One of the most important and key factors to successful healing of your tattoo is the initially aftercare. Your tattoo is generally an open injury and prone to infection until some healing has taken place and all pores and needle punctures have closed up. This is the stage where keeping the tattoo covered for a period of time and keeping the tattoo clean is essential.
For the first couple of days the tattoo needs quite a bit of attention, although the advice given by many tattoo Artists may vary you will find that there are some basic ideas that all will share.
Once your tattoo or session is complete the Tattoo Artist should follow some variation of the following steps, they will clean the tattoo with antibacterial soap, some will apply petroleum jelly and cover with a bandage or clear plastic film then they send you on your way, now the care of your tattoo is up to you.
The bandage should be kept on for at least 4 hours, preferably 12-24 hours, this will give sufficient time for everything to close up and any bleeding to stop, after sufficient time has passed remove the bandage and thoroughly wash the tattoo with soap and water, use antibacterial soap if available, only hand wash the tattoo, do not use cloths or sponges. From this point on keep the tattoo uncovered and allow drying for a day, periodically washing the tattoo with soap and water to clean it during this time.
There are many options when it comes to keeping the tattoo moisturized during healing, each Tattoo
Artist has their own preference, some things to avoid are any moisturizer that contains any type of alcohols, perfume or added scent, Vaseline (petroleum jelly) can suffocate the tattoo and is believed to fade the color of the tattoo after prolonged use.
Some of the most recommended moisturizers are pure vitamin D or some diaper rash ointments; any unscented A&D ointment will be sufficient. Some people have been known to develop an allergy to Bacitracin, Triple antibiotic and other ointments may contain it and are therefore not recommended. The healing process generally takes 10-15 days during which time it is essential to keep the tattoo moist to avoid any scarring and accelerate the healing process.
Moisturize the tattoo twice daily, washing off the old moisturizer and allowing the tattoo to breathe (1-2 hours) then reapply fresh lotion.
Keeping the tattoo clean and moisturized is the best defence against infection but some other factors must also be considered.
If you work in a chemical, greasy, dirty or unsanitary environment, wear tight fitting clothing or if you got your tattoo in or near a high-bacteria area such as the armpit, buttocks, or genitals then the tattoo must be protected, taping dry paper towel over the tattoo can help keep out dirt and bacteria and reduce the amount of rubbing against the tattoo from clothing..
Cleaning the tattoo more frequently and wearing loose fitting clothing is recommended if any of the above conditions exist. Do not expose tattoo to chlorine, salt, alcohol or sun during the healing time (10-15 days), after the tattoo is fully healed using a strong sunscreen will help reduce the amount your tattoo will fade over time.
What Not To Do:
As the tattoo heals it is common for some flaking and scabbing to be present, DO NOT scratch, rub or pick it no matter how itchy it gets, gently smacking around the tattoo can help alleviate some of the itch.
Tattoo Infection Risks – Think Before You Ink
As tattoos have become increasingly Popular in today’s society, so have the n
umber of tattoo Artists and tattoo studios, some of which are very reputable and some not so reputable. This has led to an increase in the cases of infections and diseases potentially caused by receiving a tattoo. We will look at some of the different types of infections and diseases associated with tattooing, ways to prevent contracting infections and diseases from receiving a tattoo and how to identify a reputable Artist and safe studio.
Disease and Infection:
The process of getting a tattoo involves multiple layers of the skin being breached with a needle causing the recipient of the tattoo to bleed, in essence creating an open wound. Like any open wound they are susceptible to blood borne Pathogens, some of which we will look at below and identify the some of the results of contracting them.
Hepatitis B Causes liver inflammation, vomiting, Jaundice and rarely death. Chronic hepatitis B can eventually lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer; liver cancer has been known to respond very poorly to chemotherapy treatment. There is a vaccine available for Hepatitis B and should be considered prior to getting tattooed.
Hepatitis C virus is spread by blood-to-blood contact. This is the most important reason for choosing the tattoo Artist and studio wisely. The disease has been known to exhibit no symptoms in many of the people infected but can lead to liver failure due to cirrhosis or liver cancer, resulting in the need for a transplant, the reoccurrence of the disease after transplant is very likely. Currently there is no vaccine available for Hepatitis transplantation.
(AIDS)Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease that affects the Immune system cause by (HIV) Human Immunodeficiency virus. HIV is contracted through direct contact of bodily fluids with an infected person, again the most important reason for choosing the tattoo Artist and studio wisely. AIDS compromises a person’s immune system leaving them susceptible to contracting many harmful diseases and cancers. Although HIV/AIDS can be treated with expensive medications and reduce the mortality rate there is currently no cure or vaccination.
Tetanus or Lockjaw as it is also known, generally occurs in an infected wound, most often a deep cut or puncture, this lessens the risk of contracting tetanus through getting tattooed but not rendered it impossible. The symptoms of Tetanus at onset are generally identified by muscle spasms in the jaw (lockjaw) and elsewhere throughout the body.
Necrotizing fasciitis (Flesh eating disease):
Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare but still potential disease that occurs in the deeper layers of the skin and subcutaneous tissue caused by a common group A streptococcus or staphylococcus bacteria. The infection will begin at the site of the wound, often appearing minor or non-existent but creating a great deal of pain, with progression of the infection the tissue will appear red and swollen and the person will likely experience diarrhoea and vomiting, eventually the infection will lead to serious tissue damage as the bacteria release toxins into the body. The infection can be treated successfully with antibiotics; if the infection is not treated the inevitable result is death.
Occasionally people can develop an allergic reaction from some of the inks used in tattooing, although this not very common it is usually due to the red inks/dyes, however much like any situation in which a foreign substance is introduced to the body and all people being different in their makeup, a reaction is possible with any of the inks/dyes that are used. One of the main reasons for the red ink being the usual suspect when a reaction occurs is due to the development of most tattoo inks being hypo-allergenic with the exception being the red ink. Anyone who may be susceptible to allergies or allergic reactions should investigate further what is in the inks that will be used by the Artist, tattoo ink manufacturers are usually bound by law to reveal the contents of their inks. They may want to reconsider the thought of getting a tattoo altogether as some instances can be potentially life threatening.
An allergic reaction to tattoo ink is generally identified by a localized rash, consisting of swelling, inching, redness, hives and on some occasion’s secretion of clear a liquid. Most reactions can be cleared with antibiotic ointment however it is recommended that a physician be consulted first.
Steps to avoid Disease or Infection:
• Use a reputable Studio that is update on all its health board requirements (autoclave logs, spore tests)
• Ask the artist about their process; analyze the risk of contamination.
• How do they dispose of their needles and other refuse?
• How are the tattooing stations sanitized?
• How long has the Artist been tattooing?
• What training did they receive?
• Is the Studio clean and organized on visual inspection?
Bottom line don’t be afraid to ask questions, a reputable Artist and Studio will have nothing to hide and more likely will be proud of their skills and knowledge. A tattoo is permanent as are many of the Diseases and Infections that can be potentially contracted.