Care of new Tattoos


General Advice From A Medical Doctor


Care of new Tattoos

  •  General Advice From A Medical Doctor
  •  Common Misconceptions With No Basis In Reality
  •  What Are Some Bad Things For My New Tattoo?
  •  It Is True That Suntanning To A Considerable Extent Not Only Damages Your Skin But Fades The Tattoos?
  •  How Do I Care For My New Tattoo?

Common Misconceptions With No Basis In Reality

1. “Vaseline makes a tattoo faded”. The ink is underneath the epidermis and the outer layer of dermis. There’s NO WAY that vaseline can get down through the epidermis to draw out any of the ink.

2. “Swimming makes a tattoo faded”. For the same reason as the above, pool chlorine does not get to the ink to fade it. Common sense precautions include not swimming in a public pool with a raw sore, such as a new tattoo while oozing or completely raw. After the first 2 days, the surface over the tattoo is impervious and (from personal experience as well as science background) it is OK to swim.

What Are Some Bad Things For My New Tattoo?


Once it is healed, there is very little that will screw up a tattoo. The one exception is prolonged exposure to sunlight. (the other is scarring, but that is patently obvious).


Well, unfortunately it is. The newer inks are better at resisting fading but whatever you do, if you spend lots of time in bright sunlight your tats will fade (over a lifetime, not over a week). Best to try and keep them out of bright sunlight. No one wants to become a cave dweller just to keep their tats looking good, so just use some common sense. Think of your tat as an investment–slather on that sunblock so it doesn’t turn into a dark blob.

Our culture has erroneously labelled the tan as healthy. Did you know that your tan is your skin’s way of dealing with the damage caused by the sun? It’s like the formation of a scab when you have a cut. You will pay for your years of sun exposure when you are in your 40s and 50s

Leathery, wrinkled, dry skin with freckles and liver spots. Melanoma. Skin cancer.

It Is True That Sun-Tanning To A Considerable Extent Not Only Damages Your Skin But Fades The Tattoos?

The UV light rays that damage skin can get below the outermost surface of the skin (that’s why skin cancers are promoted by excess sunbathing).

The following is information about suncare and sunblock:

1.Try to use products that do not clog your pores. If your sunblock makes you break out or feel itchy, this may be the cause.

2. Avoid sunblock containing PABA, apparently found to be carcinogenic.

3. “SPF” stands for Sun Protection Factor. If you can normally stay out for ten minutes without getting sunburnt, then an SPF 2 should protect you for 20 minutes, an SPF 6 for an hour, and so on. HOWEVER, this does *NOT* mean an SPF 30 will let you stay out for five hours with just one coat. Keep your exposure limited to the minimum amounts, and always use an extra strong sunblock with at least SPF 30 for your tattoo.

4. “Waterproof” and “sweatproof” sunblocks protect you while in the water. However, reflections from the water add to your exposure. Make sure you use a high SPF number, and always re-apply your sunblock when coming out of the water


5. Sunblock is not just for the beach! Make it a habit to carry one with you during the sunnier months so you can protect your tattoo always! The Watermelon Stick from the Body Shop is nice and portable, but in a pinch, a tube of lip balm (Blistik, etc.) will work, as long as it has an SPF. Dab a bit on your tattoo whenever you will be outside.

How Do I Care For My New Tattoo?

The artist that did your tattoo will have something very definite to say about the care of your new tattoo, and it is probably a good idea to listen to him/her. Many shops will have an information sheet listing care instructions.

The information provided in this section may or may not be the same method your artist offers. Regardless, there are three things to remember about caring for your new tattoo:

  • Moisturize it
  • Don’t over moisturize it
  • And whatever you do, Don’t pick your onion peel scabs!

Basically, as long as you follow these three points, you will be okay. However as people get more tattoos, they begin trying out slightly different methods. I have included several examples, and not all of them will work on everybody. Some people will find that they are allergic to some products.

How do you know which method is best for you?

It depends on the type of skin you have, and how sensitive it is. I suggest you try a patch test on your skin for a week or so to see if you react to the ingredients.

Having said that, I have personally discovered a very nice “new tattoo kit” that I now use whenever I go to get a tattoo. And the added benefit was that I discovered this “kit” in a sample size travel set, which I can easily pack in my travel bag.

The set that I now use is the Johnson’s baby product line. The kit includes baby powder, baby shampoo, diaper rash ointment, baby lotion, baby bath, and a bonus (in this case, a baby bib). I don’t need the baby bib, and the shampoo is just an added bonus for me. However, this is how I use the kit, especially when I’m getting the tattoo in another city:

Baby powder

I sprinkle a liberal amount on the hotel bed sheets to prevent my skin from sticking to the sheet.

Baby bath

A fruity-smelling liquid soap, it’s very mild and has minimal lathering. I pour a bit on my hand, rub into a light lather and wash the tattoo this way. It rinses off very easily with non-pressurized water, minimizing the risk of losing scabs.

Baby lotion

The Johnson’s brand feels non-greasy. *MY* skin does not like a layer of oily lotion, and until this, I used to pay lots of money for oil-free Oil of Olay (is that a contradiction in terms?). Goes on very lightly but keeps the skin moist.

Diaper rash ointment

Zinc oxide-based, I use this thick, non- greasy ointment on certain “contact spots” of my tattoo that may rub against clothes (i.e. bra strap, waist band).

I’ve found this travel kit selling for £6, and the small sizes work out just right for a smaller tattoo (no larger than 8″x8″. You *MIGHT* smell like a clean baby, though!

Other people will recommend different ointments and lotions. Some people swear by Tea Tree Oil (toner) from the Body Shop for its healing qualities. Others like A&D Ointment (marketed for diaper rash, I find it somewhat greasy), and the cheapest is probably regular Vaseline Intensive Care. If you live in a dry area and you’re prone to use a lot of lotion anyway, the last one, in a large pump bottle, may be your best bargain.

Put a heap of vaseline on the new tattoo and then bandage up the whole thing, then follow  these instructions:


Tattoo Care Instructions:

1. Remove bandage in 18 hrs.

2. Wash tattoo immediately, with soap and water When washing off the tattoo, there should be old ink & some body fluids. At this state there is little that can harm the tattoo. 3. When skin feels like normal wet skin, pat dry.

4. Put nothing on the tattoo for 3 days.

5. From the 4th day, apply the *tiniest* amount of lotion possible once a day to keep it from drying out completely; gently work it in. (Mike suggests a drop for a 1″x4″ piece).

6. Do not get the tattoo wet; moisture is your enemy.

7. Do not permit sun on tattoo.

8. Do not get the tattoo wet; moisture is your enemy.

9. Scabbing may or may not occur. Scabbing is normal. Do not pick scab.

10. Do not get the tattoo wet; moisture is your enemy.

His strongest advice: “MOISTURE IS THE TATTOO’S ENEMY”.

On using Vaseline: Neosporin is Vaseline-based, & doesn’t hurt.

On using Neosporin: Not really necessary, but it doesn’t hurt. Strong warning: Never let the shower directly hit the tattoo.

1. Change your bandage within two hours, wash hands before touching tattoo,

2. Clean tattoo with soap and water, pat w/ Listerine for a few minutes.

3. Apply Polysporin Ointment & bandage. Repeat this process 4 times a day until tattoo is healed. The theory is that by keeping it covered with ointment, you don’t form a scab — and no scab means no scab problems. UNFORTUNATELY, this method also draws out a lot of the ink and can result in a pretty pale tattoo. sigh. I would not recommend this method for a good final result, although it can heal up a tattoo in as little as a four days if you use Vitamin E and Polysporin.


The Wait-24-Hours-To-Take-Off-Dressing Method From Joker’s Wild

1. Remove bandage after 24 hours while you are showering.

2. Use a mild soap then pat dry

3. Allow tattoo to dry for 24 hours.

4. Apply supplied healing lotion 4 times a day. Do not use anything else on tattoo then the supplied cream.

5. When using the healing cream, use it sparingly, you want to moisten your tattoo, not soak it.

6. Do not soak your tattoo in the bath for 2 weeks.

7. Do not swim in chlorinated water for 2 weeks

8. Do not tan your tattoo for 2 weeks

9. If your tattoo does happen to scab, do not pick.

We recommended protecting the new tattoo from the shower. try putting a bag over it which is a bit of a pain, but probably worth it.

This is how I healed the 3″ X 6″ piece on the front of my shin with the exception that I washed it gently at least twice a day to clean off the old ointment. I am very pleased with the result.

For effortless healing of your new tattoo please follow these directions carefully.

1. VERY IMPORTANT. Leave sterile dressing covering tattooed area for a minimum of 2 hours.

2. If desired, dressing can remain on tattoo for a maximum of 24 hours.

3. After removing dressing (non-stick), gently wash tattooed area with soap, pat dry with a clean towel.

4. Apply Polysporin twice daily until healed. Usually 3-6 days.

5. Refrain from picking or scratching tattoo during the healing process. Damaging the light scab formation will result in poor colours in your tattoo. If tattoo irritates, apply a slight smear of pure coconut oil.


1.10 The Huck Spalding Method From Huck Spalding`s “Tattooing A To Z”

1. Bandage(*) should stay on for at least two hours.

2. Remove bandage, rinse gently with cold water and blot dry.

3. Apply Bacitracin ointment 4 x a day and blot out the excess.

4. Keep tattoo fresh and open to the air. Do not bandage.

5. For the first week, avoid swimming or long soaking in the water.

6. For the first month, avoid too much exposure to the sun.

7. Do not pick or scratch scabs

8. Itching is relieved by slapping or alcohol.

9. Keep tattoo covered with loose clothing.

* Bandaging Summary 1. After tattooing clean whole area w/ green soap & white paper towel. 2. Spray it with alcohol and hold a paper towel on it. 3. apply film of Bacitracin ointment. 4. Cover with bandage or Shrink-Wrap or cling film and securely tape it on.

I have yet to try this method, but have seen a few tattoos which have been bandaged with shrink-wrap and they turned out just fine. (Huck writes that the shrink-wrap stops people from peeling off the bandage in the first few hours to show friends.)


The Noxzema Method

1. Remove bandage after 4 – 5 hours.

2. Wash gently with soap or water.

3. Do *not* scrub or soak until completely healed (usually a week). Showering, however, is OK.

4. Usually necessary to re-bandage.

5. Keep tattoo OUT OF THE SUN or tanning booths while healing. Once healed, ALWAYS use sunscreen on colours.

6. We recommend Noxema Medicated Skin Lotion twice a day to aid healing & comfort. DO NOT USE Vaseline, oils, anything greasy, or anything with cortisone. Oils block your skin from contact with air, inhibiting healing

7. Tattoo “peels” in 4-7 days. Do not pick or scratch!


“Your tattoo was applied with sterile equipment and procedure, and with non-toxic colours. We guarantee the workmanship. Healing and caring of your tattoo is YOUR responsibility.”

This is how I healed a 3-inch band around my right ankle. While the healing was more like 2 weeks, I also protected it from the shower with a bag. For the last few tattoos I noticed that after I stop covering it in the shower (after about 2 weeks), the tattoo seems to speed up in healing. I suspect that this might be either timing (it was ready to heal), or the action of the shower helps to knock of any dead skin thus promoting better healing.

I only used a wee bit of Noxzema twice a day, leaving the art “moist and glistening” but with no “smears of white cream.” Am very happy with this method. The cream really does help the itching and the final result is a good deep black.