How To Care For a Tattoo On The First Day
Removing Your Tattoo Bandage/Wrap
Initial Clean – Tattoo Aftercare Instructions For Your First Wash
This is a very important stage of the aftercare process. After you’ve removed your wrap, your tattoo is likely to be covered in a thick gooey layer of blood, plasma and ink. Your tattoo is likely to be red and sore at this point so it may be relatively painful to wash this area.
If you see any ink coming off as you wash or dry your tattoo – this is completely normal. Some ink will naturally get trapped in the upper of layers of skin and will continue to leak out slightly over the next week or two as you wash and pat dry the area.
After washing is complete, you can either let your tattoo air-dry or you can pat it dry with a paper towel. DO NOT RUB OR SCRUB your tattoo as this can rub some ink out of the area, always pat dry.
DO NOT USE a fabric cloth/towel as pieces of fabric can come off and stick to the area – not to mention the cloth will probably be full of bacteria too, even if it’s ‘fresh’.
Once the area is COMPLETELY dry you will want to very lightly rub in THIN LAYER of specialized aftercare to moisturize the area and help with healing. your skin needs to breathe in order to heal effectively and a heavy layer of lotion will prevent this from happening.
Cleaning Process Roundup:
1) Clean your hands thoroughly, you don’t want any bacteria getting into the raw tattooed area
2) Run the tap until the water is lukewarm, NOT hot. Cup the water with your hand and very gently wet the area with your palm/fingers
3) Rub a fragrance-free / antibacterial mild soap over the area and make sure as much excess ink/blood/plasma has been washed away
4) Use more water to wash away any leftover soap
5) Allow the tattoo to dry completely, either through air drying or with a paper towel – not a dirty rough washcloth though. Always PAT dry, do not SCRUB
6) Apply a very thin layer of ointment to help moisturise the area and help with healing
The Rest of Day One
Your tattoo will be sore for the rest of the day (and for the next few days). It will probably look red, this is completely normal for the first several days, especially if the tattoo is a big piece.
Depending on the area of the tattoo on your body, your first few sleeps will probably be rough. Some people recommend using old/cheap bed sheets for the first few days in order to prevent your best sheets for getting all bloody and inky.
Another important thing to mention with regards to sleep, is that it’s quite common after getting a tattoo to wake up these next mornings being stuck to the bed sheets.
In that case, do NOT just pull the sheets away from your skin, this could rip ink out from your tattoo. Instead, you need to soak the stuck area with warm water until the sheets peel away easily.
To avoid this from happening, you can wrap your tattoo in cling film for the first 2-3 nights.
Days 2-3 – Continued Soreness and Rawness
Redness and swelling will have probably gone down slightly but it will likely still look and feel sore for the next several days (up to about a week).
The tattoo will probably still be oozing small amounts of ink, lymph and plasma and this is completely normal.
The area may also feel slightly raised above the skin and could looked bruised. Again, this is nothing to be worried about.
Making sure your tattoo is clean is still extremely important at this stage – you will likely start to see some very light scabs forming over your tattoo at around day three, but your skin is still essentially
Days 4-5 – Let the Scabbing Commence
Your tattoo is going to start looking slightly dull and cloudy at this point as the scabs start forming over the ink – don’t worry though as this stage doesn’t last too long and the sharpness will return. It is absolutely crucial that you DO NOT pick or pull at the forming scabs. Carry on cleaning your tattoo exactly as you have been for the last several days.
If you do pick off a scab, or one accidentally gets pulled off, there is a chance of ink coming out which may result in a patchy looking area, or a pit forming in the skin.
Avoid wearing any tight clothing or anything that may be able to rub or catch against a scab, potentially pulling it off.
Alternatively, don’t get worried if your tattoo doesn’t look like it’s scabbing at all. Some tattoos will scab extremely lightly to the point that it may look like nothing is happening (but you tattoo will be healing). This is especially true for very fine tattoos, or tattoos that are made up primarily with very light colours or just line work.
Also, tattoos can begin to scab even sooner (before days 4-5). They can even scab after a day or two. This, again, is completely normal and you shouldn’t get worried by this. Some people will just generally heal faster than others.
Days 6-14 – Things are About to Start Getting a Little Itchy…
As you reach roughly day six (give or take a day), your light scabbing should be well-formed and covering the complete area. As the scabs and old pieces of skin begin to reach maturity, they will now begin to peel and flake away.
Your skin is going to become very dry, and in most cases, it’s this dry skin that brings on the itching that so many people don’t really like. You tattoo will start to look a little dry at first, and as the days go by you will start to see more and more peeling and flaking skin.
If you do begin to itch, DO NOT scratch your tattoo, this is amongst the absolute worst things that you can do in the whole of the tattoo healing process!
Cooling the area with cold water/ ice or gently tapping the area instead of scratching could help with itching.
As your skin reaches the peeling stage, you’re going to want to moisturize as often as possible.
You can either use a general skin-sensitive moisturizer, a specialized tattooing lotion or even a completely organic and natural product such as coconut oil or cocoa butter to try to soothe your new tattoo and to promote healthy and quick healing.
During this stage, as you wash your tattoo you may start to see the peeling skin come off coloured in ink. This is completely normal and your tattoo isn’t getting washed out.
Unfortunately your skin is going to look very unsightly for a few days as the top layer of damaged skin sheds in preparation for the brand new layer below. Your tattoo will look dull, scaly, flaky and dry – but as mentioned, this only lasts for a few of days.
Days 15-30 – Nearly There
At this point, your tattoo should have largely completed peeling.
Your tattoo should no-longer be red or sore. Any raised areas should be slowly flattening to the point where you cannot tell where the tattooed parts are compared to your un-inked skin when running your fingers over the area.
You will notice however that your tattoo will likely still look a little dull and scaly, and it will continue to look and feel slightly dry, so continue moisturizing 2-3 times a day.
There is typically still a very thin layer of dead skin covering the area at this stage, which is contributing to the lack of sharpness, but this dead skin will flake off gradually over the next 4-8 weeks.
The lower layers of the are still healing at this point, and can actually take up to 6 months to completely regenerate back to normal.
The best method of determining when you’re able to shave your tattoo is to close your eyes and run your fingers over the area. If you cannot feel any raised or bumpy areas then you should now be fine to shave over your tattoo. If it’s still a little raised or bumpy, give it another week or two and try the test again.
A Tattoo is for Life, Not Just For Summer
Congratulations! Your tattoo should be starting to look the best it has done for several weeks. If you want your tattoo to continue looking its best for as long as possible, there are some aftercare procedures you should continue to carry out indefinitely.
Hopefully you’ve now learnt what to do during the aftercare process (and beyond), and what to definitely not do.
The month immediately after getting out of the tattoo artist’s chair is definitely going to be most important time for your tattoo.
You’re going to be wanting to do anything in your power to ensure that the whole thing heals perfectly – and remains perfect as long as possible
Hopefully you now know how to take care of a new tattoo, and understand that new tattoo care is extremely important no matter how big or small your tattoo may be.
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Justyna & Damian