Skip to main content

Whether you get a traditional tattoo, a realism portrait or a micro piece—aftercare will be an essential part of the tattoo process. After the tattoo is complete and the artist or shop has done their part to ensure that the process was both safe and sanitary, they hand the reigns over to you and it becomes your responsibility. Therefore, to guarantee that both your tattoo and your body at large leaves the healing process healthy and happy, we've created a guide for how to care for your new tattoo. We go through the steps of aftercare and break down some of the biggest dos and don'ts. Take a look at our guide below and let us know if it came in handy with your new tattoo!


One of the "newest" tattoo technology is a wrap that many artists argue has revolutionized the aftercare game. Its referred to as Saniderm, Tegiderm or Second Skin—depending on which brand your artist chooses to use.

If you or your artist wants to use Saniderm for a fresh tattoo, have them put it on you or closely follow the instructions. You want to ensure that there are no air bubbles or ways that bacteria can penetrate your fresh tattoo.


Once the film is properly applied, leave it on for the amount of time that t your tattooer recommends. This will vary between artists and depending on the size or location of the tattoo, however, 36 to 48 hours is standard. 


During the healing process, ink and other fluids will collect under the film. Do not drain the liquid, unless you plan to entirely remove the film. However, the fluid will not harm your new tattoo if it is not tampered with.

Once the time is up, you should be able to remove the film and have an almost entirely healed tattoo. You may need to apply a light coat of unscented lotion periodically, but you won't need to deal with peeling or shedding.  


However, not everyone wants to use a product like Saniderm for their tattoo and this is still completely fine. But, there are a few more steps with the traditional method of tattoo aftercare and it is important that they are followed correctly.


First, leave the bandage you're given by your artist on for either a few hours or overnight. Each artist will have a different recommendation for how long you should leave your bandage on, depending on when and where you got tattooed. 


Then, once you've removed the bandage, gently wash your fresh tattoo with mild, unscented soap and pat the tattoo dry with a towel. Paper towels and tissues are not recommended, as their fibers can get stuck in your tattoo. After cleaning the tattoo, apply a light layer of aftercare ointment. You should use the aftercare ointment for the first 48 hours, only using small dollops every couple of hours.


After the 48 hours has come to an end, switch to using a mild, unscented lotion. Please remember that when it comes to aftercare, less is more and too much lotion can lead to irritation. 


Throughout the healing process, you will notice your tattoo scab and become itchy. Do not itch, scratch or pick at your healing tattoo. Seriously, this can damage the tattoo permanently and require you to have a touch up. 


Second, during the healing process your tattoo is essentially an open wound, therefore don't allow anyone to touch your tattoo. You should avoid touching your tattoo yourself, especially if your hands are dirty.


During the healing process, do your best to avoid exposure to direct sunlight. You CANNOT put sunscreen on a healing tattoo, therefore, in order to protect your ink you need to keep it covered up.


Perhaps most importantly, avoid swimming at all costs. Whether it be a pool, an ocean or a hot tub—the chemicals and bacteria in open water can lead to infections and even death. After the tattoo is finished healing, swimming is no big deal, however, during the process please stay dry.


Last, but not least, this isn't so much advice but a lesson in fresh vs. healed tattoos. Your tattoo will look slightly different when it is healed vs when it is brand new, and this doesn't mean that your artist did something wrong. Fresh tattoos are not an accurate representation of what a tattoo will look like because there is tattoo pigment sitting on the top of the skin that adds contrast or vibrancy, whereas the pigment of a healed tattoo sits entirely under the first level of skin. Its also important to keep in mind that some tattoo artists manipulate their photos slightly (or in some cases, significantly) to boost the contrast in their tattoos, so these tattoos don't "pop" quite as much in person as they appear to on social media.


What do you think about this guide to tattoo aftercare? Did you learn something new? Let us know in the comments section on Facebook.