for tattooed people, and those who want to be

Aftercare, part 1 (about bandages)


There’s no part of the whole tattoo experience that contains more contradictory advice than aftercare. What exactly does the newly tattooed person have to do to take care of the tattoo while it’s healing?

The artist will put something on your skin to cover up the new ink when it’s finished. This is a good thing, because what you have is essentially an open wound. It may or may not actually bleed, but it will weep, and it needs to be kept moist and protected while the healing process begins.

As I wrote previously, though, the common practice of slapping a piece of plastic wrap on a new tattoo is a really, really bad idea. Here is a link to an article on that lays out the reasons why. If you see the artist starting to peel off a length of plastic wrap, ask him or her to put on a bandage instead.

Each artist seems to have his or her own preference for how long the bandage should stay on. Some say, just take it off when you get home and shower and leave the bandage off after that. Some say leave it on for six to eight hours. Some say overnight. My own experience leads me to advise leaving the bandage on overnight, for the simple reason that you don’t want your new ink sticking to your bed or whatever it is you sleep in. Time enough to peel it off the next morning. Then take a shower and carefully wash the area to remove any accumulated fluids. If the bandage sticks to your skin, as it likely will, just wet a washcloth with comfortably warm water and use that to saturate the bandage till it can be peeled off.

And then what? Leave the ink to dry? Put antibacterial ointment on your skin? Use hand lotion? Use a proprietary after-tattoo product? Nobody seems to agree. Some people say “Never use petroleum based products on your skin” and then turn right around and tell you to use something like A&D, which is… um, medicated Vaseline. Some people say “Don’t use anything that might irritate the skin” and then say to use some brand or other of hand or body lotion, the ingredients list of which contains all kinds of chemicals that can irritate skin. Some advise the use of fairly expensive proprietary after-tattoo products, which they have on sale at the shop.

Given the mass amount of conflicting advice out there, what’s the best course? Do whatever your artist tells you to do and hope for the best? Established tattoo artists have plenty of experience with these things, but it’s your skin that’s going to be covered with this stuff, so shouldn’t you do at least a little research before you get your ink?

I’ll cover the various options in the next couple posts.

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Author: infmom

I got my first tattoo when I was 46. I hope the people who read this blog don't have to wait that long. I love talking about body art.

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