Bad Tattoo Aftercare: How to Heal Your New Ink Properly

Bad Tattoo Aftercare

Wondering why your new tattoo looks infected, faded or blown out? The truth is, bad tattoo aftercare is likely to blame. From washing mistakes to clothing mishaps, improper healing techniques can lead to tattoo disasters.

So how can you ensure your fresh ink heals smoothly without complication? The key is diligently following your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions to avoid critical mistakes.

This comprehensive guide covers all the dos and don’ts of tattoo aftercare. Read on to learn the 9 critical errors that damage tattoos, and pick up pro tips for protecting your precious body art.

Not Washing Your Hands and Tattoo Area Properly

Before touching your new ink, always wash your hands thoroughly with unscented anti-bacterial soap and warm water. Gently clean the tattoo area in a circular motion using the same soap, then pat dry with clean paper towels. Repeat this ritual 2-3 times per day during the healing process.

Pro Tip: Invest in single-use paper towels to prevent bacteria transfer from used towels. Air drying can also work in a pinch.

Neglecting to Apply A&D Ointment

Applying a thin layer of A&D ointment 2-3 times daily shields wounds from germs, retains moisture, and prevents scabbing. Alternate between A&D applications and washing the tattoo with unscented soap.

Avoid petroleum jelly, Neosporin, and other ointments unless explicitly recommended by your artist.

Not Letting Tattoos Breathe

While it’s important to keep ink covered, you should also remove bandages and washable coverings periodically. Allow your tattoo air exposure for 20-30 minutes a few times a day during the healing phase. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, oozing, and green or yellow pus. Seek medical care if these persist beyond 48 hours.

Bathing and Swimming Too Soon

Soaking tattoos can introduce bacteria through unhealed wounds into your bloodstream. Avoid baths, hot tubs, pools, lakes and oceans for 2-3 weeks post-tattoo, or until scabbing falls off.

Pro Tip: If itching or inflammation occurs, try a sea salt soak using purified, distilled, bottled, or previously boiled water.

Picking Scabs and Peeling Skin

It may be tempting to pick at dried blood, plasma and ink on your new tattoo, but this can pull out color and damage the design. Allow scabs to naturally fall off after 14 days. Gently wash the area with soap and water to remove dead skin.

If skin becomes dry, flaky or cracked, apply an odorless lotion like Lubriderm to moisturize.

Using the Wrong Cleaning Solutions

Steer clear of alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, acetone and bleach. These can dry out skin, impede healing, and leach color. Stick to gentle, unscented bar soap or an antimicrobial liquid soap like Provon, Hibiclens, Sapoderm or Dial. Saline solution also works.

Wearing Tight Clothing Over Tattoos

Fresh tattoos need room to breathe, so avoid wearing tight garments against inked areas. Tight waistbands, leggings with elastic openings, or constricting sleeves can irritate skin and pull at scabs. Look for loose, breathable fabrics like cotton while healing.

Exposing Tattoos to Direct Sunlight

Sun exposure can cause tattoos to fade and age prematurely. For at least three weeks post-tattoo, diligently apply broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen to protect your investment. Cover the area with lightweight clothing when possible.

Not Moisturizing Properly During Healing

To prevent painful cracking and peeling, keep tattoos lightly moisturized during healing and beyond. Apply a nickel-sized amount of fragrance-free moisturizer like Lubriderm 2-3 times per day after the scabbing phase. If skin feels tight, you need more moisture. If moisture pools on the surface, cut back application.

By sidestepping these critical tattoo aftercare mistakes, you can relax knowing your new body art will heal smoothly. Always defer to your tattoo artist’s specific care instructions, and contact them with any concerns on trouble signs. With some diligence on your part during the post-tattoo phase, you’ll soon be able to show off your improved skin art for years to come.

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