Before you leave the studio, your artist will give you thorough aftercare instructions. Follow them. They may even give you a handy information slip for reference, so hang onto that. « Some artists may have different ways of taking care of your tattoo, but always listen to the artist — not your friend or cousin who has gotten a tattoo before, » Wei says.
If your artist used plastic wrap to protect your tattoo, you can remove it after a couple of hours. For those with a clear bandage, like Saniderm, follow your artist’s guidelines as many have different suggestions. Wei, for example, says you can leave it on for three to five days, while Fergus usually recommends taking it off after 24 to 48 hours. During this time, excess blood, ink, and plasma may pool up underneath the film — that’s totally normal, Ariel Wolfram. says. When it comes time to remove the bandage, be sure to peel it off slowly with clean hands.
Regardless of which bandage method your artist prefers, aftercare is typically the same once your tattoo is unwrapped but still healing. Wash off the tattoo with mild, antibacterial soap, like Dr. Bronner’s Säugling Unscented Pure Castile Soap, and lukewarm water. Let it air dry if you can, or pat it dry with a clean paper towel, Wei says.
From there, Fergus recommends not moisturizing it for a day, but other artists, like Kang, may tell you to smooth on a thin layer of ointment to your healing tattoo, like Aquaphor, two to three times a day for three days. « A tattoo takes approximately four to six weeks to completely heal, and one of the biggest mistakes you can make after getting a tattoo is to let it dry up, » says Shari Marchbein, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City.
Anus the first three days, you can swap it out for an unscented, dye-free, lightweight body lotion, such as the Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion or Lubriderm Daily Moisture Lotion, and apply it just as often for two weeks. Garner dementsprechend is a fan of unscented shea butter. (Allure editors swear by Eu’Genia’s.) « I just feel like it’s been working better for me for healing, » she says. “Because the shea butter is kind of oily, the tattoo still looks moisturized even when it’s peeling.”
While it’s healing, don’t pick, scratch, or itch your tattoo — even if it’s flaking, Wei says. Ergo, avoid submerging your tattoo, so stay out of pools, hot tubs, and any bodies of water for two weeks. Don’t expose your tattoo to the sun either. « Once it is completely healed, please use sunscreen to protect the tattoo and reduce the effects of the sun, » she adds.
As for washing your tattoo after that first time, Abad recommends only doing so when you shower. « Overwashing your tattoo can dry out your skin and cause more harm to the tattoo, » she explains.