Congratulations and welcome to the the tattooed life.
Getting a new tattoo is a fantastic feeling (as long as your artist didn’t mess up) and its important to realize that the tattoo healing process does not end when the needle stops, it ends when the tattoo is healed.
Unfortunately, when I was in high school my teachers never taught me how to care for any tattoos I would get… What a disappointment.
That leaves me with 8 things you must know before getting your first tattoo.
1. The tattoo is on you forever
This is actually common sense.
But, it’s extremely important to take the tattoo healing process seriously because it will affect how it the tattoo will look for the rest of your life.
I am always mind blown by the lack of care or concern people have for their tattoos. I take pride in what is on my body because its now a part of me. I would hope you too, would have the same care and consideration for what is on your body.
2. Sleep preparation is essential
I am always exhausted after my sessions and generally all I will want to do is eat and go to sleep to recover. The first time I did this, I learned the hard way that preparing your bed for sleeping with a new tattoo is essential. I woke up to sheets covered in tattoo stains from the fluids on the area.
- Don’t sleep with a bandage over the tattoo (unless instructed to).
- Place a towel on your bed where your tattoo will be as you sleep.
- If you’re tattoo is on the area where you normally sleep your gonna need to shift positions.
Ex: If you have a tattoo on your back you are going to need to sleep on your stomach for a couple days.
- If you wake up and the tattoo is stuck to your sheets/towel dont pull it off. Take the sheets/towel with you into the shower and run it under warm water and allow it to fall off.
3. Don’t Pick at Tattoo Scabs
Over the next couple of days as your tattoo is healing it will go through a couple of phases. At first it will look very shiny and as it transitions into the second phase it will begin to look more dull.
With this transition you will start to see scabbing, this is normal as the tattoo is completing the healing process.
Do Not Pick At Your Scabs
I cant emphasize this enough, I know it is something that you want to do but understand that by picking at your scabs you are potentially removing color from your tattoo. Ask me how I know this…
There was a small spot on my arm that was being a real pain in my ass as it was healing. I was not as well versed with tattoo healing so I figured I would get rid of this scab that had been bothering me. The tattoo never really healed correctly in that spot and ended up having a loss in color in that spot.
This is 100% preventable.
Let the scab peel and heal on it’s own. Do not touch it and it will retain the color that was meant to be there.
Most tattoo artists offer one touch up for their clients because mistakes like this do happen. If you happen to scratch at a spot and remove a scab and the color is not as good as it could be use this session and get your artist to correct it.
4. The Tattoo Dress Code
What? A dress code??
Yeah… What you wear with a new tattoo matters.
Remember in the depths of your mind, that your tattoo needs to breath. This is how it progress through the healing stages.
This means that for the ladies:
- No tights or yoga pants with leg tattoos
- No shoes for foot tattoos (go shoeless)
- No sports bras for tattoos around your torso
For the guys:
- No skin tight under armor like clothing
- No clothing that could potentially rub on the tattoo (dress shirts)
This is just to name a few so you get the picture.
Some people tend to think that rebandaging their tattoo and wearing clothing that can rub on the tattoo is a good alternative to not wearing loose clothing. I don’t believe in this, I think that if the tattoo needs to breath you need to accept this and work with your recovering area to allow proper healing.
“I have no choice and have to cover the tattoo”
Okay, no worries. Everyone has their responsibilities that can interrupt a tattoos healing process. I would probably place a loose bandage over the area that needs to be covered. Keep it in your mind that you are healing and that you dont want to have alot of irritation on the area.
As soon as you are able to, I would remove the bandage and clean the area. From there I would change into something that is more loose fitting
It matters a lot more than people realize, sun exposure is one of the biggest destroyers of new tattoos.
Exposing a new tattoo to the sun will cause all sorts of problems such as scaring, lightening of the art, and uneven healing.
If you work outside it is essential to listen to the tatttoo dress code and cover the area with loose clothing and you may consider applying a sterile non stick bandage to prevent irritation if your work is intensive.
What about Tanning Beds?
I’ve seen a couple people go into tanning beds with new tattoos. This isn’t the best idea.
Once your tattoo is completely healed, has lost the new “shine”, then you can go ahead and take a breather. But let’s take some preventative measures to ensure all the money you spent on a new tattoo isnt wasted by being in the sun.
Sun Care Pro Tips:
- Avoid Tanning Beds/Sun exposure entirely until the tattoo has healed
- If you are going to be out in the sun, wear loose clothing that covers the tattoo
- If you’re going to be in the sun cover the tattoo in strong suncreen
- Keep the sunscreen with you at all times as you are healing
This is a topic I went back and forth on quite a bit when I first started getting tattoos. The thing is, the gym is a filthy place that is generally covered in sweat and germs. This is not good for a new tattoo because you don’t want anything that could potentially cause an infection getting on your tattoo.
But being a complete addict I honestly go out and get a lift in the following day. I would go the day of, but I will generally workout before and spend time after getting tattooed cleaning the area and resting due to the leaking bodily fluids.
The next day I go and lift and I have never had any problems, but I am very careful. A couple of precautions I take include:
- Cleaning the tattoo before going out and applying the ointment.
- Bringing a towel to the gym to lay down on to protect the tattoo.
- Cleaning the equipment before and after use.
- Not bumping into or rubbing against any machinery/people.
Once I get home I get in the shower and clean the tattoo with my preferred anti bacterial soap and reapply my ointment. I am not saying this will work for you but this is what I do to not have any problems.
7. Swimming, Showering and Water Exposure
You may or may not have heard but it’s quite common to hear people say “keep your tattoo out of the water!”
This is true but there are do’s and don’ts you need to know to keep the tattoo clean but not affected negatively.
- Run your tattoo under a water that is luke/warm whenever you need to clean it.
- Dab the wet area and let it air dry before applying your ointment
- Soak the tattoo for long periods of time while it is healing (pools, saunas, bath tubs)
- Use uncomfortable hot water on the tattoo
- Go swimming in oceans, lakes, or rivers
8. Infections and Your Tattoo
Although this is the last thing I will be covering I think it is the most important and most overlooked. I always laugh to myself when I see people going and getting tattoos from awful artists in their home or garage.
If you are going to put something onto your body for the rest of your life.
Get something shitty from your “bro” in his garage?
By all means if thats what your into go for it. It makes those of us who go to shops that have artists with 10+ years experience have outstanding tattoos to compare to. Can you sense one of my pet peeves? I think this is a bad idea for a number of reasons but getting an infection is one of them.
Get your tattoo in a sterile environment. Walking into the shop you should immediately be able to tell if the shop is clean and professional.
If you artist does not do the following… Run:
- Spend 10-20 minutes setting up their work area
- Wears new gloves and changes them after touching something unsterile
- Wipes down the entire area with a sterile cloth
- Breaks open new supplies
- Pours new ink in new containers for your tattoo
To me these are signs of professionalism. If your artist is not experienced and aware of proper precautions you are increasing your chances to getting Hepatitis, HIV, MRSA, Staph Infections, and the list goes on…
If you are in the process of getting set up and don’t feel comfortable, just walk out. Seriously, don’t waste your time with amateurs. It’s your skin and your money you choose what you want to do with it.
But hey, if not you probably saved a few bucks right?
How do I tell if my tattoo is infected?
I am not a doctor, this is merely my own knowledge that I am providing for informational purposes.
You can tell your tattoo is infected if:
- There is a red haze around the tattoo
- There is excessive scabbing on your tattoo
- There are indentations on your tattoo
- There is puss coming out of the tattoo
- The area is swollen and hot to the touch
If you are extremely concerned about your tattoo being infected contact a doctor immediately. Don’t wait on it and think it will fix itself. Your artist at this point cannot help you because you are responsible for healing your own body. Infections can turn ugly quickly so be prompt in your actions and get on some antibiotics or whatever your doctor recommends.
Take into consideration all 8 of these things and you will be set to go through the tattoo healing process like a pro!
PS: Make sure you have the best tattoo aftercare products – you can check out my recommendations here.
Till next time.