First Day After a New Tattoo Aftercare
Your tattoo artist will typically wrap your tattoo before you leave the shop. Keep the wrapping on until you get home or indoors (outside of any pollutants such as rain, dirt, smog, sun, etc.) Some artists recommend removing the wrap as soon as you get indoors, others suggest keeping the tattoo wrapped for a minimum of 6 hours or even overnight for a 24 hour period. Again, consult with the artist doing your specific tattoo.
It is not uncommon for your tattoo to still ooze plasma and fluids that first night. Some artists suggest that keeping your new tattoo wrapped securely overnight will help eliminate the blood getting on your clothing or sheets and help protect the tattoo in its initial healing stage. An alternative to wrapping overnight is taking a warm shower and using plain soap to gently rinse the new tattoo before bed. This will often eliminate the majority of oozing overnight. It is also recommended that you avoid sleeping in a way that puts direct pressure on the new tattoo.
A common, normal occurrence with fresh tattoos is known as “weeping”. This is when some ink or plasma (fluid) may come out of the tattoo and form a thin, moist coating on the skin. (Note: This typically can last anywhere from 24 hours to about a week or so. If it continues longer than a week, or if any excess oozing or redness occurs, consult with a doctor.) If this happens, gently dab the skin with a clean paper towel in quick, gentle movements. Do not press. Seeing excess ink on the paper towel can be expected.
A new tattoo can be expected to be red, swollen and irritated. This is normal and can range from 1 to 3 days before subsiding. If irriatation continues to get worse beyond this point check with the artist to verify everything is going according to plan and there are no signs of infection.
Removing the Wrapping
Wash hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap. Avoid soap with fragrances and exfoliating scrubs or beads.
Carefully and gently remove the tape first, then the bandage/wrapping. If the bandage sticks to your tattoo, gently wet the area with lukewarm water, then carefully slide it off. NEVER rip or tug the wrap in a way that is harsh on the new tattoo or skin.
Cleaning Your Tattoo
Use a mild, unscented, fragrance-free antibacterial or antimicrobial soap and lukewarm water. With your hands, gently rub the tattoo in a circular motion, removing all traces of blood, plasma or leaked ink from the area. This will help prevent the tattoo from scabbing too prematurely.
Do NOT use a washcloth, sponge, loofah or harsh towel to clean the tattoo. These are too abrasive, can harbor bacteria and damage your skin.
After washing, pat your skin dry with a soft cloth or paper towel. Allow the tattoo to air dry for 15 to 20 minutes. This will allow the tattoo to breathe and any excess moisture to evaporate.
Once the tattoo is dry, apply a thin layer of a non-scented, antibacterial ointment. DO NOT put on another bandage or wrapping. Your tattoo needs to breathe.
In the past, ointments such as A&D and Aquaphor have been recommended. However, these petroleum-based products can be heavy and lead to infections in some cases. Many artists today recommend naturally based tattoo balms with anti-inflammatory and skin-soothing ingredients instead. Whichever you choose, apply a layer thin enough to make the tattoo shine but be careful not to rub hard. Rub gently until it’s absorbed into the skin.
(Note: Be careful not to apply too much ointment which can suffocate the skin and encourage bacteria to grow).
If necessary and you are experiencing mild discomfort, some artists may recommend using a topical anesthetic spray
Continue to wash and moisturize your tattoo with the above-mentioned twice a day until the tattoo has completely healed. Again, depending on the size and placement of your tattoo, this can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks.