By the time you’ve gotten a tattoo I’m sure you’ve researched and thought the whole process out. You’re no longer wigged out by the permanence of a cartoon character or playing cards or whatever peeled your banana in the first place.
It sure does look great on the first day. Bright, clear, colorful (at least nice and black). You spent money and time on this piece; now spend just a little more time taking care of it.
You probably left out of the tattoo parlor all wrapped up. You’re eager to go home and unwrap it. Good for you! Enjoy it; it’s there forever. Carefully peel off any bandages that were applied and mix a weak soap and water mixture together. I find gently (and I do mean gently) cleaning the area with your hand works the best. Cloth towels can be very harsh and toilet paper will just turn into little piles of wet mush, which aren’t a picnic to pick off your skin. Clean the area so any ink/fluids/ointments applied are gone.
Now comes the first, and perhaps one of 2 most critical steps: Apply an ointment made for tattoos. There is a couple on the market and you should have this purchased and popped open by this time.
With your finger, apply a light coat of your tattoo ointment on the new ink. There’s no need to rub it in. A thin layer will do the trick. If the tattoo is in an area that’ll run up against fabrics, whether it be clothing, bed sheets or what have you, you may wish to wrap the area up with some cling wrap after you’ve applied your ointment. Do this for a maximum of 3 days, and preferably only when you absolutely have to in that time.
When you can, let air get to it. Keeping it wrapped while you sleep (a favorite of mine) will help keep moisture in. I only wrap mine for the first couple of nights.
You’ll know when your tattoo wants some more ointment. You want the tattoo to feel a bit more moisturized than your un-tattooed skin does. Keeping it moist is important… but keeping it too moist will also spell disaster with a capital uh-oh.
Do not soak the tattoo. Do not stand in the shower letting water pound against it. Keep it out of substantial water. After any cleaning, reapply ointment and don’t touch with dirty fingers.
Just when you think you’ve really got the hang of this, it’ll start to itch and peel. The second critical step… Don’t itch it. I know it’s easier said than done, but this is also important. Itching leads to skin coming off faster than it should (peeling is normal), which can pull ink out. That leads to lightened color, or sometimes total color loss… which is a total bummer.
As I said, the ink will peel and you should continue to apply your tattoo ointment during this time. It will keep the area rich with moisture, which will allow the tattoo to peel naturally. Never pull off peel with force.
If you treat your new tattoo with care for the first week to 10 days, you will pretty much see what your tattoo will look like for a long time to come. Sometimes color loss happens, but with proper maintenance, you can minimize loss and fading.
You’re not done, however, as keeping it looking nice and bright is a life-long thing. Anytime I go out in the sun I cover my ink with a strong sunscreen. Sun is incredibly damaging to color and causes a lot of fading, even if the tattoo is 20 years old.
One final thing – do not use any product with petroleum in it. Many people believe petroleum jelly to be the ideal thing to put on tattoos, and nothing could be further from the truth. Petroleum leeches ink like you wouldn’t believe. Once it’s healed, feel free to lotion with whatever.
Keep it clean, be gentle about how you wash it.
Get an ointment made for tattoos, and keep the amount you apply light.
Keep your new tattoo out of water, whether it is from shower jets or a soak.
It’ll itch. Scratch around the area. Smack it lightly. Don’t itch, and don’t pick.
Always apply a sunscreen when going out in the sun.
Assuming you got quality work done in the first place, you will keep your tattoo looking very nice if you use common sense and don’t panic about it. They really are easy to take care of and will look much better for the relatively small amount of time you spend taking care of them.