Your tattoo will remain with you for the rest of your life, so it’s definitely worth taking extra time to keep it looking as fresh and vibrant as possible. Not to mention, you’ve made the decision and spent the money, there’s no point in letting the commitment lapse now.
To help keep your tattoo in great shape, some advice has been here assembled. A lot of this may seem common sense, and some points have been omitted. For example, it would probably harm your tattoo if the area of skin in question were burnt or sliced away. Nonetheless, as a guide to the basics, it will not steer you wrong.
The immediate aftermath
The first few weeks with your tattoo will be most intensive in terms of aftercare. This could mean extra time and expense, but it will be worth it in the long run. Your tattoo artist should provide some guidance before you leave his studio, which may be more specific to your needs, and he is the best person to ask if you have any particular questions.
When your tattoo is first completed, it will be covered in a bandage or similar dressing. This is to prevent any airborne infections, as your tattoo is still very much an open wound (several thousand tiny puncture wounds to be precise) at this early stage.
The cleaning process
This bandage should be left in place for at least two hours afterwards, no matter how strong the temptation to show your friends. Once it is removed, wash the area with lukewarm water and mild soap to remove any blood or assorted ooze. Use your hand or a paper towel, rather than an abrasive washcloth, and pat the area clean instead of rubbing.
For three to five days afterwards, continue to clean the tattoo in this manner, applying antibacterial ointment to stave off infection. After a few days, you may notice some peeling or scabbing. You can apply warm, moist compress to encourage this to fall off of its own accord, but the most important advice is not to pick or scratch, as this poses the biggest risk of ruining your tattoo.
The blissful future
Once the first few days are done, your tattoo should begin to settle down. Use lotion or moisturiser to stop the area drying out. However, try not to get it soaking wet in the first couple of weeks. Showers should be fine, as long as the tattoo is not saturated, but baths or saunas should be avoided. Shaving also risks damaging the artwork.
After a couple of weeks, your tattoo should be self-sustaining. Light application of moisturiser may still be wise at intervals, and for the lifetime of your tattoo, it would be best to limit its exposure to direct sunlight, as this can cause its colour to fade relatively quickly. If you can’t avoid the rays, use a high-factor sunblock on your tattoo to minimise damage.
In short, with a little love and attention, you and your tattoo should enjoy a long and meaningful life together.