I’m currently sporting more than 2 grand in art on my body. That’s not chump change by any means, so I make sure to baby those new tats like nobody’s business.
Tattoo artists all have different recommendations for what works and what doesn’t for after-care. Read on for the method that has never failed me. I have never had a tattoo ooze, bleed or fade with the methods listed below.
Between the chair and home
My artist wraps the new tattoo with plastic cling wrap. Since I’m not big on plastics in general, the max I leave it on is about 2 hours after leaving. I try to head home after a new tattoo. Heading to a public place is asking for trouble in my opinion. You’re risking the tattoo getting bumped or exposing the open wound (that’s exactly what a tattoo is) to germs. Take your ass straight home!
Remove the plastic wrap (or other covering) about 2 hours after the work is done. Some recommend leaving on overnight, but I disagree. Plastic will trap body heat and sweat and too much moisture can pull color from your tattoo and slow down healing.
Cleaning and care
LIGHTLY wash your tattoo (with clean hands) with lukewarm water and a gentle soap of your choice. Dial liquid (gold) antibacterial soap is good for the first few days of your new tattoo, but I like to switch to a gentle, liquid Castile soap once my tattoos have healed a little.
Dab the tattoo dry, GENTLY with a paper towel. I don’t use washcloths or towels since they are rough and could possibly introduce bacteria into the tattoo.
Let your tattoo air-dry for 15-20 minutes. You do not want to trap moisture in your tattoo, underneath balms, salves or lotions. Once the tattoo is completely dry, apply a TINY amount of Mable Lee’s Tattoo Balm. Our balm is soft enough that you will be able to apply a thin layer without it dragging across your tattoo and risking irritation.
If the tattoo is looking “greasy” this means you have applied too much. Take a paper towel and GENTLY dab off the excess balm from the tattoo. Apply balm ONLY after cleaning or if the tattoo is looking dry and/or the peeling stage has begun. You do not want to over-moisturize your tattoo. More is not better when it comes to tattoo care. Your beautiful tattoo doesn’t want to be smothered, it wants to breathe in order to heal correctly.
The first 3 days of my new tattoo, I use the above cleaning routine 3 times per day (then twice a day for the next 10 days). I work away from the general public, so I have the luxury of pampering my tattoos and leaving them uncovered. Just do the absolute best you can for your daily situation. I also make sure to drink enough water, get plenty of sleep and no booze during the healing period. A healthy body is a must for proper healing.
The KEY to vibrant tattoos is keeping them out of the sun as much as possible. During the first 6 months of a new tattoo, I apply sunscreen like crazy. Even in the winter, if the tattoo is an area that won’t be covered. And don’t think sunscreen is just for those of the Caucasian-persuasion. No matter your race, if you want vibrant, long-lasting tattoos, invest in a high (50 or more) SPF bottle of sunscreen.
Protecting your new tat from the sun is even more important while it’s healing. If you’ve never felt the sun on a fresh tattoo, I will compare it to getting a root canal by the devil himself in the pits of hell. Keep it covered! I’ve been known to take an extra shirt in the car to lay over my fresh tattoo, so sun shining in the car window doesn’t hit it.
I take care not to get the new tattoo wet in the shower. Hit the hot spots and get out. No long, hot showers and no swimming. You’ll notice a theme here that I like to keep my new tattoo as dry as possible (salves and balms aside).
I keep dogs, small children, and other germy, clingy things away from the new tattoo for at least a week. I make sure clothing will not rub the healing tattoo and I use pillows to prop up the tattooed arm or leg during the night. I don’t give a damn how weird I look during the healing period; I paid good-ass money and I want my tattoos to reflect that!
If you’ve found a method that results in great-looking tattoos, leave a comment and share it with us.