Tattoo Aftercare: The best practices to follow once you get inked

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Why is tattoo care important?

The tattoo is a design created on the skin with the use of ink.  A tattoo can be temporary or permanent depending on the ink used.  A tattoo gun is used to create the design on the skin.  A fast-moving needle injects the ink into the skin and in this process causes several wounds on the skin.  Since the tattoo gun uses needles to inject the ink, there are several puncture wounds formed on the skin.

Tattoo aftercare becomes very important in this case.  In fact, it is considered to be the most important aspect after getting a tattoo.  Any negligence can lead to temporary or permanent damage to the skin.  A tattoo artist takes the utmost care to create a beautiful design, but it does not end there.  It becomes your responsibility to manage it in the future.  Many people do not consider tattoo aftercare to be important, but the fact is the opposite of what they think.

Different stages of caring for a tattoo

Day 1

The first stage of tattoo aftercare begins right at the studio where the tattoo was created.  Tattoo aftercare would require at least 3-4 weeks in total.  Aftercare becomes very important right after the tattoo design is made to retain the color and appearance of the tattoo as well as help in the healing process of the wounds.

  • The tattoo is cleaned with the use of soap and water and wrapped for a particular amount of time. The cleaning process negates the presence of any bacteria on the wounds.
  • The wrapping may be done with the use of cloth or a plastic wrap. Attention is paid to ensure sufficient air circulation is available for the wounds to heal appropriately.
  • The next step would be to remove the wrap from the tattoo, which is estimated to be anywhere between 2 to 24 hours. Generally, wrapping can be removed after 2-3 hours as long as you are able to clean it after removal.  It is very rare that your artiste might ask you to leave the wrap overnight.
  • The first thing after removing the wrap would be the cleaning process where the tattoo is thoroughly cleaned with soap and water and later pat dried. Do not panic if you see any ink coming out, as it is common for the excess ink to come out.  It should be noted that the tattoo should never be rubbed with a towel after cleaning.
  • Once the area is completely dry, it is advised to apply a thin layer of lotion in order to moisturize the skin.
  • Continue the cleaning process at least twice a day to make sure there is no bacterial presence on the wounds.
  • It is quite common to experience soreness at the site of the tattoo and would remain the same for the rest of the first day. The area may also appear red and swollen with warmness to touch.
  • The first night would be rough, as you are not allowed to put any type of pressure on the tattoo.

Day 2-3

  • The following couple of days would more or less remain the same with the continuation of soreness accompanied by redness and swelling. There might be a minimal reduction in the amount of redness, but nothing noticeable.
  • It is recommended to continue the cleaning process for at least 2 times per day to keep the bacteria at bay.
  • The tattoo may still ooze out some ink as well as some plasma from the wound, which is quite common.
  • The sleeping pattern may improve marginally, but would still remain rough.

Day 4-5

  • At the onset of the fourth day, the skin on the tattoo would visibly appear to be scabbing.
  • It is recommended to continue the cleaning process with soap and water.
  • The appearance of the tattoo would be dull.
  • There might be some associated itching sensation due to the formation of scabs.
  • It is highly recommended to avoid picking at the scabs.
  • Continue with the application of lotion to keep the skin moisturized.
  • Wearing the right clothing is important as it may cause damage due to the presence of scab Avoid wearing tight clothes which may lead to rubbing on the skin or apply pressure on the skin.
  • Generally, the scabbing process is very light. Intense scabbing with the tattoos covered with thick scabs may be due to extra pressure exerted by the artist during tattooing.

Day 6-14

  • This period is considered to be quite tough since the itching sensation would be at the peak. The peeling and flaking start during this period, which might lead to a severe itching sensation.
  • The skin generally becomes very dry and can lead to intense itching. Avoid the temptation of itching at any cost so as to not cause any damage to the tattoo.
  • Follow some basic measures to control itching such as applying cool water or ice to the area, taking a cold shower, etc.
  • You may experience regular shredding of flakes with each cleaning process.

Day 15-30

  • This is a period where much of your peeling process is completed.
  • There should hardly be any redness or soreness present from the wounds.
  • The appearance of the tattoo will not be that great, and it would look dull and very dry.
  • Continue to moisturize the area at least a couple of times a day.

The following 4-8 weeks would bring your tattoo to life.  All the peeling process would be complete by this time.  The tattoo will regain the sharp and bright color.  The top layer of the skin would have completely healed, but the bottom layer would take up to 6 months to heal completely.  Cleaning and moisturizing the tattoo regularly should be continued.  If the tattoo is in a part where you would need to shave, you can go ahead with it if there are no lumps or bumps present on the area.

Tattoo aftercare maintenance

Use Sunscreen:  It becomes very important to cover your tattoo from direct sunlight.  After the initial healing process is complete you would need to make sure that your tattoo continues to look good.  Apply at least factor 30 sunscreen to protect it from harmful rays of the sun.

Moisturize regularly:  Moisturizing the tattoo with the help of a moisturizer would enhance the color and texture of your tattoo.

Drink lots of water:  Another way to moisturize your tattoo is by consuming ample amount of water.  This nourishes your skin and provides the natural health your skin requires.

Overall the best tattoo aftercare hacks

  • Retain the wrap as instructed by your artist: Generally, the tattoo is wrapped after a wash with antibacterial soap or lotion.  The artist would advise you to retain the wrap for a particular amount of time, which may vary from one hour to one day.
  • Clean the tattoo thoroughly after removing the wrap: After the desired period of retaining the wrap, you can remove it and wash the tattoo with lukewarm water and antibacterial soap to remove any retained blood from the skin.
  • Pat and dry your tattoo after cleaning: It is very important to only pat dry the tattoo gently after cleaning it and not to rub it.
  • Moisturize with lotion: Once the area is completely dry, you can apply a thin layer of moisturizing lotion to moisturize the skin in order to nourish it.
  • Clean your tattoo regularly: It is important to clean your tattoo with soap and water at least twice daily to avoid infection.
  • Continue the cleaning process until the wounds are fully healed: It should be noted that the puncture wounds caused by the needle may take up to 2-4 weeks to completely heal.  It is important to continue the process of cleaning the tattoo to avoid infection.
  • Never pick at your tattoo: During the healing process of the wound, the skin would generally scab and even cause some itching.  It is a human tendency to pick at the site of scabbed skin, which needs to be strictly avoided.
  • Do not expose your tattoo to the sun: It is highly advised against exposing your tattoo to the sun, as it may cause damage to the tattoo.
  • Keep the tattoo clean and dry at all times: It is advised to isolate the application of water on the tattoo only for cleaning purpose and should never indulge in immersing the tattoo in water.  This might risk the chance of bacteria exposure which can lead to infections.
  • Continue to protect your tattoo even after healing: When the tattoo has completely healed, it is still advised to keep it away from the sun as well as use some moisturizers on the skin in order to nourish it.


The tattoo is for life and not for just a few months.  Just getting a tattoo done does not end the story.  Regular aftercare is important to maintain your tattoo for a long time.  If you want your tattoo to continue to look good, try to follow the above-given instructions.  Note that immediate aftercare is a must and do not be negligent in following these instructions.  Once the healing process is complete and you have a clear picture of how your tattoo looks, maintain it by applying sunscreen and moisturizer.  By now you should have a clear picture of how to take care of your new tattoo.  It should be noted that tattoo aftercare is very important no matter how big or small the tattoo is.



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