Just as style and price vary from tattoo shop to tattoo shop, so do their aftercare instructions.
Every artist has had different experiences and therefore, a different opinion on what is best for their clients.
However, all can agree that good aftercare is crucial for the outcome of a tattoo.
Each body is unique and reacts differently to the process of healing, creating further discrepancies in after care when combined with the fact that each artist uses different products. In general, however, artists can agree on the steps required: leave bandage on for certain amount of time, gently wash tattoo, pat dry thoroughly, and moisturize.
Though each step of the aftercare is important, the trickiest for tattoo artists to agree on is moisturizer. From when a client should start moisturizing to how many times a day a tattoo should be moisturized, you can get a different answer from every artist you visit.
Frustrating as this is, there is a reason for this. The discrepancy stems from the potential issues that could follow from over or under moisturizing.
If you under moisturize, the skin cracks and breaks, resulting in scabbing and peeling. The skin then becomes itchy, tempting you to scratch it or pull off the peeling skin, which could potentially mess up your tattoo. If you peel the skin and don’t let it slough off naturally, you can pull ink out of your tattoo. Scratching can also achieve this.
Though it is normal for tattoos to scab and the skin to break and peel, there is some more extensive scabbing that can be extremely painful.
All the discomfort and risk can be avoided simply by moisturizing. However, over moisturizing can cause problems as well.
Over moisturizing can lead to clogged pores break outs in the skin that can ruin your tattoo. Over moisturizing can also cause oozing and discomfort. A tattoo is an open wound, and like any open wound drying out and minor scabbing is part of the healing process and should not lead you to over moisturize.
The key to moisturizing is balance. Put on a barely there layer of lotion or ointment after every time you wash your tattoo, and it should heal nicely and more comfortably.
In general, the first time you wash your tattoo will be right after you remove your bandage. Depending on what the artist used to bandage you (cling film or Dermalize), you will either remove the bandage after the first two to six hours, or after a day.
You should then very gently wash your tattoo with lukewarm water. Hot water will open your pores and risk some ink loss in your tattoo. Pat your tattoo dry, ideally with paper towels or an extremely sterile bath towel. Make sure the area is completely dry before applying any lotion.
There are a wide array of different lotions and ointments you can use to moisturize your tattoo. Your artist will likely recommend a specific lotion that they have found to be beneficial for most of their clients. If you don’t feel like shelling out a lot of cash for a fancy tattoo specific lotion, it is important that you at least get a non-scented lotion.
If you are interested in buying lotions specifically meant for healing tattoos, there are many well-reviewed products. Many people have found Hustle Butter Deluxe to have great outcomes in a comfortable healing process. There is also Ora’s Amazing Herbal Tattoo Salve, Tattoo Goo Aftercare Salve, and Tattoo Skin Silk.
If you are interested more in ointments than lotions, A&D Ointment has been comforting people with new tattoos for some time now. However, if you choose to use ointments, you must be careful to not over use it.
Too much can smother the tattoo and draw ink out. However, it does create a seal to protect the tattoo from germs and bacteria that can infect and ruin it. It may be best to use ointment the first few days, and switch to lotion afterwards.
How often to moisturize:
Generally, a tattoo artist will tell you to wash your tattoo two to three times a day. You should moisturize after each washing. Though it may seem odd, timing when you wash and moisturize your tattoo can be very important.
You should generally wash your tattoo in the morning. Sleeping dehydrates your body, so when you wake up the tattooed skin can feel particularly uncomfortable, so moisturizing early can be beneficial.
It is also important to clean and moisturize before you go to sleep at night. This can help counteract morning dryness, and in general it is important that you go to bed with a clean tattoo.
You can also moisturize midday. Your tattoo may dry out from the morning and to keep you comfortable it can help to throw in an extra bout of moisturizing. However, you have to clean your tattoo again before adding any more moisturizer. A second layer of moisturizer can clog pores, trap in dirt, and cause infection.
You should continue this regime for at least two weeks or until your tattoo is fully healed.