13 Things to Avoid After Getting a Tattoo
You’ve got the ink, left the artist and tattoo shop behind.
Now you have to care for the body art investment that has come to life on your skin.
The following behaviors are common causes for the ruination of a new tattoo during the first month after completion.
Avoiding these 13 common mistakes will help keep your tattoo looking it’s best during the healing and aftercare process, and long into the future.
1. Doing Nothing After Getting a Tattoo
It’s amazing how common it is that people don’t practice tattoo aftercare once the antiseptic bandage applied by the tattoo artist is removed and the excess ink is wiped away.
Sure, there are numerous tattoo enthusiasts that apply the dry healing method of tattoo aftercare, but that is still actively treating your tattoo as you need to wash your tattoo with soap three times a day to cleanse the wound, and take other steps to ensure it heals properly.
Some people just don’t seem to think that the pain and expense involved in getting a flash new tattoo is worth continuing with once the bandage comes off, ignoring after care treatment or risk factors linked to tattoo infection, discoloration, and color drop out.
Not caring for your tattoo isn’t tough or old school, it’s stupid. Look after your ink investment.
2. Exposure to Direct Sunlight
Direct exposure to sunlight while your new tattoo knits and heals can be detrimental to both your skin and the tattoo ink.
Understandably, your chosen education, job, or the climate you live in may make it difficult to cover up your body art or keep it out of the sun. Should you absolutely need to, apply a small amount of tattoo specific 30+ SPF sunblock every time you go outside uncovered and carry the sunblock with you so that it can be re-applied.
Make sure if you’re getting inked during a vacation that you don’t roll into the tattoo shop sunburnt – you could be turned away by the artist – and if possible, wait until you’re just about to journey home to get your prized new piece of art.
This approach will help you get the most out of your time away without having to spend time worry about a tattoo out in the sun.
3. Touching, Picking, Scratching, and Rubbing
Source: Helder Mira via Flickr License: CC BY 2.0
By the time you reach the end of your first week after getting a fresh tattoo is when you’ll see the most tattoo scabbing and peeling.
It’s imperative that during this part of the process, when your tattoo is looking and feeling it’s absolute worst, that you let the tattooed area heal without picking, poking, prodding or scratching at your skin.
If you mess up during this phase of the process, you could pull out the ink and leave scars, tattoo discoloration, or also prompt infection.
Use a soft towel, or clean paper towel, when you’re cleaning it or patting it dry after contact with water. Be gentle to your healing ink always to get the best result.
This recommendation is dependent on the placement of your new tattoo. If your fresh body art is in an area where you would normally shave, like under your arm, legs, scalp, face or neck, hold off until it’s fully healed.
Scraping over a fresh wound with a razor – even a very sharp one – is not a smart idea. In addition to scraping off healing scabs before they’re ready to come off you could create a range of other irritants while the wound knits and heals.
You should be okay to start shaving again about a month into the healing process, once the scabs have fallen off without assistance and the linework has also finished shedding.
5. Neosporin and Medicated Ointment
Using some medicated products, like Neosporin and Bacitracin could cause the body to reject it or heal too quickly, creating an allergic reaction that could involve a significant rash or series of tiny red dots.
Neosporin is mostly used in medical situations and is designed to act as a very thick barrier between the skin and the atmosphere to prevent the introduction or reintroduction of bacteria. It works by holding the moisture content within the wound while keeping oxygen at bay.
Some medicated ointment’s properties have an adverse effect on tattoos. The patch of skin that has been ‘traumatized’ by several needles pricking it over and over needs oxygen with a thin layer of moisturization in order to heal the best way possible.
Neosporin is also petroleum based, so it’s a lot harder to remove from the skin. The extra scrubbing could lead to further irritation or remove skin not ready to flake or scab. It can even affect the tattoo by fading the ink through excessive washing that drops color from the tattooed area.
6. Excess Exposure to Water
You can get your tattoo wet during the tattoo aftercare process, but make sure you don’t soak in water of any type for at least three weeks or until the tattoo heals in full.
Water entering the tattoo wound can interfere with the healing process itself or cause infection to the tattooed area. This would increase the time the tattoo needs for healing – or necessitate the ink being fixed or treated – and can punish the ink and tissue underneath.
Swimming pools contain chemicals, and a lot of people use them. The substances carried by chlorinated water and the people who swim in them are not suitable for the wound and can lead to significant consequences.
The risk of infection is also prevalent in natural water bodies – both salt and fresh – due to bacteria and other contaminants in the water. A person should refrain from entering them after having a fresh tattoo done for the same period as they would a chlorine-based swimming pool.
7. Avoid tight fitting clothes that don’t breathe well
It’s important to let your tattoo breathe.
Tight clothing can stick to your skin or negatively impact airflow which can promote sweating, chafing and rubbing.
Try to make sure you avoid active wear, which applies technology to move moisture away from your skin and keep you dry during exercise and leisure activities.
If you live in a warm or hot climate, wear loose fitting clothing that doesn’t constrict movement of air and your limbs.
If you live in a cold climate and you need to stay warm, try to choose a fabric such as cotton to put next to your skin as it breathes better and allows for better moisture flow.
8. Over-Treating the Tattoo
In the wet healing method of tattoos aftercare moisturization is crucial for it to heal but applying too much aftercare product or soap is equally as damaging to how tattoo heals as doing nothing.
Over moisturization is often the hidden cause of infection as people try to do too much to either speed up the healing rate or by thinking the ugly part of the healing process can be stopped by lotion, salve, or ointment.
Take care, apply lotion in a thin layer at regular intervals but allow it plenty of time to work before putting on another layer.
9. Pick One: Wrap Healing, Wet Healing, or Dry Healing
You must not combine each method of the aftercare of tattoos.
Wrap healing is done by keeping your tattoo wrapped in plastic during the entirety of the healing process (you only uncover to cleanse the wound).
The idea is that the plastic helps facilitate healing as it locks in the natural moisture of your skin rather than dissipating as it would during the dry healing or wet healing process of the tattoo.
Dry healing is after care of tattoos that refrains from the use of product, lotion, balm or moisturizer in caring for freshly inked skin.
Wet healing is the current standard practice involving after tattoo care use of salves, lotions, or moisturizing products in the aftercare process.
Choose one of the healing methods and take care to stick to it. If there are issues with your chosen method, see your tattoo artist or a healthcare professional and gather information to try and help fix the problem.
10. Excess Sweating
Some degree of sweating is to be expected. However, sweating too much is not good for the first weeks after getting inked. Avoid participating in heavy sweating activities or gym sessions until at least the second round of layered tattoo peeling is complete.
Gyms, sauna, and activities such as hot yoga can expose your tattoo to bacteria, while running and wearing tight active wear clothing can stretch and chafe your tattoo.
11. Avoid Excess Drugs, Cigarettes and Alcohol
Avoiding drugs, cigarettes and alcohol all together after getting new ink – particularly large pieces – is highly recommended in order to maximize your opportunity to stay healthy and hydrated and keep your skin in the best condition.
This approach may be impractical for some people, so try to stick with moderation wherever possible, wash your hands thoroughly and avoid partying too long and too hard. It’s also a good idea to avoid foods high in saturated fats and oils.
12. No Fondling
Don’t touch your tattoo, and don’t let anyone else touch it either. Every time that you need to handle your freshly inked skin make sure your hands have been washed thoroughly with a mild antimicrobial soap (preferably a natural, paraben free unscented soap product) before commencing your chosen aftercare ritual.
On completion of your fresh tattoo it gets wrapped in a bandage suitable for protecting fresh wounds. Depending on the type of bandage, the type of aftercare approach you’ll be taking through the healing process, and the instructions from your tattoo artist this bandage will be removed anywhere from 3 – 24 hours after the ink is finished and you’re out of the chair.
Once it’s taken off, avoid re-applying a new bandage. It will be counterproductive to wrap the tattoo again, it needs to be able to breathe and for moisturization to occur at a different rate.
A Final Recommendation
Following the advice outlined above will maximize the opportunities for your tattoo to heal its best, but mitigating risk is not eliminating it all together. You may do everything correctly during the stages of healing and still encounter problems with your healing tattoo.
Should you encounter problems at any stage of the tattoo healing process your first port of call should be to your tattoo artist or the tattoo shop you got inked. They will be able to allay any fears you might have while the tattoo heals, recommend an alternative treatment method, or send you to the doctor for medical intervention if there is a need.
Your tattooist is also likely to be personally invested in seeing their good work heal into a badass piece of finished tattoo art.
Did you enjoy this article on things to avoid? Click on the links below for more information relating to caring for your new tattoo.