Beauty/Grooming, Health/Life

How to care for a tattoo: complete guide to tattoo aftercare

how to care for a tattoo

Outlines how to care for a tattoo, with expert methods for tattoo aftercare, hygiene, what to do before a tattoo and how to maintain the sharpness of the new ink work.

Find more beauty and grooming guides, tips and advice

A dragon on your forearm, a snake on your leg or the name of your loved one on your back – tattoos are particularly popular. Every third person under the age of 40 has had at least one, according to a representative survey by the market research institute Ipsos. A total of 21 percent people of all ages are tattooed today – almost ten percentage points more than seven years ago.  Not to forget all the celebrities who have helped popularise tattoos… including Lady Gaga, Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and Cara Delevigne — to name just a few!

When is the best time to get a tattoo?

how to care for a tattoo

Of course, this is not about the time of day, but about the time of year – because the temperature outside can definitely affect your new tattoo . Professionals consider spring and fall to be the best time to get a tattoo. How so? The reasons are simple: both seasons have constant weather, it is neither too warm nor too cold , and there is no sweating. So the tattoo can heal without any problems.

In contrast, some problems could arise in summer and winter. Due to the light clothing in the summer time, it is difficult for us to protect our fresh tattoo from sunlight or to cool off in the cold water while the wound is healing. In winter, thick clothing, which can cause friction on the new tattoo, could cause pain and delay healing. 

A freshly done tattoo is just as cared for in summer as it is in winter. If you get a tattoo while on vacation, you should n’t expose it to direct sun for the first three months. A band-aid or long clothing can protect it. Excessive sweating should also be avoided after the sting, as far as possible at the point. After the three months, you should protect your tattoo from UV radiation years later with a special sunscreen, because you will remain prone to sunburn years later. 

In addition, the UV light tattoo can fade faster, because UV rays can destroy the tattooed color pigments. Therefore, you should always apply a special tattoo sunscreen to your tattoo to prevent fading and a washed-out appearance of your tattoos. We can highly recommend this special sunscreen!

How to care for a tattoo: 7 rules for tattoo aftercare

Consistent follow-up in how to care for a new tattoo reduces the risk of scarring and loss of color during the healing process. That means: with good care you not only ensure that the wound heals quickly, but also that your tattoo really comes into its own on the skin and that the color pigments under the skin stay strong for a long time.

Basically, a fresh tattoo should be treated like a large abrasion. Redness and swelling are a natural skin reaction and usually go away after a few hours or days. Even afterwards, you should be meticulous about cleanliness and change the bandage regularly to prevent infections.

Before tattooing

No special care is required before the tattoo appointment. However, it is advisable not to shave the skin yourself. And: Do not do sports immediately beforehand ! The skin is more sensitive because of the increased blood flow, and tattooing is more painful.

Only commercially registered tattoo studios are checked by the health department. Important: Pay attention to a clean environment. The tattoo area should be clearly separated from the waiting area, clean and hygienic.

  • Find out about the studio in advance and read reviews on the Internet.
  • Long waiting times can be an indication of quality.  
  • The consultation should include all risks related to allergies , inflammation and information about aftercare.
  • Get a list of the colors, dyes and pigments used. This can help with tattoo removal or assessment of possible allergic reactions.

In order to be perfectly prepared for the first time after the new tattoo, it is advisable to get a few things before the appointment. What sounds like a more or less normal purchase is, in detail, the ideal basic equipment for tattoo care.

  • Cling film
  • pH-neutral, fragrance-free soap
  • Wound & healing ointment
  • Kitchen paper towel roll

How to care for a tattoo: 1 – Let the tattoo heal first

Is your dream tattoo finally done? Then you should be particularly careful in the first two weeks. Because you must not forget: the freshly made tattoo is a superficial skin wound. So two things have top priority during aftercare: 1. The wound must heal and 2. wound infection must be avoided.

As beautiful as a freshly done tattoo may be, it is and remains a wound. The larger the size, the more careful you need to be while the wound is healing to prevent infection and inflammation. Because the skin is superficially injured, bleeding can occur, in any case wound water leaks out of a freshly made tattoo. This is why good tattoo care is so important. After all, in the worst case scenario, the wound can become infected. A good tattoo artist sends you home with a thin layer of ointment and a foil over the tattoo  as well as instructions for the ideal tattoo care.

How to care for a tattoo: 2 – Don’t remove the bandage immediately

When the long-awaited tattoo is finally there, you can of course hardly wait to show the new piece of jewelry to your best friends. But beware! Similar to superficial abrasions, wound secretions will leak out and crusts will form.

Therefore, your tattoo is first wrapped with a dry, sterile, but air-permeable bandage material. So have a little patience and remove the bandages only after one to two days, depending on the size of the tattoo. Only then start with the grooming routine.

How to care for a tattoo: 3 – Keep a fresh tattoo away from water

Although you should wash the tattoo off with lukewarm water in the morning and evening, otherwise keep it away from water for the first few days.

Exception: When you take off the bandage, you should clean the tatto with just water or a special tattoo care soap. Perfumed soaps and irritating substances are not suitable, as the skin is more sensitive than usual after a tattoo. After you  wash off the tattoo carefullyyou can gently pat it dry. You shouldn’t use a conventional towel for this, but a paper towel that does not fluff or leave residue. 

How to care for a tattoo: 4 – Use special tattoo ointment

Treat your tattoo or your skin to a thin layer of tattoo ointment in the morning and evening. Perfume-free creams are best. They do not irritate the sensitive skin area unnecessarily and are usually more tolerable.

In addition to special tattoo ointments, you can also use wound and healing ointment or aloe vera gel to care for your tattoo, which you carefully apply to the new tattoo three times a day with clean hands. It is important that the skin is supplied with plenty of moisture and remains supple.

You have probably already heard that tattoo care with Vaseline is completely sufficient. That’s true, but it doesn’t work with every tattoo. With a bamboo tattoo that is very finely engraved, the injured skin area is smaller and can heal faster. Care with Vaseline is completely sufficient. For a tattoo that was done with the machine, we recommend that you care for it with a professional tattoo cream. For the simple reason that petroleum jelly is based on petroleum jelly and could “choke” the skin on large tattoos. 

Tattooists advise against the care with panthenol (Bepanthen) ointments, as they bloat the tattoo too much and this could cause the fresh color to be washed out with it. And you really don’t want that! 

Coconut oil is a little more suitable for the maintenance of a healing tattoo. The antibacterial coconut oil is ideal for moistening the wound well. The healing process is accelerated and infections and inflammation are prevented. Sounds good at first. But coconut oil is not a clinically proven means of maintaining a tattoo – especially not a freshly engraved one. When caring for a fresh tattoo, you should ALWAYS use a proper tattoo cream. Once the tattoo has healed, coconut oil can definitely be used.

 Expert’s tip: Apply the ointment in  thin layers so as not to soften the skin, which can lead to pustules and loss of color in the new tattoo.  Caution: Avoid using very greasy ointments and always apply your cream to the skin in a thin layer.

How to care for a tattoo: 5 – Sun is taboo in the first few weeks

You want nothing more than sunbathing to show off your new body jewelry? You should avoid this in the first few weeks. Large tattoos in particular need protection from UV radiation, as this can break down the color molecules and – depending on the colorants used – sometimes even release carcinogenic substances. And even if your tattoo has healed, always protect your skin with sunscreen!

How to care for a tattoo: 6 – Stay away from the scab!

The most important rule when caring for a tattoo: Don’t touch the scab and don’t try to peel it off! Because that can destroy the beautiful tattoo… if you take off the scab, you run the risk of removing some of the color with it. Therefore: hands off!

How to care for a tattoo: 7 – Be careful with exercise and sport afterwards

A new tattoo takes care and rest to heal, not exertion and exercise. Therefore, try not to overexert the tattooed area for about two weeks after your tattoo appointment, otherwise the tattoo threatens to flake and heal badly. You should do everything you can for good wound healing. Sweat and sweating are also poison for your tattoo! 

You shouldn’t swim for the sake of your freshly made tattoo, because the skin inflammation and infection can occur quickly. You can also expect color loss from chlorine and the like. The same applies to excessively long showers and baths. For perfect tattoo care, the following applies: not too hot, not too much shower gel, creams, etc., because this can also delay the healing process.

New tattoo care: what to watch out for

What to do if the tattoo itches?

It is quite normal for a freshly made tattoo to be itchy . It’s a wound, after all, that is slowly starting to heal. And that itches, because in fact it is part of the healing process . Try not to scratch or fumble the scab, as this will encourage scarring. If the tattoo is extremely itchy, consult a doctor.

Less sweat on the skin

Also, many do not know that the tattoo changes the skin. Tattooed skin can produce around half less sweat than healthy skin. But sweat contains more salts than normal: “It is assumed that tattooing can damage the sweat glands. This can lead to problems with temperature regulation and the electrolyte balance. That is why I would like athletes or people who do hard physical work to be great We advise against tattoos, “says the dermatologist. Tattoos also make skin cancer prevention difficult. The expert therefore advises against getting a tattoo over a birthmark.

Infection risks

Although commercially registered tattoo studios are monitored by the health department, the risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis via an infected tattoo needle, for example , cannot therefore be ruled out. Wound infections can also occur, especially if the tattoo artist has a cold and does not wear a face mask or does not change their latex gloves regularly.

Caution is advised abroad: we strongly advise against getting a tattoo in visibly unsanitary studios, on a street stall or in a hut.

Toxins in the colors

Some people have an allergic reaction to certain ingredients. In addition, colors can be toxic if the manufacturer does not adhere to the tattoo inks regulation. Another problem is that there is no positive list with harmless tattoo inks. There are no clear approval rules or comprehensive controls.

Certain substances are banned, but color pigments that were actually developed for industry are still used. Some even contain mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel or prohibited preservatives. If the prick is too deep, not only does the result look less attractive: Even the tiniest color pigments may get into the lymph nodes or accumulate in the liver, where such foreign substances have no business and can possibly have a toxic effect.

How to care for a tattoo: when you have a problem

Do you think your tattoo is not healing properly or that you made mistakes with your tattoo care? Then don’t hesitate to visit your trusted tattoo parlor and ask the professional for advice. Even after the inking, your tattoo artist is the best contact for questions