2017 Tattoo Aftercare Guide [How to Care for Your New Ink]

2016 Tattoo Aftercare Guide facebook

The correct healing of your tattoo is the final aspect of your new ink.

There are a million opinions out there about how to take care of a tattoo in the healing period.

We have talked to several tattoo artists and came up with this guide.

How Long Does It Take for a Tattoo to Fully Heal?

A tattoo takes anywhere from 7 to 14 days heal, depending on various factors such as type, placement and size. However, the reality is that it can take up to a month until the ink is locked in completely. In the end, the healing period varies from individual to individual and there is no “fool proof” method to heal. But if you read this guide you have a better chance of healing your tattoo without any problems and as quickly as possible.

Tattoo Healing Process

In order to know what to expect after you got your new tattoo, you need to understand the tattoo healing stages.

Stage 1

Scabbing Tattoo Example
Scabbing Tattoo Example

This healing stage begins right after you got your tattoo. You need to treat your tattoo like an open wound and act accordingly. The feeling might be like that of a sunburn, with the tattoo area stinging, looking red and swollen. This is normal, as well having scabs in the area, which you should not try to remove.

People tend to heal at different speeds, but this stage should last about a week as long as no infection appears.

Stage 2

In this stage you might experience some itching. The scabs are probably begining to come off and they might do so for about 1 week. You might see some peeling and some dry skin around the tattoo. Don’t scratch or peel off your tattoo at this stage of the healing process, just put on some more aftercare lotion. Be prepared to live with this for another week.

Stage 3

This is when the healing finishes. Even if the tattoo area might be dry or tender, the scabs should have fallen off from your ink. If you notice that the colors are not as strong as they used to be, don’t panic. This is natural and caused by the fact that you might still have a layer of dead skin over your tattoo, Once this layer peels off naturally, you’ll see your tattoo in all its splendor.

This whole healing process should last about 3 to 4 weeks. You need to take extra care during this time in order to make sure that your tattoo will remain as beautiful as the time you came out of the tattoo parlor. If you experience other symptoms, you should contact your tattoo artist, since they should realize if you have an infection developing and also your doctor to be on the safe side.

What Do You Put on a New Tattoo?

The Bandaging

tattoo bandage

Upon finishing your tattoo, the artist should clean it with some green soap, water and apply a thin layer of A+D Ointment or some other clear antibacterial ointment. After this they should wrap it with a sterile absorbing pad.

If your tattoo is too big or the placement does not allow it, the artist could use a plastic film to bandage it. There are two sides to using plastic film. On the bright side is that it won’t stick to your tattoo. On the bad side, the fluids will seep and will cause a mess, possibly leading to an infection.

So you should remove the plastic wrap as soon as you can and hold your bandage in place using medical tape.

If you have allergies, let your tattoo artist know about them.

Tattoo Healing Products

There are a lot of options when it comes to tattoo healing products: Tattoo Goo, Black Cat, Inkeeze, H2Ocean, Inkfix and a lot more.

From talking to a lot of artist, we came to the conclusion that plain unscented Lubriderm lotion and/or Aquaphor are the most convenient options. They have been proven over time and their history speaks for them.

Aquaphor is more expensive but it will heal your tattoo much faster. When applying it, make sure you rub it all the way in.

Other products could be Neosporin, Curel, Cocoa Butter, Noxzema, Bacitracin and many others. They might work, but we’d advice to stick with the proven solution.

How to apply and how often

Treat your tattoo like an open wound and wash your hands before applying the lotion. Take small amounts of Lubriderm or Aquaphor and rub it gently all the way in. The tattoo should have a very thin coat on it, since the skin needs to breathe if you want to be healed quickly. Do this 3-5 times a day, depending on your skin and location. Essentially, you do NOT want your tattoo to be dry, but don’t over do it.

The only exceptions are areas like joints or places where the skin is thick or stretchy, thus scabs are possible. In this case you should use more lotion so that the tattoo does not crack.

How Long Do You Have to Cover a New Tattoo?

We know that the bandage is keeping your friends from seeing your new ink and the urge is to take it off as soon as possible. Please resist! After your tattoo is done it will continue to seep for about 1 to 2 hours and you need maximum protection during this time.

To surmise, 2 to 4 hours is the usual answer, but we got answers even to 6 to 8 hours. But it should not be more than 8 hours.

After the 2 to 4 hours, if you remove the bandage than it is time to clean it off. Please use ONLY non scented liquid anti bacterial soap, such as anti bacterial Dial. Use your clean hand to do the washing, DO NOT scrub at all. Remove all the dried fluids and ointment and if you have to use a soft cloth only pat, don’t scrub.

Use only lukewarm water when showering, not hot and let the water hit above the tattoo, not directly on it.

Tattoo Care Timeline

Tattoo care in week 1

This is the most important time when taking care of a tattoo. Besides putting something on the tattoo, there are several other things you can do to make sure that the tat heals correctly.

1. Sleep: You need to let the tattoo breathe, so sleep with your tattoo exposed. If you can’t place a towel between you and the bed spread.

2. Scabs: don’t pick on them!!! No matter how small it is, let it fall on its own or during the cleaning process. If you pick it, you will scar the skin and destroy the tattoo. You might experience some color coming off during cleaning for the first 4 to 10 days. Don’t worry about it, it is normal. Keep on applying ointment or lotion until there is no shine on the skin at all.

3. Clothes: Wear loose clothes because your tattoo needs to breathe and to avoid damaging scabs.

4. Sun: You need to ABSOLUTELY keep your tattoo out of the sun for the initial healing time. Sun can cause a lot of damage to your tattoo, including damaging the color.

5. Other forbidden activities: No swimming,no contact sports, no saunas, no workouts.

Tattoo care in week 2

Your tattoo should be less swollen and hurt less, but it is more itchy.

You should keep on washing it daily with with antibacterial soap and apply moisturizer bout once a day.

It is normal to feel itchy and to have peeling and light scabs. Be wary of thick scabs that can be a sign of too much moisturizer or too much washing.

Do not touch your tattoo unless you are cleaning it.

Tattoo care in week 3-4

At this point your tattoo should be mostly healed, but keep in mind that underneath the skin you are STILL healing. You need to keep on moisturizing daily after showering. If there are still some scabs, let the peel off naturally.

Long term tattoo aftercare

This is just as important as the immediate aftercare. If you treat your tattoo right, it will last longer and look beautiful.

1. If you want to maintain a solid coloring, wear sunscreen when going outside, SPF 45 or higher and there are tattoo care brands that made sun blocks as well.

2. If you want to avoid fading over the years, keep the tattoos moisturized, especially on the hands, feet or elbows.

Things to Avoid During the Healing Process


  • Do not sleep on your tattoo
  • Do not re-bandage your tattoo
  • Do not scratch or peel off
  • No swimming, baths, hot tubs, saunas for 1 month after the tattoos has healed completely
    Do not shave or wax the area
  • Do not soak your tattoo
  • No sunbathing
  • No tight clothes
  • Don’t overwork the area where your tattoo is.

Tattoo Infections

It’s not very common for a tattoo to get infected, but you can never be too sure with all the germs floating around these days.

Here are some pointers on how to deal with a tattoo infection in the event that it will happen.

How do you know if your tattoo is infected?

There are several signs that your tattoo is infected:

  • If there is red haze or a white haze around sections of the tattoo after about a week in the healing process
  • Scabbing that turned yellow
  • Bad smell
  • Pus
  • Feeling of hotness coming from the tattoo

The best way to deal with this is to call your physician, so that he can prescribe the proper course of treatment.


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