11 Things That Can Ruin Your Tattoo If You're Not Careful

Let's say you just got a permanent piece of body art (read: tattoo), and you're feeling very protective. After all, this thing is for life, so you're on the lookout for things that can ruin your tattoo. Is it OK to take a shower? It is OK to go out in the sun? The mind reels.

And that's totally normal, not to mention very important. This is your skin we're talking about, and a tattoo is an open wound, so you really can't be too careful — especially when it comes to infection. An infection is something you should treat right away (as in, go to the doctor ASAP). It's also something that can mess with the healing process, and the final look of your tattoo. But don't be freaked out. If you keep the area clean, and treat redness and puffiness immediately, you should be fine. It's really not that difficult.

What is difficult, however, is resisting the urge to pick and peel the scabby, flakey skin that is part of the tattoo healing process. As noted by the experts on TattooColumbia.com, "Do not under any circumstances, pick or 'help' these flakes come off. Doing so will result in the loss of line and color in your tattoo, as well as cause scarring. And yes, we can tell when someone has picked at their tattoo." Yikes. Definitely not worth it.

It takes a tattoo anywhere from two weeks to a month to fully heal. Get past this stage without picking, and you'll most likely end up with a beautiful, healthy tattoo. But there are a few other factors to consider, from the healing process and beyond. So read on to see what else has the potential to ruin your tattoo.

Check It Out: H2Ocean Ultimate Tattoo Care Kit, $20, Amazon

1. Not Following The Artist's Instructions

Remember all the scary talk about infection? It's way less likely to happen if you follow your tattoo artist's healing instructions. That's because each artist will likely suggest a different method for healing based on their machines, inks, and needles, according to the professionals on InkMaine.com. Plus, he or she likely (hopefully) has years of experience, so they have tried and tested healing methods that likely work very well.

2. Picking Or Peeling Your Scabs

Like I said above, you're likely to get itchy, scabby skin during the healing process. Whatever you do, resist the urge to pick or peel, as it can really mess up the color and lines of your tattoo. According to an article on InkDoneRight.com, "You want those scabs to stay on as long as possible, even if it means resisting that itching feeling for weeks. After six weeks, that lighter layer of skin will finally shed away and the final colors of your tattoo will shine."

3. Sleeping On Top Of It

This one can be tough, because you can't really help what happens in your sleep. But if you have, say, a back tattoo, at least try to sleep on your stomach. As Jessica Paige said on Tattoodo.com, "If you can sleep with your tattoo exposed, that would be best. If not, you can place a clean thin towel between you and the sheets." This will help keep your fresh skin infection-free.

4. Submerging It Under Water

Once you have your new tattoo, wait at least two weeks before doing any prolonged bathing. As Paige said, "Yes, of course you can shower, and washing your tattoo a few times a day is encouraged — but you shouldn't submerge your tattoo in baths, hot tubs, swimming pools, or salt water. Standing water = unhealthy bacteria and irritants."

5. Keeping It Covered For Too Long

When you leave the tattoo parlor, you'll have a plastic wrap protecting your new tattoo. But don't leave this on forever (even thought it feels like you should). As Kris Howes said on InkMaine.com, "It’s covered for a reason. But do not leave it covered. Cover will allow your skin to finish bleeding out, and let the new open pores close up, to avoid infections and contamination."

6. Hanging Out In Direct Sunlight

Do yourself a favor, and resist the urge to prance around on the beach with your new, unprotected tattoo on full display. As Paige said, "You will feel your fresh tattoo burning if it's exposed to sunlight. Listen to your body, if your tattoo feels hot and irritated, stay out of direct sunlight. If you must be out in the sun, keep that baby covered."

7. Not Wearing Sunblock

Do not put sunscreen on a fresh tattoo (remember, it should be treated like any other open wound). However, direct sunlight can lead to fading, which is a real good way to ruin your tattoo. So once it's healed, get in the habit of slathering on the sunblock every time you go outside. According to TattooColumbia.com, "This will prevent any fading or color loss ... We find that the highest [SPF] rating is the best and apply liberally throughout your sun exposure time." Doing so will keep your tattoo bright and vibrant for years to come.

8. Touching It Too Often

Your hands are dirty, dirty, dirty, so you should resist touching your new tattoo at all costs. As the experts on TattooColumbia.com suggested, "Never ever touch your tattoo with dirty hands, fingernails, clothing, shoes, etc. This is the number one reason why infections occur." And that is the number one thing to avoid.

9. Showing It Off To Friends

I know, it's tempting to show off your tattoo. But when you do, people are likely to reach in to touch it. Remember they, like you, have dirty, dirty, dirty hands. So take a photo instead, and show that off until the tattoo is healed.

10. Getting Bad Art From A Bad Artist

It's possible to ruin a tattoo before it's even finished by choosing an unskilled artist. Remember, this thing is for life, so do your research beforehand. As suggested on TatRing.com, be sure to plan ahead, and vet your artist for his or her precision, the straightness of their lines, their consistency, and their style, among other things. And don't be afraid to say no to an artist who is pressuring you, or not listening to your ideas.

11. Getting Older

Of course aging is unavoidable, but it's still something to consider when getting a tattoo. Your tattoo will fade and blur over the years as skin ages and sags, so choosing a spot where this is less likely to occur may be a good idea. As Marci Robin suggested on XoVain.com, the four best spots are your inner forearm, the upper and outer areas of your chest, the back of your neck, and the center of your lower back — all areas that don't see much sun, or weight loss/gain.

To avoid ruining your tattoo, simply keep it clean while it's healing, don't pick at it, and then keep it protected from the sun. Do this, and you'll have a lovely, vibrant, healthy tattoo for life.

Images: Pexels (10); Pixabay (1); Hatim Belyamani/Unsplash