There are a few different methods for healing that I recommend, so you should pick what works best for you. But there are a few rules that always apply:
1. Don’t. Touch. Don’t let anybody touch it. Try not to let it touch other things. Keep. It. Clean. When you go to put on ointment, wash and dry your hands with a clean cloth or paper towel first.
2. No sun or soaking in water (baths, swimming) for the first 2 weeks. After the tattoo is done healing, use a strong sunscreen (spf 45 or higher) every time the tattoo will be exposed to the sun even for just a short time.
3. Do not use any petroleum-based products.
4. No picking or scratching during the very annoying itchy-peely phase. When tempted to touch the tattoo in any way during this time, train yourself to respond by washing your hands and applying lotion or all-natural ointment.
Most clients will be wrapped with plastic wrap and ointment the old school way to prevent contamination between the shop and your home. At home, wash the tattoo with warm soapy water (whatever soap your skin is used to), pat dry with a paper towel, and then you can apply fragrance-free, dye-free lotion, cocoa butter, or any all-natural tattoo healing ointments you prefer. I do not recommend any petroleum-based products like aquaphor or A+D ointment for a variety of reasons. Hustle Butter or Redemption are a couple of my personal faves.
The first night or 2 you might notice some “seeping” which consists of plasma and excess ink stored in the top layers of skin. To protect your sheets from stains and prevent the plasma from drying and getting stuck to the fabric, use plastic wrap and whatever adhesive your skin can tolerate. Wrap much more area than the tattoo in case the bandage comes unsecured in your sleep. Wash with warm soapy water in the morning and pat dry.
For the first few days, it might be a good idea to give your tattoo a good, gentle wash first thing in the morning, maybe again in the afternoon, and once more right before bed. It is very difficult to prevent the tattoo from coming into contact with anything while also allowing it to breathe and applying moisturizer, so to prevent infection and scabbing, washing it off with warm soapy water is a good idea.
Once the tattoo starts to itch, you might want to keep your healing lotion/ointment handy at all times, because itchiness= dryness. Apply whenever you feel the urge to pick or scratch. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
Some clients may have the best results from using products like saniderm, second skin, recovery derm, etc. If I have the product in stock and your skin is not sensitive to adhesives, I may cover your tattoo with this product and it will be a very easy heal. You can wear it for up to 5 days if you are comfortable and the peeling process will be minimal. There is less concern about infection and tattoos typically heal faster this way.
However, these products are not for every body or every location on the body.
Some issues to watch out for: redness or irritation around the edge of the bandage. If you notice this, go ahead and remove the bandage under a stream of very warm water, wash with your favorite soap (unless it’s fragrance-heavy), and resort to method 1 above.
It is normal to experience a bubble of inky fluid under the surface of the bandage. It looks gross, it can feel gross, but there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just the body working with the bandage. However, if it is leaking and you can’t get it to stop by patting the open area with a paper towel and trying to get it to stick, go ahead and remove the bandage with a stream of warm water and resort to method 1 unless you have another bandage to replace it with. If you have a smaller tattoo you can request a spare piece to replace the first one with after 24 hours. Otherwise if you are getting a large piece it might be worthwhile to purchase your own roll.