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How to Take Care of a Tattoo: A Comprehensive Guide

Congrats on the new tattoo! Now here’s the next crucial part: taking care of it. Like a newborn baby, your tattoo needs attention, protection, and nurturing.

You might be asking yourself, “Is it really that big of a deal? What could go wrong if I soaked in a hot tub or picked off all my scabs?” More than you could imagine. Let’s go over how to take care of a tattoo so you can have a piece that looks fantastic for a lifetime. 

how to take care of a tattoo

Preparing for the Aftercare Journey

We’re sure you understand that maintaining a tattoo isn’t just about slapping on some lotion and hoping for the best. 

So what’s the first thing you should do when figuring out how to take care of a tattoo? 

  • Grasp the significance of the tattoo healing process: Just like any other wound, your tattoo needs time to heal. The healing time often ranges from two to four weeks depending on the size and complexity of your tattoo. It may seem like a long time, but remember: Patience is the key!
  • Understand the cardinal rules: Knowing the do’s and don’ts will protect your skin and your investment.
  • Equip yourself with necessary aftercare productsArm yourself with a quality cleanser and keep that moisturizer handy.

What to Expect Immediately After Getting a Tattoo

So, you’ve taken the leap and got your new body art! Congratulations! Now it’s time to kick off the aftercare routine to ensure your new body art heals perfectly and stays looking vibrant. Will you know how to take care of a tattoo after you’ve just gotten it?

As your tattoo artist wraps up your fresh ink, you may experience some stinging or throbbing sensation – the intensity varies from person to person. Don’t worry; that’s completely normal! Specifics on what to expect can vary based on things like tattoo placement.

Swelling and Redness: You may notice some swelling and redness around your new tattoo. This is just your body’s natural response to the trauma it has endured. Think of it as a minor injury.

Oozing Ink and Blood: Seeing your new tattoo “weep” a certain substance might be a little disconcerting. However, this too is perfectly normal! The ink and blood exuding from your new tattoo are simply byproducts of the healing skin. 

Touch Sensitivity: Your freshly tattooed skin might be a little sensitive to the touch for the first few days. After all, it’s been through quite a lot! It’s important to avoid touching your new tattoo unless absolutely necessary, and always with clean hands. 

Now, let’s get into the details of how to take care of a tattoo.

Keeping Clothing from Rubbing on Your New Tattoo

First and foremost, let’s talk about what could happen if your clothing rubs on your new tattoo. This begins before you even get to the tattoo shop, as you’ll want to walk out of there with the appropriate clothing to avoid impacting your freshly tattooed skin.

Friction can lead to decreased tattoo quality or even infection. Excess rubbing can cause irritation, flaking, and increased sensitivity, thus delaying the healing process. The worst-case scenario? You may need a tattoo touch-up or, even worse, medical attention if an infection settles in. 

Choosing the Right Clothing 

When you’re trying to figure out how to take care of a tattoo, thinking about your clothing is an important factor. It’s simple: opt for loose, breathable clothes. Tight clothing could rub and stick to the area, damaging the artwork and causing discomfort. Consider wearing outfits made of natural materials like cotton or bamboo—these fabrics allow airflow, helping with faster healing! 

If possible, don’t cover it with clothing at all. Roll the sleeve up on your forearm or get your leg tattooed during summer when shorts are appropriate.

Changing Clothes Mindfully 

Even something as simple as changing your clothes can pose a risk to your new ink if not done carefully. Between putting on and taking off your attire, ensure you’re gentle around the area to prevent agitation and potential trauma. 

Avoiding Water Exposure: What Could Happen?

Picture this: it’s summertime and you’re headed to a pool to cool off, or the beach to get your toes all sandy. But did you stop to consider that tattoo you just got? It could be badly impacted by your soak in the water (not to mention the sand)! Staying away from bodies of water is a crucial step in how to take care of a tattoo.

Understanding the Risks 

Submersion in Pool or Hot Tub Water 

Imagine the horror of watching your new tattoo fade off, blur, or worse: get infected, all because of a poor decision to soak it in chlorinated water. Pool and hot tub waters often contain bacteria and harsh chemicals that pose severe risks to your healing skin. Submersion in such water before your tattoo is fully healed can lead to infection and damage to your colorful masterpiece! 

tattoo aftercare

Freshwater Exposure (Rivers, Lakes, etc.) 

Thinking about taking a swim in a river or a lake? Think again! Freshwater bodies are teeming with microorganisms. Like any open wound, your fresh tattoo exposed to such water becomes an inviting nest for bacteria, leading to painful infections. If you’re genuinely considering how to take care of a tattoo, this is a big no-no.

Bathtub and Long Showers 

A soothing retreat in your bathtub or a prolonged hot shower, albeit relaxing, is dreadful for your fresh tattoo. Extended exposure to water can seep into the tattoo area, causing the ink to disperse, leading to distortions in the tattoo’s appearance. 

What You Should Do 

  1. Limit Shower Time: Ensure your showers are quick, ideally no longer than ten minutes.
  2. Avoid Submersion: Steer clear of swimming and soaking in any bodies of water until your tattoo is fully healed.

How to Take Care of a Tattoo in the Shower

In regards to how to take care of a new tattoo, even something as routine as showering can become complicated. But worry not! With some guidance and precautionary measures, you can easily navigate through this. 

First and foremost, limit your shower time. Showering with a new tattoo isn’t about enjoying a tranquil bout of unwinding after a long day. It’s all about efficiency. Get in, clean yourself, and get out. The shorter your showers, the less time your tattoo spends in a moist environment, thus reducing the risk of damage. 

Remember! Your tattoo is essentially an open wound. If you stay under the water for too long, what’s going to happen? Excessive moisture can cause your precious tattoo to start breeding bacteria. This could lead to potential infections, and we don’t want that! 

Another point to consider is the temperature of the water. Stay away from hot showers! Steam and heat can cause the pores on your skin to open and thereby might induce tattoo bleeding. Not to mention, it can be quite uncomfortable. Instead, opt for lukewarm water. It will be just as cleansing, and far safer for your new tattoo. 

And there’s some more to it! Use a mild, unscented soap to clean the area. Avoid using any harsh, scented body washes or soaps on your new tattoo. They can irritate it and possibly lead to an infection. 

Last but not least, pat dry, don’t rub! After showering, gently pat your tattoo with a clean towel. Avoid rubbing as this can cause irritation or could even pull out the ink. And voila! You are ready to face the world with your fantastic new tattoo smiling at everyone! 

tattoo healing process

Moisturizing Your Tattoo: Dos and Don’ts

Just get a new tattoo? Congratulations! Now, it’s time to discuss how to take care of a tattoo by moisturizing it. This crucial step is not to be overlooked as it aids in the healing process of the tattooed skin. With the appropriate application of selected moisturizers, you reduce the risks of scabbing, scarring, and color loss. 

DO: Use the Right Moisturizer 

Not all creams are created equal and the same goes for their effect on your new tattoo! Some creams can irritate the skin, cause breakouts, or worse, lead to an infection. What should you look for in a moisturizer? Check out our article on tattoo aftercare products for some knowledge on what to look for before you purchase!

  • Fragrance-free: Fragrances can often irritate sensitive skin, especially one that’s just been tattooed.
  • Alcohol-free: Moisturizers containing alcohol can severely dry out your skin, leading to itchy and flaking tattooed skin.
  • Hypoallergenic: Reduces the risk of allergic reactions.
  • Non-comedogenic: Prevents the clogging of pores hence reducing chances of breakouts.

DON’T: Over-Moisturize 

Have you ever heard of the phrase, “too much of anything is bad”? Well, it applies here too! Over-saturating your tattoo with moisturizer can lead to clogging of the skin pores, which can cause breakouts and hinder the healing process. It’s essential to find a balance in the amount of moisturizer you use. We see this most often with thicker moisturizers so read our article on tattoo aftercare ointments for a clear idea of the impact it can have on your new tattoo.

The Optimal Way to Moisturize 

Alright – so we’ve outlined the dos and don’ts of how to take care of a tattoo, but how about the actual process of moisturizing?  If you want more specifics about how to moisturize, our article on tattoo aftercare lotions will be very helpful to you. 

If having a good understanding of how to take care of a tattoo is important to you, we recommend:

  1. Hand Hygiene: Always wash your hands before touching your tattoo. This helps eliminate the chances of introducing bacteria onto the healing skin.
  2. Small Dabs: Apply small dabs of your chosen moisturizer on the tattoo and gently spread it over the area.
  3. Gentle Touch: Avoid vigorous rubbing, as it may lead to skin irritation or disrupt the healing process.
  4. Frequency: Generally, you should moisturize your tattooed skin 2-3 times a day. However, it’s always best to follow your Tattoo artist’s advice and instructions.

Dealing with Itching and Flaking

Let’s face it, nobody likes the unnerving feeling of itchiness, and when you get new ink it’s part of the deal. As your skin heals, it will characteristically flake and itch. But it’s crucial that you don’t scratch if you care about how to take care of a tattoo properly! For a better understanding of why our skin flakes and itches at this time, read our article about the science behind tattoo healing stages.

Pivot Your Perspective: Touch, Don’t Scratch 

The light, gentle touch of your fingertips or the flat of your hand can help alleviate the itch while taking care to not disrupt the healing of the tattoo. Remember, this is not a free pass to poke or prod incessantly. Apply that delicate touch while keeping your hand clean and dry to avoid any mischief! 

Embrace Moisturizing Product: Shield and Nourish 

Your new tattoo’s best friend is a good moisturizer. Right when the itchiness kicks in, this is the magical time to break open that fragrant, soothing lotion. Make sure it’s a dye and fragrance-free, hypoallergenic moisturizer to keep any negative reactions at bay and provide optimal healing conditions. Moisturizing not only helps with the itch but also aids in protecting your precious body art from drying out and flaking excessively. 

Distraction: Mind Over Matter 

Tattoos take time to heal, and distracting yourself is ever so crucial during that process. So, when you’re figuring out how to take care of a tattoo, keep your mind entertained—get lost in a good book or engage with friends. After all, the itchiness is temporary, but your marvelous tattoo is for keeps! 

If you thought tattoo aftercare was only cleaning and moisturizing, you’re sorely mistaken. The healing journey is a myriad of steps, each crucial in protecting your newfound symbol of identity while maintaining its visual integrity. For more information about our specific recommendations, see our tattoo aftercare instructions.

How to Take Care of a Tattoo in the Sun

A significant consideration of how to take care of a tattoo is protecting it from the sun. 

Fun fact: your tattoo, no matter how old it is, will always be susceptible to sun damage. If you think it’s as simple as slapping on a bunch of SPF the day you get inked and calling it a day, we’re here to tell you it’s a little more nuanced than that.

So, how exactly does sun exposure hamper your tattoo’s health? When the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays come in contact with your skin, they can alter the tattoo pigment. This can result in premature fading and distortion of the tattoo’s colors. And, as we all know, overexposure to the sun can lead to a sunburn. Now, imagine that on a fresh, open wound like your tattoo. 

Precise Ways to Shield Your Tattoo from the Sun 

Let’s get down to it. Here are the sun protection essentials all ‘tattoo-parents’ need to know: 

  1. Steer Clear of the Sun: Aim to keep your new tattoo shielded from the sun as much as possible. Whether it’s finding shade, wearing loose clothing…or no clothing at all, a little bit of sun avoidance goes a long way!
  2. Apply Sunscreen Diligently: When you have a new, healing tattoo, make sure to avoid applying sunscreen directly on it. Once it’s fully healed though, it’s SPF time! Broad spectrum SPF sunscreens are your new best friends. Make sure to apply generously and reapply every two hours, or after sweating or swimming.
  3. Wear Protective Clothing: If avoiding the sun entirely isn’t foreseeable (we get it, life happens), opt for sun-protective clothing. Consider a hat or something to shade the area, if possible.

Recognizing Signs of Infection

So you’ve got a vibrant, fresh tattoo and you’re caring for it diligently. But how do you know if things are on the right track? Infections are not common, but they can happen. Being able to recognize the early signs is crucial. And paying attention to how to take care of a tattoo will help you to avoid this happening.

Swelling and Redness: Of course, a certain degree of swelling and redness is normal right after you get your tattoo. But if it’s still considerably swollen and red after a few days, this might be cause for concern. 

Discharge: When your tattoo starts to leak a pus-like substance, that’s definitely not a good sign. Clear fluid, ink, and blood are normal – what we’re talking about here is a yellowish discharge, sometimes accompanied by an unusual smell. 

Increased Pain: Pain and tenderness around your tattooed area right after getting it done is normal. But if the pain continues to increase over time instead of decreasing, it might be an indicator that an infection is brewing. 

Fever: Running a high temperature is one of your body’s ways of signaling that it’s dealing with a nasty intruder. If your body temperature rises unusually high and you feel generally unwell, it’s high time to contact a medical professional. 

Beyond Visual Symptoms: Listen to Your Body 

Your body is a wonderful machine that tends to communicate with us, and often before visible symptoms arise. If you’re feeling unusually fatigued, experiencing unexpected aches, or have sudden chills, your body could be fighting an infection. Don’t brush off these signals – these symptoms are often overlooked but can be significant indicators. Always consider how to take care of a tattoo when you get one to avoid mistakes, it’s a crucial step.

What to Do If Your Tattoo Gets Infected

Oh no, you suspect an infection? If that’s so, don’t panic! Immediate and appropriate action can minimize the damage. Below are some steps you can take. 

  1. Observe Carefully: Pay close attention to the signs and symptoms. Uneven redness, extreme swelling, a sensation of heat, or discharge are common signs of infection. Remember that these could simply be normal healing responses, but persistent symptoms should not be ignored. Any doubts? Always err on the side of caution!
  2. Contact Your Tattoo Artist: Don’t underestimate their knowledge. Tattoo artists have seen the healing process of countless tattoos and can often tell you whether what you’re experiencing is normal or cause for concern. If it’s just starting to feel funny, you can often send them a picture with your worries via social media to get their input. However, they will likely encourage you to…
  3. Seek Medical Attention: If symptoms persist or worsen, it’s time to dash to a healthcare provider. They can provide the appropriate treatment, which could include antibiotics to combat infection.

If you’re unsure about the status of your tattoo and think it can wait, an immediate care provider can be just enough. But, if you’re worried and seeing changes, go to the ER. Keep in mind how to take care of a tattoo from the moment you get one, it will help you to prevent infections and recognize the signs.

Don’t Mess Around, Contact a Healthcare Provider 

When it comes to suspected infection, hesitation is the enemy! An untreated infection can escalate quickly, potentially leading to severe health complications, including blood poisoning. And, it could significantly wreck your new body art! 

A simple phone call, early on, could spare you a lot of pain, so don’t be shy about getting your healthcare provider involved. They can offer skincare product recommendations and clear instructions based on your specific situation. 

Remember, tattoo care doesn’t have to be confusing. Armed with the right information and guidance, you can ensure that your body art heals perfectly.

The Honorable Society

If you’re on the hunt for a quality tattoo shop that knows all of this and more, you found us. We’re proud to offer the finest quality tattoos in Los Angeles. Take a look at our work or our Instagram.

Then, contact us about scheduling your next tattoo appointment

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