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Written by Kieran Proctor

The Do’s and don’ts after A tattoo



The do’s and don'ts after a tattoo

Getting inked is a thrilling experience, a beautiful way to express your unique personality and style. But the journey doesn’t end once you step out of the tattoo parlor. Proper aftercare is crucial to ensure that your tattoo heals well and maintains its vibrancy and detail.

Here’s a detailed guide on the do’s and don’ts after getting a tattoo to ensure that your new ink remains as stunning as the day you got it. Some of my own tattoos are over 20 years old and still get compliments. So, learn from an expert.

Understanding the Importance of Tattoo Aftercare

Tattoo aftercare refers to the measures you take to care for your new tattoo once you’ve left the tattoo studio. Think of your tattoo as a wound (because it is one), and how you treat it determines how well it heals and how it ultimately looks.

Proper aftercare helps maintain vibrant colors, sharp details and healthy skin around your tattoo. It also minimizes the risk of infection and other complications.

The Do’s of Tattoo Aftercare: Essential Steps to Follow

Pay Close Attention to your Artist’s Instructions

Your tattoo artist will likely cover your new tattoo with a sterile bandage or wrap immediately following the procedure. They’ll also provide instructions on how to care for your tattoo at home, including when to remove the bandage, how to clean your new tattoo and how to apply a tattoo aftercare product.

Insider Tip: When removing the bandage, do so gently to avoid causing any damage to the new tattoo. If the bandage sticks to the tattoo, don’t force it off. Instead, wet the area with lukewarm water until the bandage comes off easily. For larger works, I typically remove my own bandages in the shower.

Removing wrap after tattoo

Keep Your Tattoo Clean

The first few days after getting a tattoo are critical for the healing process. During this period, your body recognizes the tattoo as a wound and responds with inflammation and the production of plasma, the clear fluid that oozes from the tattoo. Keeping the tattoo clean is essential to prevent infection and promote healing.

Insider Tip: Use a mild, fragrance-free soap and warm water to clean your tattoo. Avoid using a washcloth or loofah as these can be too abrasive on the healing skin. Instead, use your hands to gently wash the area, then pat dry with a clean towel.

Cleaning new tattoo

Lock In Moisture And Prevent Your Tattoo From Drying Out

After cleaning your tattoo, it’s crucial to keep it moisturized. A good tattoo-specific product like Mad Rabbit’s Repair balm or Tattoo Goo can provide the necessary hydration and nourishment for your skin. Apply a thin layer of the aftercare product on the tattooed area a few times a day.

Insider Tip: Be careful not to apply to much of your favorite tattoo aftercare cream or balm, as it can suffocate the tattoo and cause problems such as color loss or bacterial growth.

Mad Rabbit - New Tattoo Repair Soothing Gel

Use Soothing Products

Tattoos can cause some irritation, redness and swelling. To alleviate these symptoms, consider using a soothing aftercare product like Mad Rabbit. This product can provide additional comfort and help reduce inflammation.

Mad Rabbit - New Tattoo Repair Soothing Gel
Mad Rabbit is what I used to heal my right sleeve.

Let Your Tattoo Breathe

While it’s necessary to keep your tattoo covered for the first few hours (as per your artist’s instructions), it’s equally important to let it breathe afterwards. Exposing your tattoo to fresh air can aid the healing process.

Insider Tip: If you have to cover your tattoo with clothing, opt for loose, breathable fabrics to avoid irritation or further damage to the tattoo.

The Don’ts of Tattoo Aftercare: What You Should Avoid

While the do’s of tattoo aftercare are crucial, it’s equally important to know what to avoid. Mistakes in aftercare can lead to a compromised tattoo and potential health risks.

Don’t Dry Heal Your Tattoo

The concept of dry healing is a controversial one in the online tattoo community. And this is due to a lot of website owners never having had tattoos and not knowing much about them.

Professional tattoo aftercare creams, balms and salves aren’t ‘moisturizers’ in the typical sense. They don’t contain vitamin E and they don’t add moisture to the tattooed area. Instead, professional tattoo products act as a ‘barrier coat’, locking in your body’s own moisture and keeping dirt and germs out.

While some online articles argue that moisturizers can trap bacteria, tattoo aftercare products aren’t moisturizers. And not using a tattoo aftercare product can lead to itchy, tight skin, cracking, ripping, scabs, ink drop and potential infections. It’s always advisable to keep your tattoo moist and supple with the right products.

Don’t Scrub or Scratch Your Tattoo

New tattoos can itch, but scratching or scrubbing can damage the tattoo and cause an infection. If your tattoo itches, apply more of your chosen tattoo balm or gently pat the area with clean hands.

Don’t Submerge Your Tattoo in Water

Avoid soaking your tattoo in water, whether in a bathtub or a swimming pool, for at least a few weeks after getting it. Submerging your tattoo can lead to bacterial infection and can also cause the ink to fade.

Don’t Expose Your Tattoo to Direct Sunlight

Fresh tattoos are sensitive to sunlight and exposure can cause blistering and color alteration. Always cover your tattoo with clothing or use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30+ whenever you step outdoors.

Mad Rabbit - Defend Tattoo Sunscreen - SPF30+ Tattoo Sunscreen

Don’t Neglect Your Tattoo

Neglecting your tattoo aftercare routine can lead to infection, color fading and skin damage. Always clean your tattoo and apply a tattoo aftercare product to protect your tattoo. And remember to reapply the cream multiple times a day, until it fully heals.

How Long Does It Take for a Tattoo to Heal?

The healing time for a tattoo can vary depending on several factors, including the size and location of the tattoo, your overall health and how well you follow aftercare instructions. Typically, the outer layer of skin may heal within 2-3 weeks, but the deeper layers can take up to 6 months to fully heal.

Recognizing Signs of Tattoo Infection

Infections can occur if tattoo aftercare instructions are not followed correctly. If you notice symptoms like excessive redness, pain, blisters, pus or fever, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Preparation Before Getting a Tattoo

Before getting a tattoo, it’s important to do some preparation. This can include consulting with your doctor (if you have any medical conditions), researching reputable tattoo artists, staying hydrated, eating a healthy meal before your session and having your tattoo aftercare products ready.


Proper tattoo aftercare is essential to ensure that your tattoo heals well and maintains its vibrancy and detail. By adhering to the do’s and don’ts outlined in this guide, you can show off your new tattoo with pride and confidence for years to come.

Remember, a tattoo is a lifetime investment. So, it’s worthwhile investing the necessary time and effort into taking care of it. Let your tattoo be a masterpiece that reflects your unique personality and story. And one that you can proudly wear for the rest of your life.

Kieran - author - tattoovagabond and inlovelyblue
My own tattoos are still as vibrant as the day I got them – and the flowers on my left arm actually attract bees!
Article Sources – Recommended Further Reading

Vagabond takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

  1. Tattoos: 7 Unexpected Skin Reactions and What To Do About Them | American Academy of Dermatology
  2. Sunscreen FAQs | American Academy of Dermatology
  3. Ink Allergies: What To Know Before You Get A Tattoo
  4. Caring For Your New Tattoo: A Comprehensive Guide To Tattoo Aftercare
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