Tattoo Aftercare Tips: Expert Guide for New Tattoos
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. What is Tattoo Aftercare?
  2. How to Protect Your Tattoo
  3. How to Clean Your Tattoo
  4. How to Moisturize Your Tattoo
  5. How to Deal with Tattoo Itching
  6. How to Protect Your Tattoo From the Sun
  7. How to Maintain Your Tattoo Long Term
  8. What to Avoid When You Have a New Tattoo
  9. Why Tattoo Aftercare Matters
  10. Tips for Specific Tattoo Locations

When you get a new tattoo, it's like welcoming a new piece of art into your life—one that'll stay with you forever. It's exciting, but it's also a big responsibility. Just like a new pet or a delicate plant, your tattoo needs care and attention to stay vibrant and healthy. That's where tattoo aftercare comes in. This guide will share with you practical and relatable tattoo aftercare tips to keep your new tattoos in the best possible condition.

What is Tattoo Aftercare?

The term 'tattoo aftercare' refers to the specific steps you need to take to help your new tattoo heal properly and maintain its vibrant colors and sharp lines. Just like you wouldn't leave a fresh cut without cleaning and dressing it, you shouldn't neglect your new tattoo either. Here's a simple rundown of what tattoo aftercare involves:

  • Cleaning: Keeping your tattoo clean is the first step in proper aftercare. This involves gently washing the tattoo with a mild, fragrance-free soap to remove any residual ink, blood, or plasma from the skin.
  • Protecting: After cleaning, it's important to protect your tattoo from harmful external elements. This could mean wearing loose, breathable clothing over the tattoo or using a special tattoo bandage during the initial healing phase.
  • Moisturizing: Keeping the tattooed skin moisturized is vital for a healthy healing process. A specially formulated tattoo aftercare lotion or balm can help keep the skin hydrated, prevent scabbing, and keep the colors vibrant.
  • Avoiding certain activities: Some activities can harm your new tattoo or slow down the healing process. These include swimming, soaking in a bathtub, or exposing the tattoo to direct sunlight.

Now that you know what tattoo aftercare is, let's dive into the specifics of these tattoo aftercare tips. Remember, tattoos are an investment—both in time and money—and taking care of them properly ensures that they'll look great for years to come.

How to Protect Your Tattoo

Now that your skin is bearing a new, unique mark, the next step is to protect it. Protecting your tattoo is a bit like caring for a small child—it needs a watchful eye and a gentle touch.

1. Bandages are your friend. After the tattoo artist has finished their masterpiece, they'll likely cover your tattoo with a thin layer of petroleum jelly and then wrap it in a bandage or plastic wrap. This covering protects the new tattoo from bacteria and other contaminants in the air. It's best to leave the bandage on for a couple of hours after getting inked—some tattoo artists may even suggest leaving it on overnight.

2. Breathe easy. Once you remove the bandage, your tattoo needs to breathe. Overly tight clothing or airtight bandages can suffocate your tattoo, leading to a longer healing process. Opt for loose, breathable fabrics that won't rub against the tattooed area.

3. Hands off. It's natural to want to touch your new tattoo, but resist the urge. Unwashed hands can transfer bacteria to the fresh ink, leading to infection. If you need to touch the tattoo—for example, when cleaning or moisturizing it—make sure your hands are squeaky clean first.

4. Avoid water bodies. Swimming pools, hot tubs, and even long showers can be harmful to your new tattoo. Submerging your tattoo in water can lead to fading, not to mention the risk of bacterial infections. Stick to quick showers and avoid submerging your tattoo in water until it's fully healed.

Remember, the first few days are critical in the tattoo healing process. Taking the time to protect your tattoo in these early stages can make all the difference in how your tattoo looks over the long term.

How to Clean Your Tattoo

So, you've got your new tattoo and you're committed to giving it the TLC it deserves. The next step in our tattoo aftercare tips involves cleaning. Let's look at how to do this efficiently and effectively.

1. Choose the right soap. Not all soaps are created equal, especially when it comes to tattooed skin. Opt for a mild, fragrance-free soap. This type of soap will be gentle on your skin and won't interfere with your tattoo's healing process. Brands like Dove and Cetaphil often offer suitable options.

2. Go easy on the water. Remember, your tattoo isn't a fan of soaking in water. When it's time to clean, use lukewarm water and avoid strong streams of water that can be too harsh on your new ink.

3. Pat, don't rub. After you've gently cleaned your tattoo, it's time to dry off. Be sure to pat the area dry with a clean towel. Rubbing can cause irritation and might even damage your new tattoo.

4. Clean regularly. During the first couple of weeks, you should clean your tattoo about three times a day. This regular cleaning can help ward off infection and keep your skin healthy. After the first couple of weeks, you can reduce cleaning to once a day.

Cleaning your tattoo might seem like a chore, but it's an integral part of the healing process. With the right cleaning regimen, you're one step closer to a vibrant, long-lasting tattoo.

How to Moisturize Your Tattoo

Now that we've covered cleaning, let's move on to another key step in our tattoo aftercare tips: moisturizing. Just like you wouldn't leave the house without hydrating your body, you shouldn't neglect to moisturize your new tattoo either.

1. Select the right product. Not every lotion or cream is suitable for moisturizing a tattoo. Avoid products with alcohol, fragrances, or colorants, as these can dry out and irritate your skin. Tattoo-specific moisturizers like Hustle Butter or Aquaphor are typically your safest bet.

2. Apply sparingly. More is not always better when it comes to moisturizing your tattoo. Applying too much product can suffocate your skin and hinder the healing process. Instead, go for a thin layer that can be easily absorbed.

3. Moisturize regularly. Keep your tattoo moisturized by applying your chosen product two to three times a day. But remember, don't overdo it—too much moisture can lead to issues like scabbing or color loss.

4. Continue after healing. Even after your tattoo has healed, continue to moisturize regularly. This aids in maintaining vibrant colors and promoting the longevity of your tattoo.

Moisturizing is a simple yet effective step in tattoo aftercare. With the right moisturizer and method, you're helping ensure your tattoo remains as beautiful as the day you got it.

How to Deal with Tattoo Itching

Feeling a little itchy? Don't worry, it's normal. In our journey of tattoo aftercare tips, we've now arrived at the itching phase. This itchiness is a sign that your tattoo is healing. However, it's important to handle this itch correctly to avoid damaging your tattoo.

1. Do not scratch. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be challenging when the itch is intense. Scratching can disrupt the healing process and even lead to infection. If you feel an irresistible urge to scratch, simply tap or slap the area lightly.

2. Moisturize. As we mentioned before, keeping your tattoo moisturized can alleviate itchiness. Use a tattoo-specific moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated and reduce the itch.

3. Apply a cold compress. A cool (not freezing) compress can be a quick relief for persistent itchiness. Just make sure to wrap the compress in a clean cloth before applying it to your tattoo.

4. Use an over-the-counter antihistamine. If the itch becomes unbearable, an OTC antihistamine like Benadryl can help. However, always consult with your tattoo artist or healthcare provider first.

Remember, itchiness is a common part of the healing process. However, if the itching becomes severe or is accompanied by other symptoms like redness, swelling, or pus, seek medical attention immediately.

How to Protect Your Tattoo From the Sun

Next up on our list of tattoo aftercare tips is sun protection. Yes, as much as we love soaking up the sun, it's not a friend to your new tattoo. Sun exposure can fade tattoo ink and slow down the healing process. So, how can you protect your art from the sun's harsh rays?

1. Avoid Direct Sunlight: Especially during the first few weeks, your tattoo should have little to no sun exposure. If you need to be outdoors, consider wearing clothing that covers your tattoo or shade the area in some way.

2. Use a Sunscreen: Once your tattoo has healed, a sunscreen is a must. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Apply it generously to your tattoo about 30 minutes before you step out into the sun.

3. Reapply Sunscreen: If you're spending a lot of time outdoors, reapply sunscreen every two hours. Also, if you're swimming or sweating a lot, apply as soon as you dry off.

4. Choose the Right Time: The sun's rays are most potent between 10 AM and 4 PM. If you can, limit your outdoor activities during these hours.

Remember, tattoo aftercare doesn't stop when your skin heals. Protecting your tattoo from the sun is a lifelong commitment to keep your ink vibrant and beautiful. So, next time you plan a day at the beach, don't forget these sun protection tattoo aftercare tips!

How to Maintain Your Tattoo Long Term

Now that you've navigated the initial healing process, let's focus on long-term tattoo aftercare tips. Maintaining a tattoo over the years is just as important as the initial care. Here's how you can keep your tattoo looking fresh and vibrant for years to come:

1. Stay Hydrated: Staying hydrated isn't just good for your health—it's good for your tattoo too. Hydrated skin helps keep your tattoo looking vibrant. So, fill up that water bottle and drink up!

2. Maintain Healthy Skin: Healthy skin equals a healthier-looking tattoo. Regularly moisturize your tattooed skin with a quality lotion or moisturizer. Avoid harsh soaps and opt for gentle cleansers. Also, exfoliate the area gently once a week to remove dead skin cells.

3. Protect Against Friction: Clothing or anything that rubs against your tattoo can cause irritation and fading over time. Try to wear soft, loose clothing over your tattooed area, especially if it's fresh.

4. Regular Touch-ups: Over time, tattoos can fade, blur, or lose their sharpness. Regular touch-ups can restore your tattoo's original brilliance. Consult with your tattoo artist about when and how often to schedule touch-ups.

Following these tattoo aftercare tips can help ensure your tattoo remains a vibrant piece of artwork on your skin for years to come. Remember, a tattoo isn't just a one-time investment—it's a lifelong commitment to care and maintenance!

What to Avoid When You Have a New Tattoo

Knowing what to steer clear of is just as important as knowing what to do when it comes to tattoo aftercare tips. Here are some don'ts for your new tattoo:

1. Don't Pick or Scratch: Resist the urge to pick or scratch at your new tattoo. It can cause damage, leading to scarring and color loss. If itching becomes unbearable, gently pat the area or apply a small amount of moisturizer.

2. Avoid Soaking: Showers are okay, but soaking your new tattoo in a bath, hot tub, or swimming pool can cause serious problems. Water can fade the tattoo and introduce bacteria, leading to infection.

3. Stay Out of the Sun: Fresh tattoos and sunlight don't mix. Sun exposure can cause your tattoo to fade and prolong the healing process. If you must be outside, protect your tattoo with a sunblock of at least SPF 30.

4. Don't Rush the Healing Process: Healing takes time, and each person heals at a different rate. Don't rush the process by removing the bandage too soon or neglecting aftercare instructions.

Remember, your new tattoo is a form of self-expression, and it deserves the best care you can give. By avoiding these pitfalls, you'll be well on your way to a beautifully healed tattoo.

Why Tattoo Aftercare Matters

So, you might be wondering, "Why all the fuss about tattoo aftercare?" Well, the answer is pretty straightforward. Good tattoo aftercare is the difference between a tattoo that stands the test of time and one that fades and loses its appeal within a few months.

Think of your new tattoo as a fresh wound. It's essentially a beautiful piece of art created by puncturing your skin with tiny needle pricks — thousands of them! This process breaks your skin, and your body naturally wants to heal this "wound". Here's where aftercare steps in.

Proper tattoo aftercare tips help your body heal efficiently and effectively. It minimizes the risk of infection, preserves the stunning colors and intricate details of your tattoo, and ensures that your skin heals smoothly without unsightly scarring. But the importance of tattoo aftercare doesn't stop when your tattoo heals.

Long-term aftercare keeps your tattoo looking vibrant and sharp for years. Protecting it from the sun, keeping your skin moisturized, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle all contribute to the longevity of your tattoo. In other words, good tattoo aftercare makes your tattoo an investment worth protecting.

So, whether it's your first tattoo or you're adding to your collection, always remember: Tattoo aftercare isn't an optional extra. It's an integral part of the tattoo process. And the more effort you put into it, the better your tattoo will look both now and in the future.

Tips for Specific Tattoo Locations

Not all tattoos are created equal — especially when it comes to their location on your body. Some areas might need a bit more attention than others during the healing process. Let's dive into some tattoo aftercare tips for specific areas.

1. Wrist and Hand Tattoos: These tattoos are constantly exposed and likely to come into contact with clothing, accessories, and various surfaces. Keep them clean and avoid excessive rubbing. Remember to moisturize often since hands can get dry quickly.

2. Foot Tattoos: Much like the hands, your feet interact with many surfaces and are often covered with socks and shoes. Keep the tattoo clean and try to let it breathe as much as possible. Avoid tight footwear that can cause friction against the fresh tattoo.

3. Back and Shoulder Tattoos: These areas can be challenging due to their hard-to-reach nature. Enlisting the help of a friend or family member to clean and moisturize can be handy. Also, avoid sleeping directly on a fresh tattoo to prevent irritation.

4. Inner Arm and Armpit Tattoos: These areas are prone to sweating, which can affect the healing process. Try to wear loose clothing and keep the area dry as much as possible.

Remember, every person heals differently, and what works for one might not work for another. Always listen to your body, and if something doesn't feel right, reach out to your tattoo artist or a healthcare professional. After all, your tattoo is a reflection of you, and taking care of it means taking care of yourself.

For those interested in taking their tattoo journey a step further and exploring the world of artistic body expression, check out the 'Daisie's classes.' Here, you can find a range of workshops and tutorials that will help you dive deeper into the world of art and self-expression.