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Everything You Need to Know About Tattoo Aftercare

What You Need to Know

Using a dressing over it for a few days, washing the area a couple of times daily, moisturizing several times, and avoiding sun exposure are some ways to care for your tattoo. Proper aftercare can reduce scarring and infections.

Tattoo

Tattoo aftercare during the first 30 days and beyond

How quickly you heal depends on the size of your tattoo and how intricate it is. Bigger tattoos will stay red and swollen longer because they cause more trauma to your skin.

Day 1

You’ll come home from the tattoo studio with a dressing over your tattoo. Your artist should tell you how long to wait before removing the dressing.

Plastic wrap and gauze can usually be removed within a few hours. Medical-grade adhesive, known as “second skin,” is designed to last several days.​

You’ll probably notice fluid oozing from the tattoo. This is blood, plasma, and some extra ink. Your skin will also be red and sore. It might feel slightly warm to the touch.

When it’s time to remove the dressing, wash your hands thoroughly before gently peeling back the wrap.

Use warm water and fragrance-free soap to cleanse the area. Rinse well before lightly patting the skin dry. Wait a few minutes before applying whatever ointment or lotion your artist recommends.

Days 2–3

By now, your tattoo will have a duller, cloudier appearance. This happens as your skin heals. Scabs may start to form.

If you’ve already removed your dressing, continue to wash your tattoo once or twice a day with green aftercare soap. You might notice some ink running into the sink. This is just excess ink that’s come up through your skin.

Allow the skin to dry before applying aftercare ointment or lotion.

Days 4-6

“Second skin” is typically removed during this time. We recommend running the area under water while you peel back the adhesive layer. Make sure your hands are clean before getting started.

You might find it helpful to pull to the side lightly, allowing the adhesive to stretch until it lifts from the skin slowly.

Cleanse the area and allow the skin to dry before applying whatever ointment or lotion your artist recommends.

Any redness should start to fade. You might notice some light scabbing over the tattoo.

The scabs shouldn’t be as thick as the scabs you get when you cut yourself, but they may be raised. Don’t pick at the scabs — this can cause scarring.

Keep washing your tattoo once or twice a day, and apply ointment or lotion as needed.

Days 6–14

By now, any scabs have hardened and will begin to flake off.

Don’t pick at them or try to pull them off. Let them come off naturally. Otherwise, you could pull out the ink and leave scars.

At this point, your skin may feel very itchy. Gently rub on a fragrance-free and alcohol-free moisturizer several times daily to relieve the itch.

If your tattoo is still red and swollen at this point, you might have an infection. Go back to your tattoo artist or consult with a healthcare professional.

Days 15–30

In this last stage of healing, most of the big flakes will be gone, and the scabs should be going away. You might still see some dead skin, but it should eventually clear up, too.

The tattooed area might still look dry and dull. Keep moisturizing until the skin looks hydrated again.

By the second or third week, the outer layers of skin should’ve healed. It may take 3–4 months for the lower layers to heal completely.

By the end of your third month, the tattoo should look as bright and vivid as the artist intended.

Tips for long-term tattoo aftercare

Once your tattoo has healed, you move into maintenance mode.

 

Although you don’t have to worry about infection after the first 3–4 months, there are things you can do to prevent the ink from degrading.

Use soap

Always use a mild, fragrance-free soap or a specially formulated tattoo cleanser to clean the area.

Use ointment

We recommend using a coconut butter based ointment.

Use lotion

You can typically switch to lotion after the first week.

Just ensure it’s free of fragrances, ethyl alcohol, and other additives, such as colored dye, that could dry out your skin.

Do not use 100% petroleum

It’s best to avoid products that are 100% petroleum, like original Vaseline or Bepanthen Tattoo aftercare ointment during the initial healing process.

The more petroleum the product has, the thicker the product is on your skin. This can trap moisture and prevent much-needed air flow to your new tattoo.

Petroleum-based products that do not contain ingredients that help the wound breathe can also cause the ink to fade.

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