Guide To Tattoo Aftercare: Taking Care of Your New Tattoo

Getting a new tattoo is incredibly exciting and nerve-wracking. You know it will be painful, but the end result will be stunning and beautiful (and totally worth the pain). 

Luckily, if you follow some simple instructions, your tattoo will be healed and ready for showing off within just a few weeks. Let’s take a look at how to take care of a new tattoo, how to use tattoo aftercare cream, and answer a common question: how long does it take a tattoo to heal?

What Does Tattooing Do To The Skin?

First, let’s take a look at why tattooing is painful and why it requires so much healing time. Tattooing involves puncturing the surface of the skin with a special needle; however, what you may not know is that tattooing penetrates more than just the first layer of skin. In fact, tattooing is most effective and crisp when the tattoo needle accurately penetrates the second layer of the skin, the dermis. The first, outer layer of the skin is a poor medium due to the fact that cells are replaced every 4-6 weeks. 

Furthermore, the lower layer of the skin, the hypodermis (or subcutaneous layer) is made of oily, fatty tissue. Tattooing into this layer tends to produce lines that soften and blur as the ink mixes with the oily extracellular matrix. Blurring due to this is more likely in areas that have a thin dermis layer like the lower leg. 

Since foreign substances are being introduced into the second layer of skin, you can expect an inflammatory response from the immune system. This is simply caused by white blood cells being called to the tattoo site. When white blood cells arrive at the tattoo site, they engulf or phagocytize the ink particles; however, they are unable to break them down like they are other biological particles. These white blood cells stay at the site of the tattoo, holding onto the ink particles until they die. 

For all of these reasons, it can take upwards of 4-6 weeks for your tattoo to completely heal and look as crisp and permanent as it will look for the rest of your life (minus a bit of fading over time).

How Long Does It Take A Tattoo To Heal?

So, how long does it take a tattoo to heal? As mentioned above, it can take 4-6 weeks for the tattoo to be truly finalized, and most tattoo artists will tell you not to have additional work done on the same tattoo for about 6 weeks. However, your upper layers of skin will heal before this point: in about 2-3 weeks, you will feel that your tattoo wound has completely healed; keep in mind, at this point, that there may still be some healing occurring under the surface. 

If you notice that swelling and drainage have not reduced or gone away after 5-7 days, talk to your doctor right away– fresh tattoos can get infected.

What Does A Healing Tattoo Look Like?

After your session is finished, your artist will wrap your tattoo– some will use a medical-grade, tattoo-specialized bandage, while others will simply use good ol’ fashioned cling wrap. Either way, you’re going to want to leave that wrap on for at least 24 hours, if not several days (how long will depend on the wrap, so follow your artist’s instructions).

As you leave, your tattoo will look fresh, crisp, and beautiful (though the skin around it will probably be a little red). Pretty soon, however, it’s gonna start looking pretty gross. Underneath that wrap you’ll likely start to see some sort of concoction of blood, plasma, excess ink, etc. This is totally normal. The spot will also be tender for a few days, so treat the area gently.

If in doubt, you can always check in with your artist to make sure your tattoo is healing normally.

How To Take Care Of A New Tattoo

If you’re asking yourself how to take care of a new tattoo, here are some pointers. For best results, follow the instructions that your tattoo artist gives you. They may have tips and tricks that apply to a specific color, area of the body, or ink type.

Aside from this, make sure to follow these dos and don’ts.

DO:

  • Keep your tattoo wrapped up for at least 24 hours
  • Keep your tattoo out of direct sunlight for at least the first week
  • Apply a tattoo aftercare cream after the wrap has come off
  • Wash your tattoo with a fragrance-free soap a few times per day
  • Reapply your creams at regular intervals to aid the healing process
  • Take care of your tattoo; the more attentive you are, the better it will heal

DON’T:

  • Submerge your tattoo for at least a week (no swimming or baths)
  • Get your tattoo wet in the first 24 hours
  • Scratch at or peel your skin around the tattoo
  • Use lotions with fragrance on your tattoo while it heals
  • Be alarmed if there is seepage from a fresh tattoo (if it’s still happening after 5-7 days, that’s a cause for concern)

Can I Use A Tattoo Aftercare Cream To Heal My Tattoo Faster?

Many artists will recommend some sort of tattoo aftercare cream. This kind of product will help your skin stay moisturized and soft during the healing process, reducing the scratching or itching associated with dry, damaged skin.

Here at Rejuvaskin, we’ve found that our Skin Recovery Cream is practically perfect for tattoo healing! Packed with high-quality ingredients (such as hyaluronic acid and calendula) that help retain moisture and reduce inflammation (a MUST for the notorious itchy-phase of tattoo healing), Skin Recovery Cream provides the ideal solution for tattoo recovery!

Check out our Skin Recovery Cream here and pick some up for your next tattoo!