Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How to... Take care of your new Tattoo

How to... Take care of your new Tattoo
1. Listen to your tattoo artist. If you've done your homework and chosen a good tattoo artist, he or she will provide detailed instructions, and you should follow them carefully. Think of your tattoo as having a warranty; if you don't follow the artist's instructions, you might void the warranty and he or she won't give you free touch-ups.

2. Leave the bandage on. Recommendations vary as to how long you should leave the bandage on: anywhere between two hours to 24 hours (if a thick, absorbent, non-stick ABD wound dressing is used). Your tattoo artist will give you a timeframe. The important thing is to not expose your tattoo until that time has lapsed. That means avoiding the temptation to flash your new tattoo to your friends, even if just for a second. Be patient. The bandage is there to protect your tattoo from airborne bacteria, which can penetrate through your broken skin.

3. Soak the bandage with warm water when removing it. This is optional, but recommended if the bandage is stuck to your tattoo and offers resistance.

4. Wash the tattoo. Most artists recommend lukewarm water and mild, unscented liquid antibacterial or antimicrobial soap. Use your hands (not a wash cloth) and gently remove all traces of blood so it doesn't scab. Pat (don't rub) dry with a clean towel or a paper towel.
• After the initial washing, don't use antibacterial soaps anymore.
• Some tattoo artists recommend letting the tattoo "air out" for about ten minutes before going to the next step.

5. Apply ointment. Many tattoo artists advise that you use ointment for 2-3 days. Ointment lasts longer than lotion, reducing the number of times you need to apply it, thus lessening the amount of rubbing. Just remember that more is not better. Apply a thin layer, just enough to make the tattoo shine, or else you'll suffocate the tattoo. Apply it twice a day. Switch over to lotion when your tattoo artist says so.
• Don't use petroleum based products.
• Most tattoo artists will recommend using lotion that has no scent, color, sparkles, etc.

6. Continue washing and applying ointment or lotion as directed by your tattoo artist until the tattoo heals. The tattoo might look cloudy for a few days as it heals. This is called "onion skin". You'll know you have "onion skin" when the tattoo looks clearer when wet. Your tattoo is likely to peel, with small flakes of colored skin falling off. Don't pull off the flakes, or else you might pull the ink out; let them fall out on their own. This is likely to happen within the first 4-7 days. There might be a second flaking, this time clear, within two weeks. Full healing will take 4-6 weeks. Until the tattoo is fully healed, keep the following in mind:
• Avoid soaking the tattoo. Take short showers, don't go swimming, don't go in saunas, etc. Soaking can draw out ink.
• Keep the tattoo away from sunlight until it's fully healed. Don't apply sunblock; cover it up with loose clothing.
• Do not scratch or pick at the tattoo. You might pull off pigment and reopen your tattoo to infection. If it itches, spray it with rubbing alcohol or slap it with your (very clean) hand to sting it and take away the itch. Alternatively, you can massage in lotion. Avoid friction, especially on hands and feet.
• Don't shave the tattoo until it's fully healed. If you shave around it, don't let the shaving cream or hair irritate or infect the tattoo.
• Avoid salt water completely.

Related article: How to choose a Tattoo Design

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