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Tattoo Aftercare

Before I begin this entry, let me emphasize that it is ALWAYS BEST to follow the aftercare instructions of your tattoo artist. Each artist has their own style and knows the background and unique characteristics of each tattoo piece. There may be special circumstances when it comes to your skin, their ink, their machine, the area the tattoo was placed on, and the list goes on & on... so please note that their advice & method should always be taken seriously and adhered to. I am merely writing about my own aftercare regimen because it has been requested of me so frequently and I wanted to get it written out to answer the questions of the fantastic readers who have asked me about it.
It took many years to find the method that works perfectly for my skin and my body. I know that everyone is different and this might not work at all for you. Finding the right process that works for you is like studying for a masters in communication or preparing to hike Mount Kilimanjaro. You have to follow the advice of professionals and use the proper tools. The method that I use might be totally different than your artist recommends, and I am in NO way implying that my method is the best regimen... it is simply the way that works best for me and that I am happiest with, so always take the time to carefully go over your artist's recommendations before you leave the shop and head home with your new tattoo. 
So with that said, here goes the Jinxi Aftercare Routine:

  • After the artist wraps up the tattooed area in plastic wrap*, I leave this alone and in place for around 3 hours. Exposed skin like this is a breeding ground for bacteria and infection and it is wrapped up for a reason, so even though it's sticky and uncomfortable, I have learned to let it be for those hours.

*(I know that some artists use bandage wraps and not plastic wrap, I have just always been wrapped in plastic, so that's the history I know to write about for this step of the process)

  • After carefully removing the wrap, I wash the area with warm water and an antibacterial liquid soap. This step washes away any ointment, blood/plasma from the area. I usually squeeze the soap onto damp paper towels so it gets sudsy and I can gently wash the tattoo, making sure that the drippy layer of ink that settles on the top is washed off and the skin surface is clean. I then get a new paper towel wet and lightly rinse the soapy layer off.
  • Next, I pat it dry (never rub) and allow it to air dry for 10 minutes or so.
  • Then I apply a thin layer of Aquaphor to the entire tattooed area.
  •  For the first 3-4 nights after I get tattooed, I sleep atop separate clean sheets & wash/dry them each day so that the ink doesn't get my regular sheets dirty and it keeps the area germ-free.

Since I run my business from home, I am very lucky that I can wear loose clothing that will not touch or rub against my new tattoos, and also that I get to really baby them through the aftercare process; so I know that the next steps are not possible for everyone, but here's what I do:

  • For three days following the tattoo session, I repeat the wash/dry/Aquaphor application 4-5 times a day. If I can feel it getting gritty or any sort of build-up throughout the day, I wash it and get that layer of gunk off.  I try to keep that thin layer of Aquaphor as fresh as possible. I never scrub the area, just gently wash it and keep it as clean as I can.
  • Around day 4-5 after getting tattooed, my ink is usually in that stage where is it tightening up and preparing to loosen and flake. When it reaches this point, I switch from Aquaphor to Lubriderm lotion (other non-fragrant, non-greasy lotions will work well too). I try to apply the Lubriderm often, as the skin almost soaks it up while it goes through this stage.  Not TOO moisturized, but never too dry either.
  • Soon, the tattoo will start flaking off/peeling and I continue the lotion application until it's all off and continues through the healing transitional stages. 

A few extra healing tips:

  • Though I know it can be tempting, NEVER EVER pick at or peel your tattoos. You would be surprised how many people pick at thier artwork as it is transitioning through the healing process. If it's not falling off on its own it is NOT ready to come off yet. Time will take care of this and "helping it along" will only result in a poor heal and possibly, the need to have that area re-tattooed.
  • Avoid hot tubs/Jacuzzis, the ocean, chlorinated pools and the sun while healing your tattoos.
  • If you are traveling or are getting tattooed at a convention where you will not be sleeping in your own bed, bring along your own set of sheets. I have known people who have got infections from the hotel bedding and you definitely don't need this added headache.
  • Take aftercare seriously. You are investing areas of your body, time, and money into a lifelong piece of artwork. Remember that the healing process is just as important as the time you actually spend in the tattoo chair; so take the time and effort to follow through so that your tattoos have the best chance of staying beautiful for a long time to come.


Last updated on April 4, 2013 by Jinxi Boo