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Now that you’ve got an awesome, brand new tattoo, WHAT COMES NEXT? You might be surprised to know that aftercare is the most important part of getting a tattoo. Although a tattoo is just a cosmetic procedure, its effects go much deeper than your skin. For this reason, aftercare is essential not only for keeping your tattoo looking fabulous, but also for your overall health. Committing to your artists instructions will ensure that your tattoo looks fantastic for years to come. Follow this complete aftercare guide for a stunning, healthy tattoo.
The First 2-3 Days of Caring for Your Fresh Tattoo
Approximately 2-3 hours after your tattoo-session, you must remove the bandage (unless your tattoo artist has recommended otherwise. *Second skin bandages can stay on for as long as 24-48 hours).
Wash your hands thoroughly before touching your tattoo. For the first two-three days you should treat it like its an open wound that is susceptible to all sorts of germs and bacteria, be sure to always practice good hygiene.
Do not scrub. Use your hands only when washing your tattoo. Towels, washcloths, and loofahs are too harsh and will exfoliate your raw skin.
Wash, Dry, & Apply 3-4 Times A Day (or as needed)
WASH - Using clean hands, gently but firmly wash your new tattoo in lukewarm water using a mild soap or a suitable product like Sorry Mom Tattoo Cleanser (AVOID HOT WATER as it can potentially damage the tattooed area). Be GENTLE BUT THUROUGH. Be sure to gently wash off surplus ink, fluid and plasma. Removing the plasma at this stage will significantly reduce scabbing later on.
DRY - Pat your tattoo completely dry with a clean paper towel. Don’t dry your tattoo with a used or shared cloth towel. It’s preferred practice to dry your tattoo with a paper towel but if you must opt for a regular towel, please dedicate a clean towel to use exclusively for your tattoo. If your skin is extra sensitive and hurts to pat dry after washing, you can use a hair dryer on a cool setting to dry your tattoo instead. Make sure your tattoo is completely dry before you apply lotion or ointment. If not, it could trap moisture between your skin and the ointment causing scabs to swell or become gooey.
APPLY - Spread a THIN LAYER OF FRAGRANCE-FREE LOTION onto the tattooed area. We recommend lotions like Lubriderm or Curel, or a specialized product like Sorry Mom Tattoo Balm. We caution against the use of petroleum based ointments (like Aquaphor), despite their popularity in the past as suitable tattoo aftercare. It is extremely important not to use too much lotion or balm, as the tattoo must be able to breathe. You have applied just enough, if you are unable to see the lotion or balm after it has been applied. Some people heal faster, and their skin dries rapidly. In that case, you can apply the lotion or balm more often.
*We recommend using Sorry Mom Tattoo Balm because it has regenerative, protective, and anti-bacterial properties and it is formulated to soothe itchy, freshly tattooed skin.
The Next 10 Days
Repeat the same wash-dry-apply routine as the days before, about 3-4 times a day.
Your tattoo should be kept moisturized (but not suffocated) to minimize scabbing. If you get a scab, DON’T PICK AT IT. If the scab is not allowed to fall off naturally then there is a risk that the ink may fall out.
In most cases, peeling and/or scabbing will occur. This is a natural process. DON’T PICK AT IT. It is normal to experience itching during this period, but please be careful NOT TO PICK AT IT or peel skin off of the tattoo as this may damage the ink and color vibrancy.
It is important that your tattoo is not exposed to SUN, CHLORINE or WILDWATER until your tattoo is completely healed (preferably longer).
What To Expect
HOW FAST YOUR TATTOO HEALS depends on your age, health, hygiene, and where on your body you get it. It may take anywhere from 2-6 weeks before your tattoo heals and even then, the skin may remain sensitive for months after the tattoo procedure. Everyone’s healing process looks a little different. Some places like your ribcage, where there isn’t a lot of fat or muscle, might take longer to heal than say, a bicep. Either way, everyone goes through similar healing processes.
YOUR TATTOO MIGHT BE SWOLLEN. When you first remove the bandage that your tattoo artist put on, you should expect your new tattoo to look swollen, red, bloody, and sometimes bruised. Sometimes the area around the tattoo site can be quite swollen as well. These are normal, temporary, bodily reactions to trauma, so don’t worry! Tattoo machines pierce the skin up to 3,000 times per minute, so a little bit of blood and swelling should be expected. Most of the swelling should subside within 24-48 hours.
EXPECT THE AREA TO GET A BIT MESSY. Your new tattoo will ooze all sorts of fluids for the first few days including blood, clear plasma, lymphatic fluid, and ink. These are signs that your body recognizes the trauma, and is sending cells to repair it. The oozing should subside within a few days. TIP- to avoid staining your bedding, use clean old sheets that you don’t care much about in case your tattoo seeps/leaks while you are sleeping.
EXPECT SCABBING, ITCHING, & FLAKING. Scabs are a protective layer that covers a wound on your skin, aka, the tattoo. It keeps out debris, bacteria, and germs. If scabs are forming, that is a sign that your tattoo is healing properly and your body is doing what it can to repair itself. The downside to this protective layer is that it may itch a bit (a LOT actually), but this should only last a few days. DON’T PICK AT IT. As the scabs naturally fall off, they will reveal new, healthy skin underneath. Your tattoo might not look to great for the first few days, but you’ll have to trust the process. After the scabs and dead skin have flaked off, your tattoo is now fully healed. You shouldn’t expect any more swelling, bleeding, or ink leaching. TIP- Gently apply a cold compress to immediately take away the itchiness without having to scratch. This should only be done AFTER your skins top layer has completely healed.
YOU MIGHT FEEL UNDER THE WEATHER. Your body may feel under-the-weather for a couple days, especially if you got a bigger tattoo. You might even feel like you’ve got a cold, which is surprisingly normal. The stress that you’ve put your body through can affect your immune system, and increase your chances of getting sick, but in a few days, you should be feeling as good as new! Be sure to get plenty of rest and hydrate. KEEP IN MIND that the more often you get tattooed, the easier the process will become.
DON’T FRET IF YOUR TATTOO DOESN’T LOOK VERY CRISP AND BRIGHT YET. The deeper layers of your skin still need to repair themselves, which is why aftercare is still important even after your tattoo is healed.
STAY HYDRATED. Drink lots of water. Your tattoo only looks as good as your skin. The more you hydrate, the better, and more vivid your tattoo will look.
DO NOT LISTEN TO THE ADVICE OF FRIENDS OR FAMILY. A lot of people might say they know ways to hasten your tattoo’s healing process. Always stick to your artist’s instructions, they know how to best to heal their work.
How To Identify An Infection
Differentiating normal tattoo healing vs. what you should seek medial attention for can be tricky. Lucky for us, infections from tattoos are very rare these days, with only 0.5-6% of tattooed adults experiencing one. However, they are still a real possibility. If you experience the following, seek medical attention and contact your tattoo artist immediately.
THE FOLLOWING IS NOT NORMAL
Intense Pain - some pain is expected
Worsening Swelling – swelling should subside after a few days
Excessive Bleeding or Pus Draining – weeping of fluids is normal for the first few days. Pus is not.
Firm Bumps (granulomas)
Photosensitivity (sunlight is painful) after the initial healing period.
Fever, Chills, Sweats
Subsequent & Continued Care
Just as you look after your body and your skin, you also need to take good care of your tattoo. Among other things, it also involves the use of SUNSCREEN. The rays of the sun are harmful to the skin and they make the colors of your tattoo fade over time. We recommend SPF 30 to protect your tattoo (and the rest of your body) from the sun.
Moisturize your tattoo regularly with lotion. If you have very dry skin, your tattoo will look less sharp, pale, and ashen. We recommend using Sorry Mom Tattoo Lotion to revitalize your tattoos when you need it (especially if you are preparing for a tattoo competition). This lotion is rich in vitamin E and keeps colors and lines looking sharper for longer.
Consult your piercer if you have any of the following symptoms:
CLEANING INSTRUCTIONS FOR ORAL PIERCINGS
Swelling of the area is normal during the first part of healing. It can be reduced by allowing small pieces of ice to dissolve in your mouth. The majority of the swelling lasts for only 3-5 days.
A new soft bristled toothbrush should be purchased to help reduce the number of bacteria that is introduced into your mouth.
Rinse mouth for 30-45 seconds with an alcohol-free antibacterial mouth rinse after meals during the entire initial healing time (2-4 weeks) Do not use more than three to four times daily and space the intervals throughout the entire day. You can also rinse your mouth briefly with *mild sea salt mixture* for 10-15 seconds instead but do not use the sea salt rinse method more than two times a day.
If you are cleaning too often you can kill off the friendly bacteria in your mouth and the top of your tongue will start to turn a white to yellow color. If this happens continue to clean your piercing but reduce the number of times per day you are cleaning it.
Plaque may form on oral jewelry commonly on the bottom ball or post. Scrub the barbell with a soft bristle toothbrush to remove. Make sure you do this gently during the healing period.
CLEANING INSTRUCTIONS FOR BODY PIERCINGS
WASH your hands thoroughly prior to cleaning or touching your piercing for any reason.
SALINE soak for five to ten minutes once or more per day. Invert a cup of warm saline solution over the area to form a vacuum. For certain piercings it may be easier to apply using clean gauze or paper towels saturated with saline solution. A brief rinse afterward will remove any residue.
SOAP no more than once or twice a day. While showering, lather up a pearl size drop of the soap to clean the jewelry and the piercing. Leave the cleanser on the piercing no more than thirty seconds.
RINSE thoroughly to remove all traces of the soap from the piercing. It is not necessary to rotate the jewelry through the piercing.
DRY by gently patting with clean, disposable paper products. Cloth towels can harbor bacteria and snag on jewelry causing injury.
Depending on the type of body piercing you have, healing times can vary widely. Consult your piercer about how long it will take your piercing to heal.
Use one or both of the following solutions for healing piercings:
WHAT TO AVOID
Avoid cleaning with Betadine, Hibiclens, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, Dial, or other harsh soaps as these can damage cells and inhibit new cell growth.
Avoid Bactine, pierced ear solutions, and other products containing Benzalkonium Chloride (BZK). These can be irritating and are not intended for long term wound care.
Avoid ointments as they prevent necessary air circulation. Having your piercing exposed to air is important for proper healing. Ointments are also very difficult to clean out of the piercing.
Avoid all oral contact, and contact with others’ bodily fluids on or near your piercing during healing.
Avoid undue trauma such as friction from clothing, excessive motion of the area, playing with the jewelry, and vigorous cleaning. These activities can cause the formation of unsightly and uncomfortable scar tissue, migration, prolonged healing, and other complications.
Avoid over-cleaning. This can delay your healing and irritate your piercing.
Avoid submerging the piercing in unhygienic bodies of water such as lakes, pools, hot tubs, etc. If you must then, protect your piercing using a waterproof wound-sealant bandage (such as 3M, Nexcare, Clean Seals). These are available at most drugstores.
Avoid all beauty and personal care products on or around the piercing including cosmetics, lotions, and sprays, etc.
Don’t hang charms or any object from your jewelry until the piercing is fully healed.
WHAT IS NORMAL
Initially some bleeding, bruising, swelling and discoloration are not uncommon. Any break in the skin including a new piercing can bleed or bruise. These are not indications of complications. For above the neck piercings try sleeping with your head elevated above your heart to limit overnight swelling.
Tenderness or discomfort at the area of your new piercing is common. You may feel stinging, aching, burning or other unpleasant sensations on and off for several days or longer. During healing there may also be some itching. The tissue may tighten around the jewelry as it heals.
Secretion of a fluid which contains blood plasma, lymph and dead cells is normal. It is whitish-yellow in color and forms a crust on the jewelry at the piercing site. This is not pus and indicates a healing piercing.
Piercings may have a tendency to have a series of ups and downs during healing by seeming healed and then regressing. This is because tissue heals from the outside in, and although it feels fine, the interior remains fragile. BE PATIENT and keep cleaning the piercing throughout the entire healing time.
Listen to your body when exercising or engaging in activities that affect the piercing area. If it hurts don’t do it. Clothing, cleaning solutions, and trauma to the piercing can cause irritation. If you experience irritation you probably need to change the way you are treating the piercing. Most infections are due to poor aftercare.
Tightness is normal. Even once healed the jewelry may not move freely in the piercing. DO NOT FORCE IT.
Once healed, if you fail to include cleaning your piercing as part of your daily hygiene routine, normal but smelly bodily secretions may accumulate discharging a substance called sebum. This is not pus and indicates a healed piercing.
Unless there is a problem with the size, style, or material of the initial jewelry, leave it in place for the entire healing period. See a qualified piercer to perform any jewelry change that becomes necessary during healing.
Contact your piercer if your jewelry must be removed (such as for medical procedure). There are non-metallic jewelry alternatives available.
Leave jewelry in at all times. Even old or well-healed piercings can shrink or close in minutes – even after having been there for years. If removed, re-insertion can be difficult or impossible.
With clean hands or paper product, be sure to regularly check threaded ends on your jewelry for tightness. (“Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.”)
Carry a clean spare ball in case of loss or breakage.
Should you decide you no longer want the piercing, simply remove the jewelry or have a professional piercer remove it, and continue cleaning the piercing until the hole closes. In most cases only a small mark will remain.
EAR/EAR CARTILAGE & FACIAL: Use the t-shirt trick: Dress your pillow in a large, clean t-shirt and turn it nightly; one clean t-shirt provides four clean surfaces for sleeping. Maintain cleanliness of telephones, headphones, eyeglasses, helmets, hats, and anything that contacts your pierced area. Use caution when styling your hair and advise your stylist of a new or healing piercing.
NAVEL: To protect the area from restrictive clothing, excess irritation, and impact during physical activities such as contact sports, a hard, vented eye patch (sold at pharmacies) can be applied under tight clothing (such as nylon stockings) or secured using a length of Ace bandage around the body (to avoid irritation from adhesive).
If you take the time to heal your new piercing properly you will thank yourself. If you have any questions throughout the process you should not hesitate to contact your professional piercer.