No more than a few hours after the finish of your tattoo, you should remove the bandage and wash the tattoo unless otherwise instructed not to do so (if the artist is using a tegaderm/ saniderm dressing you will wait three days). We personally recommend you wash the tattoo with an anti-bacterial hand soap (Dial or Cetaphil), to reduce your risk of infection. Also, use lukewarm water as opposed to hot water, which would burn the tattoo. It is important to wash the tattoo lightly, but be sure to remove all ointment, blood, and any other residue.
After washing the tattoo, allow your tattoo to completely dry, then apply a white unscented lotion similar but not limited to Lubriderm or Jergens. Stay away from petroleum jelly based products like Vaseline, A&D and Aquaphore. It is VERY IMPORTANT to only use enough lotion to saturate the skin, lightly rub it on in a thin, shiny, “barely there” layer over the tattoo. The tattoo should just have a slight sheen after rubbing in the lotion. Using too much lotion can oversaturate the tattoo and cause excess scabbing, or cause scabs to come off prematurely. It is NOT “the more, the better.”
Use the lotion 3-5 times a day or when ever the tattoo feels tight. During these days, wash your tattoo every morning right when you wake, and right before bed. It is also important to wash the tattoo several times throughout the day then lotion directly after. If your tattoo is in a hard-to-reach area, have a friend assist you — just make sure they wash their hands thoroughly before they do so. If you do not keep your tattoo clean, you run the risk of both infection and excess scabbing which could result in poor healing. During these first few days, depending on where your tattoo is located, the tattoo may be prone to swelling. Using a bag of ice, elevating the tattooed area, and taking what ever you normally take for inflamation/ swelling can help reduce the swelling.
Around the third to fifth day, you should notice your tattoo has formed a thin, hard layer, which will begin to peel. The peeling is similar to that of a sunburn peeling — only the skin will come off in the colors of the tattoo. This is normal. At this stage in the healing process, you can continue using a non-scented hand lotion. Lubriderm and other non-scented lotions are common recommendations. For the next two weeks, keep washing the tattoo and use the lotion as needed. Keep the skin moisturized to prevent cracking and bleeding. There may be a couple scabs on your tattoo that take longer to come off then others — some taking up to a few weeks to come off. If this is the case, just let the scabs fall off on their own and be mindful not to pull them off prematurely, as this could result in loss of ink. The majority of your tattoo's healing should be over in 2 weeks, but it does take up to 4 weeks for a tattoo to be fully healed.
Things to avoid during the tattoo healing process:
Try not to sleep on your tattoo. For example, if the tattoo is on your back, sleep on your stomach. Not only will the tattoo become stuck to your clothing and linens, it will leave a lovely imprint on your sheets. Should you wake up and your clothes are stuck to your tattoo, do not rip them off, for this could result in the ripping off of scabs. Instead, wet the area of clothing that is stuck to the tattoo with water, and it will become unstuck.
Avoid submerging the tattoo. Soaking in water could cause scabs to come off prematurely. Also, avoid swimming due to possible bacteria and irritants in the water. So no ocean, lake, pool, jacuzzi, or bath tub for two weeks! Showers are okay … and encouraged.
Avoid the sun! Getting a sunburn on your tattoo can cause some serious problems. Think of your tattoo as like a bad sunburn; you wouldn’t want to get more sun on it. If you're going to be in the sun for an extended period of time, wear loose cotton clothing over the tattoo.
Avoid wearing tight clothing that will rub on the tattoo, as excessive rubbing can lead to scabbing and loss of ink. Some key areas where this is common is around the pants line and the bra line. Try to wear loose fitting cotton clothing over the tattooed area so that it's breathable, or if you're not in public, go without! If you had your foot tattooed, try to stick to a more open-type of shoe such as a flip-flop. Also, for the first couple days of healing, the tattoo will tend to “ooze” colors that tend to stain fabric, so don't wear your Sunday best!
Avoid over-working the tattooed area. For example, if you are an avid gym-goer, lay off the arm exercises for two weeks if you just had your arm tattooed. Or, if you just got your foot tattooed, don’t plan a hiking or a five-hour mall trip.
Infection is not super common, but let's face it: With so many invisible bacteria floating around out there, it's bound to happen at some point. Here are some tips on dealing with your tattoo should it become infected:
First and foremost, find out if your tattoo is indeed infected. Some key signs of tattoo infection are a red haze surrounding the tattoo after it's already past a week (or more) of the healing process, which could also be accompanied by: a white haze over sections of the tattoo; indentation of the tattoo; extreme scabbing which may turn green or yellowish; a bad smell; and puss. Contacting your tattoo artist so they may confirm whether or not your tattoo is infected is a good idea, although the best way to deal with an infection is by calling your physician. He or she will know the absolute best way to combat your infection and may prescribe antibiotics.
The best ways to avoid infections are by keeping your tattoo clean and by making your artist aware of any sensitivities or allergies you may have before getting tattooed. For example, many tattoo artists use latex gloves during the tattooing process, so if you have an allergy to latex, let your tattoo artist know so they can switch to nitrile gloves. Also, many people have a sensitivity to certain tattoo inks; red ink is a common color that people have a sensitivity to because of the nickel content in that particular color.
After your tattoo is healed
In order to keep your tattoo looking good for as long as possible, it is important to keep your skin moisturized. And when you're going to be exposed to sun for a prolonged period, use sunblock to help avoid fading.
Body Piercing Aftercare
Use one or both of the following solutions for healing piercings:
• Packaged sterile saline solution with no additives (read the label), or a non-iodized sea salt mixture: Dissolve 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized (iodine-free) sea salt into one cup (8 oz.) of warm distilled or bottled water. A stronger mixture is not better; a saline solution that is too strong can irritate the piercing.
• A mild, fragrance-free liquid soap can be ok in some instances however, most of them contain bzk which can irritate the piercing site.
CLEANING INSTRUCTIONS FOR BODY PIERCINGS
• WASH your hands thoroughly prior to cleaning or touching your piercing for any reason.
• SALINE soak for f ten minutes once or more per day. Invert a cup of warm saline solution over the area to form a vacuum. For certain piercings it may be easier to apply using clean gauze or paper towels saturated with saline solution.
• SOAP no more than once a day if necessary. While showering, lather up a pearl size drop of the soap to clean the jewelry and the piercing. Leave the cleanser on the piercing no more than thirty seconds.
• RINSE thoroughly to remove all traces of the soap from the piercing. It is not necessary to rotate the jewelry through the piercing.
• DRY by gently patting with clean, disposable paper products. Cloth towels can harbor bacteria and snag on jewelry, causing injury.
WHAT IS NORMAL?
• Initially: some bleeding, localized swelling, tenderness, or bruising.
• During healing: some discoloration, itching, secretion of a whitish-yellow fluid (not pus) that will form some crust on the jewelry. The tissue may tighten around the jewelry as it heals.
• Once healed: the jewelry may not move freely in the piercing; do not force it. If you fail to include cleaning your piercing as part of your daily hygiene routine, normal but smelly bodily secretions may accumulate.
• A piercing may seem healed before the healing process is complete. This is because tissue heals from the outside in, and although it feels fine, the interior remains fragile. Be patient, and keep cleaning throughout the entire healing period.
• Even healed piercings can shrink or close in minutes after having been there for years! This varies from person to person; if you like your piercing, keep jewelry in—do not leave it empty.
WHAT TO DO
• Wash your hands prior to touching the piercing; leave it alone except when cleaning. During healing, it is not necessary to rotate your jewelry.
• Stay healthy; the healthier your lifestyle, the easier it will be for your piercing to heal. Get enough sleep and eat a nutritious diet. Exercise during healing is fine; listen to your body.
• Make sure your bedding is washed and changed regularly. Wear clean, comfortable, breathable clothing that protects your piercing while you are sleeping.
• Showers tend to be safer than taking baths, as bathtubs can harbor bacteria. If you bathe in a tub, clean it well before each use and rinse off your piercing when you get out.
WHAT TO AVOID
• Avoid cleaning with Betadine®, Hibiciens®, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or other harsh soaps, as these can damage cells. Also avoid ointments as they prevent necessary air circulation.
• Avoid Bactine®, pierced ear care solutions and other products containing Benzalkonium Chloride (BZK). These can be irritating and are not intended for long term wound care.
• Avoid over-cleaning. This can delay your healing and irritate your piercing.
• Avoid undue trauma such as friction from clothing, excessive motion of the area, playing with the jewelry, and vigorous cleaning. These activities can cause the formation of unsightly and uncomfortable scar tissue, migration, prolonged healing, and other complications.
• Avoid all oral contact, rough play, and contact with others’ bodily fluids on or near your piercing during healing.
• Avoid stress and recreational drug use, including excessive caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
• Avoid submerging the piercing in unhygenic bodies of water such as lakes, pools, hot tubs, etc. Or, protect your piercing using a waterproof wound-sealant bandage (such as 3M™ Nexcare™ Clean Seals). These are available at most drugstores.
• Avoid all beauty and personal care products on or around the piercing including cosmetics, lotions, and sprays, etc.
• Don’t hang charms or any object from your jewelry until the piercing is fully healed.
• Unless there is a problem with the size, style, or material of the initial jewelry, leave it in the place for the entire healing period. See a qualified piercer to perform any jewelry change that becomes necessary during healing.
• Contact your piercer if your jewelry must be removed (such as for a medical procedure). There are non-metallic jewelry alternatives available.
• Leave jewelry in at all times. Even old or well-healed piercing can shrink or close in minutes even after having been there for years. If removed, re-insertion can be difficult or impossible.
• With clean hands or paper product, be sure to regularly check threaded ends on your jewelry for tightness. (“Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.”)
• Carry a clean spare ball in case of loss or breakage.
• Should you decide you no longer want the piercing, simply remove the jewelry (or have a professional piercer remove it) and continue cleaning the piercing until the hole closes. In most cases only a small mark will remain.
• In the event an infection is suspected, quality jewelry or an inert alternative should be left in place to allow for drainage or the infection. If the jewelry is removed, the surface cells can close up, which can seal the infection inside the piercing channel and result in an abscess. Do not remove jewelry unless instructed to by a medical professional.
• A hard, vented eye patch (sold at pharmacies) can be applied under tight clothing (such as nylon stockings) or secured using a length of Ace® bandage around the body (to avoid irritation from adhesive). This can protect the area from restrictive clothing, excess irritation, and impact during physical activities such as contact sports.
EAR/EAR CARTILAGE AND FACIAL
• Use the t-shirt trick: Dress your pillow in a large, clean t-shirt and turn it nightly; one clean t-shirt provides four clean surfaces for sleeping.
• Maintain cleanliness of telephones, headphones, eyeglasses, helmets, hats, and anything that contacts the pierced area.
• Use cation when styling your hair and advise your stylist of a new or healing piercing.
• The support of a tight cotton shirt or sports bra may provide protection and feel comfortable, especially for sleeping.
Rinse mouth with alcohol free cleaning solution for 30 seconds as you regularly would no more then 2-3 times daily. Rinse with distilled water after meals and at bedtime (4-5 times daily) during the entire healing period. Cleaning too often or with too strong a rinse can cause discoloration and irritation of your mouth and piercing.
EXTERIOR OF LABRET (CHEEK AND LIP) PIERCINGS
Soak in saline solution and/or wash in mild, fragrance-free liquid soap-preferably anti-microbial or germicidal.
WASH your hands thoroughly prior to cleaning or touching your piercing for any reason.
SALINE soak at least two to three times daily. Simply soak directly in a cup of warm saline solution for five to ten minutes. For certain placements it may be easier to apply using clean gauze saturated with saline solution. A brief rinse afterward will remove any residue.
SOAP no more than once or twice a day. While showering, lather up a pearl size drop of the soap to clean the jewelry and the piercing. Leave the cleanser on the piercing no more than thirty seconds.
RINSE thoroughly to remove all traces of the soap from the piercing. It is not necessary to rotate the jewelry through the piercing.
DRY by gently patting with clean, disposable paper products. Cloth towels can harbor bacteria and snag on jewelry, causing injury.
Avoid with new oral piercings
Avoid undue trauma; excessive talking or playing with the jewelry during healing can cause the formation of unsightly and uncomfortable scar tissue, migration, and other complications.
Avoid using mouthwash containing alcohol. It can irritate the piercing and delay healing.
Avoid oral sexual contact including French (wet) kissing or oral sex during healing (even with a long-term partner).
Avoid chewing on tobacco, gum, fingernails, pencils, sunglasses, and other foreign objects that could harbor bacteria.
Avoid sharing plates, cups, and eating utensils.
Avoid smoking! It increases risks and lengthens healing time.
Avoid stress and all recreational drug use.
Avoid aspirin, alcohol, and large amounts of caffeine as long as you are experiencing bleeding or swelling.