When I got my most recent tattoo, I was shocked that I'd totally forgotten how to care for one, even though my last piece is only a year old and I'm on seven tattoos and counting. Knowing what not to do to your tattoo is as important for the healing process as knowing what you should do. Luckily, most tattoo shops will give you an aftercare sheet to make sure you know what you're up against. So no matter how forgetful you are, you have no excuse not to look after your new ink.
But if you're forgetful enough that proper tattoo aftercare likely won't be at the top of your to-do list, you're probably forgetful enough that you'll lose the aftercare sheet after the first two days anyway. I'm not judging you, because I am literally that person. But that doesn't mean you have to be victim to a crappy healing experience — or worse, an infection.
It's important to remember that if your tattoo does get infected, you should check with your tattoo artist about what to do next, since the usual aftercare rules will no longer apply. Speaking from experience, it's usually a case of going to the doctor for antibiotics. But to avoid getting to that stage, simply follow these no go's for tattoo maintenance and you should be just fine.
1. Don't Scratch It
During the healing period, your tattoo might feel like the itchiest thing that has ever itched in the history of itching. But avoid scratching to the best of your abilities. As Tattoo Junkies, the leading full service tattoo and body piercing studio on the seacoast, will tell you, "Do not pick, scratch, peel, slap, rub or irritate your tattoo." I can't act like a saint and pretend I never have a sneaky little scratch session, but just be careful.
2. Don't Let Others Touch It
As Tattoo Junkies warns, "Do not let anyone touch your tattoo, unless they wash their hands." You don't know where they've been or what their hands were doing before gracing your skin. Infections are easy to get, so think of your tattoo as an open wound. You wouldn't even let your mom touch it without thoroughly disinfecting her hands first. Just as you have to keep your own hands clean during the healing process, so does everyone else coming into contact with your ink.
3. Don't Peel Off Dead Skin
Tattoo Artist Magazine advises against picking off any skin that starts peeling away from your tattoo. "It is essentially the scabby layer and dead skin coming off. Do not scratch it or play with it! It will probably itch throughout this time, do not scratch!"
4. Don't Over-Moisturize
On the other end of the spectrum, don't over-moisturize your tattoo if you want to avoid peeling or itching. "A thin layer is better than drowning the tattoo in goo and will help it heal faster," Inked Magazine advises.
5. Don't Use Saran Wrap And Tattoo Ointment
It's one or other other, pals. Wet healing or wrap healing is a tattoo healing process that I personally prefer, but most people I know just go for the old faithful. According to Inked, it's OK to experiment in order to find the right method for you. But don't go for both at the same time.
6. Don't Use A Scented Moisturizer
Personally, I wouldn't even use a scented moisturizer on my face, let alone for my healing tattoo. Inked Mag recommends Aveeno, and luckily it comes pretty cheap.
7. Don't Ignore It
With any healing wound, it's often best to leave it alone to do its own thing. However, tattoos deserve your care and attention. According to the folks at the Great British Tattoo Show, don't ignore aftercare. You might think it'll be fine if left to its own devices, but you'd only be setting yourself up for infection.
8. Don't Soak It
Try to only take showers during the healing process. Trust me, I know how hard this is as a seasoned bath enthusiast. "No swimming, soaking, or hot tub" for two weeks, according to Tattoo Junkies.
9. Don't Ignore The Sunblock
If you care about your skin, you should be wearing some kind of SPF always. According to tattoo culture site Skin Artists, sun exposure can seriously mess with your tattoo, so avoid those rays at all costs during the entire healing process. Afterwards, always keep your tattoo protected with sunblock.
10. Don't Wear Tight Clothing
It's time to ditch the super skinny jeans in exchange for your mom denim for a couple of weeks. "For the first two weeks, avoid wearing tight clothing that might rub up against your tattoo as well as sleeping on your tattoo so you don’t agitate the healing process," Inked warns.
11. Don't Forget To Clean Your Hands
Keeping your hands clean is as important as keeping your tattoo clean, because your hands can introduce bacteria to your tattoo very easily. According to Inked, "Make sure to wash your new tattoo several times a day with a soft, non-scented, antibacterial soap [...] to keep it clean and avoid potential infection [...] Remember, never touch your tattoo unless you have just washed your hands!"
The moral of the story? Keep yourself and your tattoo clean and cared for. And above all, pay attention to what your tattoo artist tells you to do. They're the experts, after all.
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