The worst of it is over. You have finally gotten your tattoo or body piercing, and you’re ready to show it off to the world. But before you do so, there lies a very crucial period where you must take proper care of your newly minted body modification. Being an open wound, the quality of your aftercare can directly influence the quality and longevity of your tattoo or piercing. Read on to find out the essential dos and don’ts in your post-tattoo and piercing phase that you must take note of for the best results with your body art.
Keep it on
After your tattoo artist has sent you on your way, you may have noticed a bandage, or more commonly a plastic wrap over your tattoo. This helps to absorb any secretion that may ooze from your tattoo. The fluid is mainly plasma, a by-product and natural reaction of your body working to heal from the trauma inflicted on your skin. Don’t be alarmed if you catch sight of some colors, as the fluid can be accompanied by excess ink brought to the surface of the skin.
Ideally, you should keep the covering on from a few hours to a day, as recommended by your tattoo artist. Once you have crossed the mark, you may remove it to wash and ventilate the area, letting your skin breathe.
On the other hand, initial jewelry from the new body piercing should remain on until the healing process is completed to avoid the piercing hole shrinking or closing up.
Practising hand hygiene is fundamental when coming into contact with the tattoo. A good rule of thumb is to scrub your hands with antibacterial soap through two lengths of “Happy Birthday” before rinsing. As you proceed with washing the tattoo, rub gently with soap. Be mindful of using solutions with fragrance and alcohol as they can set off skin irritation and dryness. If your body piercing is in hard-to-reach spots, you may use a showerhead to apply gentle pressure to aid in cleansing away any buildup or crusting.
Once it is thoroughly washed, pat with a soft and clean towel. Avoid forceful wiping as it may unintentionally exfoliate and aggravate the wound. It will be best to let the tattoo or piercing air-dry for a few minutes, as excessive moisture can exacerbate bacterial growth.
Apply moisturizers religiously
A thin layer of tattoo cream goes a long way to keep the area hydrated. These healing ointments and moisturizers, such as TattooGoo, not only create a barrier between the skin and the environment to protect from external irritants, but also offer soothing properties and help retain natural moisture to promote healing. Like the cleanser you use to wash your ink, look out for scents and allergens that may cause irritation to your skin. As there are dozens of brands out there with a mix-and-match of ingredients, carefully select your choice of moisturizer. Elements you may want it to contain may include petrolatum, coconut oil, and shea and cocoa butters.
It is normal to experience increased swelling and redness especially in the first few days post-tattoo or piercing. However, it is still important to exercise vigilance and keep an eye out for unexpected reactions such as fever, extensive scabbing, and tiny bumps on the skin. Typically, symptoms such as bruising and swelling should begin to subside after one week. If in doubt, contact your tattoo artist or doctor to find out if the reactions you are experiencing are normal or telltale signs of a more serious issue.
Bigger or more detailed tattoos, such as ones with solid areas can also take longer to heal due to increased trauma to the skin. Likewise, placement plays a huge role in determining the amount of time needed to fully recover from the piercing.
Swim or take a bath
It is not advisable for you to go swimming or soak in a bath fresh after a tattoo for the same reasons you shouldn’t after a piercing. As dangerous bacteria see the new trauma done to your skin as a feasting ground, this could once again trigger infections and inflammation that can lead to negative long-term implications cosmetically. At the same time, the increased sensitivity can also make exposure to harsh pool chemicals more unbearable for the affected area, first characterized by a raw, stinging sensation followed by swelling. By getting into a pool or a tub, you also run the risk of your tattoo fading before the ink fully sets into your skin as it recovers.
Expose it to the sun
There’s no more opportune moment than a trip to the beach to flaunt your body art, but staying out of the sun could work wonders for your tattoo or piercing down the road. Besides typical signs of sun damage such as wrinkling and spots, prolonged sun exposure can also worsen inflamed skin. In addition, sunlight can cause your tattoo to fade, blurring the details of the design. Once healed, apply sunblock and make time for reapplications throughout the day to maximize protection from harmful UV rays.
Respect and treat your skin with care as it goes through the delicate process of healing. While unwashed hands with the chance of transferring germs are the obvious cause of concern, picking, scratching and removing of scabs could also contribute to the discolouration of the tattoo with healing impeded. The area may be raised, flaky and start itching, but resist the temptation to scratch as scarring is irreversible and your tattoo can lose more pigment than needed. Let your body do the work and don’t intervene – it will exfoliate the dry skin naturally.
Conscious interference aside, be wary of other factors that may aggravate the affected skin. For instance, skin-tight clothing tends to suffocate and irritate the skin, and the wrong sleeping position may also incur pressure and additional trauma to the area. Change sides, hoist or stack pillows if necessary. And if your piercing is located on the face, it is important that you don’t put on any makeup and hair products that can contaminate the wound. Don’t twist or rotate the jewelry attached to your piercing hole either, as that may accidentally cause more damage to the site.
Consume inflammatory foods
Many frequently emphasize steering clear of seafood after getting a tattoo or body piercing, but there are a handful of other common culprits responsible for infection. According to Harvard Health Publishing, red meats, refined carbohydrates, sweetened food products as well as overly processed foods are directly linked to inflammation, and should therefore be avoided or limited to ensure a smooth healing process. Conversely, one should indulge in fruits and vegetables rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants such as tomatoes, berries and broccoli; and perhaps even combine them with foods that can help combat infection like nuts, avocado, tuna and chia seeds. Do note that alcohol has the potential to slow down healing significantly, so it is definitely better to opt for water which will keep you hydrated throughout the course of your recovery.
Taking care of a tattoo or piercing, especially in the first few weeks, can be very challenging because of the internal and external influences that come into play. But no matter how much care and attention we put into making sure it is treated well, there is still a likelihood that tattoos will reappear lighter after healing due to circumstances beyond our control. That is why one should diligently practice proper aftercare to ensure the best results from your tattooing or body piercing experience. The rewards you reap don’t just have to last a long time, but a lifetime.
Find out more in-depth aftercare tips and tricks by speaking to our body art professionals at Ink By Finch, where we’ll help you heal and preserve your tattoo and piercing with confidence and ease.