to help.
Five Important Rules to Remember
- DO NOT touch your healing tattoo with dirty hands (always wash your hands first)
- DO NOT wash a healing tattoo with anything abrasive
- DO NOT pick at or scratch your tattoo while it’s healing
- DO NOT soak a fresh tattoo or expose it to direct sunlight
- DO NOT wear tight-fighting or rough clothing over a fresh tattoo
We have two different ways we bandage your fresh tattoo. Here are our care instructions for both.
The first is the traditional way with bandages and cohesive bandages.
- Wait at least two hours to remove the bandage around your new tattoo. Gently wash the area with warm water and a mild, liquid fragrance-free, dye free, allergen-free soap. We recommend simple non-scented soaps, the fewer ingredients the better. Dr. Bronners is a personal favorite of ours. Don’t scrub, but make sure to use some pressure and your sweet little hand to remove any traces of blood and ink. It’s best to let the tattoo air dry, but you can also gently pat the area with a clean dry towel.
- After the area is clean and dry, apply a very thin coat of petroleum-based ointments like Aquaphor OR a white, water-based fragrance-free lotion like Curel or Lubriderm®. A little bit goes a long way, so start with a small amount and add more if needed. This can’t be stressed enough: DO NOT OVERDO THE APPLICATION OF OINTMENT. You want to keep the tattoo from drying out too much, but it also needs to breathe. Gently blotting the area with a clean paper towel after applying ointment will generally produce the desired effect.
- Repeat these steps two or three times a day. The same rule of thumb applies: Start with a little bit and add more if needed but don’t smother your tattoo with lotion. You can slowly taper off the frequency of applications as your tattoo stops peeling and begins to settle.
The other bandage option is Tegaderm.
Tegaderm is a thin breathable, flexible hypoallergenic bandage that’s intended to lock in your plasma and other natural healing fluids while protecting your tattoo from all outside contact. Due to the fact that it’s a bit permeable, it allows your skin to “breathe” and therefore is safe to leave on for up to three days following the tattoo procedure. Once removed, your tattoo has gone through most of the healing process already, and should only have minimal peeling and flaking from there on out.
When you leave the shop with your Tegaderm on, essentially you don’t need to do anything to your tattoo for the next three days. Just make sure you don’t have plasma leaking out or the seal around the edges is unbroken, so you don’t risk contaminating your tattoo. It is completely normal for fluid to build up inside the bandage, this is a mixture of your body’s normal weeping/healing plasma and excess ink. It may look gross but it’s expected.
The only time you should remove your bandage is if that seal is broken and exposes the tattoo, or if the build-up of plasma is unsuitable for work or daily life. If you’d like you can return to your artist of the shop and they can re-apply the Tegaderm for you after a day, once the majority of your plasma has built up in your old bandage.
Tegaderm is water resistant but not waterproof. We don’t recommend you spend prolonged periods of time in the water with a fresh tattoo. Showering is great, but no baths, swimming pools or hot tubs, rivers, lakes or streams for the duration of your healing. Generally, this takes about 2-3 weeks.
After the three days, gently remove your bandage. Grab a bottom edge and pull down and away from your body in the direction the hair grows. We recommend removing it in the shower; the hot water will loosen the adhesive and will help it to peel off more easily.
Once it’s removed immediately wash your tattoo using a liquid, fragrance-free soap. We like soaps with few ingredients and are huge fans of Dr.Bronners. Only use your fingertips when washing your tattoo. Rinse thoroughly with warm water.
Now that it’s all clean, let it air dry for a good 15 minutes before doing anything else. Once fully dry, all you need is lotion! Be sure to get a white, fragrance-free lotion, such as Lubriderm, or Curel. Apply a thin layer all over your tattoo and rub it in very well with clean hands.
Repeat this cleaning/lotion process 3-5 times a day for the next week.
Do not ever pick or scratch your tattoo at any time during healing. You may pat it if it begins to itch. It may or may not still peel a bit after a few days, similar to sunburn, this is perfectly normal. Let it just flake away on its own.
Avoid sun exposure to your new tattoo during the two-week healing process. You will always want to protect your healed tattoo from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, as well; the sun can fade and damage a brilliant tattoo very fast. We recommend always protecting your tattoo with a minimum 30 SPF sunblock.
Wear loose fitting clothing during the healing process so as to avoid irritating, scratching, and damaging your new tattoo.
Finally, the most important rule of all: Enjoy your new body art!