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Step-by-step aftercare instructions

Proper aftercare in the first few weeks after getting a tattoo can help prevent an infection and keep the tattoo looking good.


The initial bandage

*Tattoo aftercare starts in the tattoo shop. Once the tattoo is done, the artist will apply a thin layer A&D OINTMENT over the entire tattooed area. They will then cover the area completely with SANIDERM or a bandage.

*As tempting as it can be to remove the protective cover to look at the tattoo, the bandage or SANIDERM should stay on for at least a few hours after the process. The length of time will depend on the size and location of the tattoo.

*This covering protects the open skin from bacteria, sunlight, and from rubbing against clothing.

Washing your tattoo

*After usually no less than 3 hours, it is safe to remove the bandage and wash the tattoo.

*After thorough hand-washing,  gently wash the tattoo with ANTIMICROBIAL SOAP (Try Meyer's lavender or rosemary soap or Dr. Bronner's lavender or tea tree soap) and diluted with hot water, using only your fingers. NEVER apply undiluted soap directly to your tattoo! Always cut it with water first.

*NEVER wash your tattoo with a sponge or washcloth.

*The tattoo may appear as if it is oozing ink or a thick, sticky substance. This reaction is not usually a cause for concern, as it is just the excess fluid and ink from the tattoo process.  Gently rub your tattoo in a circular motion with soapy water till all of the sticky substance loosens and rinses away.

*After washing, compress the tattoo gently yet firmly with a clean paper towel, wicking as much moisture as possible from the open skin of the new tattoo, and allow it to air-dry for up to an hour.

*When the area is completely dry,  apply a thin layer of ointment to the tattoo, but leave it uncovered to allow the skin to breathe.

*After your initial cleansing, you should wash your tattoo sparingly. Only wash your tattoo with (antimicrobial ) soap if you feel that dust, dirt, or some other kind of contaminate has gotten on your tattoo.( Keeping your tattoo covered with clothing while in dirty environments will eliminate this necessity. )Otherwise, don't wash. Excessive use of soap can be irritating to your new tattoo. If you need to wash it, it is best to wash the tattoo with clean fingers only and not a cloth or towel, which may irritate the skin and prematurely remove any scabs that may have formed.

Moisturizing your tattoo

*Always wash your hands before applying moisturizer to your tattoo!

* Apply healing ointment a minimum of five times a day, in the thinnest layer possible, until your tattoo is completely healed (generally two to three weeks).

*DO NOT make the common mistake of applying a thick smothering amount of ointment at the beginning of the day thinking you're good to go for the day. This is HORRIBLE for your tattoo, and will contribute to healing issues and ink loss.

About healing ointments

* If you experience an INCREASED pain, swelling, heat or redness around your tattoo site within the first few days, use Bacitracin Plus (NOT NEOSPORIN!!!)  instead of your preferred healing ointment for the first week.

*If you have large areas of solid ink or heavily saturated color, it is sometimes recommended to start by using "Bacitracin Plus" first-aid antibiotic cream (NOT NEOSPORIN!!!!) for the first few days of healing, and then switch to ointment for the rest of the duration of your healing process.

*There is no ONE ointment that works for every single person. My recommendation is to go with something with as few ingredients as possible,

*A&D ointment, found in the baby care section of your pharmacy, is the least commonly reactive product I have recommended. But, it can clog your pores, sometimes causing an eruption of small pimples around the area. Fewer applications a day, like 3 to 5, can eliminate this problem.

*A simple salve made of calendula and comfrey , with an olive oil/beeswax vehicle and lavender as an antimicrobial is a perfect herbal salve if you prefer to use something that is not petroleum based. Search your local co-op or herbal apothecary for something like this.

*When looking for an herbal option, STAY AWAYfrom "drawing agents." Drawing agents are ingredients in healing salves whose purpose is to pull foreign irritants out of the skin, like venom or splinters. They can sometimes be found as common ingredients in some herbal healing salves.

What to avoid:



Sea Salt



Coconut Oil

Tea Tree Oil

any ointment or lotion with artificial colorants, perfumes, alcohol, or shimmer/glitter


Ink rejection or allergy

It is your body's natural healthy response to reject foreign bodies under the skin. Following aftercare instructions will minimize loss of ink and color in your tattoo. Some common things that will cause rejection are:

*Picking or scratching at the scab on your tattoo, causing it to bleed.

*Soaking your tattoo in water, which makes the scab soft and spongy. Your ink will push up into the scab, and when the scab falls away, your ink goes with it.

*Exposure to sun while healing. This can cause photosensitivity , which can trigger an allergic response, which can trigger ink rejection.

You are more likely to have a difficult healing process resulting in loss of ink if you are having an allergic reaction to one or more of the pigments used in your tattoo. Adverse reactions rarely occur with black ink and are far more likely to occur with red ink or other colors containing red, like maroon, purple, or brown .

An allergic reaction can look like different things for different people and with different pigments, Here are some examples of what you might see with a mild to severe allergic reaction


*increased redness or swelling, pain and/or inflammation, thicker gnarly scabbing, and/or longer healing time.( If you experience an increase in any of these symptoms after the initial 24 hour stage following the application of your tattoo, switch to Bacitracin Plus instead of your preferred healing ointment until symptoms subside )

*fading or complete loss of color. At any stage in the healing process, the body may reject an ink color.

*intense itching

*phytosensitivity after healing (swelling or itching when exposed to sun)

*keloiding  (slightly raised scar tissue)

*a severe allergic reaction (rare) can appear like a chemical burn and cause even more substantial scarring.

Week one

*Apply a very thin layer of ointment , just enough to make the tattoo barely shiny, at least five times per day

*For the first couple of days, the tattooed skin may feel warm to the touch, feeling a bit like a severe sunburn.

*The colors may also appear very bright against the rest of the skin. The tattoo will become less vibrant as the healing process continues.

*A person should avoid submerging the tattoo in water or getting the tattoo wet during the first 3 weeks. Minimal showering is fine as long as you do not allow the force of the shower to spray directly on the tattoo. Whenever your tattoo gets wet always compress it firmly with a paper towel so as to wick the moisture up out of the scab forming on the tattoo. NEVER rub a wet tattoo with a washcloth, sponge, or towel when it is still in the healing stages. When the protective scab is wet it is at risk of being rubbed away, resulting in loss of ink.

*Scabs will often form in the first few days. It is important not to pick the scabs or scratch the skin.

*Any redness or mild swelling usually goes away near the end of the first week.

*Cover the tattoo with clothing or a bandage whenever it might be exposed to the sun.

Week two

*Apply a very thin layer of ointment , just enough to make the tattoo barely shiny, at least five times per day

*Around the beginning of the second week, the scabs will start to flake off. It is important to be especially gentle with washing and moisturizing during this week, as it is easy to tear away scabs and damage the tattoo.

*The skin is likely to feel very itchy during this week, but it must not be scratched. Using a moisturizer that is kept in the refrigerator may soothe itchy or irritated skin.

*Cover the tattoo with clothing or a bandage whenever it might be exposed to the sun.

Week three and beyond

*Apply ointment sparingly, at least five times per day. Moisturizing regularly even after healing is complete will help keep your tattoo looking vibrant.

*The final stage of healing can be slow but requires patience. Most of the larger scabs will have flaked and fallen away by now. Small scabs and bits of dead skin may appear, but these will also clear up as the healing process continues.

*The outer layers of skin should completely heal by the end of week three. The inner layers of skin can take longer to heal but require much less care. The chance of infection is reduced once the outer layers of skin have healed, as there is no open wound for bacteria to infect.

* Protecting the tattoo from the sun with clothing while it is healing, and applying sunscreen after it has healed to keep your colors bright, is especially important .

What NOT to do:

*Avoid using soaps and moisturizers with any fragrances or harsh chemicals. Even if a product does not normally irritate the skin, it may irritate the tattooed area.

*do not pick at scabs, as this can cause the ink to bleed out and scar tissue to form.

*do not scratch the tattoo even if it becomes itchy.

*Avoid wearing tight or abrasive clothing on the tattoo which may dislodge the scab

*do not use sunscreen on the tattoo until it has fully healed.

*do not swim or soak until the tattoo has completely healed.

*do not wash or rub the tattoo with a washcloth, sponge, or towel. fingers ONLY!

Questions? Call Shady Lady Tattoo Parlour 802-496-9616

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