Tattooers get asked a lot of questions about aftercare. This is the point of the tattoo process customers are often most unsure of—there’s quite a bit of misinformation out there, and everyone wants to know exactly what needs to be done to insure a perfectly healed piece. The best advice is to stop listening to your friends, follow the aftercare instructions your tattoo artist gives you, and don’t overthink it. Here’s what one of tattooing’s giants, Sailor Jerry, had to say about healing a new tattoo:
1. After first hour, bandage may be removed and tattooed area washed down thoroughly with soap
and water. Do not rebandage tattoo.
2. Keep tattoo clean and dry. Do not use greasy ointments on tattoos at any time, but wet them down frequently with bactine, listerine, or similar antiseptic solution.
3. Do not scratch or pick off scabs. To do so will invite serious infection and will form scars.
4. Do not go swimming until all scabs are off, and keep tattoo clean and dry for at least one week.
5. After all scabs are off, a little vaseline rubbed into the skin will soften it, and thereby more rapidly take the new shine off, and allow the tattoo ink to settle to its proper place in the under layer of the skin.
6. Your artist has done his best to build you a good tattoo, but remember it takes both of us to make the final job as perfect as it should be.
7. Drop around when you can and have your tattooer check the work as it heals and be sure to sign
the record book in the shop where you got your work done. This places the responsibility on the
tattooer who worked on you and insures you of getting clean work, or else…
Every artist has tweaked a step to the healing process. Some tattooers recommend solutions like Aquaphor or A&D ointment and others stick to the dry-heal method. Every customer is different. Newbies often need step-by-step instructions, while seasoned collectors know what has worked for them in the past. It depends on the customer’s skin, how their skin reacts to ink, and even the regional climate. The most important thing to remember is cleanliness—every tattoo artist I’ve asked about this repeats, “keep it clean, keep it clean, keep it clean!” Listen to your artist—they want your new piece to heal as nicely as you do, and stop by when you’re in the area so we can check out the healed work!
– Dustin Brown (Tattoo Collector)