A complete guide to tattoo aftercare

So, you’ve just been tattooed. Your new tattoo is essentially an open wound. That means you need to look after it properly. Here are the aftercare rules I follow myself with the majority of my tattoos.

Please do consult your tattooist as a first point of contact – they’ll have the best advice for how to look after their work.

Unicorn by Holly Astral (IG @Holly_Astral)

Unicorn by Holly Astral (IG @Holly_Astral)

After Leaving The Studio

  • When you leave the studio, your tattoo will more than likely be wrapped in cling film – keep this on for the rest of the day (if it’s the afternoon / evening when you leave) but get it cleaned when you get home and certainly before you go to bed.
  • Your tattoo artist may use Dermalize (rather than cling film) which is a semi-permanent covering that masks your tattoo for 3-7 days with no action needed, depending on their specific advice. In these cases, please follow your artist’s instructions.
  • Resist the urge to go out, get drunk and show your friends your amazing new tattoo. Don’t risk forgetting to clean your tattoo, bumping it, scraping it, picking up germs, etc.
  • Go home, sit on the couch, get a takeaway, chill out, drink some nice vitamin-filled juices and lots of water. If you’ve had a long or full-day session, you may feel pretty drained and in need of some TLC – I know I do!
Skull tattoo by Hannya Jayne

Skull tattoo by Hannya Jayne

Cleaning Ritual (Days 1-3)
Repeat this 3-4 times a day

  • Wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap. Don’t ever touch your tattoo with unwashed hands. Try not to touch dirty towels, door handles, etc. once you have washed your hands.
  • Run your tattoo under lukewarm water and lightly wash – you can use a light soap if you like (something not scented). Often if you can’t wash your tattoo in water (if it’s on your lower back and you’re at work with no showers, for example), use completely unscented and plain baby wipes and lightly wipe the tattoo until all the excess ‘gunk’ comes off. If you do wash it with water, pat lightly with a clean towel afterwards.
  • I personally don’t use any creams at this stage and leave my tattoo to ‘dry heal’. I think there is a lot to be said for keeping the tattoo dry, clean, and just not messing about with it too much. If you do decide to use a cream, add a very thin layer over your tattoo, gently rubbing it in – there shouldn’t be any excess cream, be careful not to use too much.
  • Re-wrap with cling film.
  • Repeat this for the next 3 days, 3-4 times a day.

Cleaning Ritual (Days 3 Onwards)
Repeat this 3-4 times a day

  • Repeat the above cleaning steps but don’t wrap your tattoo in cling film at the end and leave it to air.
  • You may want to continue to use cling film in extremebuy sildenafil 50 mg cases, if you think your tattoo may be subjected to an unclean environment (if you’re in a dusty or dirty workplace, or if you have to wear a rough material that might rub at your tattoo), but really do try to give it some air at this point as keeping it completely covered won’t be beneficial.
  • Being introduced to fresh air will now start to dry out your tattoo, so you’ll want to keep it nice and moisturised. Many tattooists have moved away from recommending Bepanthen at this point in the process. I personally use an organic and natural coconut oil-based product like Jengu.
Jengu Insta-Heal

Jengu Insta-Heal

Follow this cleaning process until your tattoo is healed. It may take anything from three days to a couple of weeks for your tattoo to fully heal depending on where it is and how quickly your skin heals.

I normally ease up on washing it so frequently after about 4-5 days.

Other Tips

  • Wear loose, clean clothes / shoes that don’t rub.
  • Try not to let any dirt, dust or animal hair get into your tattoo.
  • Try not to knock your tattoo on anything.
  • Blood and ink may be left imprinted on your bedding, so you may want to lie on a darker sheet or watch how you sleep, and not wear white clothes!
  • Don’t scratch, rub, pick or irritate your tattoo – don’t touch it unless cleaning.
  • Don’t shave or use any other products or creams on top of your tattoo when it is healing: perfume, fake tan – ditch it! I personally don’t use scented or chemical-filled creams even on even my healed tattoos.
  • No baths until your tattoo is healed.
  • No saunas, steam rooms or swimming.
  • Try not to let your tattoo sit too long under the water of the shower but it is important to wash it so do make sure you shower!
  • Keep out of the sun!
  • Don’t do anything that might stretch your skin (watch out when exercising).
Tattoo by Lydia Amor

Tattoo by Lydia Amor

Remember, the aftercare process can be so different depending on where your tattoo is, how big it is, and how your own skin reacts. Finger tattoos, for example, are impossible to wrap for those first 3 days so you have to just keep them clean and dry and be careful what you touch – no washing up!

Me personally – I treat every single tattoo differently. Often, I won’t wrap the tattoo as per the ritual above and will introduce fresh air much earlier on in the process. I rarely re-wrap hand-poke work and didn’t wrap my palm tattoos or breast tattoos, for example. An artist will be able to advise if leaving your tattoo completely unwrapped from day 1 is a better solution and if so, I would strongly recommend doing this.

If like me, you get tattooed regularly, you will start to be able to understand what your tattoos like and when, depending on where they are, which tattooist or method created them and how weepy they are in the days following.

Every single person is different, every artist is different, and so each time the process should be uniquely designed for you. Some people are allergic to coconut oil, for example.

This blog is written based on my own experiences after being tattooed 50+ times over the years, and my conversations with tattooists in the industry who assisted in my bringing together this information.

If in doubt or if you have any questions, always follow your tattoo artist’s advice.