The Tattoo Lover’s Ultimate Tattoo Aftercare Guide

By Tephanie Stephenson / October 13, 2018
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Tattoos are pretty and all, but it is still a wound that you definitely have to take care of. This is one of the most important parts of your tattoo journey and today, we will discuss everything you need to know about tattoo aftercare.


Why Do I Need to Take Care of My Tattoo?

It is essential to take good care of your tattoo after getting it to avoid getting any type of infection. You also would not want to ruin your tattoo and have it fade or scab, which is why you would have to take these important steps to ensure your tattoo’s proper healing afterwards.

Even if the tattoo is completely healed, you would have to take certain measures to make sure that your tattoo will stay looking vibrant for a long time.


What Should I Do After Getting My Tattoo?

There are a couple of things that you can do to make sure that your tattoo stays perfectly fine and properly healed after getting it. Read below to know what they are!

bandaged tattoo

  1. Do not remove the bandage or wrap until your artist tells you so. They would know when you should remove your bandage and you definitely should follow their instructions to a T. This is to prevent your tattoo from getting infected with sweat, dust, and other factors during the time being, so make sure to follow your tattoo artist’s instructions regarding this.

  2. Once you remove the wrap or bandage on your fresh new tattoo, make sure to wash it with a mild soap and water afterwards. Lather properly and scrub on it gently to avoid irritating it. This is to remove the blood or sweat that can further irritate your tattoo.

  3. Just pat your tattoo dry and do not rub it with a towel or toilet paper. Rubbing it can irritate it and open the wound up once again.

  4. Once the tattoo is dry, put a small amount of lotion that your tattoo artist recommended. Always buy or get what they ask you to, as they would know what you should put on your new tattoo to help it heal properly.

  5. Wash your tattoo twice to thrice a day to make sure that it stays clean and protected at all times. As always, make sure to use a fragrance-free soap and rinse it with lukewarm water after.

  6. Avoid picking at your scabs and peeling skin, as this can destroy the pigments and destroy your beautiful tattoo. Let it peel all by itself and try your best not to remove it with your fingers or nails.

  7. Avoid direct sunlight, as this can make your tattoo fade over time. Wear protective clothing and a hat to make sure that your tattoo does not get exposed from the sun.

  8. Avoid swimming in any body of water for the meantime, as you do not know what is in the water. It can infect your open wound, as it is still susceptible to infections during the healing period. Stick to your normal shower routine until your tattoo and wound are fully healed.

What Should I Avoid Doing During the Healing Process?

Avoid doing the things that we will be discussing below to make sure that your tattoo heals perfectly fine.


Do Not Pick on your Scabs


Just like what we have said earlier, you should never pick on your peeling tattoo and scabs during its healing period. Doing so will most likely reopen your wounds and make your tattoo bleed once again. This can lead to an infection and your tattoo getting destroyed, which is why you should avoid doing this at all costs.

Avoid Scratching on your Tattoo

New tattoos will definitely itch during the healing period, but you should avoid scratching it at all costs. Giving in to the itch can make your tattoo peel and make it all scabby, which can destroy its look right away.


You can pull off the scabs and even your tender skin when you scratch your new tattoo, making your tattoo look all patchy and ugly.

Heavier scratching can also make your tattoo bleed, making the healing period last longer than usual.


Also, your fingernails harbour a number of different bacteria, and this can easily be deposited to your tattoo if you do give in to scratching it.

Do Not Go Swimming


Just like your fingernails, different bodies of water such as lakes, oceans, rivers, and others harbour different types of bacteria. This can easily infect your open wound, and you definitely do not want this to happen.


Avoid swimming in any body of water during the healing period to avoid any infection and whatnot.

Avoid Exposing your Tattoo to Direct Sunlight

The sun’s UV rays can be harmful and harsh to your new tattoo, which is why you should avoid exposing it to the sun directly. Always wear protective clothing when going out to make sure your tattoo will not get exposed to the harmful rays of the sun.

Additionally, too much sun can also make your tattoo swell and make it all raw and tender, which can be very painful.

Do Not Re-Bandage your Tattoo

Your new tattoo needs to breathe to completely heal, which is why rewrapping it is not a good idea. Once the bandage or wrap has been removed, do not replace it with a new one. Let the tattoo breathe and just clean it twice to thrice a day with a mild soap and lukewarm water.

Re-bandaging your tattoo will make it moist, making it susceptible to different types of bacteria. This is the last thing that you would want to get when you have a new tattoo, as this can make you sick and destroy your new ink.

Avoid Putting too Much Ointment

tattoo ointment


Putting too much ointment, lotion, or cream to your new tattoo can suffocate it and prevent it from getting the oxygen that it needs. Do not smother it with the ointment – instead, just put a thin amount and make sure to spread it evenly.

Do Not Use Petroleum-Based Products

Petroleum-based products are normally very thick in consistency. This can suffocate your tattoo and even infect it in the long run. Make sure to use a tattoo-specific lotion or ointment to make sure that your tattoo will heal properly and not get suffocated in the process.

Avoid Products that have Fragrance in it


Products that have a lot of fragrance as an ingredient can easily irritate your new tattoo. This is especially true for people who have sensitive skin, which is why you have to be completely careful when putting stuff on your new tattoo.

If you are sensitive to the stuff and you decide to put it on your tattoo, chances are you will get a rash, an extreme itch or even an infection upon using the product. Make sure to choose a product that does not contain fragrance to steer clear of this type of problem.

Products with a lot of alcohol in them can also be harmful to most tattoos. This is because alcohol is too harsh and can dry up your tattoo way too much.

Do Not Use Abrasive Towels or Dirty Tissue When Cleaning your Tattoo

clean tissue for tattoo

You definitely would want to stay away from infection, which is why it is important to clean your tattoo with a clean cloth or towel. Use a new one every time you clean your tattoo so you would not get any type of infection in the process.

Avoid Wearing Clothing that’s Way too Tight


While the tattoo is healing, you should avoid wearing clothing that’s way too tight. Just like what we have said earlier, new tattoos need to breathe and get the proper amount of oxygen that it needs. Wearing tight-fitting clothing wouldn’t help, which is why it would be a lot wiser to wear loose and comfortable clothing during your tattoo’s healing period.

Also, tight clothing can rub on your new tattoo, which can irritate it and make it susceptible to infections.

Do Not Workout or Exercise Right Away


Sweat can irritate your new tattoo and open wound, making it susceptible to infections. Sure, it’s okay to sweat a little, but too much of it can make your tattoo irritated.

Another thing is that you should never strain your body way too much after getting a new tattoo. This is because getting a new tattoo is similar to acquiring a new wound, which means that you should definitely rest upon getting it, as it can easily affect your immune system.

Also, gyms and gym equipment can be pretty dirty, which means that you should avoid getting this equipment in contact with your brand new tattoo. Dust and other people’s sweat can be present in the area, and this can be hazardous to your new wound and tattoo. Steer clear of exercising and gyms for the meantime to make sure that your tattoo heals properly.

You can go back to exercising after about two to three weeks, as your tattoo is a little bit healed during this time period.

Avoid Washing your Tattoo with Hot Water

washing tattoo

Hot water can be too harsh on your new tattoo, especially since your new ink is very, very sensitive. Instead of using hot water, try using just lukewarm water when cleaning your tattoo. This can kill the bacteria and clean your tattoo properly all at the same time.

Do Not Use a Sauna or Steam Room as of the Moment


Saunas and steam rooms can be too hot for your new tattoo and open your pores up too much.

Avoid using saunas and steam rooms until your tattoo is completely healed to avoid getting an infection and whatnot.

Avoid Touching your Tattoo

Yes, it might be really tempting to touch your tattoo over and over again, but you should definitely avoid doing that. Your hands are full of bacteria and most of the time, you are not a hundred percent aware of where it has been.

If you really need to touch your tattoo, such as when you are cleaning it, then make sure to wash your hands before doing so. This will minimize your risk of getting an infection or making your tattoo susceptible to one.

Do Not Shave the Area

Avoid shaving the area with a razor and a cream while it is still healing. This can irritate your tattoo and make it susceptible to infections, which you definitely would want to avoid.

You should also avoid waxing it or getting it lasered, as this can also irritate your new tattoo. You can ask your tattoo artist when you can go back to waxing and shaving, but it will probably take a while before you can.

Avoid Drinking Too Much Alcohol


Alcohol is a blood thinner, which means that your new tattoo has a high possibility of bleeding if you drink too much alcohol.

You can still drink alcohol during the healing process, but make sure that it is not too much. Too much alcohol can also affect your immune system and make it weaker than usual.

Also, you should avoid drinking alcohol before getting your tattoo, because chances are you will bleed way too much when you are intoxicated.

How Should I Care for my Tattoo During the First Day and for the Rest of the Healing Process?

There are different things that you should do when it comes to your tattoo’s healing process and today, we will talk about those and how to perfectly care for it.

The First Day After Getting the Tattoo

Different tattoo artists will recommend different time frames when it comes to removing your bandage or wrap, which is why it is important to listen to them since this part is very important. It can be around 2 to 24 hours, so make sure to listen up.

If you need to be somewhere else aside from your house after getting the tattoo, then you would want to keep the bandage on to make sure that dirt, sweat, and dust won’t get into it. Your pores and wound are still pretty much open during those times, which means that bacteria can easily infiltrate it. Keep it on until you come home and make sure to rinse it with mild soap and lukewarm water after taking the bandage off.

Now, when it comes to taking the bandage off and washing your tattoo, remember the following statements. Your new tattoo may be filled with gooey stuff such as plasma, blood, lymph fluid, and ink and it might look nasty at first. This is perfectly normal, but you definitely have to wash it properly to get the plasma off, especially, since it can heavily scab your tattoo if not cleaned properly.

If you are still seeing bits of dried up blood and plasma even after washing the tattoo, then just leave it be. Do not rub on it or scratch it too hard, as this can ruin your tattoo or even infect it.

After cleaning it with mild soap and lukewarm water, make sure to tap it dry with a clean piece of napkin. DO NOT rub – just tap the napkin over your tattoo and let it soak the excess water.

Once you are done with this, you can go ahead and put a little bit of lotion or ointment to your new tattoo. Do not use too much, as this may cause your tattoo to suffocate, which can eventually lead to an infection.

Your tattoo will be sore, red, and tender during the first day and for the next couple of days, so make sure to take good care of it and not touch it too much. Your new tattoo can also affect the way you sleep, especially if it touches your clothing or your beddings. Make sure to lay on the opposite side of where you got your new tattoo to avoid getting it all pressed up on your clothing or your beddings.

The First Few Days After Getting Inked

You will most probably still see a little bit of blood and plasma oozing out of your new tattoo, but it should be lessened by now. You will also experience swelling and redness still and this can take up to a week before it starts to go down.

If you usually get bruised easily, then you can get a little bit of bruising during these days. It should be nothing to be alarmed of, so if it gets too purple or red and the area seems to spread out, then it might be time to see a doctor.

You should continue sleeping in the opposite direction of where you got the tattoo to make sure that you won’t press the tattoo on your beddings and clothing.

Lastly, make sure to clean your tattoo with mild soap and lukewarm water 2 – 3 times per day to make sure that no type of infection will be present.

Tattoo Scabbing

After 4 – 5 days, your new tattoo will start to scab and peel off. Don’t worry – this is not the ink coming off, it’s just the extra layer of the skin and ink that’s actually peeling off. Just make sure not to voluntarily peel everything off, or else, you can create a new wound or even take some of that ink off. Just leave it to scab and peel off on its own – it will eventually pass anyway.

You should still continue to clean your tattoo properly during these days and make sure to apply the ointment every after wash to keep your tattoo moisturized, as this can be a pretty dry moment for your new tattoo.


You will notice a little bit of dullness on your tattoo, but do not worry, as this is completely temporary. It will brighten and become vibrant once again after all the scabbing and peeling is done.

Avoid wearing tight clothing during these times to make sure that the scabs and the new tattoo won’t stick to it. Wear comfortable and loose clothing, plus make sure to stay away from super hot places and doing strenuous activities.

The Itchiness

The itchiness will start to commence by day 6 and can last up to day 14. Remember: no matter how itchy it gets, you should resist to scratch it at all costs. If it gets too difficult to handle, then just tap on the tattoo lightly until the itchiness goes away.

The cause of the itchiness is mainly because of the tattoo being too dried up. This is the reason why it is important to keep your tattoo clean and properly moisturized during the whole period.

Also, know that during this period, your skin and tattoo will look all scabby and peeling. This is pretty normal, so there is nothing to worry about. Just let it scab and peel on its own and you will be good.

The Final Stages

Days 15 – 30 are most probably the best days that you will experience after getting your new tattoo. The inflammation and soreness should have disappeared by now and your tattoo should be as flat as your usual and untattooed skin.


Itchiness, peeling, and scabbing may still be present in the area, but it should not be anything major. Make sure to still clean your tattoo well and moisturize it with cocoa butter or even your usual unscented lotion.

Do not shave the tattooed are until it is fully healed to make sure that you won’t run into an infection or even a botched tattoo.

Can I Take A Shower After Getting my New Tattoo?

Most tattoo artists will advise you to wait a few hours before showering with a new tattoo. You should be able to do so after 4 hours and after taking your bandage or wrap off. There are a few rules that you must follow when showering with a new tattoo, so make sure to continue reading below.

Do Not Shower with Hot Water

If you love showering with hot water, then this is the time to stop doing that for a while. Hot water can open your pores up, which means that bacteria can easily enter the wound and give you an infection.

Instead, shower with lukewarm water to properly kill any bacteria off and keep your tattoo moisturized.

Use the Right Type of Soap

Now, we might have mentioned this earlier, but it is definitely important, which is why we would like to repeat ourselves. Make sure to use a fragrance-free and mild soap to clean your tattoo. Do not use anything with harsh ingredients and full-on fragrance, as this can irritate your tattoo.

Clean it Gently

Do not rub or scratch on the tattoo during bath time, as this can ruin the pigments and ink on your new tattoo. Just casually wash it with water and mild soap, you also do not want to use a loofah or scrubber on the area, as this can disrupt the ink.

Make it Fast

Do not stay inside the shower for too long. Instead, make sure that you get out of it as fast as you can. You do not want to expose your tattoo to the steam and water too much, which can be harmful to your new tattoo.


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About the author

Tephanie Stephenson

Tephanie has extensive knowledge when it comes to body and facial piercings. She has seen it all – from nostril piercings all the way to nipple piercings. She has over 10 piercings including a nostril, medusa, eyebrow, tragus, earlobe, and industrial. She is an expert when it comes to cleaning piercings and keeping it infection-free. If you have got any questions for Tephanie about any type of piercing, comment it down below and she will get back to you in a jiffy!

1 comment - October 14, 2018

Very nice article, exactly what I wanted to find.

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