Tattoo after care...

topic posted Fri, December 19, 2003 - 5:46 PM by  David
I find that many artists and shops have different instructions for after care. Some artists work leave more of a scab than others as well.

What do you think is the best way to heal and care for your tattoo after the work is done?

I know my new sleave will be beautiful when it is healed but right now it looks real nasty... What is your recommended after care and lotion?
posted by:
Tampa Bay Area
  • Unsu...
    Immediate aftercare -- first 4-5 days -- wash thoroughly twice daily and liberally apply triple-antibiotic creme (not the oily ointment). As soon as the skin starts to flake and it no longer stings when washed, switch to a good moisturizer, like DML (Dermatological Moisturizing Lotion), which can be hard to find. Ask a pharmacist. It's over-the-counter, but at the Walgreens where I buy it, they keep it behind the pharmacy counter. Don't know why...except that it's often recommended by dermatologists. It's non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic, fragrance free, and fast absorbing. Oh, and don't pick at the scabs. Let them slough off naturally.

    I know a lot of people who swear by aloe-vera, but I find it drying. Still, it may work for you.
    • Unsu...
      I've been told by a few tattoo-artists not to use aloe-vera or antibiotic salves - while these promote healing they cause the skin to try to push the ink out. Lubriderm or Curell a few times a day, and bathing as normal have always been what I've done and my colors took well.
      • not to argue with any tat artist but ALWAYS use anti bacterial soap or lotion or something for at least the first four days. Take it from someone who had thier tat infected after listening to that whole it pushes the ink out crap which by they way it never did with mine. It was awfull to to have my new tat get infected and i had to have it redone a year later. This time i used my normal neosporin stuff and the colors are great and did not fade and no infection. Trust me you don't want a tat infection.
        • always wash with dial anti-bac hypoalergy do not use a cloth or spong absolutly do not use a lufa ,triple anti or goo 30min on hour off usualy works aloe does push out the ink i had that problem because my first pro tat they told me to use something with lanoline (im allergic) but when i live in arizona we used aloe for evry thing now that tat has mad holidays i lost about an 8th of the ink
  • I've found the best thing for a fresh tat is unscented lubriderm 1-2x/day and washing gently with an anti-bacterial soap 1x/day. I've also used a product called tattoo goo, and it does work nice but I still like using lubriderm better, it seems to heal faster.
  • I 'm allergic to bactitracin (as I learned the hard way with my first tattoo) so Tattoo Goo is out for me. i have always just used Lubraderm (unscented) to moisturize it whenever it starts to feel dry. That works great for me.
    • Unsu...
      I washed mine with antibiotic soap twice a day, and applied "Triple Antibiotic Ointment" on it whenever the hell I thought about it. My colors held pretty well, but a lot of that depends on your skin as well.
      • Cleaning and applying lotion is key. I used curel unscented. Both of my artists said to not use anything petroleum based. So I didn't and they are fine.
        • I wash mine with Dr. Bronners soap once a day and apply a little lotion a couple times a day. Unscented lubriderm or an equivelant is what we suggest at moms. Anti bacterial soap is not so good for the inside of your body. Triclosan, an active ingrediant in most anti bacterial soaps, can allow some bacteria to mutate.
          • Unsu...
            Not aftercare-specific, though I guess "keep all your skin" is good as a bit of general advice. From


            An unlucky patient went into surgery bearing the words "I love women" tattooed on his leg but when he came out it read "I love men".

            The unnamed man was in hospital for a heart-by-pass operation.

            But surgeons had to take out part of a large vein in his leg to replace a section of blocked artery in his chest.

            When they sewed up the leg wound, they removed the first two letters of the word "women", the Daily Mirror says.

            The patient says he has been left too embarassed to wear shorts in public.

            Leeds General Infirmary, where the operation was carried out, said: "Part of the tattoo was accidentally erased."

            The British Medical Journal later printed a picture of the tattoo, warning doctors to be careful when sewing up tattooed skin.
  • hey...i have just always followed my artist's recommendations, wash with soap and water an hour after tattooing and apply Tattoo Goo for a couple of days, then move to Lubriderm. i use the Lubriderm daily on all of my tatts regardless of how long i've had them and mine look bright and colourful.

    when it became apparent that i was addicted to tatts, i made my own goo, from oils and esstential oils and my concoction isn't as stciky as the real Goo.
    • I've had good luck with this regimen:
      For the first 4 days, wash with antibacterial soap, spray with rubbing alcohol from an atomizer, follow with a thin coat of Neosporin.
      After that, was with Dove soap, maybe follow with Eucrerin spray/mist.
      • The artist who did all of my work, swears by nothing but, a thin coat of Neosporin for the first day, and then Vaseline Intensive Care lotion (any style), for the rest of the healing process.
  • Hmm. I've tried a number of different methods, from washing daily and lubing with tattoo goo, which worked okay, to lightly running alcohol over it (in my cleavage where it was scabbing like mad) which I would never recommend to anyone, though, it did turn out okay. My favorite method is to wash with Dr. Bronners baby soap, and leave it alone. After it starts to scab on it's own (about 2 days or so) I start using unscented lubriderm. This has produced the best results for me. When your tattoo is new, it is an open wound, why put irratants in it such as lotion? It naturally weeps for the first few days, keeping itself moist... If you wash off the weepage, then it won't scab too badly. Later, it starts flaking and comes off much more smoothly.

    **note - In my experience, aftercare varies from location on your body to location... :)
  • A couple of things that seem to work...some of it suggested by artists and other through trial and eror. This regimen works great consistently.

    About 6 hours after the tattooing, remove the bandages and clean the tat...gently. After cleaning and drying (gently pat it, don't rub) use this excellent stuff called Arbordoun's Abundantly Herbal Calendula Cream. Calendula is wonderful for the skin and promotes the healing process without chemicals (neosporin or anything else that encourages the skin to reject the ink). Before going to bed, grease up again and wrap the tat in plastic wrap and bandage it down (not too tightly). During the days following, try to keep it wrapped as much as possible (some locations may make this difficult) for a total of three days after the initial inking. Keep it greased between changes of wrapping. The wrap allows the ink to set better and reduces the scabbing for those artists with a "heavy hand". Continue the regular application of the cream until the tat is completely healed. After that use lubriderm at your own discretion (or the calendula cream, but the lubriderm is cheaper).

    Never use Tiger Balm...learned that one the hard way on my first tat...that really sucked...
  • Unsu...
    well, I wash mine twice a day with warm water and unscented soap, then after that apply Vaseline Intensive Care (yellow bottle, dry skin) and touch wood have had no problems with any of my tattoo's

    I do this until all the scabs have fallen off... this seems to work fine for me, but this will not work for everyone as everyones skin is different. I can't use Tattoo Goo as my skin doesn't like it... So it is up to you really as everyone is different, it is left up to oyu to find the one regime that suits your skin and your tattoo
  • Unsu...
    anyone ever try keeping a tat wrapped in saran wrap for a couple of days? i thought the guy was mad when he told me to try it, but i had been having problems healing the tattooed area of my cleavage since the skin bends and the scab cracks and ink pulls out, so i figured anything would be better than a scabby cracking chest. when i got home i washed the tattoo gently mainly dabbing it, applied a super thin layer of unscented AD&D, and covered with saran wrap. for two days i repeated that process and the tattoo healed beautifully without any of the fine lines suffering. has anyone else tried this? think it's insane?
    • Yes, in fact I am doing this right now as I type. The only limitation is that you need to occasionally change the saran wrap during the day for the first few days. I always assumed that the tattoo needed to breathe but I've tried it both ways(cleaning a few times a day with salve days 1-3 then lubriderming it and A+D ointment or Panthenol-ratiopharm(A dexpanthenol creme I have imported from Europe, its not available in the US unfortunately) salved under the wrap for 1-4 days. With the wrap I get almost no peeling. Its pretty strange, but the ink holds better. Like another poster mentioned this method doesn't always work well on areas with high skin movement(ribcages and shoulder blades for example- but limbs are pretty safe. I have done this on my belly, and on my legs near the waistline. No problems with it, you just can't leave it on all day without changing. The constant crackling or the wrap can get irriating. otherwise....
    • Unsu...
      <<anyone ever try keeping a tat wrapped in saran wrap for a couple of days? i thought the guy was mad when he told me to try it, but i had been having problems healing the tattooed area of my cleavage since the skin bends and the scab cracks and ink pulls out, so i figured anything would be better than a scabby cracking chest. when i got home i washed the tattoo gently mainly dabbing it, applied a super thin layer of unscented AD&D, and covered with saran wrap. for two days i repeated that process and the tattoo healed beautifully without any of the fine lines suffering. has anyone else tried this? think it's insane?>>

      My central body piece is two entwined pythons & they run right between my breasts, & they've healed badly because of the boob-fold-over phenomenon. My tattoo artist, up to this point, has always said "No petroleum products" but he recently suggested that when I come back in for follow-ups, we're going to try a regimen of either A&D or Neosporin w/saran wrap covering the fresh work... I still have to come up w/the session money, but I'll post the results. I'm hoping it'll be better than having spotty snakes like I do now.
  • I just finished deigning and building this site...check out the care page!

    I've found that everyone says something a little different...but I don't think you should be scabbing up...sounds like your getting drilled on by a heavy handed tattooer....
    • Unsu...
      My routine varies with kind of tattoo. 1st and foremost is, I wait at least 3 hours before I clean it. I clean it thoroughly but very gently under slightly hot water with antibacterial soap. Afterwards, I gently pat it dry. For heavier black work I use either bacitracin or A&D, apply it semi-liberally, but not so it's sloppy at all. Then for the 1st two days I wrap it w/ saran wrap. This seems to make the healing process along nicely. After the 2 days are up, I switch to unscented, non-vitamin or aloe enriched Lubriderm, and I lotion it at least 3 times daily, and make sure the lotion is all worked into the ink, but once again, not so it's sloppy.

      For color work, I only use the bacitracin the 1st day, and then switch to the Lubriderm, and just make sure to use it more times during the day to insure the ink doesn't dry out.

      So far I have had good luck with these routines.

      I have heard tho that people do all sorts of diff. things. From what an artist friend of mine told me, when he went to Filip Leu, Filip had him soak in a damn near scalding bath after he 1st got his ink. I'm not sure what this does, but his work looks AMAZING. (of course, Filip Leu did it...hehehe)

      Good luck!
  • Unsu...
    I don't put anything on my tattoos... after I get home and the bandages have been on for a few hours I take them off and wash really well with soap and water. Then I try to avoid getting my tattoo wet (quick showers... no baths) as much as possible for a week. If it starts getting really dry or ichy I put on a little bit of simple cream.. no antibiotic stuff.. just lubriderm or whatever.. I find that this process leaves very little scabs on your body and the tattoos heal rather well.
  • I usually Do the Lubriderm as needed.But One time A piece I had done didnt want to heal And was very irritated.I was recomended By the Piecer at the shop to use Betadine Clear.It worked really good.I use it the first couple of days anytime I get tattooed now At its seems they heal better and faster
  • What has worked for me is just keeping it clean. And using lubriderm unscented of course. I wash it alot during the healing process. Good luck.
    • This works for me & hubby , leave the dressing on for an hour (or until you get home ) wash with mild soap to remove blood & inky smudges , pat dry very gently , then we use sudocrem which is nappy rash cream , we did use savlon but it tends to make it very scabby ! once the scabs are off if the skin is dry use a good moisturiser .
  • A couple hours after a tatt, I'll uncover it, wash it with a mild soap, like baby magic, then I start coating it with cocoa butter. I use the stick, not the lotion or cream junk. If you set the stick against your skin outside the tatt for a minute, your body heat starts melting the stick. Then it glides right over the tattoo. Only problem I had with that method was my cat likes to try to lick the cocoa butter off.
  • left the wrap on over night the first night(wear clothing you don't mind ruining for the first two days!). wash 2x daily, pat dry. neosporin after washing until the weeping stops, then either lubriderm or aveeno until it doesn't sting anymore during washing. then treat normally.
    • Does anyone want a REALLY long lecture on infection control and healing a tattoo? If so, lemme know. Don't wanna bore people if you don't. If not, "Keep it clean, keep it out of the sun til it's healed, no chlorine, no peroxide, no high heat, non-perfumed hand lotion once or twice/day, and be nice to it." is the simplest care instructions.

      Saran wrap gives bacteria a nice warm, moist place to breed. Never leave that on more than a couple of hours after the tattoo is done.

      When you remove your bandage (whatever kind) get in a HOT shower......

      anyway, lemme know if you guys want my ideas on the subject. I've been tattooing for 20 years, was one of the first members of APT, was one of the first to attend the bloodborne pathogen seminars they offered, WAY back when Kris Sperry offered them (Ga. Bureau of Investigation's Forensic Pathologist).


      The Shaman
      • Unsu...
        I agree with taking the bandage off rether quick. From having a mother nurse, to tattooist friends, it sounds just like Shaman says-a virtual petri dish on your skin. I was also told to beware of tattoo goo for one reason only-if you use the little tin container and constantly dig your fingers in it, you can basically be depositing bacteria into teh goo before you re-apply it to your skin. I wash with warm water 2-3 times a day and use a thin layer of bacitracin for about a week or so, give or take a few days depending on healing time. After that, I use a&d until I'm fully healed. Where can you find unscented? I haven't found that before, and I'd KILL to not have to smell that shit ever again!

        What I was toild it comes down to is this...
        -don't wash too too much, but don't be filthy
        -various ointments seem to work, use what works for you
        -use COMMON SENSE!
        -don't try and rush the healing process

  • Proper Tattoo Aftercare

    Leave bandage on for a minimum of 2 hours, and no longer than 12 hours.
    Upon removing bandage, hand wash with mild soap. Do not scrub or use a wash cloth.
    Rinse off all soap and Vaseline. The tattoo will be slippery, so do not over-rinse.
    Pat dry the tattoo with a paper towel or a clean bath towel, then allow to air dry.

    The time spent in the shower or water should be kept to less than 5 minutes and the tattoo should only be exposed to water at the end of the shower, just prior to getting out. Keep the water from hitting the tattoo directly and wash it last; if you don’t, your tattoo will literally go down the drain! Shower with caution!

    Wash the tattoo the following morning and evening.

    On the 3rd day, the tattoo will be dry and ready for a small amount of color free/fragrance free hand lotion, which should be applied after it is washed & dried. This should be done 2 to 6 times a day, as needed.

    The tattoo will develop a minor scab that will flake off over the next 5 to 15 days. Do not allow this scab to come off before it is ready. Do not pick at the scab!

    After the scab falls off on its own, the freshly tattooed skin will be shiny and very vulnerable. Take care in protecting your tattoo and continue to apply hand lotion to it. Once the scab is gone, the need to keep water off the tattoo is no longer necessary.
    If the scab did not fall off on its own and was picked or otherwise abused, the scab will return and add time to the healing process. The result of a second scab is a less than perfect tattoo and can be avoided! It is a result of the first scab having been pulled, scraped or picked off, along with the tattoo beneath it and may also leave scar tissue.

    After about 45 days, the tattoo will be smooth and look like it is part of your skin. If any part of the tattoo needs to be touched-up, this will be the time to address it. Your tattoo is still not ready for any sunlight or tanning.

    After 90 days, the tattoo can have direct sunlight, only with a heavy sunblock. If the tattoo is exposed to direct sunlight with no sunscreen protection, it will fade quickly, with the lighter colors fading first.
    • see i did exactly that and my tat got massive infected so i think its just bad advice personaly and ive got a tat on my arm of a black rose with blood red and green on it and the colors are just as bright today as they were almost twelve years ago and i used massive neosporin and washed it. If the colors fade im thinking mabey your tat person is going to lite on ya. i don't know not a tat artist myself but the only time i ran into trouble was when i didnt put neopsorin on my tat.
      • I have had an opposite reaction personally and have seen a number of clients that have gone against my advise and use neospotine to heal ink with bad results.

        Why are you going to put an antibiotic on a wound that is not infected??? To protect it?? It doesn't what it encourages is the growth of resistant strains of various bacteria including strains of staph that not only are not killed by neoporine and bacitacin but can thrive in it.

        If you got an infection of of a fairly simple routine then I would look at the source of possible infection. Did you use the same bar of soap you use on your ass on your tattoo?? That is a possible exposure, The lotion itself can be a route as well.

        What I recommend to people is same that it recommended by most of the artists I know that have an understanding of routes of infection and resistant strains.

        After care is as follows: As well as reasons in brackets:

        1) Take off the bandage as soon as you are comfortable. (it is only there so you don't contaminate surfaces inadvertantly in the shop)

        2) Wash with warm water and soap to thoughly clean off any remaining blood and lymph. (This keeps it from getting too crusty and removes a prime source of food for nice little bacteria that may come in contact with it)

        3) Apply a thin layer of non scented mild greaseless lotion to the tattoo. (this keeps the area from drying too fast and helps with the flexability of the area reducing crusty built up scabs while keeping the area breathable)

        4) No picking, soaking, scratching, Hot tubbing swimming ect till the scabs come off on thier own. (The idea is to promote the growth of good healthy skin under the light scab trapping the ink. You heal from the inside out so you do not want to prematurely remove the delicate new growth below)

        5) Your lotion and soap should be new either a new bar that you do not share with anyone else or use on any other parts or a pump dispensed soap. Lotion should be new as well travel size bottles work well. (this limits modes of transmission for the nasty stuff that would like to feed on your tattoo..)

        Mother Nature knows what she is doing, let her and your bodies do thier job and you will be rewarded with clean bright ink. The lotion and the soap just keep it clean and flexible.

        • To any who care, as a tattooer of 20 years, I would offer that J's instructions are absolutely correct. Keep it clean, work a bit of un-scented lotion into the tattoo, as you would lotion your hands (no residue) and keep it the hell outta the sun.

          If any doubt my credentials, look at my profile photo album. I have been doing delicate realistic work, black and grey, portraiture, and other subtle, delicate work for years. It is essential that the tattoo be cared for properly for such to heal the way the tattooer intends it to appear once all healing is complete.

          We understand that people want to go sport their new tattoo, but doing so can result in a condition that is insulting to the tattooer who didn't cut corners in doing the tattoo, as we find that the customer is not willing to put as much attention on caring for it. We give you simple instructions. Please put as much time into caring for it as we have in creating it.

          The most common "infection" I have seen in new tattoos is not infection at all, but sunburn. It takes about ten minutes of direct sunlight to burn a tatto to the point that it will take months to heal. This typically results in a horrible looking grey scar layer over the top of the tattoo, and if you are lucky, most of the tattoo will be left when it finally heals. Tattoo shops in resort areas, beach towns, and desert communities have ALL seen this. If someone comes to me with an 'infected' tattoo, the FIRST thing I ask them is how their day in the park/beach/yard was. Nine times out of ten, I will get a response that it was fine, and that "everybody loved the tattoo", which tells me that the critical ten minutes had long been surpassed.

          A&D, Bacitracin, Neosporin, etc, are NOT the best thing you can put on your healing tattoo. Sure, they may help a typical wound heal more cleanly, but your tattoo NEEDS to heal a little differently. A tattoo, by it's very nature, is a scar of minor degree. Scar tissue does not die and regenerate as skin does, so the tattoo remains, since the injury causing this scar was done with the machine, leaving ink behind to be sealed in this wound as it heals. These ointments do not "suck out the ink" as so many describe, but allow the would to heal with less scar than would otherwise happen. The result is that some of the tattoo does not scar as properly as other parts, and you get an uneven, splotchy effect.

          Lotion, on the other hand, allows the wound to remain moist, so that the scabs are minimized, but allows the wound to heal properly, permanently sealing the tattoo in a fine, flat, barely perceptable layer of delicate scar tissue.

          Finally, if you are unsure of the proper healing technique after all this, ASK YOUR TATTOOER. He or she may actually know what they are talking about.


          The Shaman

          "Friends don't let friends get bad ink"- Jack Rudy
          • Unsu...
            Thank you J and Shaman.

            I have just done as you suggested, Shaman, and copied both your advice into a word doc to file away. My tat artist gave me bsically the same advice and was adamant that for the first summer of my tat I paint it in SFP 50 everytime I went outside. Being an avid inline skater, that summer was a bit hellish - but it worked, and my dragon is still vibrantly alive.

            Now to plan his accompanying piece . . . . :)
        • I apreciate everyones experience and education but i will never get another tat without using neosprorin or some such gel. I think you can see the tat in my one pic and its not fadded in the least. My black rose like i said has bright green and red and is over 13 years old and is not fadded. There are pics of those two tats in my profile if ya wanna see. I was really carefull when my tat got infected and did not use anything but a mild liquid soap when i finally did wash it off and i did everything this tat artist said to do and it still became infected and the only dif between this tat and all my others was that i didn't use neosporin and since i never had any fadding probs with any tat i figure why risk a problem? Im not saying it will work for everyone although ive never actually seen a tat that was faded before except when the needle was to light or the ink sucked. No offence to anyone just my experience.
          • i will add also that some tats ive seen fade have been due to what was said about sunlight. That is def a huge mistake people make. My infected tat was not grey but had a nasty yellow ooze to it. Trust me it was not pretty and it def fadded. Also im gonna add that ive been hiv poz for 18 years and while im in good health, my risk of infection is a bit higher than most or so they say. Maybe with someone who in not comprimised its easier to heal but i honestly think its just that i didn't use the neosporin that one time cuz every tat i have i got while poz. Ok thats it hehe
  • Unsu...
    OK, here's a dumb question. I got my last work done last Sunday. SInce everybody seems to have various after care methods, I'll ask how long do you do the 'wash and bacitracin/A&D' for? I have only a few little scabs left, but I do not want to lose them early. My last section lost one and I stare at the light spot constantly. Do I switch to lotion now, or so I wait until all the scabs are off? Thanks.
    • Start the lotion. In the future, try the method that J wrote of. Copy and past this into a Word file, and print it out, nailing it to the mirror in the bathroom so you have it with you always. :)

      Good luck. Let the scabs fall off as they may. Don't pick them, but you already know that. Happy tattooing.


      The Shaman
      • I also use A&D for the first couple 2/3 days after. Then I use a non scented lotion Lubriderm every day from then on. I have had an infection after one session on my right sleeve. After that I have never not used A&D for after care.
      • Unsu...
        well. ill be the dissenter among us <G>....allow me to ramble a bit.

        like a lot of old tattoo history, I think the facts and myths around healing are as voodoo like as any in the industry. There are some common things that have already been mentioned.

        For what its worth, some of my experiences after having about 300 hours of ink on my skin over 22 years.

        I frankly think the healing is 90% the skill/craft of the artist.

        I "scab" maybe once out of every 20 sittings. Usually just a very very mild peel like a small sunburn. There are artists who have tattooed me for years and ive never ever has the slightest scab. others scab every time they touch my skin. Ive tried every healing method under the sun and have come down to just some lotion here and there...but lately, ive gotten lazy and sometimes dont nothing. or close to nothing at all...and you know what. it heals the same as if i baby it.

        My POV for what its worth is that anybody who is scabbing up bad needs to find a better artist. otherwise, find what works, is easy on you, leaves your ink looking amazing and trust YOUR instincts. everyone heals differently.
        • Unsu...
          I'm not scabbing badly whatsoever, just for the record. I would know to get out ASAP if that were the case. All I have left is a few small tiny scabs left. The rest didn't really scab at all. I agree that if you are getting major scabbing, you might be going to someone who isn't as 'gentle' as one should be. It could also be your skin, so who knows.

          I've had no side effects from A&D lotion. I guess I was just using the various ointments a little too long, by a few days. I've seen no side effects, thankfully. I am now using lubriderm, which I actually use every day anyways, so this won't be an issue keeping up with.

          And on a side note, I absolutely love this tribe because you have curious people, seasoned veterans, and professional artists all in one place. The input on nearly any issue/question is outstanding. Being in a state where it just became legal, it is always good to have a nearly endless souce of information from parts all over, from all walks of life. If you have a question or comment, all you have to do is post, and you'll have a response quicker than you can imagine!

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