This has been the old school practice for so long that countless artists still do it (eh hem, OVERDO it). And people who are new to tattoos just don’t know any better. Simply put, save the Saran Wrap (cellophane wrap, plastic wrap – whatever you want to call it) for your sandwich and Wednesday night leftovers. This very concept of wrapping up food with saran wrap to keep the air out so food can remain pure and fresh is a great idea! But it only works for food preservation. Doing it to a new tattoo for any prolonged window of time is literally like suffocating or choking your new tattoos (which reminder, are open wounds) without any fresh oxygen. Blocking air flow to the new tattoo will prevent it from healing properly. Hospitals don’t wrap your cuts and wounds with plastic wrap. So why on Earth would we ever wrap our new tattoos, which are open wounds on the skin? It defies logic. But I’ll tell you why – because we are sheep and we follow old and uninformed sheep the majority of the time.
The only practical purposes to ‘wrap’ any tattoos with plastic wrap after a tattoo session is to…
Provide you with an initial protective cover to get you home from the tattoo shop and into a safe, hygienic space without damage from outside elements like dirt, pollution, rain (dirty), smoke, smog, and street debit that flies up in the air…or from someone spilling coffee or booze by mistake on your exposed wound. It gives you a short term limited protective, albeit cheap cover just to get you home.
As anyone with tattoos knows, any type of direct pressure usually helps slow down the oozing from the open wounds, so ultimately there is some benefit to the initial pressure of wrapping it in plastic. But the more pressure applied to the new tattoo, the more you cut off the air supply. No bueno!
Avoid staining your clothing right after a new tattoo (or your white couch, or white dog or whatever you may touch w new tattoo that you otherwise don’t want to get plasma, blood or fluids on.
A lot of tattoo artists in the past would literally recommend wraps for DAYS, and guess what? It still happens today. Many suggest wrapping the tattoo for “many hours until the oozing stops completely.” Many tattoo experts believe this is absurd because it’s unhealthy for the skin. You must remember, the skin is an organ, the largest one of our body, and can also impact the healing outcome and look of the new tattoo. Not to mention the fact that it can also quite literally cause an infection versus preventing one because the tight plastic wrap gets hot and affected area into a germ and bacteria bath under the plastic wrap adhered to your new tattoo.
Wrapping your tattoo in plastic wrap also can potentially damage the look of your rad new tattoo because the skin can become stuck to the plastic and inevitably peel off some of the ink when you peel off the plastic wrap stuck to your skin. Many times, artists will never wrap hand, finger or neck tattoos because the skin is so sensitive that wrapping them would get stuck to it and literally pull out the unsettled ink.
The Better Method
The only wraps at all that myself and many people I know would ever do is a very (very) loose, dangling wrap that doesn’t even touch the new tattoo itself – i.e. just a loose piece of wrap that’s almost like a bubble or parachute ‘cover’ with tape on the corners of skin where there is NO tattoo ink. So, it’s basically more of a cheap fast ‘over the tattoo shield’ to get you safely home.
Once home, you can remove “over the tattoo shield or tent” the moment you get home, then rinse gently with warm water, and pat dry very gently. A few hours later, you can take a fast, warm shower and rise the tattoo (do not soak it). Then when you’re ready for bed, wear only loose-fitting clothing and try to avoid rolling onto or pressing on the new tattoo against the sheets.
I personally, and I know of many other high-profile tattoo artists and experts, would never go to sleep with any part of my newly tattooed body tightly wrapped and cut off from oxygen.