Below are instructions on how to care for your new tattoo. It’s worth noting that there are many different methods for tattoo aftercare, this is the one that we use most commonly at Dark Horse Tattoo Company.
- Your artist will most likely put plastic wrap or some sort of bandage on the tattoo after the session is complete. Leave this bandage on for one or two hours, then take it off and wash the tattoo with mild soap and water. Lather up the soap and gently rub the tattoo with the palm of your hand in a circular motion to remove plasma as well as any ointment applied by the artist. We recommend Dial Gold, but any mild liquid antibacterial hand soap will do. Wash the tattoo again the next morning, then do this once or twice a day for the next couple of days. After then you should not wash the tattoo directly until it is done peeling. The reason we have you wash off that gunky plasma layer is to remove excess platelet material that can cause heavier scabs to form during the scabbing stage of the tattoo. Taking the time to do this will help to keep the healing process as smooth as possible. With that said, don’t wash the tattoo more than the recommended amount of times. If you get obsessive about it you may cause unnecessary damage to the skin’s surface.
- After washing, apply a thin layer or A & D ointment or aquaphor to the tattoo. Remember that it is important to rub the ointment into the skin thoroughly as if it were a lotion and use only enough to moisturize the tattoo. The most common mistake in aftercare is to put too much A & D ointment on the tattoo. Remember that your goal is to moisturize and keep the skin flexible by leaving only a thin, breathable layer of ointment on the surface. If you put too much ointment, excess plasma and pigment particles will permeate out and the tattoo will become faded and blurry.
- Apply the A & D ointment 3 or 4 times a day for the next 72 hours. In a few days the tattoo will begin tightening up as it enters the scabbing stage. When you start feeling that surface tension it is time to switch from A & D ointment to lotion. We recommend unscented Lubriderm, but Aveeno, Eucerin, and other such fragrance free lotions will also work. Gently apply the lotion to moisturize the tattoo any time the tattoo feels tight or dry. Apply the lotion at least 3 to 5 times a day and even more often if needed. Do this until the tattoo is completely done peeling. It should take a week or two for the tattoo to peel and a month or two for the shininess to go away.
- It is important to mention that the scabs must stay intact as long as possible during the scabbing and peeling stages. If the scabs come off early, they bring pigment with them and sometimes cause unwanted texture due to scarring. Common mistakes that cause premature peeling include continuing the use of A & D ointment during the scabbing stage, submerging the tattoo in water for long periods of time, use of excessive force while applying lotion, excess friction from clothing, picking at the scabs, or rubbing them off in the shower. Be as gentle as possible when applying lotion, and try not to touch the tattoo while in the shower as the scabs will be softened from the water. Just rinse it with some suds and water if needed and pat dry with a paper towel when you’re done. Also remember to let the scabs dry completely before rubbing the lotion onto the tattoo.
- Make sure you exercise proper common sense and personal hygiene when caring for your fresh tattoo. Wash your hands with soap and water before handling the tattoo. Don’t let anyone touch your tattoo and be aware of what it is coming in contact with. Ensure that your living environment is clean and wash your sheets, towels, and clothing if they will be coming into contact with the tattoo. Don’t go swimming and try to limit the tattoo’s exposure to the sun. Avoid strenuous exercise until the tattoo is done peeling.
- Follow these instructions and you will maximize your chances of having a good heal. If, however, your artist recommends instructions that differ from these in any way, you should listen to them first and foremost as they may be giving advice that is specific to your skin type, placement on the body, or the size and nature of the tattoo. Have trust in their professional advice and do not deviate from it because of what you read on the internet, what your friends tell you, or even what another tattoo artist tells you. If you feel like your tattoo might be infected, talk to your artist to see if they can advise you on whether or not to consult with a medical professional. Common signs of infection include excessive discharge after the 48 hour mark, the tattoo being hot to the touch, sores, pimples, or lesions on the tattoo, and excessive redness and swelling.
- If you have any questions, contact your artist directly or call the shop at 480-219-4885