Vol.2, No.4

How to care for a tattoo

A guide to caring for a tattoo immediately after getting one, and advice for keeping your tattoo looking fresh for years to come.

New tattoo on someone's back
Photo Credit: Tammy Michaels
Tattooing the body is an ancient art that goes back over thousands of years. In today's society, getting tattoos is becoming increasingly popular. It is a bold form of self-expression, as well as an innovative fashion statement. Before you get a tattoo, you need to know the proper steps to take in caring for the tattoo immediately after getting it, and for years to come.

Tattoos are given by applying needles to the skin, puncturing it with ink that seeps deep into the dermis, past the first level of skin. This allows the ink to stay on the skin, and is a permanent process. When you first get a tattoo, the skin is extremely sensitive and needs special care, until the "scars" heal. Before receiving a tattoo, make sure you arrive at the tattoo shop free of alcohol, as this can thin the blood and prevent the tattoo from staying on your skin. Once the tattoo is completed, there are specific steps that need to be taken to ensure it heals properly and there are no faded or incomplete marks or lines.

Once you get a tattoo, the artist will probably apply a medical bandage directly to it using professional medical tape. DO NOT remove the bandage immediately. It is applied to help stop any bleeding that occurs immediately after getting the tattoo. Leave the bandage on for at least a few hours. When you remove the bandage, be sure to do so with care, and then wash the tattoo very gently with a mild soap to remove any excess blood. Pat the tattoo very gently (make sure you do not rub it) to dry.

The skin where the tattoo has been applied will be extremely dry, so you will want to apply a cream to it a minimum of two to three times per day, maybe more depending on the dryness. Most people use either Neosporin antibacterial cream, or A&D ointment. Both of these creams contain vitamin E, which has moisturizing properties that promote healing. Within a day or two, you will notice that the tattoo will begin to scab over. Be sure not to itch, scratch, or pick at the tattoo because this can cause damage. Let the scabs fall off naturally. Additionally, you'll want to avoid staying out in the sun for any period of time or swimming in a pool, as both sunlight and chlorine can cause serious damage to an unhealed tattoo.

Within about a week or so, your tattoo should be completely healed and ready to show off. However, over the years tattoos can fade without proper care. The biggest reason for tattoo fading is sunlight. It is highly advised that you pay special attention to any areas where you get a tattoo if you plan on being in the sun for any length of time. Always apply a sunscreen, preferably with an SPF of 30 or higher to anywhere you have gotten a tattoo. With proper treatment and care, you'll have a tattoo you can enjoy for years and years to come.