Taking care of your new tattoo is a very important part of making sure your tattoos look great for life. Once you have chosen a really great artist to do your work, and gotten your tattoo, aftercare is up to you. Taking good care of your skin before getting tattooed, and proper care of your tattoo during it's healing process once it's healed will make your tattoo brighter, smoother, last longer without fading
Everyone's skin is different, so the proper care of it before a tattoo, and after the healing process is over, will be different. Every tattoo artist has different experiences with aftercare, and so will give you different aftercare instructions, but this (or a variation of it) is the most common aftercare given in tattoo shops today.
During the healing process of your tattoo, aftercare is extremely important. Improper care can cause fading, loss of color, and infection. Remember, your tattoo is an open wound and should be treated as such. Immediately after you get tattooed, your artist will probably cover your tattoo with some sort of clear wrap or a bandage. This is to prevent your tattoo from leaking blood, plasma, and ink on people and things as you go about your day. Always remove your bandage within two hours unless otherwise directed by your artist.
Initially, some 'weeping' (leaking of plasma, blood, or some pigment) is normal. Tattoos may also be swollen, sore, warm, or reddish. Most redness will fade over the course of a few hours. Swelling in joints, on feet or hands, or lower legs, may cause some pain (like a bruise) or inhibit movement. To prevent or treat swelling, take ibuprofen or aleve. All weeping, swelling, and redness, should fade or stop within two to four days.
Always wash your hands before you touch your tattoo for any reason. You should only be touching
After your tattoo is washed, and any time during the day that it feels dry or tight, carefully apply a thin layer of an unscented, undyed, lotion with no petroleum base. Lotions such as H2Ocean, Curel, Lubriderm, Aveeno, and Aquaphor are most commonly recommended. Spread a thin layer onto your tattoo, dabbing any excess off with a clean tissue or paper towel. Lotion may be applied anywhere from 2 to 6 times a day on average. Not putting enough lotion on will cause your tattoo to dry out and scab, resulting in patchy color loss. Too much lotion will cause your tattoo to 'bubble up', and eventually scab, which will also cause uneven color and loss of pigment.
During your healing process DO NOT:
*Do Not Soak your tattoo. Stay out of bathtubs, hot tubs, swimming pools, or any other kind of standing water. Bacteria can increase your chances of infection, chemicals can prematurely fade your tattoo and irritate the skin, and extended soaks of any kind can cause other complications with your tattoo. When you shower, try to keep your tattoo out from under direct spray, and make sure you rinse any soaps or shampoos off of it before you get out and gently pat it dry.
*Do Not Use loofah sponges, exfoliatiors, wash cloths, or anything else abrasive to clean your tattoo. They can scrape away healing cells, scabs, and pigment.
*Do Not Use petroleum based ointments such as vaseline, bacitracin, or neosporin on your tattoo. The petroleum base can trap excess moisture near the skin, along with many bacterias, causing your tattoo to be overly wet (a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, and a great way to lose color), and prevent oxygen from reaching tattoo (less air = slower healing)
*Do Not Expose your tattoo to sunlight. If you tan, stop it. If you must, cover your tattoo with a towel. After your tattoo is healed, use block to avoid fading of pigment. Sunlight (even artificial) is your tattoo's worst enemy.
*Do Not Let people touch your tattoo. Do not let animals touch your tattoo. Do not let people spit, bleed, or drool, on your new tattoo. As a matter of fact, if you can keep anything from touching your tattoo for any reason, except for your hands to apply lotion or clean it, all the better.
*Do Not Pick, scratch, or peel at your tattoo! Scabs or flakes of skin may appear. Pulling them prematurely can cause color loss! If you notice dry, flaky, skin, put on a thin layer of lotion. If your tattoo itches, slap or poke at it lightly, with CLEAN hands.
If your tattoo develops extended redness (more than three or four days) and green or yellow pus (clear protein is normal and may last up to two or three days), you *may* have an infection. If you think you may have an infection or other problem, please see your artist immediately so they may see it. Only a physician can diagnose or treat an infection.
On un-tattooed skin, or over a healed tattoo (several weeks old), it is important to keep your skin clean, exfoliated, and moisturized. Wash with soap, exfoliate two to four times a week, and always moisturize after getting out of the bath or shower. Lotions with aloe will soothe easily irritated skin, lotions with vitamin e can help break up scar tissue and increase skin elasticity, and things like cocoa butter will make your skin softer. Using SPF30 or higher sunscreen every time you go out will keep your skin healthy and prevent the sun from fading your tattoo over time.