Tattoo Aftercare: Instructions, Tips and Products

woman applying cream on her arm with tattoos against light backg

There is a lot of information available on how to prepare for your tattoo, but there can be a lot of conflicting advice on how to care for it after getting a tattoo. Aftercare is an essential step because failure to do so can lead to infection and irritation. It is also important to listen to the instructions given to you by your tattoo artist, as the waiting time before removing the bandage can vary depending on the size of your design and the location. It is also beneficial to ask them for advice on moisturizers. This complete tattoo aftercare guide will make that process easier, so keep reading to learn more.

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Tattoo Aftercare Instructions

Getting a tattoo is an exciting process. After careful consideration of your design and placement, you have now been inked with a meaningful tattoo that you are probably eager to show off. However, before doing so, there are a few steps to follow to ensure that your piece heals without any problems. Tattoo aftercare is important but also simple and involves keeping your skin clean and dry and avoiding exposure.

Remove the bandage

When you get a tattoo, your tattoo artist applies a layer of petroleum jelly or antibacterial cream to your skin and covers it with plastic wrap or a bandage. The coating process helps prevent bacteria from entering the skin and acts as a barrier between your skin and your clothes, reducing friction and preventing irritation. The first step in your aftercare would be to remove this bandage after about two to three hours. unless you are notified otherwise. Some artists may want you to keep the bandage on longer to prevent leaking and chafing. It’s important to remember that some placements may require you to wear the wrap longer. Always wash your hands thoroughly before touching your skin.


Before touching your skin, it is essential to wash your hands by rubbing them with soap. The first wash of your tattoo and surrounding area is important, and it should be done in lukewarm water. You want to clean the area with a hypoallergenic or unscented antibacterial soap, but don’t scrub and avoid using a cloth as this will irritate the area. After washing your tattoo, pat the area dry with a paper towel. You don’t want to reband the area.


Once the skin is completely dry, you can moisturize it. This should be done with an unscented moisturizer. This could include creams like Aquaphor, Vaseline or Shea Butter. You have to be careful not to over moisturize and use a thin layer of cream. You can ask your tattoo artist to recommend the best cream to use and how long you should wait to apply it. each artist will have slightly different aftercare advice, and some may want you to wait longer.

Let the tattoo breathe

Your skin needs time to breathe and should not be rebandaged. It will still be tender and may be red and hot to the touch. It is important to keep it clean, wash it several times a day, apply moisturizer and let it air out. It is also advisable to wear loose clothing to avoid chafing against the skin.

Avoid sun exposure

You want to avoid immersing your tattoo in water, for example, going swimming and exposing yourself to direct sunlight for several weeks. When you go outside, it is advisable to wear clothes that can cover your ink as the sun can cause it to fade faster. Sunburned skin will hurt, but it can also increase the risk of infection, lengthen the healing process, and damage your design. Once your tattoo has healed, you want to continue to avoid the sun as much as possible and always apply sunscreen to it.

Day 1

The first few days after getting your tattoo, you want to treat it like an open wound. You must take care to keep it clean and dry, moisturize it, avoid direct sunlight and do not submerge it in water. It is important to consider the environment you are working in and the climate, as hot weather or physical labor will cause more sweating and you will need to cleanse your skin regularly. Your skin will likely appear red and feel hot.

Day 2

Aftercare for your tattoo on the second day will be similar to the first. You can repeat the steps mentioned above to ensure that it stays clean and hydrated. You want to continue to treat it as if it were a wound. On the second day, you should no longer use a bandage; some tattoo artists may have asked you to keep yours longer than average.

Day 3

It is possible, especially for small designs, that your tattoo already looks like it has healed. This is not the case, so you must continue to take appropriate measures to keep it clean and hydrated for several weeks to avoid infection.

second week

From day one through week two, you want to keep repeating the steps to keep your tattoo clean, dry, and moisturized. At this point, any redness or swelling you may have had should be gone and the scabs may come off. You should take extra care to be gentle when cleaning your tattoo to avoid tearing scabs.

Week three and beyond

Everyone heals at different times, and how quickly your tattoo heals depends on location and size. By week three and beyond, most of the scabs and flakes should have disappeared. Your skin should not appear red or swollen and the outer layer of skin is healed. At this point, it’s much harder for your tattoo to get infected. However, you still want to follow the steps to cleanse and moisturize the area daily and avoid direct sunlight.

Tattoo Aftercare Tips

Knowing how to take care of your tattoo can help avoid or identify an infection. It is essential to be armed with this knowledge to obtain the best possible results. This includes what to do, what not to do, and what to do if you think your part is infected or if you have an allergic reaction to the ink.

Tattoo Aftercare Tips

What to do

  • Keep your tattoo clean by washing it regularly.
  • Use a fragrance-free soap to avoid irritation and wash with lukewarm water.
  • Dry the skin with a paper towel after washing it. Wait a few minutes to make sure it’s completely dry before adding moisturizer.
  • Find a great unscented aftercare lotion.
  • Use clean sheets to prevent infection or irritation.

What you should not do

  • Never scratch the scabs and never scratch the skin, even if it is itchy.
  • Don’t stop cleaning and caring for your tattoo, even if it seems healed in the first few weeks.
  • Remember that colored tattoos and larger pieces take longer to heal, give it time and don’t rush this process.
  • Avoid submerging your tattoo in water.
  • Keep it out of direct sunlight and even after it heals, use sunscreen.

Potential side effects and complications of tattoos


It is possible to have an allergic reaction to the ink used in your tattoo. This is most common with red pigments. A reaction may occur within the first few days after being inked, but may also take weeks to appear. If you have an allergic reaction, it may appear as a raised, red, bumpy rash. The skin can also be itchy, swollen and painful. It is advisable to consult a medical professional to determine the appropriate treatment.

If the tattoo is swollen

It is normal for your tattoo to appear red or slightly swollen for the first few days. It may also be painful to the touch and you may see clear fluid coming out of it. If it persists beyond three days, you can use an anti-inflammatory balm to soothe the skin and reduce swelling. If in doubt, it is advisable to contact your doctor for a consultation.

Scab and itching

If your tattoo is crusting over, this is normal and a sign that the tattoo is healing. The important thing is never to pick on them as this will introduce bacteria to the area and damage the skin. Itching can also be a normal sign of healing and can occur around two weeks. You should never scratch your skin and instead use moisturizer to soothe it.

When to consult a doctor ?

If your tattoo is taking a long time to heal, seems infected, or smells bad, you need to see a doctor. Other problematic symptoms include fever, swelling, persistent rash, or excessive oozing. It is always advisable to consult a doctor. An infection can be serious.

Tattoo care products

There are many products on the market to use as skincare lotions. It’s a good idea to ask your tattoo artist for their recommendations. Popular choices include Aquaphor Healing Ointment, Mad Rabbit Soothing Gel, Lubriderm Daily Moisture Hydrating Lotion, and Hustle Butter Tattoo Care & Maintenance Cream. To enhance the color, you can also try Tattoo Goo Balm. Other options include shea butter and coconut oil.


What not to do after a tattoo?

Taking care of your tattoo is essential to prevent infection and irritation. This can be achieved by keeping it clean, dry and hydrated. We all heal at different rates and some parts of the body heal faster than others. It is normal to feel some discomfort and tenderness in the days following the ink. You will also have some crusting and itching, which is completely normal. If the area is swollen, has excessive oozing, or has an allergic reaction like a red rash, you should contact a doctor.

How long after a tattoo should I apply cream?

It is recommended that you remove the bandage from your tattoo approximately three hours later. You can then wash it with lukewarm water and dry it with a paper towel. When the skin is completely dry, you can apply an unscented cream. Depending on the size of your design and its location, your tattoo artist may advise you to wait longer before removing the bandage; it can take up to 48 hours.

How long should I want to shower after a tattoo?

You can wash your tattoo with warm water after removing the bandage. It may take approximately three hours after inking unless otherwise advised. You want to avoid submerging it in water, such as going swimming, until it is completely healed.


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