Guide to Tattoo Post-Operative Care
The minute you step out the front door of the tattoo studio, you are responsible for the post-operative care of your tattoo. How you look after your tattoo for the next few days and weeks will determine how crisp and clear it looks for the rest of your life.
Do not try to "air out" your tattoo by removing the bandage. Leave the bandage on for as long as recommended by your tattoo artist. Some tattooists will recommend that you leave the bandage on for as long twenty-four hours but others will recommend not taking a peek at your design for at least three to six hours.
When it is time to remove the bandage, do so very gently. Don't forget to always wash your hands before you touch your tattoo or the surrounding area If the bandage is stuck to your skin, do not tug at it or try to rip it off. Wet the bandage with some warm water until the moisture loosens it and then carefully pull it away.
When the tattoo is uncovered, use warm soapy to thoroughly clean the area. Pat (don't rub) the area dry with a soft, clean towel. For the first week try to avoid soaking the tattoo while in the bath or the shower.
After you remove the bandage, some tattooists will recommend that you leave the tattoo open to the air for around ten minutes while others will tell you to treat the area with ointment immediately. Usually the tattooist will recommend that you apply an antibacterial cream such as Bactine or a specialty tattoo cream such as Tattoo Goo to the tattooed area. If you have a reaction to any kind of ointment, make sure you inform the tatooist immediately. He or she will recommend an alternative or suggest you seek medical advice if the reaction is severe.
The Healing Process
Remember to clean and apply fresh ointment to your new tattoo at least twice a day for the prescribed number of days recommended by your tattoo artist. Generally, you'll be told to use the ointment for three days or so. Some tattooists will tell you to do so until the tattoo has scabbed and others until it is healed.
When you stop using the ointment continue to keep the area clean and use a lotion after washing with warm soapy water to keep the tattooed skin soft.
Around the three day point, the new tattoo will start to peel and scab. If there is a great deal of scabbing it means that your tattoo has been poorly inked.
It is normal for the tattoo to look at little bleary or cloudy for a few days as it heals. This is part of the natural healing process and is known as "Onion Skin." You know you are experiencing Onion Skin if the tattoo only looks clear when it is wet.
The key to post-operative care is to keep the tattoo clean and well moisturized. Use the ointment until the wound is healed and then a lotion to help the skin recover its pliability and softness. Don't try to hurry the process in anyway. Let your own body's powerful natural healing abilities follow their own course and all will be well.
Shaving a Tattoo
If you've had a tattoo applied somewhere you would normally shave like your face or legs, then you must let the tattoo heal fully before you start shaving again. You can shave around the tattoo but, if you do so, make sure that shaving foam, cream or hair doesn't infect the tattoo.
You must leave the tattoo unshaven until the skin above it is entirely healed. If there is any scabbing or peeling, wait a bit longer. When you can't tell the difference between the surrounding area and the flesh around the tattoo, then it's safe to start shaving again. If the surface of the skin around the tattoo looks at all rosy or angry looking avoid taking a razor to it.
Once you've started to shave the area again, make sure to moisturize it thoroughly afterwards as this will help to keep the skin healthy.
The Golden Rules of Tattoo After Care
1. If the tattoo itches, don't scratch it. Don't pick at scabs, rub it or press it against your body. You may try to allay the itchy feeling by gently patting the area with the flat side of (your very clean) fingers. Believe it or not it is entirely possible to scratch the ink right out of the tattoo during the first few days of healing!
2. Stay out of the sun. This could cause the tattoo to discolor. A sunburn on top of a tattoo can also be very uncomfortable. Don't apply sunscreen on top of a tattoo. Wear long sleeves instead. After your tattoo has COMPLETELY healed you may apply sunscreen to protect the area and keep it from fading.
3. Avoid salt water. Sun and surf are a tattoo's worst enemies. Salt water can cause a fresh wound to sting as well as leave it vulnerable to infections and fading.
Touching Up Your Tattoo
Sometimes, for one reason or another, a tattoo may require some re-inking. If you think your tattoo needs some extra work, return to the tattooist and for his or her's educated opinion. Most are willing to redo faded or unset work for free unless you have obviously picked and peeled the tattoo right off your body. Once you have been re-inked, you will need to follow the same rules for postoperative care that you did the first time around: keep it clean, moisturized, avoid soaking it and stay away from the sun and surf.
I Hate My Tattoo
If you don't like your tattoo, consider asking the tattoo artist to give you a cover up. Tattoo artists usually have stock designs that they used to cover offending tattoos. These designs usually feature large blocks of black and featured images such as black panthers, black clouds and other chunky designs.
A talented tattoo artist can redo your tattoo without resorting to blotting it out with a large dark mass. However, you need a skilled artist for a cover-up job. You will need a custom design that obliterates the existing one. Cover-up work is demanding and exacting so you will also pay more for a cover-up piece then you would for fresh tattoo. Try to choose an artist with a good design sense.
Reworking a tattoo is another answer to restoring fondness to the afflicted body part. Sometimes the tattoo just needs some sort of enhancement. Reworking the tattoo is also recommended if the tattoo is faded, jagged or uneven. Any reputable tattooist will also fix any skips in color or the outline that may be discovered shortly after the piece is healed. Tattoos can also be enhanced by the addition of bars, borders, rainbows and flora and fauna.