Can You Shower After Getting a Tattoo? 7 Things You Should Know When Caring For Your New Ink

When I got my tattoo back in senior year of high school, I was shaking for a good half hour before the needle even touched my skin. The control freak and hypochondriac that I was (and still am) felt so lost amidst all the advice for how to properly care for a tattoo. I'm sure the tattoo artist wasn't exactly thrilled when I couldn't sit still through the five-minute-long process (which felt like way longer, in case you were wondering) and the millions of questions I had for him like, "Can I shower after getting my tattoo?" and "Am I going to be OK?" But come on, you're drilling holes into my skin with a needle and stuffing ink in there!

After collecting some advice from friends, tattoo parlor guides, and scouring the Internet for advice, I learned some surefire ways for keeping your tattoo clean and avoiding an infection situation like Rebel Wilson in Bridesmaids. Here are 7 things you should know when caring for your new ink.

1. The First 48 Hours After Are Crucial

Not surprisingly, the first 48 hours of your tattoo are the most important to the healing process. After you get a tattoo, the artist will keep a bandage over it to prevent it from chafing against other materials and parts of your body. Though you can take it off after a couple of hours, you can keep it on overnight, since ink can still seep out of it and stain your sheets. According to Unique Ink Tattoo, the most common wait time is 2-4 hours.

2. You Can Shower After Getting a Tattoo, But Remember to Use Mild Soap

Once you've removed your bandage, you can wash your tattoo or take a shower. But this is important: use a mild, fragrance-free soap. Living Canvas Tattoo suggests using Dove, Dial, or Neutrogena. Also make sure it's alcohol free.

Dove Sensitive Skin, $5, Amazon; Dial, $6, Amazon; Neutrogena Soap, $5, Amazon

3. Do Not Use a Washcloth or Loofah

When you do wash your piece, only use your hands. A washcloth or loofah can hoard bacteria. While cleanliness is essential, you want to make sure you don't wash away your body's natural bacteria that helps heal your skin. Once or twice a day is sufficient.

4. Refrain From Picking Your Flakes Off

After the initial 48-hour period, your tattoo will begin to dry out and often times, flake. Please, oh please, do not pick these flakes off. Doing so will not only cause scarring, but will also blur lines and cause discoloration. It's tempting, but don't do it!

5. Use a Mild Lotion or Oil

To soothe your skin's dryness and to help your ink heal, use a fragrance-free lotion like Aquaphor or A&D ointment. Flaking will still happen, but these products will help keep your skin moisturized.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment, $11, Amazon; A&D Ointment, $10, Amazon

6. Avoid Sunbathing, Sweating and Swimming

Remember: the sun is a tattoo's worst enemy. If you're not fully healed, I've got two words for you: stay inside. It's also important to avoid swimming and excessive sweating. Feel free to use this as an excuse to take a hiatus from working out. Wink wink.

7. Be Patient While Your Skin Heals

Most tattoos take 7-14 days to fully heal, although in some cases, it can take up to a month. So, here's bottom line: a tattoo is like any other sensitive wound. Take care of it. Keep it clean and moisturized, and avoid putting it in contact with unwanted bacteria. And in no time, you can show your fully healed piece off, and no one will ever know you whimpered on the chair while the artist rolled his eyes.

Images: Fotolia; jphilipson, tobyotter, land_camera/Flickr