Tattoo Aftercare 101: Everything You Need To Know!

Tattoo Aftercare

Getting a new tattoo is all well and good. Tattoos are cool, fun, and sexy. They are also a great way of expressing your own personal style. Tattoo aftercare is a very important part of the process and it can make the difference between your tattoo looking amazing with vivid colors and perfect outlines or your tattoo looking like a dog’s breakfast. Caring for your tattoo isn’t rocket science but there are some things you need to do to make sure it heals in the best way

Caring for Your Tattoo

The treatment process should start immediately after your tattoo is done. When the tattoo is complete, the tattoo artist should cover the tattoo in petroleum jelly to prevent bacteria from getting into the wound. Then they will cover it with a bandage or cling film to further prevent the bacteria from entering the site.

The bandage can be removed after a few hours to let the tattoo air out and dry. After the tattoo has dried for an hour you may now wash it. Wash your tattoo gently with a soft washer and then pat it dry with a towel. Under no circumstances should you dry your tattoo with a wiping motion. This can disrupt the scar tissues and wipe away the precious ink. After your tattoo is dry, add a layer of petroleum jelly.

Here are a few pointers for caring for your tattoo

  • Don’t let your tattoo get sunburnt. You should always wear protective clothing when you are going out in the sun with a fresh tattoo. However, avoid applying sunscreen as this will have a negative effect on the healing of your tattoo.
  • Be wary of the signs of infection. You will be able to spot signs of infection by redness and swelling around the tattoo. It will be red and swollen when it is fresh, this is normal. If your tattoo is red and swollen a week in, you might have an infection. Pus is another sign that your tattoo is infected. If this happens to you, seek medical advice immediately. Go to your doctor and they will sort you out with some medication.
  • Never scratch or pick at your tattoo. This one should go without saying, but tattoos can become itchy in the healing phase and it is rather tempting to pick them. When you pick the scab, you are picking off the ink and unless you want to book in for a touch up you should avoid it at all costs. Instead, put a layer of petroleum jelly on it. This will moisten the skin and hopefully stop the itching.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing over the tattoo. This one is a must. If you wear tight clothes, around or even on your tattoo, the scab will stick to them and when it comes times to remove the article of clothing it will take the tattoo along with it. Therefore, all articles of clothing must not touch the tattoo.
  • Don’t go swimming. You should never fully immerse your tattoo in water for long periods of time. The water will soak into your tattoo and the scabs and take the precious ink away. Your tattoo will end up looking faded and lousy.

tattoo aftercare

Day by Day Tattoo Aftercare

Day 1

Day one is the most exciting day because you have just got your fresh new tattoo and will be enamoured by the artwork and how cool you look. The tattoo artist would have cleaned the tattoo and put petroleum jelly and a cover on it for you and sent you on your way.

A few hours later when you are at home you should remove the bandage or cling film. With clean hands, wash your tattoo gently with soapy water. You will notice that the tattoo still might be red and inflamed. Don’t worry, this is normal. Your skin has been put through trauma and the healing process has started. Then pat dry the area with a clean towel. Don’t use too much force or you will do more harm than good. Let your tattoo air for an hour before applying a second coat of the petroleum-based product.

Day 7

You should repeat the washing process on a daily basis and ensure to keep it clean and infection free. By this time, the swelling should have gone down and your tattoo should have started to scab. This is a good thing, and means you are on the road to recovery. The tattoo will appear duller than when it was freshly done. This is also normal.

Day 14

The scabs on your tattoo should be formed and hard by now. They will start to dry and flake off. You should avoid picking the scabs and let them naturally flake off. During this period, the area on or around your tattoo will become itchy. When this happens apply a straight moisturizer to the wound. When I say straight moisturizer, I am referring to one that is free of fragrance. This will aid in the healing process and hopefully stop the itching.

Day 30

You should be well on your way to happiness and a healthy looking tattoo. During this time, the tattoo will be still flaking off. Most of it should be healed, although the outline can take quite a bit longer. Keep cleaning and moisturizing the area. You’re pretty much in the clear at this stage, but you should keep the process up as long as it takes because everyone is different and healing time can differ from individual to individual.

What Aftercare Products Should I use?

There is a wealth of skincare products available for tattoo aftercare. Some are specifically designed for tattoo aftercare, others are skin products that we think do the job nicely.

Let’s check them out.


Lubriderm is a daily moisturizing lotion that is enriched with B vitamins which are essential for happy healthy skin. Lubriderm is not necessarily for tattoos per se, but it has been proven to be a great skin treatment for tattoo aftercare. It also contains glycerine which aids in the healing process. It’s relatively cheap and comes in a bulk bottle so that it lasts for all your tattoo recovery.

Hustle Butter Deluxe

Hustle Butter is specifically designed for tattoo aftercare. It is renowned in the tattoo community and does the job nicely. It contains a whole bunch of natural plant extracts such as aloe and oil to keep your skin nice and moist and your tattoo will heal up nice and fast.


This cream was the staple in the tattoo world for many years before companies started producing specialized tattoo creams. Bepanthem is a multi-purpose antiseptic cream that protects damaged skin from infection and assists in the treatment of cuts and abrasions. People also use it on their baby’s nappy rash. This is the cream the tattoo artist told me to use when I got my first tattoo eighteen years ago. Now I’m showing my age.

EiR NYC Tattoo Balm

This is a boutique balm from the people EiR NYC. It contains shea butter, coconut oil, and vitamin E cream and bunch of other stuff that will heal your tattoo while keeping it nice and moist. It’s vegan which is good for the planet and those who care about our furry friends.


Aquaphor is another go to tattoo healing cream and has been around for a long time. It contains plenty of good stuff that will help your tattoo heal such as vitamin B5 and glycerine. The owner of this company claims that most other tattoo healing balms are variations of this tried and true formula.

Brooklyn Groom Old School Tattoo Balm

It’s a blend of beeswax, hemp seed oil, vitamin E, and shea butter. This natural blend will promote healing and protect your tattoo from bacteria and other nasties.

There are many more tattoo balms and creams on the market. They all do the job so it’s just a matter of choosing one that you find works the best. I always say natural is better, therefore, choose a balm with natural ingredients but the cosmetic brands will work just as well.

Choosing Your Tattoo Artist

I know this isn’t aftercare, so let’s call it before care. Choosing the right tattoo artist is integral if you want a good tattoo. It’s also important if you want the artist to follow the health standards. Different countries have different health standards when it comes to piercing and tattooing. If you get a tattoo in South East Asia the health standards will be a lot different from western countries.

When you go for your tattoo make sure the artist uses clean needles. Get them to show you the needle and it should be sealed in packaging. You will be able to tell if the tattoo artist is hygienic by looking around their studio. There are a few checks you can do.

  • Make sure the tattoo artist is wearing gloves.
  • Ask for their certificate. This will indicate if they have done a course on sterilizing.
  • The tattoo artist should clean the area before starting the tattoo
  • Do research online and read the reviews of the other people. That’s another amazing aspect of the internet. It weeds out bad tattoo operations through user reviews.
  • Have a look at the artist’s work and see if they are a good match to the style of tattoo you want. Some artists do one style really well and may be lacking in skill in other styles. A good tattoo artist will have an Instagram to showcase their work and to get new clients. It’s a marketing tool and will give you a clear idea of their competency.

If the tattoo studio passes all the necessary checks then you’re good to go for your new tattoo.

If You’re Not Happy with Your Tattoo

This is for if you are unlucky enough to get a dud tattoo. You may want to get it removed via laser or get a cover- up. That’s why it’s so important to do your research and planning. Get the design drawn up before you even set foot into a studio. You can even draw it on your skin to get a perspective of what the tattoo will look like once it has been done. Getting a cover-up or laser removal is an absolute last resort.

Either way, you will have to wait a few months until your tattoo is completely healed.

Laser Tattoo Removal

Tattoo inks are mostly made up metals. When the laser hits the metals in the ink it causes them to shatter, break down and eventually disappear. As you can imagine the process is quite painful and expensive and should be avoided at all costs. You will have to partake in multiple sessions to completely remove your tattoo and let me tell you, it’s not fun at all.

Cover Up

A cover-up is a tattoo that is done over an existing tattoo. This is a better option than laser removal as far as I’m concerned. You can do the out with the old and in with the new trick. But this time make sure you do research and find a tattoo artist that will do a good job!

First, think of what you want the old tattoo covered up with and then have a discussion with your artist and they will inform you if it is doable. Sometimes not all cover-ups conform to the design you request. You should go in with an open mind. Your tattoo artist will have a good idea of what can be done with your cover-up.  That’s why it’s so crucial that to pick a decent tattoo artist. They have a world of knowledge and experience and will be able to competently guide you through the whole process.

If you follow these simple steps when it comes time to care for your tattoo you shouldn’t have a problem. Your tattoo will heal infection free with vivid colors and solid lines. It doesn’t take much to care for your tattoo, but you must remain vigilant and clean it every day.  Just remember to choose your tattoo artist wisely and have fun.

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