Reader Approved.
How to Care of a New Tattoo
Taking care of your new tattoo will prevent it from fading or getting infected. By following a few simple rules and getting in the habit of cleaning your tattoo, you can keep your tattoo clean and vibrant.

Method One of Two:
Initial Cleaning and Care

Listen to your tattoo artist. If you’ve done your homework and chosen a good tattoo artist, he or she will provide detailed instructions on how to care for your new tattoo, which you should follow carefully. Every tattoo artist will have a slightly different opinion on the best way to care for a new tattoo, but don’t worry, most reputable artists have had years of experience in caring for new tattoos, so their methods have been tried and tested.[1]
Think of your tattoo as having a warranty; if you don’t follow the artist’s instructions, you might void the warranty, and he or she won’t give you free touch-ups.
Remember: tattoo artists want your tattoo to heal correctly and look good just as much as you do, so they shouldn’t give you any poor advice.
The following instructions may vary slightly from what your tattoo artist tell you, but should serve as a good guideline.

Leave the covering on for 2-6 hours. Once the tattoo is complete, your tattoo artist will clean the area, apply an anti-bacterial ointment and cover the tattoo with a bandage or some dressing. Once you have left the tattoo parlor, resist the temptation to open the bandage. The bandage is there to protect your tattoo from airborne bacteria, which can penetrate through your broken skin. The bandage should be left on for a minimum of two hours before you remove it.
Thick, absorbent, non-stick ABD wound dressings are the most common type of bandage used by tattoo artists. These are very effective as they allow the tattoo to breathe while also being thick enough to protect the skin from bacteria and bumps. They are also extremely absorbent.[2]
There are many tattoo artists out there who are firm believers in wrapping new tattoos in plastic wrap, while there are many more who believe that this is the worst possible thing you could do for your tattoo.
Proponents of plastic wrap believe that it is the best way to wrap a new tattoo as it is easy to apply and remove without sticking to the skin. It also forms an effective shield that blocks any bacteria from getting near the tattoo.
Those who oppose plastic wrap do so because it prevents oxygen from getting to the tattoo, and oxygen is essential for healing. It also seals in moisture and raises the temperature of the skin, creating a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.[1]
Whichever type of covering your tattoo artist uses, be sure to follow his/her advice carefully. Both types of bandages have been used successfully before. Just remember that plastic wrap will need to be changed, and the tattoo cleaned much more frequently than with other bandaging, to prevent the build-up of bacteria.
Carefully remove the bandage. The jury is still out on how long a bandage should be left on before it is removed. Most artists agree that you should keep your tattoo covered for a minimum of two hours before removing, but the recommended maximum amount of time varies between 4 and 6 hours. Tattoos covered in plastic wrap are the exception; plastic wrap should never be left on a new tattoo for longer than two hours.[3]
In reality, the amount of time will vary according to the size and placement of the tattoo, along with the level of tattoo seepage and the type of bandage used. In most cases, it is best to follow the advice of your tattoo artist, but you should also use your judgement and common sense.
To remove the bandage, soak it with warm water to prevent it from sticking to your skin. It should come off easily once wet. Discard the used bandage.
Gently wash the tattoo. Most artists recommend lukewarm water and mild, unscented liquid antibacterial or antimicrobial soap. Use your hands to rub the tattoo gently, removing all traces of blood, plasma, or leaked ink. This will help to prevent the tattoo from scabbing too soon. Do not use a washcloth, loofah or any sponge to clean the tattoo, as these may harbor bacteria.[1]
Do not hold the tattoo directly under the water. Wash it indirectly by splashing the water over the tattoo with your hands. The stream of water from the faucet may be too harsh on your new tattoo.
If your new tattoo is covering a large area of skin, it may be easiest to wash the tattoo in the shower.
Pat the tattoo dry with a light, soft towel. Once you have thoroughly washed the tattoo, you should gently pat it dry with a little paper towel. Do not rub the tattoo, as this may cause irritation. Once the excess moisture has been removed, you should leave the tattoo uncovered for 20 minutes to an hour. This will allow the tattoo to breathe and any excess moisture to evaporate.
You should allow your tattoo to breathe like this after each time you wash it or get it wet.
Apply a non-scented, water-based anti-bacterial ointment. Once your tattoo is fully dry, and the skin begins to feel tight you can apply a little ointment, preferably an all natural vegan aftercare to the tattoo. Tat-Stick is a great product. Make sure to apply only a very thin layer and rub it in gently until it’s absorbed by the skin. It’s very important that you don’t apply too much ointment, or else you’ll suffocate the tattoo and encourage the growth of bacteria.[4]
You should continue applying the ointment after each time you wash the tattoo, at least twice a day, for 3 to 5 days or until the tattoo starts to peel. When it does you can switch to a regular, fragrance-free lotion.
Don’t use lanolin or petroleum-based products, such as Vaseline, as these are too heavy and may clog the pores, causing breakouts on the tattoo. They also draw the ink from the tattoo to the surface of the skin, causing the tattoo to fade before it’s even fully healed.
There are some excellent specialist products on the market that are a little pricey, but work wonders for healing tattoos. Once such product is called “Tattoo Goo” which is non-greasy and is made from natural ingredients. Another great product is “H2Ocean”, which is a foam rather than an ointment, that uses a salt concentration to prevent infection.[1] “After Inked” is also an excellent product as it’s non-petroleum based and mainly uses grapeseed oil that is known to have more antioxidant value than vitamin E. This helps the healing process and has great moisturizing properties.
Continue to wash and moisturize your tattoo, at minimum, twice a day until the scab is gone. You should continue to wash your tattoo with anti-bacterial soap and warm water until it is fully healed. This can take anywhere from 3 to 6 six weeks, depending on the size and location of the tattoo. You should wash the tattoo approximately three times a day, though you should wash more often if the tattoo is on your hand, wrist, foot, or any other area that is more exposed to germs.[5]
After applying special anti-bacterial ointment for the first 3 to 5 days, you can switch to regular lotion after each wash. Most tattoo artists will recommend that you avoid using lotions that are scented, colored or contain glitter. Remember only to apply a light layer of lotion, as over-moisturizing can negatively affect the tattoo.
The initial healing of the tattoo will take up to two weeks. During this time, you can expect the tattoo to start peeling or flaking, in a similar way to sunburn. Some colored skin may come away as the tattoo peels, but this is entirely normal.
After the skin peels, your tattoo will look glassy and feel tight. It may also have cloudy or white patches of skin that you will be tempted to peel off, but try to resist. This is referred to as “onion skin” and will fall off by itself within a couple of weeks.
If you have taken proper care of your new tattoo, you can expect your tattoo to be healed and your skin to have fully regenerated in about four to six weeks.[2]
Method Two of Two:
What to Avoid
Do not scratch or pick at your tattoo. As it heals, your tattoo will begin to scab. This is normal, and the scabs should be allowed to dry out and fall off by themselves. Do not try to help the process along by picking at the scabs. This may cause the scabs to fall off prematurely, leaving holes or light spots on your tattoo.
If your hands or nails are unclean; you may also cause the tattoo to become infected. You should always wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap before touching your tattoo, and you should never allow anyone else to touch it while it heals.[5]
Dry, scabbing or peeling skin can become very itchy, but scratching at your tattoo may also cause scabs to fall off. You can relieve itching by slapping the tattoo with the flat of your hand, or by rubbing in a little lotion.[3]
Keep using moisturizing ointment to combat itchiness if it is a problem.
Avoid soaking the tattoo. Until your tattoo is fully healed, you should avoid swimming in a pool, in the sea, or even soaking in the bathtub. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, exposing your tattoo to too much water may draw ink out of your skin and damage the tattoos appearance. Secondly, the water in swimming pools, the sea, and the bathtub may be carrying dirt, bacteria, chemicals and other impurities that could cause your tattoo to become infected.[2]
It will be completely safe to resume these activities once your tattoo is healed, but for now you should stick to rinsing your tattoo in the sink or shower.
Keep your showers and baths short, under 5-6 minutes.
Do not expose your new tattoo to direct sunlight. Sunlight is the worst enemy of new tattoos. The harsh rays of the sun may cause your skin to blister and bleach some of the colors from your tattoo. For this reason, it is best to keep your tattoo covered and away from the sun for at least 3 to 4 weeks, until the initial healing is complete.[2]
After that, you will still need to protect your tattoo by wearing a minimum of SPF 30. This will prevent your tattoo from fading in the sun, keeping the colors true for longer.
Avoid tight-fitting clothes. Avoid wearing tight or restrictive clothing on the area with your new tattoo, especially at first. As your tattoo heals, it will seep plasma and excess ink, which may cause the clothing to stick to the tattoo. The clothing will then be painful to remove and may rip off any freshly formed scabs.[4]
If your clothing does stick to your tattoo, do not pull! First wet the area with water, which should loosen the clothing to where it can be removed without damaging your tattoo.
In addition, tight clothing will prevent enough oxygen from getting to your tattoo, and oxygen is essential for the healing process.
Aim to wear clean, loose-fitting clothing, day, and night, while your tattoo is healing.
Avoid working out. Tattoos that cover large surface areas, or are near joints (such as elbows and knees), may take longer to heal if the skin is forced to move around too much during intense workouts or other physical activity. The movement will cause the skin to crack and become irritated, prolonging the tattoos healing process. For this reason, you should avoid unnecessary workouts for at least a few days after getting a new tattoo.[3]
If you’re involved in a self-defense class like karate or kickboxing, you may want to warn your classmates so they can avoid hitting you in the wrong place.
If you work in a job that involves physical activity, such as construction or dance, you may want to consider having your new tattoo done on a Friday, so it will have the whole weekend to heal before your go back to work.
Avoid swelling. Swelling may occur with new tattoos on your feet, ankles or calves, especially if you have been standing for long periods of time. If this happens, you can reduce swelling by taking an Ibuprofen, applying an ice pack to the swollen area, and elevating your feet and legs.

You’re helping people by reading wikiHow
wikiHow’s mission is to help people learn, and we really hope this article helped you. Now you are helping others, just by visiting wikiHow.

Direct Relief is a humanitarian nonprofit with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty and emergencies. Recognized by Charity Navigator and Forbes for its efficiency, Direct Relief equips health professionals in the U.S. and throughout the world with essential medical resources to effectively treat and care for patients – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay.

Click below to let us know you read this article, and wikiHow will donate to Direct Relief on your behalf. Thanks for helping us achieve our mission of helping everyone learn how to do anything.

Click here to be counted
Community Q&A
Is using A&D Prevent Original Ointment Diaper Rash Ointment & Skin Protectant okay to use on a new tattoo? Answered by wikiHow Contributor
A&D is fine, though it may make the skin around your tattoo break out if you have sensitive skin. Aquaphor is a better option.
How do I get rid of the really bad pain of a tattoo? Answered by wikiHow Contributor
You can never avoid some discomfort, but when it comes to the most sensitive spots your best bet is distracting yourself in some way. Listen to music, chat with the artist or someone else, if it seems appropriate to the situation, have a magazine at hand, focus deeply on breathing, etc. It is also worth mentioning that the most painful spots are in reality scattered around the area you’re getting tattooed, so the worst pain is only momentary and even a slight progression in the work will shift the needle away from that area.
What if there is minor redness around and area of the tattoo? Answered by wikiHow Contributor
Redness is normal. For two to three days after, the edges and some of the area around the tattoo will be red but this is usually is gone in a week or two. This is normal, you shouldn’t worry about it. Everyone heals differently, so if it starts to spread after 4 to 5 days and gets redder, then see a doctor.
What happens if you don’t wrap your tattoo when it is done? Answered by wikiHow Contributor
A new tattoo needs to be covered in ointment to keep it moist and promote correct healing. The wrap keeps the tattoo from getting dirt stuck in the ointment or abrading the sore skin, especially for the first 24 hours. It’s not absolutely necessary, but absolutely recommended.
How can I tell when my tattoo is healed? Answered by wikiHow Contributor
When a tattoo is healed, the peeling and scabbing will stop and it won’t be tender. Tattoos usually heal within 3-4 weeks.
Is using aftershave lotion is fine on a new tattoo? Answered by wikiHow Contributor
No, it is recommended that the lotion is fragrance free and free from dyes.
Is it normal for a little ink to come out when I wash it? Answered by wikiHow Contributor
It’s totally normal for your tattoo to bleed a bit of extra ink when you first wash it. Just don’t wash it too soon after getting it.
How long should you wait before a touch-up? Answered by wikiHow Contributor
Before getting a touch-up, you have to wait for it to completely heal. This is dependent upon the person and the size of the tattoo. Usually after about 45 days, on average.
I’ve had my tattoo for two weeks and all of the peeling skin is gone. Does that mean I should switch to lotion now? Also, is it normal that my tattoo is still raised in some spots? Answered by wikiHow Contributor
You should be using lotion by now. Your tattoo can still be raised in some spots, but that should go away soon.
I got a tattoo this week and it touched a nail and partly peeled. What will happen? Answered by wikiHow Contributor
Sometimes it will not leave any noticeable difference, but sometimes pulling the scabs off prematurely will pull some of the color with it. You will notice the difference when it heals. You may have to have your artist touch that spot up in the future.
Quick Overview
After getting your new tattoo, wait 2-6 hours, then remove the bandage by soaking it in warm water and pat your tattoo dry with a soft towel. Apply a water-based antibacterial ointment to your tattoo twice a day for 3-5 days until your tattoo starts to peel. When it starts to peel, wash your tattoo with antibacterial soap twice a day, and follow up with a non-scented moisturizer until the scabs are gone. For tips on keeping your tattoo safe when you exercise or go outside, read on!

Avoid fluffy clothing as the fluff can get into your scabs and cause infection.
Cold can help get rid of the itch. Gently rest an ice pack on the tattoo.
Avoid using saunas and steam rooms while your tattoo is healing, as the moisture may draw pigment from the skin.
Don’t shave the tattoo until it’s fully healed. If you shave around it, don’t let the shaving cream or hair irritate or infect the tattoo.
Do not cover the tattoo after the initial cover the artist applied after you had the tattoo done. Tattoos need air to heal, and plastic wrap or gauze will only suffocate the tattoo and prolong healing. When sleeping at night, simply avoid laying on the tattoo, and if you are worried about ink coming off lay a towel down underneath you to prevent the tattoo from becoming stuck to your bedsheets.
Using a cold gel pack is always a good alternative to the traditional ice pack.
Running an itchy tattoo under hot water for a minute will provide about 3-4 hours of comfort, allowing you to fall asleep without the irritation keeping you up at night.
Don’t wash your new tattoo with hot water. Hot water opens up skin pores and will likely hurt your sensitive skin.
After healing process is done still apply tattoo goo periodically especially if you have a coloured tattoo to enhance and protect the color.
Bepanthen (commonly used on baby’s nappy rash) is a good ointment to put on to help heal and stop itching of your tattoo.
Products containing grapeseed oil, shea butter, calendula, and helichrysum are beneficial to the skin in genera, and may help speed the healing process.
The best ointment to use on your tattoo is Aquaphor.
Wrap the tattoo for the first 3 nights before you sleep- dirt fluff and bacteria can enter tattoos if they are unprotected during sleep. They can air out during the day.
Bactine spray helps wonders with a sore itchy tattoo!!
Don’t leave your bandage on for more than 30 minutes. It’ll cause you to sweat in the area and you will sweat out some of the ink, leaving you with a blotchy tattoo.
If using bepanthen place tube in hot water for 5 minutes or so before applying as it softens and makes it easier to put on a sensitive tattoo and you use far less.
Do not leave the bandage/plastic wrap on for more than six hours. These keep in the heat and as the tattoo is weeping it can start to cause bacteria build up, leading to infection.
Disease and viruses may be spread through the tattoo process when a dirty needle is used. This is why it is important to find a reputable shop. Remember, you will get what you pay for.
Even after your tattoo has healed, it may feel a little bumpy. This is because the ink still needs to “settle.” This usually takes about four weeks.
Do not use products like Neosporin. They are not for puncture wounds (and remember, your tattoo is just thousands of little puncture wounds). This will cause the skin under and around your tattoo to heal too quickly.
Related wikiHows
How to
Choose a Tattoo Design
How to
Get Your First Tattoo
How to
Care for a New Navel Piercing
How to
Care for an Oral Piercing
How to
Care for a Tattoo During Removal
How to
Choose Tattoo Placement
How to
Tell if a Piercing Is Infected
How to
Remove a Tattoo at Home With Salt
How to
Give Yourself a Tattoo Without a Gun
How to
Get Your Nipples Pierced
About This Article
Co-authors: 121
Updated: January 26, 2018
Views: 7,355,133
Article Rating: 97% – 208 votes
Categories: Featured Articles | Tattoos and Piercing
Sources and Attribution
Reader Success Stories
Isobel Seymour
Aug 8, 2017

“I’m 64 and promised to get a tattoo with my granddaughter, for whom I was buying one for her 18th birthday. I never…” more
Rated this article:
More reader stories
Did this article help you?


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by Live Score & Live Score App
%d bloggers like this: