Friday, February 13, 2009

How to Properly Care for Your New Tattoo

By Ben Swank

So many people get a new tattoo and think that as soon as leave the chair, the work is done. The fact is, the next three to five days after the needlework are crucial to ensuring that the tattoo turns out well. Without proper aftercare and attention, new tattoos can easily fade or blemish. Or worse, they could scar or become infected -- a double whammy.

But herein lays the problem: no one is sure what aftercare procedure is the best for everyone. But there are many similarities among the aftercare procedures, and professionals agree that healing a tattoo fast does not necessarill mean healing a tattoo well. So the best approach is one that covers all of the common denominators in the programs, as well as other low-risk steps.

The most important rule of tattoo aftercare is 'listen to your tattoo artist.' Their advice will always trump the procedure outlined here because they know your tattoo best. In the event that they didn't give your directions, or they were incomplete, here's how to go about it.

Tattoo Aftercare Do's

Do use an approved aftercare moisturizer / healing cream Do leave your initial bandage over your tattoo for at least four to six hours, but no more than 12 hours Do keep your tattoo out of direct contact with water (this includes the shower) Do keep your tattoo moisturized Do pat your skin dry when the tattooed area gets wet Tattoo Aftercare Don'ts

Don't expose your tattoo to sunlight until fully healed Don't submerse your tattoo in water, and especially avoid chlorinated water Don't let your tattoo dry out Don't over moisturize your tattoo Don't pick your tattoo scabs Don't cover your tattoo with a bandage once the initial bandage has been removed Don't scratch your tattoo or allow it to bruise Tattoo Aftercare Procedure

1) Four to six hours after you leave the tattoo parlor, wash your hands thoroughly with an antibacterial soap. You'll want to ensure that your hands are free from dirt, germs, or anything infectious.

2) Carefully remove the bandage that was placed over your tattoo at the parlor. With a mild antibacterial soap, carefully wash the tattooed area, removing any of the greasy covering, ink residue, blood, etc. You can tell that the area is clean when it just feels like wet skin. Be very gentle with your skin. Pat your skin dry -- do not brush or rub dry.

3) Apply a thin layer of moisturizer / healing ointment. Popular brands recommended at parlors include A&D Ointment, Neosporin, and Bacitracin. There are also tattoo-specific products that are designed exclusively for aftercare, and they include Tattoo Goo, H2Ocean Aftercare, and Black Cat Tattoo Cream. If you have a large, expensive tattoo, or a tattoo with deep colors that you want to protect, they are probably worth the investment.

4) Three to four times per day, apply a thin film of anti-bacterial ointment to your tattoo. You will want to use enough to moisten the tattooed area, but not so much as to leave streaks or allow it to build up. Your goal is to moisturize the area only, so start with a small amount and work it in with your fingers.

The problem with over moisturizing the skin is fading inks. If you slather on a thick coating of Neosporin and keep it moist throughout the day, your tattoo might heal in just over a week -- but the inks will fade. If, however, you lightly coat the area three to four times per day, your tattoo might take two to three weeks to heal, but the colors will set properly. This is a tough lesson for many to learn. In some cases, letting the body heal at its own pace makes more sense to your tattoo.

5) Keep your tattoo covered, and out of exposure to sun, moisture, and other danages, but don't cover it tightly. Ideally, a loose, breathable fabric can be worn. Don't scratch or pick your tattoo! If your tattoo begins to itch unbearably, gently slap the skin or use rubbing alcohol to relieve any itching or irritation.

While there might seem to be quite a few steps to follow, each step is quite simple. The bottom line is that you need to be mindful of your tattoo, and allow the body to heal itself as naturally as possible. You will do everything you can to assist that process, but you don't want to rush it -- just help it. If you can do that, and stay diligent with your care for 2 to 3 weeks, you will be blessed with a rich tattoo that can be enjoyed for years to come. - 16651

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