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The Ultimate Tattoo Aftercare Survival Guide: The Top 10 Tips You Need to heal your tattoos

cute tattoo apperntice bridget tattooing a client

Tattoo aftercare has always been a hotly debated topic, with all kinds of novel remedies being brought forward and eventually lost in the sea of the oversaturated aftercare market. So to save you hours of Googling and ending up on page 7 of the best way to heal a tattoo, we’ve compiled a list of our the top 10 tips for taking care of a new tattoo. There really isn’t any fancy trick. It all comes down to just common sense life tips (that somehow aren’t so common).

1. Follow the artist's instructions: Always adhere to the specific aftercare instructions provided by your tattoo artist. They know your skin and the tattoo they created, so their guidance is crucial.

2. Keep it clean: Gently wash your tattoo with a mild, fragrance-free soap and lukewarm water. Avoid using hot water or harsh cleansers, as they can irritate the healing skin.

3. Pat, don’t rub: After cleaning, pat the tattoo dry with a clean, soft cloth or let it air dry. Avoid rubbing, as it can damage the delicate, healing skin. Treat it like an open wound… because it is.

4. Use a lotion or balm: Use a recommended tattoo aftercare product to keep the tattoo moisturized. Apply a thin layer to prevent excessive scabbing and promote proper healing. Remember, treat the tattoo as if it were a scab; if you pick at it or keep it too wet, it won’t heal properly. Use just enough balm or lotion to soak into the skin without making it resemble a Slip n Slide. More is not better!

5. Avoid direct sunlight: Protect your healing tattoo from direct sunlight, as the UV rays can fade the colours quite quickly, and irritate the skin (think sunburn on a fresh, sore tattoo… no thank you). If exposure is unavoidable, use a high-SPF, tattoo-friendly sunscreen, preferably a zinc-based formula. Don’t put it on and forget it though; you must reapply frequently in order for the SPF to remain useful.

6. Avoid swimming and soaking: Steer clear of pools, hot tubs, and long baths during the initial healing phase. Prolonged exposure to water can soften the tattoo and hinder the healing process. Bodies of water, natural and artificial alike, are absolutely packed full of bacteria. A bath tub will be a cesspool of stagnant, human soup, which is a recipe for bacterial infection. Hot tubs and pools are often chlorinated, and that will seriously hinder the healing process as it is quite corrosive and bad for your skin in general. This doesn’t mean salt water is okay, though. The salt dries out the skin while the water prevents proper scabbing to form and heal.

7. Avoid tight clothing: Opt for loose, breathable clothing to prevent friction and irritation on the healing tattoo. Tight clothing can rub against the fresh ink and cause discomfort. Another quick trick regarding clothing is to wear dark colours only for a while. Your new tattoo might “seep” for a couple days, perhaps even more. A white t-shirt won’t take too kindly to tattoo ink and plasma! While we are permanently staining our skin, we don’t want to permanently stain our clothes.

8. Don’t scratch. Don’t even touch it: Itchiness is a common part of the healing process, but resist the temptation to scratch or pick at your tattoo. This will interrupt the healing process and potentially damage the tattoo permanently. Picking out the tissue could mean picking out the ink. Remember, this is a scab. If you pick it off, it’ll likely scar.

9. Stay hydrated and eat well: Proper hydration and a balanced diet contribute to overall skin health. Drinking water and consuming nutrient-rich foods can support the healing process. Drinking enough water is one that can’t be stressed enough. Your hydration will determine the texture and response of your skin, which you’ll want in the best possible shape to heal the tattoo effectively.

10. Monitor for signs of infection: Keep an eye out for any signs of infection, such as excessive redness, swelling, or discharge. Sometimes the redness and seeping is a normal response to trauma, so don’t panic and assume it’s infected right away. It may just be normal irritation and is nothing to worry about. An infected tattoo will usually come with pain and a foul odour, so if you smell something funky and you can’t quite figure out what it is, give your tattoo the old sniff test. If you notice anything unusual, consult your tattoo artist or a healthcare professional promptly. The only thing that can fix an infection is a course of antibiotics, so be wary of the “natural home remedies” you’ll see pop up on your Google results.

If you follow these 10 tips and use appropriate aftercare topicals, you shouldn’t have any issues with your healing process. When selecting an aftercare product, take a look at the ingredients. There are a lot of fillers and obscure chemicals that some companies dilute their products with, so that they can make more profit per ounce of product. More often than not, the fewer ingredients, the better. Our favourite tattoo balms and aftercare gels are Tattoo Lovers Care Salve and Electrum’s Mamba Glide. Both of these products have natural, vegan ingredients, and don’t contain occlusive moisturizing agents like petroleum jelly or mineral oil. These tips, when combined with some common sense and a decent moisturizer, can help ensure a smooth and successful healing process for your new tattoo. 

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