So, you’ve just got a tattoo and you’re thinking, ‘good – that’s all done then’, right? Wrong, getting the tattoo is only half the battle.
When you get a tattoo, you’re quite literally in it for the long haul (not that you need us to tell you that!). The tattoo might be completed, but now the real work begins… keeping your tattoo looking good is no easy feat (and it shouldn’t be taken lightly, either). The reality is that you’ve just got fresh ink drilled into your skin, so this is the stage you’re most prone to infection.
Here’s how to stop that happening…
Your tattoo artist will wrap it up in cling film and tape upon completion, but after a few hours, you’ll need to take it off and clean it as the ink and blood will have started to seep. Gently remove the original wrapping and wash your tattoo with warm (not hot) water in the sink, carefully moving away any excess ink.
When it’s all washed, pat it dry with a clean, unused towel. Don’t rub it in any direction, just gently pat.
Over the first 48 hours, you shouldn’t put any cream on your tattoo at all – a wash and pat dry will be just fine for now. You will, however, need to wrap it back up. We’d suggest recruiting a friend to help you if it’s in an awkward place like the side of your arm or your back. Wrap some cling film around the affected area (make sure it’s secure and not too baggy) and tape the sides down.
Even though your tattoo will be wrapped, there’s still a chance that some residual ink will leak out and stain your lovely sheets (and if you live with your other half, they’ll probably kick off). To avoid this, make sure your wrapped tattoo is on top of a towel while you sleep. Oh, and try not to sleep on top of your tattoo…
We know it so enticing to peel those bits that are hanging off, but unless you want a patchy and uneven tattoo, please don’t! It may look like it’s ready to come off, but you really need to wait until the end of the day to gently wash off any bits.
After a few days, when your tattoo has stopped ‘leaking’ (sorry), you can stop wrapping it up and just keep it hydrated with moisturiser. Use a soothing nappy rash cream like Bepanthen which is readily available on the high street, and use sparingly throughout the day whenever it starts to dry up (pat it gently with one finger until all of it is rubbed in).
When you’ve got a fresh tattoo, you’ll want to avoid wearing tight and restrictive clothing around the area. You need to give your ink a chance to breathe and heal, so wear baggy clothing or none at all if it’s in a place that allows…
Direct sun will cause your tattoo to dry out and fade, which you don’t ever want to happen, but even more so before it’s even had the chance to fully heal. Even if it’s the hottest day of the year, you need to make sure you keep it out of the sun. A lack of a tan is better than having a tattoo that looks 40 years old when you’ve only had it for a week.
It’s recommended that you keep out of the gym for 48 hours after getting freshly inked, and, when you do go back, to take it easy on the tattooed area for a week or so while it heals (e.g. if you’ve just had your back tattooed, don’t be hammering the lateral pulldowns). Remember that new tattoos are more prone to infection and gyms can be dirty places with all the sweat that gets on the equipment, so be super careful and try to give yourself as much time as possible before you get back to it.