A new tattoo is a very personal expression of freedom and your own experiences. Whether you are a tattoo newbie or you already have some body art, it’s important that your new tattoo is looked after properly, from the moment you are inked until your tattoo is fully healed (and beyond).
Tattooing is essentially the process of cutting and injecting tattoo ink under your skin. Your tattoo is initially a fresh wound, which can be prone to infection and warping if you do not look after it properly. That’s why, tattoo aftercare is absolutely essential for each of your tattoos.
Tattoo aftercare begins after the tattoo artist is done with inking. Once your tattoo is done, the artist will gently wipe the area clean with water, mild soap and antibacterial ointment.
After the tattoo is clean, the tattoo artist will wrap your tattoo to keep this part of your skin protected against bacteria and to prevent rubbing.
While there are a few different ways to care for your new tattoo after you leave the studio, the most popular is using tattoo lotion.
Here is an overview of what exactly you need to know about lotions for the tattoo aftercare process, including what types of lotion you could use, when to use them and an alternative tattoo healing process.
Why You Should Use Lotion On Your Tattoo
There are many good reasons why applying lotion to a new tattoo can be a good idea. Here are some of the main benefits for tattoo lotion:
Tattoo Lotion Keeps The Skin Hydrated
Before your skin with the tattoo begins to heal, it is initially an open wound, and the skin will go through different stages to completely repair itself. During this repair process, the skin can become dry, which causes problems like irritation and itching leading to scabs and cracks.
In order to avoid this, you should apply lotion to help the skin to rehydrate and become more elastic. This will prevent any warping and other irritating symptoms, and it’ll help speed up the healing process.
Tattoo Lotion Nourishes Your Skin
You want to give your skin as much support during the healing process as possible. Many lotions, creams and moisturizers are specifically designed to nourish the skin while it’s repairing itself.
Tattoo Lotion Soothes Sensitive Skin
As a new tattoo is an open wound, it can be very sensitive to different products and materials, and even just rubbing against something can cause irritation. This may show as a rash, redness or intense itching. When you apply a soothing lotion it can calm the skin and reduce any irritation.
Tattoo Lotion Improves Your Tattoo’s Appearance
When your tattoo reaches a certain stage in the healing process, it starts to peel and scab. This doesn’t look very nice as large pieces of skin will start to pull away.
While you should not pull any of the loose skin away from the tattoo, you can apply lotion to help cover the peeling skin. The slightly damp texture will keep the loose ends tight to your skin making it look less ugly.
When You Can Start To Apply Tattoo Lotion
The very first time that you can apply tattoo lotion is when your tattoo has completely dried. The tattoo ink can be wet for the first couple of days after inking, so it is important that you do not apply any lotion or moisturize your tattoo until it’s fully dry.
This can take between one and 3 days. For this time you should keep the tattoo covered and change your bandage twice a day.
When you are changing the bandage, make sure you also clean the tattoo by softly dabbing it with a wet towel that has antibacterial, fragrance-free soap on it, then rinse gently. After you cleaned the tattoo, put the bandage back on.
Once your tattoo starts to itch and the ink begins to scab over, you know that it’s time to apply lotion. Don’t worry, the scabs are part of the natural healing process but it’s important that you don’t pick at the scabs so to avoid infections or warping of the tattoo.
How You Can Moisturize Your Tattoo
You are now ready to start using a suitable lotion that won’t harm the new ink, and it will help the skin to heal.
You should get instructions on how to care for your tattoo from your tattoo artist, including a step-by-step guide on how to apply tattoo lotion, when to moisturize your tattoo and what lotions are best to use.
Take off the bandages and wash your tattoo
Gently unwrap your tattoo and check that the ink is fully dry. You can see the beginning stages of scabbing over when the ink starts to dry, and there should be very little ink leaking from the tattoo.
Another way to check if your tattoo is completely dry is to gently pull at the sides of your skin where the tattoo is. If it feels tight like it’s about to tear, then your tattoo is dry.
Clean your tattoo the same way as you did when changing the bandages, gently clean with a wet towel and antibacterial, fragrance-free soap.
Gently Dry Your Tattoo
Once your tattoo is clean, you should dry it gently by patting a dry cloth or paper towel on it. Make sure that you do not rub the tattoo as this could irritate the scabs and affect the natural healing process.
The rubbing could also leave fibers from the towel in the tattoo which you would need to remove, so take good care when drying your tattoo.
Apply Moisturizer Or Lotion To Your Tattoo
With the tattoo fully cleaned and dry, you can now apply a thin layer of your tattoo lotion which should be unscented and color-free.
There shouldn’t be any excess lotion, and the amount you use should gently spread into your tattoo. Make sure not to apply too much as this could clog the pores which can lead to irritation of the skin or infection.
After Moisturizing The Tattoo
Your tattoo may still feel itchy, dry or painful after you applied the lotion. This is perfectly normal as the healing process of your skin will take a little while. Do not peel off any scabs or flaking edges as they will come off naturally as the tattoo heals.
What Lotions To Use For Your Tattoo
It’s natural that your tattoo may burn slightly after you applied the lotion, particularly when your tattoo is bigger and more complex. However, the burning feel should disappear within one minute after the lotion was applied.
Your tattoo should not sting after you moisturize it. If you feel a stinging sensation then the lotion you are using has added minerals or vitamins. These are great for your skin but can impact the healing of your tattoo.
Finding the right tattoo lotion for your skin can be tricky, and it’s worth checking with your tattoo artist what they would recommend. The type of lotion you want to use generally depends on your skin type, the climate where you live and your budget. Some may also prefer a vegan or water-based lotion.
The best lotions to use for your new tattoo are so-called After Inked Moisturizer and tattoo care lotion as they are tattoo-specific creams that have likely no additives that could harm your tattoo.
They contain a mix of nutrients and ingredients that help your tattoo as it heals. Due to their natural ingredients without harsh chemicals or artificial scents or colors, these products usually also cause very little irritation to the sensitive area of the skin where your tattoo is.
When you use tattoo-specific lotions this may decrease the tattoo healing time and cuts down on the scabbing.
Most tattoo shops stock specific tattoo lotions, and your tattoo artist will be able to advise on what product is best.
Over The Counter Moisturizers
If you don’t have access to tattoo-specific lotions, then over the counter moisturizers are also fine to use for your new tattoo. You can even use eczema creams or other specialist ointments safely.
When you want to use a moisturizing lotion from a supermarket or you buy one online, check that it contains only natural ingredients, and no artificial scents, preservatives or colors.
The majority of popular skincare brands also sell sensitive skin products that state on the packaging when they are scent or color-free. Other specialized products, like Vanicream or Aquaphor, are also very popular moisturizing ointments.
Natural Butters And Oils
The way to go is all natural for your tattoo aftercare, and many products like coconut oil and cocoa butter are ideal. They have all the essential qualities that aid the tattoo healing process, and they usually smell and feel good on your skin.
With any product you use, watch carefully how it feels on your skin for the first couple of days. Even natural products can cause allergic reactions and irritations, depending on your skin type and sensitivity.
That’s why, most tattoo artists recommend using a specialized tattoo lotion for the first days, and then move over to another product.
How Often And When Should You Moisturize Your Tattoo
Ideally, you should apply lotion to your tattoo three times a day, following the step-by-step process of cleaning and drying the tattoo. It’s also important to moisturize your tattoo each time you had a bath.
Tattoo artists usually recommend that you apply lotion to your tattoo in the morning when you wake up, around midday, and in the evening before you go to bed.
Your body naturally gets dehydrated when you sleep, and this can cause irritation to your skin when you wake up, making your tattoo feel painful. That’s why it is important that you moisturize your tattoo in the morning (best after your morning shower).
Your tattoo is likely to feel driest in the middle of the day, and that’s a good time to apply lotion to your tattoo then, to help rehydrate your skin.
If you integrate this tattoo care process into your daily routine, it becomes an easy thing you don’t forget.
Alternatives To Tattoo Lotions: Dry Tattoo Healing
There are a number of experienced tattoo lovers who swear by the dry tattoo healing process. For this you do not apply any lotion to your tattoo at all, literally letting it air dry. This can be one of the most painful ways for a tattoo to heal but it is claimed that this creates the best looking healed tattoos.
With dry healing you still need to clean your tattoo, the same way as you would normally do before applying lotion. You simply use a clean towel with some antibacterial, non-scented soap to clean the tattoo.
When you do not use any lotion for your new tattoo, it is likely to burn and itch, and it may also be painful. You will have to make sure that you do not scratch the tattoo, no matter how strong the urge.
If your skin feels very itchy you can gently pat or tape the area instead of scratching it. This makes sure that no scabs or skin is pulled off, and it will dull the itchy feeling slightly.
Alternatively, you can also take a short warm shower to briefly stop the itch. The shower will change the short-term chemistry around the tattoo, causing the tattoo to stop itching. When you get out of the shower gently pat your tattoo with a clean paper towel until it’s dry.
Make sure that you do not spend too much time in the shower as this can saturate the tattooed skin and cause irritation. You should also avoid having a bath for this reason.
Another way to take away the nasty itching sensation is to put anything cold on the tattoo. The most gentle way to do this is by placing a clean, damp towel or cloth over the area for a few minutes.
For something more extreme, you can also try an icepack but remember to put a cloth or towel between the ice and your skin so you don’t burn yourself.
The main reason some tattoo lovers swear by air drying your tattoo is that usually lotions have added vitamins and minerals that don’t support the healing process of the skin.
When these additives get into the fresh tattoo, they can cause warping of the tattoo or infections. You do not run this risk with dry healing your tattoo as it completely cuts out the lotion.
However, if you choose your tattoo lotion carefully then you don’t need to worry about your tattoo getting infected or warping. It’s best to check with your tattoo artist what they would recommend for the healing process of your tattoo and further aftercare.
The month after you got your tattoo is the most important time for your tattoo, so that’s not too long to do everything in your power to ensure your skin heals as well as possible. Then you can proudly show off your new body art.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Should You Not Do After A Tattoo?
It’s important that you care for your new tattoo. Try to avoid exposure to sunlight and too much water, as both can cause skin irritation.
When you apply tattoo lotion, make sure that you don’t put too much on as this would cause the pores to clog, preventing the skin from healing.
Also avoid tight clothes and any sweating exercises, like gym or sauna, as this can increase the infection risk on your skin and may cause chaffing around the tattoo.
Can I Use Vaseline Lotion On My Tattoo?
There are some products that you should absolutely avoid putting on your new tattoo. Any petroleum-based products, like vaseline, are non-porous which can starve the skin of the air it needs for the healing process.
How Do I Keep My Tattoo Vibrant?
In order to keep your tattoo vibrant there are three important factors: keep your tattoo clean and moisturized, and follow aftercare instructions.
Particularly when your tattoo is new, it’s important that you keep your tattoo clean and moisturize the skin regularly. There are also some specialized tattoo lotions that can extend the life of your tattoo.
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