A tattoo normally takes 7- 14 days to look fully healed, depending on the type, size and placement. For most people it usually takes up to a month for a tattoo to be fully healed below the surface of the skin, but everyone heals at different paces.
Bandaging When your artist finishes your tattoo, they usually clean the tattoo with some green soap, water, and may use a little witch hazel before they take a picture. Before bandaging you up the tattoo artist may apply a thin layer of an appropriate ointment.
Some ointments can cause the skin to break out in a rash or get pimply. If this happens, stop using the ointment immediately!! If you choose to use A+D® Ointment, it's recommended that you use it at the start of the healing process for 1 to 2 days and then at switch to a non-medicated, non-scented lotion, or coconut oil.
If plastic wrap is used, remove it within 4 hours, NO LONGER! Bandages are usually held in place using medical tape. If you have allergies to adhesives make sure that you let your tattoo artist know or bring your own tape.
How long do you have to leave the bandage on?
Your tattoo will continue to excrete bodily fluids for an hour or two after tattoo completion (depending on size and location). This is when your tattoo needs the most protection. After the 2 to 4 hours, it’s time to remove the bandage and wash your tattoo. The only thing that you want to use to wash it is a non-scented anti-bacterial soap. When washing, you want to make sure that you are only using your clean hands to do the washing, and do not scrub with anything, but you do want to remove any fluids, ointments, etc. If you have to, pat it dry and do not rub. If you are washing in the shower, make sure that you are using luke warm water. DO NOT let the water directly hit your new tattoo, instead let the water hit above it and run off for a short period of time. You should also avoid soaking in a tub, pool, etc. Note: Hot water won't feel great, and the heat or steam will open the pores and can leach out the coloring of your tattoo and cause an un-even, blotchy end product. It also makes it easier for germs to get into your skin. Many artists recommend at the end of washing, you use cold water on the tattoo for a minute or so to close the pores. If the bandage is stuck to your skin, DO NOT pull it off. Soak it off with cool or lukewarm water. Doing this will minimize any damage to the skin and the tattoo itself. After washing your tattoo use clean lint-free paper towels to gently pat the tattoo dry OR Allow your tattoo to air dry.
Caution: NeoSporin has a high zinc content in it and contains petrolatum, which promotes the healing too fast and helps pull the ink out of your skin instead of allowing your body to lock in the ink particles.
Wash your hands before applying lotion. A tattoo is an open wound, you need to moisturize it and keep your skin clean. Take a small amount of lotion or coconut oil and gently rub it all of the way in. DO NOT OVER APPLY. Your tattoo needs oxygen to breathe to heal properly and swiftly. You should reapply 3-4 times daily depending on the size, location and condition of your skin. If it looks dried out, then put a small amount on.
SLEEPING: Do not re-bandage your tattoo! Your skin needs to breathe in order to encourage and speed up the healing process. If you get a tattoo on your back, sleep on your belly for a few days or the other way around. If you can sleep with your tattoo exposed, please do. You may want to have seperate sheets for when you have a new tattoo, as ink may stain them. It's a good idea to sleep with clean sheets as you heal to minimize bacterial exposure. You may also place a clean lint-free towel between your tattooed skin and the sheets. If your sheets are stuck to your fresh tattoo, soak it off with cool or lukewarm water.
SCABS: Redness will go away quickly. You may see scabs form also. This is normal.Heavy scabbing is not, and should be watched closely. DO NOT pick at any scabbing, PERIOD!!!! Picking tattoos will SCAR your skin and ruin the tattoo or at the very least, cause light spots that will have to be touched up. You will see the skin begin to peel some, this is normal. By day 14, your new tattoo should look fully healed. You will want to continue to put your lotion or ointment on until there is no shine to the skin at all. This is also the indication that it is okay to tattoo that area again
CLOTHING: Depending on where you get your tattoo, it's a good idea to wear loose fitting clothing, or leave the area exposed. Your tattoo needs to breathe! Tight clothing can keep that from happening. Do not re-bandage your tattoo, but if you are in a working environment that risks contact with harmful chemicals, a germ-filled situation, or just things coming in constant contact with your tattoo, loose fitting clothes can be your best friend. If that isn’t possible, then a loose bandage, put on at the last moment and removed at the earliest possible moment may be the best option. If you do have to take this route, make sure that you wash the tattoo after removing the bandage, let it air dry for a little while and re-apply your lotion.
THE SUN: During the healing process keep your new tattoo out of the sun. Loose fitting clothing will keep your tattoo out of the sun, and as a last resort you can use a sterile non-stick bandage. Tanning beds: DON’T DO IT! Keep your tats protected with the strongest SPF sun block that you can find to avoid skin damage.
OTHER ACTIVITIES: Avoid swimming. The ocean, lakes, rivers are full of bacteria and living organisms that you can't see. Swimming pools are full of chlorine and bacteria, which isn't good for your tattoo. Avoid excessive sweating, saunas, steam baths, and gym workouts that may compromise your artwork.
INFECTIONS: Some tell-tale signs of an infection include a red haze surrounding the tattoo after a few days and it may be accompanied by a white haze over the tattoo, extreme scabbing, yellow or green oozing of pus, bad smell, significant heat radiating from tattoo site, excessive swelling, indentations in the surface of the tattoo, or lines of red or black branching out from the tattoo.Follow these guidelines to avoid infection. Know that it is possible for you do everything correctly and your tattooist to do everything correctly and still get an infection. If you think you are having a reaction or a problem, be sure to contact your tattoo artist immediately.
RED DYE REACTION: There is a small percentage of people that can get something called “Red Dye Reaction.” This is generally for people with extremely sensitive skin. If you have metal allergies this can be warning sign that you may have red ink issues. Cheap metal compounds usually contain nickel, and red tattoo ink usually has nickel in it. The red ink would not want to heal and could form craters, looking like a bad infection. If you feel that you have a nickel allergy and fall into this category, then let your artist know. You can choose a different tattoo ink brand or color, or do a very small test spot and wait to finish your tattoo until you have solid results.