Got a new tattoo? Congratulations! But before you start showing off your new ink, please wait.
Because a new tattoo is essentially an open wound and has a higher risk of getting infected, leading to delayed healing and discoloration.
Which we absolutely don’t want after enduring a painful tattoo procedure. Actually, we can easily and safely heal a tattoo just by following a simple aftercare routine for a few weeks.
In this article, we’ll get a practical day-by-day tattoo aftercare guide for safe and quicker healing. We’ll also discuss the importance of tattoo aftercare, how to care for tattoos on different body parts, the potential side effects of a new tattoo, and the best products we can use to heal quicker and make our ink shine.
You can bookmark this page to access your daily aftercare routine easily.
Importance of Tattoo Aftercare
Like I said before, a fresh tattoo is an open wound, and it needs time and care to heal properly.
But if you don’t, it may likely create skin complications and health issues, leading to prolonged healing and faded color as it heals.
And aftercare becomes more crucial if you’ve tattooed in an area of your body, such as your hands, where a tattoo can fade quickly.
So, ensure you’re following a correct aftercare routine (as discussed below or artist recommended) for the next few weeks.
Tattoo Aftercare Instructions: Day-by-Day
Here’s your day-by-day guide on how to take care of a new tattoo.
Okay, you’ve got your favorite art. After the procedure, your tattoo artist will put a layer of ointment and bandage it and may give you aftercare instruction.
After reaching home, about 2-4 hours later, with clean hands, remove the bandage. Wetting the dressing may be helpful if it sticks to your tattoo.
However, as per your artist’s recommendation, you can keep the bandage for about 24 hours.
After removing the bandage, you may notice blood, ink, and plasma oozing from your tattoo and feels like warmth or swelling — it’s normal.
Gently wash your tattoo (without scratching) with fragrance-free antibacterial soap and lukewarm water. And pat it dry with a clean disposable towel.
Do not rebandage your tattoo. Leave it exposed to the open air, and wear loose clothes.
Days 2 to 3
Your skin will heal a little bit, and you’ll notice thin scabs start to form, and your tattoo may look duller and cloudier. It’s normal.
Clean your tattoo 2-3 times a day and apply a fragrance and alcohol-free moisturizer.
When you wash, you may notice some ink washing off — don’t worry.
Days 4 to 6
In this stage, the redness will fade, but the scabs will continue to form. Make sure not to pick or scratch the scabs.
Continue to wash your hands twice or thrice daily with mild soap and lukewarm water. Pat it dry with a clean paper towel, and then use a tattoo aftercare lotion that’s free from fragrances and alcohol.
Days 7 to 14
Now the scabs will begin to flake off. Please ensure not to pick or pull them off — don’t interfere in the natural process.
You’ll feel itchy in this phase. Keep your moisturizer handy, so you can gently rub on your tattoo several times a day to minimize the itch.
Redness and swelling should have vanished, but if they are still there, it might be a sign of infection. Talk to your artist or see a doctor as soon as possible.
Days 15 to 30
Okay, you’re almost ready to show off your art to the world.
In this healing stage, the scabs and flakes will go or should eventually clear up. But dead skin may still be present, and your tattoo might look dry and dull.
Keep using the tattoo aftercare products until your tattooed area becomes hydrated.
The outer layer of the skin will be healed by the third or fourth week. However, deeper layers may take 2 to 6 months to heal completely.
Note: Bigger tattoos usually take longer to heal than smaller ones. Therefore extending the aftercare routine by one week or so is wiser.
Long-Term Tattoo Care
Generally, the tattoos may heal within a month with proper aftercare, but it takes a few more months to recover the skin from deep within.
We need to keep the following things on-point for 3-4 months to maintain a healthy and attractive-looking tattoo for life.
- Keep the tattooed area clean. You should wash your skin with mild soap and water daily. Avoid touching your tattoo frequently.
- Stay hydrated. Drink an adequate amount of water daily to keep your tattoo moisturized and hydrated for a better and more vivid tattoo.
- Wear wisely. Before going into the sunlight, wear a sunscreen with SPF 45 or more to prevent UV rays. And be sure to wear loose clothes that won’t rub your tattooed area.
- Keep using moisturizer. When you feel your tattooed area dry, apply a gentle lotion (with clean hands) until your tattoo becomes moisturized.
- Avoid too much weight gain or loss. Gaining or losing too much weight in a short period of time could stretch out or mess up the tattoo.
Best Tattoo Aftercare Products
A tattoo is a major personal investment that will stay around you forever. So using the right products is crucial for a healthy and more vibrant tattoo.
Here’s your guide to choosing the best tattoo aftercare products, plus our top recommendations.
- Look for gentle, fragrance-free soap.
- Baby’s products can also be a good option since they tend to be fragrance-free and mild.
- Avoid products with perfumes and additives, which can cause irritation and exfoliation, or create an unpleasant feeling, especially on new tattoos.
- Use kitchen or paper towels
- Avoid regular/shared towels to dry a fresh tattoo.
- Make sure not to rub. Gently pat your tattoo dry with a clean paper towel.
The petroleum-based ointments are essential in the first few days. These thicker, hydrating products maintain the airflow, protect ink, and promote healing.
Make sure to use a thin layer of these products on your skin, so your tattoo can breathe and continue the healing process.
When your tattoo begins to heal and the scabs fall off, use a fragrance-free moisturizer after about two weeks.
You can also use baby care lotions and creams that are free from perfumes. Here’re some of the top choices:
Coconut oil is one of the Polynesian people’s favorite tattoo aftercare products. It’s cheap and may already have in your kitchen.
It is a natural pain reliever, has anti-inflammatory properties, and is very effective in protecting and making your new art shine. (1)
Choose a virgin coconut oil (solid at room temperature) over a refined one.
If you’ve tattooed on a visible part of your body like the face, arms, neck, or legs, applying sunscreen is highly recommended before going out in the sun.
Exposing new tattoos to the sun has a higher chance of fading and may delay healing. Choose a sunscreen with SPF 45 or higher to get the best possible protection from UV rays.
Summary: Tattoo Aftercare Products
You’ll need mild soap and paper towels for cleaning and drying the tattoo, an ointment for initial protection and healing, and a moisturizer to keep the tattoo hydrated in the long term. Coconut oil can be a handy option to moisturize the skin, and be sure to use sunscreen before going out in the sun.
Ensure the soap and lotions you choose are free from fragrances and irritating chemicals.
Potential Side Effects of a New Tattoo
Although it’s normal to see redness, soreness, itchy, and you might notice some ink along with blood coming out from the tattoo in the first few days.
But if you experience these symptoms continue to worsen and see any of the following unpleasant side effects, talk to your doctor.
One of the common side effects you may experience is infection. The signs of an infected tattoo are:
- warmth or swollen
- prolonged redness
- oozes pus
- severe pain and rash
- fever and chills
If you notice any of these signs continue to worsen, your tattoo will most likely get infected and needs immediate attention.
Another side effect you may experience is an allergic reaction, especially if you’re sensitive to the ink. This is because the metallic compounds of ink don’t suit your skin.
The common signs of allergic reaction you may experience are:
You can apply cold compresses or topical cortisone cream to reduce swelling and inflammation if you have a mild allergic reaction.
- red dyes (2)
- rashes and bumps
- skin irritation
For a prolonged or severe allergic reaction, you should consult a dermatologist as soon as possible.
Scarring and Discoloration
Scarring and fading mainly happen due to improper aftercare of your tattoo as it heals. Picking or scratching the scabs during healing can cause scars, which can be treated.
That’s why avoiding peeling, scratching, or even touching your new tattoo is recommended.
Tattoo Aftercare According to Body Parts
Here’s your tattoo aftercare guide on various parts of the body.
Lip Tattoo Aftercare
Got a bold tattoo on your lips? After the procedure, your lip may look larger and fuller but don’t worry. It will only last a day or two to shrink back to normal.
Be ready to expect color fade up to 50% in the first few days.
- Use an antibacterial, alcohol-free mouthwash 2-3 times a day.
- You may want to put an ice pack (which must be covered with a clean paper towel or cloths) at 10-20 minutes intervals for the first day to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Like other body parts, you’ll see redness, swelling, and oozes coming out from your new tattoo — don’t worry.
- You may experience mild itchiness and flake in week 2 or 3.
- Keep the tattooed area clean and moisturize with a good ointment for at least 2-3 weeks or more.
- Don’t rub, scratch, or flake off the healing tattoo. Let the peels off naturally.
- Don’t smoke for at least a few weeks.
- Don’t eat hot, spicy, salty, and acidic foods and hot beverages.
- Don’t use toothpaste with whitening ingredients for a week to avoid color loss.
- Don’t submerge your healing tattoo too long.
Keep the lip clean, avoid spicy or acidic foods, and keep it hydrated. If you experience complications or improper healing, speak to a doctor immediately.
Finger and Hands Tattoo Aftercare
Besides the face and neck, our fingers and hands are the second most visible part of our body, and healing and maintaining a shining tattoo can make you stand out.
Here’re the do’s and don’ts after getting finger and hands tattoos.
- Like any other body parts, you’ll remove the bandage after 3-4 hours and clean it with fragrance-free, mild soap and lukewarm water.
- And leave the tattoo alone for 24 hours.
- Your aftercare routine will be ON from day 2 — cleaning with gentle soal and water followed by drying and moisturizing 2-3 times a day.
- As our hands and finders tent to expose more and if you have to get out in the sun, use a sunscreen with SPF 45 or higher.
- The don’ts are almost the same as other parts of the body.
- Don’t soak or expose directly to the sun for two to three weeks.
- Don’t pick or flake off when it peels. Let it do on its own.
- Don’t swim or exercise for at least the first couple weeks because it may stretch your skin and mess up the art.
With clean hands, gently wash the tattoo with fragrance-free soap and lukewarm water daily for 2-3 times. Make sure to moisturize after drying the tattoo and use sunscreen before going out.
Back Tattoo Aftercare
Back tattoos are usually hard to reach and clean properly. So, it would be best to ask for help from someone who can wash and moisturize your tattoo at least twice daily.
- Your aftercare would be the same as any other location — wash with fragrance-free, mild soap and lukewarm water, and moisturize with a neutral lotion.
- If you can reach your art, use a mirror to ensure you’ve applied the cream to every part of your tattoo.
- You may want to sleep on your face down (on your chest) to avoid rubbing and stretching your back skin.
- Wear loose cotton clothes for a week or two.
- You can ask your artist for aftercare instructions.
- Don’t expect an easy aftercare process. It’s slightly challenging.
- Don’t move and work out for at least a few weeks. Be careful when doing any activity.
- Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you aren’t reaching your tattoo with your hands. Keep the tattoo clean and moisturized.
Chest and Rib Tattoo Aftercare
Chest and rib are some of the painful places to get tattooed, and after getting one, you need to give it extra attention to heal because after tolerating that much pain, you don’t want to let your tattoo fade or get infected.
- The aftercare is the same as any other body part — clean and moisturize with the right soap and lotions.
- Wear loose and soft clothes when it’s healing.
- Try to minimize your physical activity to avoid sweating on the new tattoo.
- Make sure to use sunscreen when you’re going to expose your tattoo directly to the sun.
- Don’t spend too long in the sun because the UV rays may damage your fresh ink.
- Don’t sleep on your chest (tattooed area), and avoid scratching and peeling your healing tattoo.
- Don’t swim or exercise for at least a few weeks, especially the activities that stretch your chest and ribs skin.
Neck Tattoo Aftercare
Congratulations! You’ve tattooed one of the most painful parts of the body. Follow a proper aftercare routine for a few weeks, and you’ll be good to go to show your art to the world.
- Same aftercare as we’ve gone through — wash and moisturize 2-3 times daily.
- Be careful when moving your head.
- Use sunscreen before exposing it to direct sunlight. It’s best to avoid the sun in the first few days.
- Don’t touch or scratch your healing tattoo.
- Don’t do intense activities because our neck is one of the areas that sweat a lot, even in minimal physical activity.
- Like any other body part, you shouldn’t swim, bathe, or exercise with your fresh neck tattoo.
Foot and Thigh Tattoo Aftercare
Foot and inner thighs are very painful places to get a tattoo, meaning the extra attention and care are reasonable. It can be a little tricky to heal, especially in hotter seasons.
Although the aftercare routine is the same as any other location, you must keep a few things in mind.
- Take your shoes off as soon as you reach home. Remove the bandage, wash your tattoo as discussed before, and leave it to breathe.
- Start moisturizing 2-3 times a day from day 2.
- Wear loose clothes that aren’t harsh on your fresh ink if you have a thigh tattoo.
- Use sunscreen to protect your new art from UV rays.
- In the first week or so, it’s better to avoid wearing shoes, which can rub the skin and stop airflow, leading to fading and delayed healing.
- Don’t run or exercise in the first few weeks.
- Don’t wear shoes for a week or two.
- Don’t submerge your new ink. Showering can be fine, but not too long.
Note: It’s best to follow your artist’s recommended aftercare instructions because everyone’s skin type and art are different, so your artist can give the best possible aftercare for your tattoo.
When to See a Doctor
Tattoos generally heal quicker if you follow a correct aftercare routine. If you experience complications, contact your artist or a doctor immediately.
Redness, puffiness, pain, swelling, or bleeding beyond a few days after getting a tattoo may indicate that you’ve got an infection or allergic reaction to the ink.
Also, you should immediately consult a healthcare professional if you have a fever, severe itching, or continuous plasma output from your tattoo.
Moisture is the key ingredient for your tattoo healing and color. Drink lots of water, clean the tattooed area, and apply a gentle moisturizer free from fragrances and irritating chemicals.
So… There we have it: how to take care of a tattoo.
If you have any questions regarding tattoo aftercare or tattoos in general, feel free to ask in the comment section below. I’d be glad to help you out!
How long should I aftercare my tattoo?
Shortly, until it heals.
The top layer of the skin usually takes 2-4 weeks to heal, and your aftercare should be ON in this period. When you see a new layer of skin start to form on your tattoo, you can minimize your aftercare just to moisturize.
Make sure to keep your tattooed area clean and hydrated for healthy and attractive-looking art in the long term. Use sunscreen before going out in the sun.
How do you sleep with a new tattoo?
Sleeping with a new tattoo needs you to be mindful. Ensure you’re sleeping on clean bed sheets and in a position that keeps you off of the tattoo.
It’s also advisable to warp your tattoo for the first 3 to 5 nights with a good healing warp (like tattoo film) that is breathable, anti-bacterial, and waterproof.
Avoid alcohol and pets for a week or so, and be sure to get about 8 hours of sleep at night.
How can I speed up my tattoo healing?
A tattoo is an open wound that needs time and care to heal properly.
There’re some things you can do to speed up your healing process, such as clean and apply ointments 2-3 times a day, maintain proper air circulation, avoid swim and intense physical activities, prevent direct sunlight, don’t scratch or peel, avoid scented aftercare products, and drink lots of water. Read more…