How to Take Care of a Tattoo

how to take care of a tattoo

Getting a tattoo is an exciting and transformative experience. Whether it’s your first tattoo or you’re adding another piece to your collection, the journey doesn’t end when you leave the tattoo studio. Proper aftercare is crucial to ensure your new ink heals beautifully and remains vibrant for years to come. Without proper care, you risk infections, fading, and other complications that can affect the quality and appearance of your tattoo.

In this ultimate guide to tattoo aftercare, we’ll walk you through every step of the process, from the moment you leave the tattoo chair to maintaining your tattoo’s look over the long term. We’ll cover immediate aftercare steps, daily routines, how to handle common issues, lifestyle considerations, and long-term maintenance tips. By the end of this guide, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to take care of your new tattoo effectively and enjoy it for a lifetime.

Immediate Aftercare

Proper aftercare starts the moment you leave the tattoo studio, and the initial steps you take can significantly impact the healing process and the final appearance of your tattoo.

How long do you have to wait to take care of a new tattoo?

Taking care of your new tattoo begins the moment your artist finishes their work. Immediately after the tattoo is completed, your artist will clean the area, apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment, and cover it with a protective wrap. This initial step is crucial for protecting your tattoo from bacteria and preventing infection. It’s essential to listen to your tattoo artist’s advice, as they will provide specific instructions tailored to your tattoo and skin type.

How long should you keep a new tattoo covered?

The recommended duration for keeping your new tattoo covered varies, but it generally ranges from a few hours to 24 hours. The wrap serves to protect your tattoo from bacteria and friction. There are different types of wraps, such as plastic cling film or specialized tattoo bandages. Cling film is commonly used for its availability and ease of use, while tattoo-specific bandages may offer better breathability and protection. Your tattoo artist will advise you on the best option and duration based on your specific tattoo and skin type.

How to care for a tattoo the first night?

The first night with a new tattoo is critical for its healing process. Here are the detailed steps you should follow:

  • Remove the Wrap: Follow your artist’s advice on when to remove the wrap, typically within a few hours to 24 hours after getting the tattoo.
  • Clean the Tattoo: Gently wash the tattoo with lukewarm water and a mild, fragrance-free soap. Use your hands to clean the area, avoiding any abrasive materials.
  • Dry the Area: Pat the tattoo dry with a clean paper towel or let it air dry. Avoid using a regular towel, as it can harbor bacteria.
  • Apply Aftercare Product: Apply a thin layer of the recommended ointment or lotion. This helps to keep the tattoo moisturized and protect it from infection.

Avoid activities that could irritate the tattoo, such as strenuous exercise, swimming, or exposing the tattoo to direct sunlight. Ensure your bedding is clean to prevent any bacteria from coming into contact with your tattoo while you sleep.

When to take saran wrap off the tattoo?

Saran wrap or any initial protective covering should be removed as advised by your tattoo artist, typically within a few hours to 24 hours. Here’s the correct timing and method for removing the wrap:

  • Timing: Follow the specific duration recommended by your artist, usually between a few hours and 24 hours.
  • Method: Wash your hands thoroughly before touching the wrap. Gently peel off the wrap to avoid damaging the tattooed skin.
  • Cleaning: After removing the wrap, wash the tattoo immediately with lukewarm water and a mild, fragrance-free soap. Pat the area dry with a clean paper towel or let it air dry.

Keeping the area clean is crucial for preventing infections and promoting proper healing. Always use clean hands when touching your tattoo, and avoid exposing it to unclean surfaces or materials.

Daily Care Routine

Establishing a daily care routine is crucial for keeping your tattoo clean and moisturized, which helps to prevent infections and promote optimal healing.

How often should I wash my new tattoo?

For the first few days after getting your tattoo, you should wash it 2-3 times daily. This routine helps to remove any plasma, blood, or excess ink that might leak from the tattoo, reducing the risk of infection and aiding in the healing process.

  • Frequency: Wash your tattoo in the morning, before bed, and once during the day.
  • Method: Use lukewarm water and a mild, fragrance-free soap. Gently lather the soap with your hands and apply it to the tattoo. Avoid using washcloths, sponges, or any abrasive materials that could irritate the skin.
  • Drying: Pat the area dry with a clean paper towel or let it air dry. Never rub the tattoo with a towel, as this can damage the skin and cause irritation.

What is the best thing to put on a new tattoo?

Choosing the right products to apply to your new tattoo is essential for proper healing. Here are some recommended options:

  • Ointments: Products like Aquaphor Healing Ointment or specialized tattoo aftercare ointments are excellent for the initial healing stage. They provide a protective barrier and help keep the tattoo moisturized.
  • Creams: After the first few days, you can switch to a fragrance-free, non-comedogenic lotion, such as Eucerin or Lubriderm, to keep the skin hydrated.
  • Avoiding Certain Products: Do not use petroleum-based products like Vaseline unless specifically recommended by your tattoo artist. These can trap moisture and bacteria, potentially leading to infections. Also, avoid lotions with fragrances, dyes, or alcohol, as these can irritate the tattoo.

Should I let my tattoo dry out and peel?

There are two primary methods for tattoo healing: dry healing and moist healing. Each has its pros and cons:

  • Dry Healing: This method involves cleaning the tattoo and then allowing it to air dry without applying any ointment or lotion. The tattoo is left to heal naturally.
    • Pros: Simplicity, reduced risk of over-moisturizing
    • Cons: Higher risk of scabbing and cracking, which can affect the appearance of the tattoo
  • Moist Healing: This method involves applying a thin layer of ointment or lotion after cleaning the tattoo.
    • Pros: Keeps the skin hydrated, reduces itching and scabbing, promotes smoother healing
    • Cons: Risk of over-moisturizing if not done correctly, which can lead to clogging of pores and potential infections

Consult with your tattoo artist to determine the best method for your specific tattoo and skin type.

How to heal a tattoo fast?

While the healing process takes time, there are best practices you can follow to speed it up and ensure optimal results:

  • Keep It Clean: Regularly wash your tattoo as recommended to prevent infections.
  • Moisturize Appropriately: Use a thin layer of recommended aftercare products to keep the skin hydrated.
  • Avoid Direct Sunlight: Protect your tattoo from the sun, as UV rays can cause fading and slow down the healing process.
  • Wear Loose Clothing: Tight clothing can rub against your tattoo, causing irritation and potentially delaying healing.
  • Stay Hydrated and Eat Well: Drinking plenty of water and maintaining a healthy diet can support your body’s natural healing processes.

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Over-Moisturizing: Applying too much ointment or lotion can clog pores and lead to infections.
  • Scratching or Picking: Itching is common, but scratching or picking at your tattoo can cause scarring and remove ink.
  • Ignoring Aftercare Instructions: Always follow your tattoo artist’s specific aftercare advice, as they know what’s best for your tattoo.

By adhering to these daily care routines and avoiding common mistakes, you can help your tattoo heal more quickly and maintain its quality and appearance.

Handling Common Issues

Understanding and addressing common issues that arise during the healing process can help you maintain the quality of your tattoo and avoid complications.

Why is my tattoo fading after 3 days?

Slight fading is normal as your tattoo starts to heal. The top layer of skin will peel, revealing a slightly duller version of your tattoo. This is part of the healing process and should not cause alarm. The initial brightness of the tattoo often fades slightly as the skin regenerates. However, if the fading seems excessive or if you notice unusual changes in your tattoo’s appearance, it’s important to consult your tattoo artist for advice. They can provide guidance on whether the fading is normal or if there are steps you need to take to address the issue.

What to do if your tattoo itches?

It’s normal for a healing tattoo to itch as the skin repairs itself. However, scratching can damage the tattoo and increase the risk of infection. Here are some tips to manage the itching:

  • Do Not Scratch: Resist the urge to scratch your tattoo. Scratching can cause scabs to come off prematurely, which can affect the tattoo’s appearance.
  • Lightly Slap the Area: If the itching becomes unbearable, gently slap the area instead of scratching.
  • Apply a Cold Compress: A cold compress can provide relief from itching without causing damage.
  • Keep It Moisturized: Use an approved lotion to keep the tattoo moisturized, which can help reduce itching. Ensure the lotion is fragrance-free and recommended by your tattoo artist.

How to tell if a tattoo is healed?

Determining if your tattoo is fully healed involves observing a few key signs:

  • No Redness or Swelling: A healed tattoo will no longer be red, swollen, or inflamed.
  • Smooth Skin: The skin over the tattoo should be smooth and free from scabs or peeling.
  • Settled Colors: The colors of the tattoo will have settled into their final shades.
  • No Pain or Sensitivity: The tattooed area should not be painful or sensitive to the touch.

This process typically takes 2-4 weeks, but complete healing can take up to 3 months. If you’re unsure whether your tattoo is fully healed, it’s best to consult with your tattoo artist.

What is a blowout tattoo?

A blowout occurs when the tattoo ink spreads beneath the skin, causing a blurred or smudged appearance. This can happen if the needle penetrates too deeply or at an incorrect angle. Blowouts can vary in severity, and while some may fade over time, others may require professional attention.

  • Causes of Blowouts: Incorrect needle depth, angle, or excessive pressure during the tattooing process.
  • Prevention: Choosing an experienced tattoo artist can help minimize the risk of blowouts.
  • Treatment: Some blowouts may fade naturally, but others might need touch-ups or cover-ups by a skilled tattoo artist. In some cases, laser removal may be an option to correct a blowout.

Understanding and managing these common issues can help ensure your tattoo heals properly and maintains its intended appearance. If you encounter any problems during the healing process, don’t hesitate to reach out to your tattoo artist for professional advice.

Lifestyle Considerations

Incorporating tattoo care into your daily lifestyle can protect your tattoo from damage and ensure it heals correctly while fitting into your routine.

Can I shower with my new tattoo?

Yes, you can shower with a new tattoo, but there are important precautions to follow to protect your fresh ink:

  • Avoid Soaking: Do not soak your tattoo in water for extended periods. This means no baths, swimming, or hot tubs until your tattoo is fully healed.
  • Use Lukewarm Water: Hot water can be harsh on your new tattoo, so stick to lukewarm water when showering.
  • Gentle Water Pressure: Avoid direct, high-pressure streams of water on your tattoo. Let the water flow gently over the area instead.
  • Pat Dry: After showering, pat the tattoo dry with a clean towel or paper towel. Do not rub the area, as this can cause irritation and damage.

How to sleep with a new tattoo?

Sleeping with a new tattoo requires extra care to prevent sticking, smudging, and infection:

  • Avoid Lying on the Tattooed Area: Try to sleep on your back or side, avoiding direct pressure on the tattooed area.
  • Use a Clean Towel or Cloth: Place a clean towel or cloth between your tattoo and the sheets. This can help absorb any excess moisture and prevent sticking.
  • Moisturize Before Bed: Keeping the tattoo moisturized before bed can help prevent drying out and reduce the risk of it sticking to your bedding.

What not to eat after a tattoo?

Your diet can influence the healing process of your tattoo. To promote optimal healing, consider avoiding the following:

  • High-Sugar Foods: Excess sugar can lead to inflammation and hinder the healing process.
  • Dairy Products: Some people may experience increased inflammation from dairy products.
  • Processed Foods: Foods high in additives and preservatives can negatively impact your body’s healing ability.
  • Spicy Foods: Spicy foods can sometimes cause skin irritation.

Healthy Alternatives:

  • Fruits and Vegetables: These provide essential vitamins and antioxidants that support healing.
  • Lean Proteins: Protein is crucial for skin repair and regeneration.
  • Healthy Fats: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, nuts, and seeds, can help reduce inflammation.

Can I exercise with a new tattoo?

While it’s important to stay active, certain precautions should be taken when you workout after getting a tattoo:

  • Avoid Strenuous Exercise: For at least the first week, avoid activities that cause excessive sweating, as sweat can irritate the tattoo and introduce bacteria.
  • Keep It Clean: If you do exercise, ensure you clean the tattoo immediately afterward with lukewarm water and mild soap.
  • Reapply Aftercare Products: After cleaning, reapply your recommended aftercare ointment or lotion to keep the tattoo moisturized.
  • Wear Loose Clothing: Tight clothing can rub against your tattoo, causing irritation. Opt for loose, breathable fabrics instead.

By considering these lifestyle factors and incorporating them into your daily routine, you can help ensure your tattoo heals properly and maintains its vibrant appearance. Always consult with your tattoo artist for personalized advice based on your specific tattoo and lifestyle.

Long-term Care

Long-term care is essential to preserving the vibrancy and detail of your tattoo, allowing it to look its best for years to come.

How do I keep my tattoo from fading?

Maintaining the vibrancy of your tattoo requires ongoing care and attention. Here are some essential tips to keep your tattoo looking fresh:

  • Apply Sunscreen: Use a high SPF sunscreen on your tattoo whenever it’s exposed to the sun. UV rays can cause significant fading, so protecting your tattoo from sun exposure is crucial.
  • Moisturize Regularly: Keeping your tattoo moisturized helps maintain the skin’s elasticity and the ink’s vibrancy. Use lotions specifically recommended for tattooed skin to avoid irritation.
  • Avoid Prolonged Sun Exposure: Whenever possible, minimize your tattoo’s exposure to direct sunlight. This includes avoiding tanning beds, which can cause even more damage to the ink.

How long do tattoos stay black?

Black ink is known for its longevity compared to colored inks. While all tattoos will inevitably fade over time, black tattoos generally maintain their appearance longer. The key to preserving a black tattoo’s intensity includes:

  • Proper Initial Aftercare: Follow all aftercare instructions from your tattoo artist to ensure optimal healing.
  • Sun Protection: Continually protect your tattoo from UV rays to prevent fading.
  • Regular Moisturizing: Keeping the skin hydrated helps maintain the tattoo’s sharpness and contrast.

With proper care, black tattoos can remain vibrant for many years.

What color tattoo ink fades the most?

Certain colors are more prone to fading than others. Here’s a breakdown of how different colors hold up over time:

  • Light Colors: White, yellow, and pastel shades tend to fade the fastest. These colors are more susceptible to UV damage and often require touch-ups to maintain their brightness.
  • Medium Colors: Colors like red, orange, and purple can fade at a moderate rate, depending on the ink quality and aftercare.
  • Dark Colors: Deep hues such as black, blue, and green are the most durable and tend to fade the least. If longevity is a priority, opting for these colors can be beneficial.

How to make tattoos last longer?

To ensure your tattoo remains as vibrant as possible over the years, follow these long-term care tips:

  • Adhere to Aftercare Instructions: The initial healing phase is critical. Follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions diligently to set the foundation for long-lasting ink.
  • Protect from Sun and Environmental Damage: Regularly apply sunscreen, avoid prolonged sun exposure, and steer clear of tanning beds.
  • Keep Skin Healthy and Moisturized: Healthy skin supports the longevity of your tattoo. Use recommended lotions and moisturizers to keep your skin hydrated and elastic.
  • Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Refrain from using harsh soaps, lotions with alcohol, or any products that could irritate your tattooed skin.

By integrating these practices into your routine, you can significantly enhance the lifespan and appearance of your tattoo, ensuring it stays as beautiful as the day you got it.


Proper tattoo aftercare is essential to ensure your new tattoo heals beautifully and remains vibrant for years to come. From immediate aftercare to long-term maintenance, every step you take contributes to the longevity and appearance of your tattoo. By following the guidelines in this comprehensive guide, you can avoid common pitfalls and enjoy your body art to its fullest.

Remember to listen to your tattoo artist’s advice, maintain a consistent cleaning and moisturizing routine, and protect your tattoo from harmful UV rays. Address common issues promptly and seek professional advice if needed. With the right care, your tattoo will not only heal properly but also continue to be a source of pride and personal expression for many years.

Taking care of a tattoo is an ongoing process, but the effort is well worth it. Your tattoo is a permanent piece of art that deserves the best care possible. By investing time and attention into its upkeep, you can ensure it stays vibrant, detailed, and beautiful, truly reflecting the skill of the artist and your personal story.

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