A tattoo is more than just a piece of art and a way to assert your personal style. Any time you open the skin, you leave yourself vulnerable to scarring and infection. Caring for your tattoo can prevent those complications and ensure that the tattoo heals properly. Both you and your tattoo artist play equal roles in this process. Along with going to a professional and reputable tattoo artist, you need to take care of your new tattoo at home.
Figuring out how to care for your tattoo can be tricky though. Aftercare starts as soon as your tattoo is done. The artist should apply a bandage to cover the area and help with healing. This covering prevents bacteria from getting into your skin and also protects the tattoo from rubbing onto your clothes and getting irritated. Keep the dressing on for as long as your tattoo artist recommends as it helps to absorb any fluid or excess ink that leaks from the tattoo. After sufficient and recommended time (24 hours) has passed, you can remove the 1st bandage. Wash your hands with water and soap, then gently wash the tattoo with warm water and natural (chemical free) fragrance free soap. Pat your skin dry with a paper towel or a clean and soft cloth. Then you should apply the 2nd dressing on and wear it for 4 days.
While your tattoo heals, you should wear sun-protective clothing whenever you go outside or try to stay out of the sun as much as possible. Do call your tattoo shop if you experience any out of the norm complications or other problems and they can give you advice on what steps to take next. You should avoid scratching or picking at your tattoo no matter how bad the urge may be. Avoid wearing tight and restrictive clothing over the part of the body that has been tattooed to allow it to breathe and heal faster. Don't go swimming or immerse your fresh tattoo in body of water, especially hot tubs (showers are fine).
Once your tattoo has healed, you move into maintenance mode. Though you don't have to specifically care for it after 3 to 4 months, there are things you can do to prevent ink from degrading. Wash your skin daily with a gentle and fragrance-free soap, drink plenty of water to keep your skin moisturized, wear sunscreen ( that blocks UVA Rays) so the sun won't fade your tattoo. Another thing is to avoid excess weight gain or loss as that could stretch out or distort the tattoo.
After getting a new tattoo, the outer layer of skin will typically appear healed within 2 to 3 weeks. However, the healing process can take upward of 6 months. Aftercare, which includes daily cleaning, ointment or moisturizer should continue for at least that long to reduce the risk of infection or other complications.