Tattoo aftercare, explained – expert advice to keep your ink fresh
How long should I keep my tattoo covered with cling film?
It all depends on the type of tattoo you have, and therefore your artist’s advice. “If you have a very open, blacked-out tattoo which is a lot more exposed and more likely to become infected, you need to keep that wrapped up for a little bit longer,” explains Rawlings. “If it’s a fine-line one, you can take the clingfilm off a couple of hours later – the clingfilm is more to protect the tattoo from clothing on the journey home.”
Celebrity tattoo artist Claudio Traina adds that the clingfilm should only be left on for a maximum of 4 days (again, depending on the advice given to you by the person who inked you), then it’s time to clean and moisturise. The golden rule is never to re-bandage the tattoo once you’ve removed the plastic wrap applied by your tattooist.
How long after a tattoo can you shower normally?
A fresh tattoo is effectively a wound, so it’s important to keep it clean in order to avoid infection. “It will need to be cleaned 2-3 times a day until healed, but particularly in the first 24-48 hours”, says Hayes. Firstly, wash your hands thoroughly. When you take the wrap off, clean the tattoo with an antibacterial, fragrance-free soap or warm water, pat your skin dry, then apply a thin layer of fragrance-free moisturiser over the top. Rawlings recommends getting into a lukewarm shower, and with clean hands, using a clean cloth to wash the tattoo. “Go for an antibacterial soap – nothing perfumed that will sting and irritate.”
How often should I moisturise my tattoo?
Advice will vary from artist to artist, but on average, new tattoos should be moisturised 1-2 times a day until healed, which can take anything up to 6 weeks depending on the size and type of your tattoo. Some tattooists believe in dry healing, which eliminates the use of any creams or ointments, but popular advice says to keep your healing ink well hydrated, but able to breathe. Avoid creams containing ingredients such as petroleum (which is why Vaseline is a no-go), which can trap bacteria and stop the wound from breathing. Also look out for fragrance or alcohol on the ingredients list, which can cause irritation and fading.
How do you know if your tattoo is infected?
It’s completely natural for a new tattoo to feel sore and bruised while it heals, but any tightness, redness or throbbing could be the first signs of an infection. “If there’s any pus or watery residue, especially with a yellow or green colour, this suggests a skin infection,” says Rawlings. “As much as your body might heal on its own, it’s best for your health if you get advice from your pharmacist, or speak to your GP about a possible need for antibiotics.”