13 Ways to Screw Up a New Tattoo

13 Ways to Screw Up a New Tattoo

Congratulations, dude!!

You have a sick new tattoo, and you can’t wait to show your brand new ink off to the world. But slow your roll tiger! And check out these simple but critical things to AVOID doing, especially while your new tattoo is still in the healing process.

We have articles that focus on overall tattoo aftercare, but we wanted to simplify even more with these top 13 things to avoid after getting a new tattoo.

Following this list can help the healing process go smoother. Plus, you don’t want to end up with a tattoo that looks like the inkblot cards they use to try and understand the mindset of serial killers. Unless, of course, that was the goal - no judgement, dude! Rorschach test tattoos are legit!

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Regardless of what style tattoo you get or where you get it. There are a few critical things you must avoid in order to ensure your new tattoo heals correctly.

13 Things to Avoid After Getting a New Tattoo

1. Ignoring the Tattoo Artist Aftercare Instructions

This is super critical, dude. Not listening to your tattoo artist is like asking the chef their favorite dishes on the menu. And then ordering something totally different. If you trust a professional tattoo artist to puncture your skin thousands of times making permanent designs on your body, it’s a good idea to trust their tattoo aftercare tips and guidelines too.

What happens when you ignore the advice of your car mechanic? You'll likely be walking. Listen to the professionals; it’s why we pay them the big bucks

2. Petroleum-Based Products

We don’t love ‘em. Ok, let's be blunt. We don’t even LIKE them for tattoos.

Most petroleum-based products create a protective barrier around the environment applied. This is fine, but this can often restrict oxygen flow to your new tattoo, which is actually a wound, while it's healing. Petroleum products are a very outdated aftercare mindset. A good aftercare balm with natural ingredients specifically selected for tattoo healing (i.e., calming, soothing, hydrating) also lets your new tattoo breathe simultaneously.  

Overuse of petroleum products can potentially trap moisture and bacteria, which can lead to infection and possible scarring. We developed our tattoo aftercare balm to promote your tattoo's healing process without being greasy or smothering your new ink. It’s made from all-natural ingredients and is petroleum-free.

For a deep dive into petroleum-based products and new tattoos, check out this article on Tattoo Aftercare Lotions.

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3. Harsh Or Scented Soaps

We all have scented soaps in our house, and after all, soap is soap; it should be safe to use on your new tattoo, right?


Some scented soaps contain artificial and synthetic ingredients that can irritate your tattoo (or worse), lengthening the healing process. If your tattoo is irritated, it can result in an increased risk of infection. READ the ingredients on any product BEFORE you consider applying it to your tattoos. And always do a small patch test first to ensure you have no reactions before applying fully.

Some natural scented tattoo aftercare products work great with new and existing tattoos and smell amazing. Here are a few natural, scented tattoo aftercare balms we think you will like.

4. Loofah Or Abrasive Wash Pad

Using a loofah or wash pad on a new tattoo is like taking steel wool to the paint job on a car; you just don’t do it.

First off, it will hurt like a sonofabitch, like using sandpaper on a sunburn Second of all, loofahs and accessories like them carry a ton of bacteria. Scraping off any sort of protective layers of skin with a bacteria-filled scrubby will be a disaster.

It’s best to use a mild, all-natural, unscented soap with lukewarm water and gently wash it with clean hands. Don’t let the shower hit fresh tattoos full blast like a pressure washer; you want the flakes to fall off on their own. You also don’t want to use hot water since it’ll hurt like getting burned, and it’ll also open up your pores to ink loss and bacteria.

5. Tight Clothing

If wearing tight-fitting clothes is your style, you'll have to give it up for the next couple of weeks. Instead, wear loose-fitting clothes that are comfortable to cover new tattoos fully.

Tight clothes will constantly rub against your tattoo, potentially damaging any new protective layer your skin has grown. This constant rubbing can cause irritation, inflammation, and possible infection if you wear clothes that rub your skin constantly.

The good news is that you get to wear comfortable clothes and have a great reason for it.

6. Sun Exposure

Avoid sun exposure for the life of your tattoo, which translates to your entire life. It’s even more vital to stay out of the sun during the healing process. Sun on an exposed new tattoo is bad. No other way to put it.

The ink rests in the dermis, your skin's second and thickest layer when you get tattooed. This layer is protected from the burning effects of the sun, but harmful UVA rays can easily get to this layer. Continuous UVA exposure breaks down your ink, and over time your tattoos can start to look like vague shadows and lines.

Once your tattoo has healed, the best way to safely enjoy fun in the sun without ruining your art is to use a good quality sunscreen. Using sunscreen that is specifically designed for tattoos is a great route to take. Our broad spectrum SPF 50 tattoo sunscreen is perfect; it goes on easily and doesn’t leave any residue. It feels luxurious, and since it’s an SPF 50, you have good coverage, dude. Remember always apply at least 15 minutes BEFORE you are actually exposed to the sun and REAPPLY often.

7. Salt Water

If you’re in saltwater, it probably means you are swimming, which is a big no-no in tattoo aftercare. Saltwater can be especially harsh since it dries your skin.

Have you heard the old saying, “Like salt in a wound”? Getting in salt water with a fresh tattoo can hurt and cause irritation and damage the appearance of the tattoo. If you’re in the ocean, all kinds of nasty bacteria and other stuff can get into your tattoo and make it get infected.

If you have a vacation that involves the beach, wait till after your trip to get a new tattoo.

8. Picking Scabs

“Thou shalt not pick at thy tattoo!”. If there is a tattoo god, I’m pretty sure this is the first thing that dude would say.

If you’re picking at your scabs or getting worried about the scab’s condition, check out our breakdown of what normal tattoo scabbing should look like.

Picking at your tattoo can easily lead to infection and scarring. Sometimes it's really difficult to leave it alone because it's human nature to mess with our injuries, like when you have an achy tooth and keep touching it with your tongue.

Resist, and you'll be rewarded with a better healing process. We know that the itch can get pretty intense, but picking at it can have really teriible consequences suchruining the outcome of the tattoo. Tattoo's are too expensive and painful to be neglegent with aftercare.

9. Excess Exercise/Sweating

Avoiding exercise and sweating is essential right after getting new ink. Unless you're a real workout junkie, making it easy for 48 hours shouldn't be too hard.

If you're the type that just has to get it in, then I suggest you get in a serious workout the day before or the morning of your tattoo (just take a shower before coming into the shop, please). After that, you need to chillax for a few days; it's not worth the risk of infection an open wound can get in sweaty gym environments, yoga classes, and most fitness spots where groups of people, well, sweat.

Plus, depending on the placement of your new tattoo, straining, overstretching, or lifting weights can dislodge some of the new ink in your tattoo before it's had the chance to settle.

10. Soaking

Soaking your tattoo in any kind of is bad. Your tattoo is an open wound; exposing it to whatever is floating around in the water can lead to infection. So stay out of pools, lakes, rivers, and the ocean.

Even taking a bath at home can result in infection. Another way to think about it is that all the bacteria on your body come off into the water. You'll be soaking your tattoo in a dude soup made out of you. Gross. Healing tattoos hate soaking in water.

11. Scratching Or Picking

New tattoos can itch BAD. We wrote a guide on how to deal with tattoo itch to help you through the dark times. Trust me when I say it can get intense, but you cannot go to the dark side and scratch it. The itch will betray you.

The best thing to do is to use our aftercare balm. It hydrates and quickens the healing process, so this step in healing goes by fairly quickly.

12. Alcohol And Other Drugs

I’m not here to judge what you do in your free time, I like to sip on Tequila, so I get it. But drugs and alcohol can have a negative impact on your new tattoo.

Alcohol can thin your blood, causing excess bleeding and ink loss to a new tattoo. Alcohol also suppresses your ability to make sound decisions. For example, say you're at a party, and everyone is jumping in a pool. It's hard to say no to a good time like that, and being a few drinks deep might make you say 'F-it' and jump in.

Some drugs can dull your pain which is a bad thing in this case. Pain tells you when something bad is happening to your new tattoo. If you aren’t experiencing any pain, you could be doing untold damage to your fresh ink that you won’t discover till morning in a haze of regret and excess pain.

The side effects of certain drugs can also cause you to become itchy. Dude, you don’t want to be extra itchy when you already have an itchy tattoo. Add on that scratching your tattoo doesn’t hurt very bad due to suppressed pain, and you have a one-way ticket to infection city.

13. Shaving The Area

Shaving an already healed tattoo is 100% okay. At that point, it behaves like normal skin, with the tattoo being safe from the razor's edge.

But make sure your tattoos are 100% healed before you shave over them. Also, be extra cautious before even considering any time of body wax or laser hair removal treatment. Make sure you tell anyone considering performing those services on you about your newer tattoo(s) so they can help you make the safe and smart choice.

Once your tattoo 100% heals, shaving the hair away from tattoos is a great way to make your tattoos pop. It’s hard to see tattoos under a mat of hair, but when you shave those hairy ape arms (talking to guys only here:), you look like you’re sporting fresh ink every day. Level up your tattoo game and really make them stand out using our entire line of tattoo aftercare products.


Thirteen things to avoid after getting a new tattoo sounds like a lot of stuff to remember, but it’s actually pretty simple. And the payoff is BRIGHT!

And remember, AVOID sun on new tattoos altogether, use sunscreen on fully healed tattoos when you do go outside, and keep your tattoos and overall skin healthy and hydrated.

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The Ultimate Tattoo Aftercare Kit

Keep it smart and be careful with your new art, dudes.

- Drew Plotkin (Chief Dude Officer)


  • D on

    Are epson salt baths bad for a 3 day old tattoo??

  • Ironbuzztattoos on

    Thank you for sharing good knowledge and information it’s very helpful and understanding.

  • Nicholle Wagar on

    These are such great tips!! So important when caring for a new tattoo

  • Syd on

    I got a chopped-up tattoo from getting hammered 2 days after getting a new tattoo. Long story short – It was a mix of alcohol and excessive sweating while at a rave in the late 90’s. I totally forgot I had a healing tattoo and went beast mode partying hard. It may have been a bit infected by week 2 but I never did anything and now it looks like shit.

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