Tattoo Cleaning - Fresh Tattoo and Showering


So you did some soul searching and found that perfect design or had an artist draw it for you. You found the perfect tattoo artist and the ink has been laid down. So what do you do over the next couple of weeks?

Good tattoo artists will clean the tattoo after each session and apply antiseptic ointment to your tattoo. Expert tattoo artists know that this helps keep your tattoo healthy until the original protective bandage is removed. After that it it up to you!

1) Remove the bandage applied by the tattoo artist. After finishing your tattoo, most artists will wash the area with mild soap, apply an antiseptic ointment, and cover your tattoo with a bandage to help prevent infection. Depending on the size of your tattoo, this bandage may be gauze, medical bandaging, or even plastic wrap.

This bandage should be removed after 4 to 6 hours. This will allow your skin to breathe, which is essential for the tattoo's healing. Showering with this bandage still in place can soak the bandage and hold too much water against your tattoo.

2) Clean your tattoo with mild soap and water. After removing the bandage, your tattoo will likely be covered with adhesive, ointment, and dried blood. This mixture should be washed away before you shower.

Use a very mild soap (such as liquid hand soap or dish soap) and water to clean the tattoo. Use only your fingers to lightly massage the soap onto your skin; do not use a cloth and do not scrub - this can easily abrade your skin and result in scarring. Gently pat the area dry with a cloth when finished.

3) Take a shower with your new tattoo. For the first week or so - and especially the first day - after getting your new tattoo, you will need to follow specific rules in the shower.

Run your shower with cool or lukewarm water. This is helpful for 2 reasons: it prevents the stinging pain that hot water would cause on your fresh tattoo, and it prevents your pores from opening too wide. Hot water will cause your skin's pores to open, which can lead to loss of pigment. As an added precaution, consider running cold water indirectly over your fresh tattoo for the last 30 seconds of your shower to close your pores.

Do not allow the stream of water to hit your tattooed skin directly. When rinsing, let the water wash over your tattoo indirectly. This will help prevent scarring or puckering of your skin.

Take as brief a shower as possible. Your tattoo will heal better if it is minimally exposed to steam, water, and soap. Hold your tattooed skin out of the water as much as possible during the shower.

4) Dry off after showering with your tattoo. After showering, you should dry your tattoo as quickly as possible. Using a clean towel, gently pat your tattooed skin dry. Do not use a rubbing motion, and do not allow your tattoo to slowly air dry. Dry the rest of your body as usual.

Many tattoo shops sell a tattoo goo of some sort. H2Ocean and others may be fine, but they are not necessary. For each of my nine tattoos I have used nothing but Curel Fragrence Free (about $4 at your local drugstore). Many artists also recommend a tube of A&D ointment. A&D ointment is meant to assist in the care of any abrasion which a tattoo is. A&D will keep your tattoo clean and shiny and should be used for the first few days. However, I still recommend the Curel - from experience and because the moisture will alleviate much of the itching and keep the skin moist.

Never rub the area too hard, or you could damage the healing process. Applying the lotion with your hand and lightly working the lotion all over with do the trick. The newest Curel product line has a 24 hour time release formula that works really well. You will notice that the area stays moist the entire day. However, I still reapply the lotion lightly over the course of the day whenever convenient. Applying after the morning shower, sometime midday, and before bed will definitely keep the tattoo in good shape. This is also why Curel does work for me - as you can rarely apply too much lotion to the skin.

After 5 - 6 days, you could quit using the lotion, but judge by the condition of the tattoo. One alternative is to use the A&D ointment for the first 3-5 days to keep your tattoo healthy, and then move to an unscented body lotion, such as the Curel for the next week. You want to avoid body lotions that have scents, as they can easily irritate the tender skin that resides under your tattoo.

After 9-14 days, you can stop using anything - your tattoo should be healed. Some tattoos, after they have healed, may leave a scab in some areas. If your tattoo has a scab, you should be careful and never pick at it. If you aren’t careful, you could end up damaging your design. The best thing to do is you have a scab is to leave it alone. You can put A&D ointment on it if you want, as most of the time a scab will itch.

For longevity remember to keep your tattoo protected with sunscreen anytime it may be exposed in the outdoors. If you are often outdoors or your tattoo is on an area that is always exposed, such as the forearm, look for a daily lotion that has an inherent SPF. This will provide some level of protection always while keeping the skin moisturized.