How to care for tattoos

So, you’re sporting some fresh ink… congrats! There’s nothing quite like a brand new tattoo. But, to make sure your body art stays looking fresh, it’s important to take your tattoo aftercare seriously. In truth, proper aftercare is the difference between a good tattoo and an amazing tattoo, and it’s up to you to make sure you look after the tattooed area once your artist finishes his work.

Here’s a few tips to make sure your tattoo healing process is as smooth as possible.

Aftercare Cleaning 101

Avoid Submersion. After you get a new tattoo, you should avoid swimming, soaking in hot tubs, or generally any sort of full submersion of the tattoo in water.

Wash carefully. While submersion is a no-no, showers are typically fine. Post tattoo-sesh, keep the dressing on for as long as your tattoo artist recommends (which could be just a few hours.) The dressing is used to help stem excess ink, fluid, or leaks from the tattoo.

Apply ointment. Pretty much every artist has their own tattoo aftercare ointment, whether it’s shea butter, coconut oil, artificial skin, or special lotions. But, keep in mind that over-application can clog the pores and cause irritation and interfere with the healing process.

It’s a good practice to use the ointment that’s recommended by the artist who gave you the tattoo. Right after your tattoo, most artists will apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment over the tattoo and then cover the area. This prevents bacteria from getting into your skin, which is very vulnerable post tattoo. It also protects rubbing onto your clothes. You’ll want to continue using the recommended ointment until the tattoo has healed completely.


sleeve cover up

Cleansing Steps

Once you remove the covering, follow these steps to make sure you wash the area properly and avoid skin irritation.

  1. Remove bandage with care.
  2. Wash your hands with soap and warm water.
  3. Then, gently wash the tattoo with lukewarm water and antibacterial soap.
  4. Pat your skin dry with a soft cloth or paper towel.
  5. Apply a small amount of fragrance-free and alcohol-free moisturizer (or the prescribed ointment) to the tattoo. Let your skin breathe post wash.
  6. Repeat 2-5 times a day or as recommended by your artist.

Long-term Aftercare Maintenance

During the healing process, which can take weeks or months, there’s several things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Keep it clean. Most tattoo artists provide aftercare instructions, which may vary from artist to artist. But, the number one piece of advice that returns again and again is to only touch your tattoo with CLEAN hands. The same advice you learned in kindergarten prevails: wash your tattoo thoroughly with warm water and fragrance free soap or antibacterial soap for at least the length of time it takes to say your ABCs.
  2. Don’t overexpose your tattoo to the sun. Wear sun-protective clothing when outside. Your tattoo is now a part of your skin, and just like your natural skin, as time goes on, a tattoo will go through changes (which includes fading). While you’ll want to avoid using sunblock on your fresh tattoo until it’s fully healed, once it is healed, you’ll want to make sure you wear a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 35. Prolonged sun exposure is incredibly damaging to your skin, and especially new tattoos…but also it’s critical to preserving your art for the long haul, too.
  3. Let it breathe. During the first week or so post-tattoo, you’ll want to repeat the process of washing your tattoo about two to five times a day, and use a very thin layer of healing ointment. Air is needed for the ink to set during the healing process, so it’s critical to make sure your skin can breathe as you continue your aftercare routine. Initially, especially on the first night, you’ll want to keep using the plastic wrap so the fluids and excess ink don’t stick to your bedding. But after that, make sure the area is free any tight coverage.
  4. Take note of any irritation. If you notice any signs of infection, make sure to call your tattoo artist or doctor. You may be interested to know that tattoos with colored ink often take longer to heal than black and white tattoos, especially if it’s large or located on a part of the body that flexes or moves a lot. Sometimes this movement can cause. cracks on a healing tattoo and delay healing.
  5. Don’t touch or pick. Until the tattoo is completely healed, it’s not uncommon for the area to itch. Avoid scratching or picking at the fresh tattoo. The size, type of tattoo and your immune system all create factors in terms of healing time. In general, it takes about six weeks for a tattoo to fully heal. Fine line work or etching typically heal the fastest. Usually, after three or four days have passed, a fresh tattoo will start peeling, and often, this part of the healing process causes itching. DO NOT pick or scratch at the design. Instead:
    • Use a damp, warm washcloth and compress gently until itching subsides, then pat dry
    • Continue to use unscented soap and fragrance free lotion
    • Avoid shaving
  6. Avoid tight clothing. Do not wear tight clothing over the tattoo, as this can cause additional irritation, rubbing and can damage tattooed skin. If your tattoo is around your clavicle or the skin around where a bra may sit, consider the tightness of your bra straps and adjust as needed.

Remington Tattoo Tattoo Shop

Built in 1914 and restored in 2011, Remington Tattoo Parlor + Gallery is an industrial, modern meets apothecary artist’s studio. We’re located in the North Park district in the heart of San Diego, near the corner of 30th and Upas, at 3009 Myrtle Avenue San Diego, CA 92104.

Visit our unique shop, meet our artists and find the one that is right for you and your tattoo. Our Latest Works page showcases our most recent tattoos and behind-the-scenes shots that don’t make it to our portfolios. To schedule an appointment with one of our artists at Remington, contact us today.