Tattoo aftercare is an important part of the tattoo process, and every artist has a slightly different set of post-tattoo instructions. In general, the instructions given to you by your tattoo artist should be followed for the best results, and if there are problems with the tattoo, you should get in touch with the artist to talk about it. Different types of tattooing techniques and inks respond uniquely during the healing process, so rely on the artist's experience when it comes to healing your tattoo. If you have never had a tattoo before, this basic aftercare guide gives you an idea of what to expect.
A few basic principles will be adhered to in any tattoo aftercare process, starting with keeping the tattoo out of the sun and the water until it is healed. The healing process generally takes around two weeks, although it may be longer for some tattoos. Exposure to sunlight can permanently damage your tattoo when it is in the early healing stages, so keep it covered up! Even after the tattoo is healed, sunblock should be used on tattoos which may be exposed to sunlight to keep them looking crisp and bright. It is also important to stay out of the water for two or more weeks, as water can damage a new tattoo as well.
Tattoo aftercare starts as soon as you walk out of the shop: a tattoo should be kept covered for three to six hours after being finished. Your artist will have specific directions, so follow his or her advice. When you remove the bandage, it is best to do so under warm running water, so if the bandage is stuck, it can be gently removed without damaging the tattoo. Wash the tattoo using a gentle unscented soap such as that designed for infants, and pat it dry. Afterwards, apply a moisturizer to the tattoo. Throughout the healing process, plan on using gentle soaps and patting the tattoo dry or allowing it to air dry.
This is the point when the aftercare instructions tend to vary, depending on the artist, with some recommending washing and moisturizing more frequently than others. Most artists agree that tattoos heal best when they are kept moisturized so that the skin will not crack or tear, and recommend a variety of products for this purpose. In general, non-scented products that do not contain substances which will clog the pores are a good choice. Most artists also concur that tattoos do not heal well when frequently handled, so do not apply moisturizer too frequently.
Keep the tattoo covered up with loose, comfortable clothing. It is important that the tattoo not be suffocated during the healing process, because oxygen and your immune system will do most of the healing work. After a few days, the tattoo will begin to flake or peel. This is not a cause for concern, although you should avoid picking at the tattoo during this stage. Let the scab fall off naturally, leaving your fresh ink behind. After all of the scab has come off, expect another week of healing time before your tattoo is ready to show off to the world.