We work diligently to apply your tattoo with the utmost care and professionalism - our priority is providing you a work of art that will look great for a lifetime. Once you leave the shop, proper aftercare is a crucial step in making sure you keep that great looking piece looking great! You've probably heard many different recommendations on caring for a new tattoo, ranging from the conservative approach of soap and water to confusing, overzealous treatments, requiring expensive products and multiple steps. The bottom line is that just like there's the right tattoo for each skin type and location, there's a proper aftercare as well. There is no one right solution, but a thorough discussion with your artist should help you decide what is right for you. The important thing to remember during healing is that your tattoo is a minor skin abrasion, affecting from a very small to a very large area of the body. The larger your tattoo, and the more intense the session, the more intense your body's reaction, and thus the need for you to pay attention to it! A small name on the shoulder is not going to require the same level of care as a large full color dragon on the ribs, but EVERY tattoo client needs to follow some basic, common sense procedures during the healing process.
Antibacterial soap is fine, but not necessary. Brands we recommend include Dial liquid hand soap (the golden yellow colored stuff), or Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap (just avoid the tea tree or mint scents, they might be a little too astringent). Anything that is UNSCENTED will do you just fine. Your tattoo is an open wound, and anything with fragrance contains alcohol - you know what it feels like to put alcohol in an open wound. It's a good idea to wash your tattoo as many times a day as you are exposed to bacteria. A conservative approach is to wash it once in the morning and once before bed. If you exercise, or are working outdoors, around food or animals, or your tattoo comes in contact with another person's skin, give it another wash.
That means removing the bandage after an hour or two, or however long your artist has suggested you do so. If you got tattooed close to bedtime, or had a particularly extensive session, your artist might recommend you sleep with your tattoo bandaged to avoid clothing and bedding sticking to the freshly tattooed skin. Once you've removed the bandage, wash and gently pat the area dry with a paper towel (not a fabric towel, as you don't want fibers or detergents getting into your tattoo), or allow it to air dry. It's also best to avoid covering the tattoo with tightly fitting clothing. Take this into consideration when timing your tattoo session - it might not be best to get a tattoo on your foot the night before you have to have it stuffed into a boot all day.
And finally, you should avoid soaking your tattoo - no baths, pool or beach - not only because of the chemicals and bacteria in salt or pool water, but soaking in water will also soften scabs and allow them to fall off before they are ready, opening your tattoo up to the possibility of color loss and infection.
Our artists frequently use clear, flexible Tegaderm bandages for tattoos that are likely to not hold a regular bandage. Tegaderm keeps fluids in but allows air to circulate and your tattoo to breathe. You can leave a Tegaderm bandage on for up to 8 hours at a time, and can utilize them throughout the healing process. Tegaderm works especially well with healing tattoos in high-friction areas. Small Tegaderm bandages are available at most drugstores.
Over moisturizing or using the wrong product are two of the main reasons that clients encounter problems during the healing process. Although it is an excellent moisturizer and skin protectant, petroleum based products like A&D and Aquaphor do not allow air to circulate around the skin, and may trap bacteria on your new tattoo. Conversely, many water based lotion products such as Lubriderm, Curel, etc. contain alcohol ingredients, which are drying and irritating to a brand new tattoo.
If your skin feels extremely tight or itchy after washing during the day or two after being tattooed, you may choose to use a petroleum product or other oil based ointment (coconut oil, After Inked) very sparingly. Once the skin has started to heal, usually after two or three days, you might want to switch to a lighter product. Coconut oil is a cheap, natural alternative to ointments or lotions. It can be applied immediately after your tattoo has been completed, and used regularly during the healing process and beyond.
Listen to your body - if it doesn't feel tight, it might not need moisturizing right now, and if something you use stings, wash it off. Whatever product you choose, use only enough to create a thin layer over the tattoo. Over moisturizing, just like soaking in water, will soften those scabs that aren't ready to be moved yet, opening you up to color loss and infection.
Do not scratch, itch, rub, poke, press, or otherwise antagonize your skin during this healing process, and do not allow others to do so, either. After two or three days, your skin will start to heal. Your tattoo may scab, or it may not. Areas that are prone to a lot of unavoidable friction from clothing or other body parts (around the belt line, inner elbow, fingers, feet, etc.) may scab more and be more difficult to heal, so treat them gently! Moisturizing is your best friend when your tattoo gets to the very itchy, scaly stage - but be vigilant not to apply too much.
If you are concerned about the way your tattoo is healing, contact us immediately. We will not be mad at you, we promise. Your tattoo belongs to you, but it always bears our name, and we want you to be happy and healthy. So if something looks like it's not right, please give us a call or e-mail - your artist has likely given you a business card with their contact information, and will be glad to help. Do not ask your friend, another artist, or even a doctor about the tattoo healing process. We know how our work works - they don't - and we can give you the best advice.
Some things that are normal but sometimes make people nervous include swelling and redness around the tattooed area for up to two days, bruising around the tattoo (due to the stretching of your skin that occurs during the application) and heavy scabbing. If redness continues for several days, or if you have any yellow or green pus, please let us know immediately. Infection is very rare, but when it happens, usually occurs in the days following the application of the tattoo. Your artist works with sterile materials in a sterile environment every time, as required by state law. If you choose to take off your bandage to show off your new ink at the bar, we can't be held responsible for the bacteria you'll encounter.