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Tattoo Aftercare Instructions: Healing Your Ink Properly

A tattoo artist can devote hours to creating a skin-deep masterpiece, but only the wearer can determine whether or not the art will remain a masterpiece for years to come. The finest lines, boldest colors and flawless shading can blur and distort in a few short months without good tattoo aftercare. 

However, aftercare methods differ among artists, as do opinions on the best shading techniques. While one artist may recommend dry healing, others wholeheartedly encourage wrap healing. So, how do you take care of your new tattoo to preserve the art for decades to come?

Understanding the Tattoo Healing Process

It typically takes about two to four weeks for a tattoo to heal on the surface and it can take up to six months for the ink to heal fully. The healing process will look different, depending on the aftercare method used. Still, ink heals through the same stages regardless of the aftercare method. 

The Stages of Tattoo Healing

Tattoos pay homage to the still taboo notion that beauty is pain — to wear a work of art within your skin, you must endure some level of pain. Even though you can opt for numbing creams and ointments to make it through the ink session, you will still need to commit to the healing of your tattoo, which comes with some discomfort. 

Here’s what you can expect from the healing process. 

  • Inflammation: Inflammation will set in during the ink session as the needles of the tattoo machine penetrate the skin, inflicting damage. The skin’s natural response causes swelling as the body signals more blood cells to reach the affected area. Inflammation is usually paired with redness and skin that’s hot to the touch. 
  • Weeping: In addition to swelling, you can expect some weeping or oozing as the skin produces plasma during the healing process. It can seem like the ink is leaking out of the tattoo, although this is not the case. 
  • Itching and irritation: Most skin wounds tend to itch as they heal and tattoos are no different. Itching typically sets in within a week or two. 
  • Scabbing, flaking and peeling: Depending on the aftercare method, the tattoo will scab or flake during the first five days to a week. With either method, scabs or flakes will start peeling within a few days.
  • Skin remodeling: Your ink should seem healed after two weeks to a month. Inflammation, oozing, itching, irritation and peeling should subside to reveal a fresh work of art. During the skin remodeling stage, the dermis develops fresh skin cells to heal and strengthen the skin.

Even though your ink will appear healed within one to two months, aftercare should continue for at least three months as the skin continues to heal.

Dry Healing vs. Wrap Healing

There are two primary aftercare methods. Both offer pros and cons that can help you choose an approach that’s best for you. 

Dry Healing

Dry healing is the original ink aftercare method. With this method, the artist might wrap the new tattoo with cling film or adhesive tattoo film. You’ll need to leave the wrap on for about an hour. However, some tattoo artists simply apply a layer of protective ointment without wrapping the tattoo. 

After that, remove the wrap and gently wipe the ink with water and a mild fragrance-free soap solution to remove the blood and other residues. It’s essential to wash your hands with antibacterial soap before cleaning the ink. 

Next, pat the skin dry and apply a small amount of ink healing cream. Your artist may recommend a specific cream. Reapply the cream twice to three times a day for at least a month and once daily for at least three months. Thereafter, you can use regular moisturizing cream. 

If your artist has not wrapped the tattoo, you should avoid washing the area and keep it dry for the first 24 hours before applying a small amount of cream twice daily.

The pros of dry healing:

  • A straightforward, easy-to-follow method
  • Requires a single skin care product

The cons of dry healing:

  • Dry wounds heal slower
  • Little moisture will lead to scabbing
  • Scabbing can reduce ink retention
  • Increased chances of a skin infection
  • Itching during healing is heightened

Wrap Healing

Wrap healing involves keeping the freshly wounded skin moist to promote faster healing. With this method, the artist will wrap the tattoo after the session. You must keep the wrap on for at least 24 hours. Then, wash your hands with antibacterial soap and gently remove the wrap. If you are using adhesive tattoo film, use lukewarm water to slowly peel the wrap off. 

Next, use a mild soap and water solution to wipe any residue from the area and pat dry. Apply a thin layer of tattoo cream over the ink and cover it with a fresh wrap. Repeat the process once a day for at least one week. Some artists recommend leaving the initial wrap on for up to four days. 

The pros of wrap healing:

  • Speeds up the healing process
  • Prevents scabbing
  • Improves ink retention
  • Reduces the chances of an infection

The cons of wrap healing:

  • The plastic protective wrap can be uncomfortable
  • Requires more effort than dry healing

Whether you opt for a dry or wrap healing method, using the right aftercare products to promote healing and ink retention is essential. ELECTRUM offers a range of quality tattoo aftercare products designed to promote optimal healing — our proper tattoo aftercare products are vegan-friendly. 

Within this product range, popular aftercare formulations include the following.

When choosing aftercare products, always confirm that the ingredients are suitable for sensitive skin types and wound care.

Avoiding Common Aftercare Mistakes

While choosing the right products is essential, avoiding these common tattoo aftercare mistakes is just as important: 

  • Scratching: During the first couple of weeks, scratching an itchy tattoo can pull scabs from the skin, removing ink below the scab to leave scarring. Instead of scratching, apply tattoo cream to soothe irritation. 
  • Sun exposure: For at least one month, try to stay out of the sun or cover your fresh ink to prevent fading caused by sun damage. Continue to use sunscreen even after your tattoo is fully healed to protect your ink.
  • Substituting skincare products: Avoid using general skincare products for the healing process, as some ingredients may not be suitable for wound healing. 

Scratching and picking scabs is the most common aftercare mistake to avoid. This mistake can also lead to infections that can ruin the masterpiece before it gets a chance to heal. 

Shop Quality Aftercare Products From ELECTRUM Tattoo Supply

ELECTRUM Tattoo Supply offers an extensive range of quality tattoo equipment and products, from high-end tattoo machines to premium tattoo aftercare products. Visit the site to browse our products that support self-expression through skin-deep art. 

For inquiries on our line of tattoo productscontact us online and we’ll help you find the right products for your tattooing needs