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I just got my new tattoo after years of knowing what I wanted. I followed tattoos on Pinterest, got a tattoo app to let me try out new tattoos and even bought stick on versions so I could try it out for real. It turns out that drunk people will think they are real sometimes... but don't worry, I didn't pretend it was real. When I just got my tattoo it was absolutely perfect; I really couldn't be any happier... Now, it's not so great. Don't let the same happen to you. Learn from my mistakes and heed this warning. Long story short, this is my collection of acquired info that I learned from both some research and my own first tattoo experience. I hope it helps!
You just got your new tattoo!! Congrats!
This might be your first tattoo and you are worried about losing your investment by letting it fade too much or making a silly mistake. It could also not be your first tattoo... but it's been a while and you need a refresher on taking care of it. Either way, you came to the right place! Here are the basics you need to know for taking care of your fresh new tattoo from the first 24 hours all the way to the end of the first month. Plus some bonus pro tips!!
The Important of Aftercare
It's not just about keeping your tattoo looking amazing... although I do admit that is very important too. Improper cleaning or aftercare can lead to infection. If you think your tattoo might be infected, go to your doctor right away. Do NOT wait for it to get worse.
Taking good care of your tattoo will make sure you have the fastest healing and good retention of colour.
Be sure your artist covers your new tattoo in a thin layer of petroleum jelly and a bandage.
Each artist will be different and apparently, there are some times when you have a more complex tattoo done that the artist will choose not to cover in order to keep the tattoo vibrant. However, it is best to cover the tattoo right away to protect from dust, accidentally scratching, and even airborne germs.
Random Side Rant: If you take the bandage off soon, your coworkers might comment things like... "Didn't you just get that" and "Shouldn't that be covered?" That also might just be my coworkers, but I'm still sour about it. If you are lucky, the good-looking guy covered in tattoos will defend you, but again, that might just be me. Also, it's okay to hide your new tattoo from your boss, trust me. Even if all your co-workers are covered in tattoos... bosses just don't seem to like them.
The next morning remove the bandage and wash the tattoo in the shower.
When I did this, it hurt a lot more than I was expecting to; since you already got the tattoo I'm just going to assume you can handle the pain. I want to say to rip it off fast to make the pain go by more quickly, but the truth is that since you want to protect your new baby, slow and steady wins this race.
You don't technically have to take the bandage off in the shower as long you have it under lukewarm running water. (Only lukewarm water so you don't dry out your skin). However, I would like to recommend to do it in the shower.
If there is blood or another thick liquid coming from the tattoo this is totally normal so there is no need to panic.
After taking off the bandage, lightly wash off the area to get rid of both germs and the dried blood. Make sure to wash your hands first! In order to clean your tattoo, your hands have to be clean too.
Wash your tattoo 2-3 times a day with soap and lukewarm water until it's fully healed. Dove and Ivory soap are recommended. I made sure to open a new soap for this, but I may just be a little bit paranoid.
If you want you can apply a thin layer of unscented moisturizing cream. I recommend Working Hands moisturizer... but don't be afraid to take your tattoo artist's advice. The important thing is that it is unscented. My tattoo artist said she didn't think the moisturizing is important for the first week... but when in doubt listen to your tattoo artist and not mine. :P
It's normal for scabs to form in the first few days. (Remember: Don't pick them)!
The redness and any mild swelling will normally go away near the end of the first week, so if it's in a sensitive spot... that's good new.
It will look absolutely amazing at first; unfortunately, your tattoo will become less vibrant as the healing process continues.
Do not scratch!
I'll be reminding you a couple time about this throughout the article, but only because it really is that important. If and when your tattoo starts to scab over, for the love of god please do not scratch. It can leave scars, increase chances of infection, and worst of all, damage the tattoo itself and take away ink.
If you are really finding it hard not to scratch, by a bunch of fidget rings to distract yourself.
In this part of the healing process, the scabs will start to fall and flake off. This is the time to be very gentle with washing and moisturizing.
This is the time you need to really make sure not to scratch your tattoo because it is totally normal for your tattoo to feel itchy at this time. This is also the time to start using moisturizer if you haven't already been.
The moisturizer doesn't just help heal, it also helps relieve some of the itchiness.
If the itchiness is really bad or if you just really want to, you can take a Benadryl to help with the itching. Just be warned that Benadryl has an interesting side effect of making you fall asleep in the next ten minutes. So please don't take it just before work.
Keep your tattoo out of direct sunlight for at least three to four weeks while your tattoo heals. The sun may cause your skin to blister and bleach some of those beautiful colours.
Keep your moisturizer in the fridge to help relieve any itchiness.
It turns out you can get a flu shot just after getting a tattoo. There is no time restriction at all, so you can actually leave the tattoo parlour and get your flu shot right away... if you really wanted to. (The only reason I know this is because it's what I did).
The Final Stage of Healing
This is the time that you need patience for the rest of the healing process can take a little longer than you originally anticipated. The majority of the scabs shouldn't be much of a problem now. Some smaller scabs may up, but this is still normal.
By the end of the third week, the outer parts of the tattoo should completely heal. In my case that the whole tattoo so that's good news for me. As for those of you with larger tattoos the inner parts can sometimes take a bit longer. Just remember they still need to be taken care of.
The good news is that the chance of infection goes down once the outer parts of skin have healed.
It's still a good idea to moisturize regularly for the first few months to help keep the tattoo looking clear. It's also not a bad idea to protect the tattoo from the by wearing longer clothing. In my case, I just need to wear long sleeves. Sunscreen is also not a bad way to help protect it.
I've said this before earlier in the article, but I'm saying it again. If you think your tattoo might be infected, don't sit around waiting for it to get worse! See your doctor immediately.
Signs of infection are severe pain, hot redness, swelling and/or pus discharge (with or without the presence of blood), or a foul odour emanating from the area. An infection can be caused by bacteria entering into small openings of skin (Another reason not to pick!).
Go back to the studio for touch ups, if needed.
It's normal for all tattoos to need a little touch up after the healing process. It doesn't mean you did something wrong and it doesn't mean that the artist did something wrong. It just happens sometimes. It also depends on where you get the tattoo, someplace the ink simply doesn't stay as well.
Final Step: Start thinking about new tattoo ideas!
Tattoos are like potato chips ... you can't have just one. By that I mean people don't seem to be able to stop themselves from having just one. I'm already thinking about getting something very similar to my first tattoo... but this time on my thigh.
Or maybe a shark tattoo... or maybe adding to my first tattoo...
The good news is that I have lots of time to think about it because not only do I not have enough savings right now but I also know that the tattoo artist I want has a huge waiting list. Which is fair, because I think she's amazing.
"Cheap tattoos ain't good, and good tattoos ain't cheap."
If you are reading this you are probably past this point, but I still feel the need to make the reminder. Please don't be cheap when it comes to tattoos and I say this for two reasons.
One: They are artists and art isn't cheap.
Two: Getting tattoos can be dangerous so you want your tattoo artists to be very professional.
So go to a nice place with a long waiting list, pay the price they say it's worth and please don't forget to tip. I recommend a 20 percent tip, but ultimately it's really up to you... or you know, 30 percent if you really love it!
NEVER haggle over the price of a tattoo. It is not only disrespectful to the artist but please remember that it is a piece of art you will wear for life.
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