top of page

6 Tattoo Aftercare Instructions: Your Ultimate Guide to Vibrant Tattoos

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Tattoo Aftercare Instructions

Proper aftercare is crucial for preserving the vibrancy and longevity of your tattoo. Taking care of your tattoo during the healing process is essential to ensure that the colors remain bright and the lines stay crisp. Follow these tattoo aftercare instructions to keep your tattoo looking its best.

tattoo aftercare

Key Takeaways

  • Follow your tattoo artist's instructions for aftercare.

  • Wash your tattoo twice a day with mild, unscented soap and warm water.

  • Moisturize regularly with a tattoo-specific aftercare product or fragrance-free, hypoallergenic lotion.

  • Avoid picking or scratching scabs to prevent scarring.

  • Avoid direct sunlight and wear loose-fitting clothing to protect your tattoo from fading and irritation.

1. Understanding Tattoo Aftercare Instructions and Timeline

Tattoo aftercare instructions and a proper timeline are essential for ensuring your tattoo heals correctly. Following these instructions will not only prevent infection but also help maintain the vibrancy and longevity of your tattoo. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the healing process:

Listen to your tattoo artist

Your tattoo artist will provide you with specific tattoo aftercare instructions tailored to your tattoo. It's crucial to follow these instructions carefully, as different tattoos may require different care.

Cleanse your tattoo

Use lukewarm water and a gentle, fragrance-free soap to cleanse your tattoo twice a day. Gently pat dry with a clean, soft towel. Avoid rubbing the tattoo, as it may cause irritation.

Moisturize regularly

Apply a tattoo-specific aftercare product or a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic lotion to keep your tattoo moisturized. This will prevent dryness and itching, which can lead to scabbing and scarring. Avoid petroleum-based products, as they can clog pores.

Avoid direct sunlight

Protect your tattoo from the sun's harmful UV rays, as they can cause premature fading and discoloration. Wear loose-fitting clothing that covers the tattoo or use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF when exposing your tattoo to the sun.

Avoid swimming and prolonged water exposure

Submerging your tattoo in water, such as swimming pools, hot tubs, or baths, can increase the risk of infection. Avoid these activities until your tattoo is fully healed.

It's important to note that every tattoo heals at a different pace. Generally, tattoos take about 2-4 weeks to heal completely, but it may take longer for larger or more intricate designs. During the healing process, your tattoo may scab, peel, and itch. It's crucial to resist the temptation to pick or scratch the scabs, as this can disrupt the healing process and lead to scarring.

Remember, improper aftercare can result in complications and impact the final outcome of your tattoo. If you notice any signs of infection, such as excessive redness, swelling, or pus-like discharge, seek medical attention immediately.

Tattoo Aftercare Timeline

Day 1-2

Keep the tattoo bandaged for 1-2 hours after getting it done to protect it from airborne bacteria. Once the bandage is removed, follow the cleansing and moisturizing routine as instructed by your tattoo artist.

Day 3-7

Continue cleansing and moisturizing your tattoo regularly. It may start to scab and peel during this time. Do not pick or scratch the scabs, as they are a natural part of the healing process.

Week 2-3

Your tattoo should start to heal, and the scabs will begin to fall off. Apply moisturizer as needed to keep the area hydrated and prevent itching.

Week 4+

Your tattoo should be fully healed by this point. However, it's still essential to continue moisturizing and protecting it from the sun to maintain its vibrancy.

By following these tattoo aftercare instructions and adhering to the recommended timeline, you can ensure a successful healing process and enjoy your vibrant tattoo for years to come.

2. Create your Daily Routine

Below are some general steps, follow your tattooist instructions if you have been provided them.

  1. Gathering the necessary items: These include a cleaning station (sink or shower), soap (preferably unscented), healing ointment, and paper towels.

  2. Removing the protective wrap: Remove any initial covering carefully and disposing of it.

  3. Hand hygiene: Cleaning your hands thoroughly before touching the tattoo to ensure cleanliness and using lukewarm water.

  4. Cleaning the tattoo: Gently wash with soap, using circular motions, and rinsing it with water. Repeating this process multiple times to remove residue like dried blood effectively.

  5. Drying the tattoo: Patting the tattoo gently with clean lint free cloth of paper towel to absorb excess moisture and fluids.

  6. Applying ointment: Apply a thumb nail size amount of healing ointment in different locations on the tattoo. The amount will depend on the size of your tattoo but be sure not to use too much ointment, it should have good coverage but sparingly.

  7. Leaving the tattoo uncovered: While some will suggest to cover up again, I prefer to leave uncovered to allow the air get to the tattoo to assist in healing. Just make sure you wear loose clothing and that it doesn't rub or irritate the tattoo.

  8. Daily care routine: Washing the tattoo two times a day, applying ointment as needed, and transitioning to a fragrance-free moisturizer after a few days, especially as peeling and itching starts to occur.


Pat dry the tattoo with a clean, soft towel. Avoid rubbing the towel against the tattooed area, as it can cause irritation or damage to the healing skin.

3. Choosing the Best Products for Tattoo Aftercare

Finding the right products for tattoo aftercare is key to maintaining the health and vibrancy of your ink. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to choose the best ones. Here are some factors to consider when selecting products for tattoo aftercare:


Look for products that contain natural ingredients and are free from harsh chemicals and fragrances. Avoid products with alcohol, as it can dry out the skin and potentially fade the tattoo. Opt for hypoallergenic and fragrance-free options to minimize the risk of irritation or allergic reactions.


Consider the different types of products available, such as creams, ointments, lotions, and soaps. Creams and ointments are generally thicker and provide a protective barrier for the tattoo, while lotions are lighter and more easily absorbed. Be sure to choose a product that suits your skin type and personal preferences.

Brand Reputation

Research the reputation of the brand and read reviews from other tattoo enthusiasts. Look for products that have been specifically formulated for tattoo aftercare and have positive feedback regarding their effectiveness. Seek recommendations from trusted sources, such as your tattoo artist or fellow tattoo lovers.


Key Features

All-natural ingredients, long-lasting hydration, promotes healing

Gentle, fragrance-free, dermatologist-recommended

Vegan-friendly, organic, moisturizing

When it comes to tattoo aftercare, investing in quality products is worth it. Here are some popular options:

  • Tattoo Goo: Known for its all-natural ingredients and long-lasting hydration, Tattoo Goo helps promote the healing process and maintain the vibrancy of your ink.

  • Aquaphor: Recommended by dermatologists, Aquaphor is a gentle and fragrance-free option that provides essential moisture without clogging pores.

  • Hustle Butter Deluxe: If you prefer vegan-friendly and organic products, Hustle Butter Deluxe is a great choice. It is known for its moisturizing properties and can help enhance the healing process.

Remember, finding the best products for tattoo aftercare is a personal choice. Consult with your tattoo artist for their recommendations and consider your individual needs and preferences. With the right products and proper aftercare routine, you can enjoy vibrant and long-lasting ink.

4. The Importance of Moisturizing your Tattoo

Proper moisturization is crucial for keeping your tattoo hydrated and promoting optimal healing. As your tattoo heals, it goes through a process of scabbing and flaking, which can cause dryness and discomfort. By moisturizing regularly, you can alleviate these issues and maintain the vibrancy of your ink.

When choosing a moisturizer for tattoo aftercare, opt for a tattoo-specific product or a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic lotion. These options are specifically formulated to provide the necessary hydration without irritating the healing skin. Apply a thin layer of moisturizer to your tattoo 2-3 times a day, or as directed by your tattoo artist. Massage the moisturizer gently into the skin, ensuring full coverage.

To enhance the moisturizing benefits, consider covering your tattoo with a thin layer of tattoo balm. Tattoo balms create a protective barrier that locks in moisture and shields the tattoo from bacteria, dirt, and irritants. Look for a product that contains natural ingredients, such as shea butter or coconut oil, which have nourishing properties.

Moisturizing Tips for Tattoo Aftercare

  1. Choose a tattoo-specific moisturizer or fragrance-free, hypoallergenic lotion.

  2. Apply a thin layer of moisturizer 2-3 times a day or once every few days when wearing a second skin like Saniderm.

  3. Massage the moisturizer gently into the skin.

  4. Consider using a tattoo balm for added protection and nourishment.

Remember, proper moisturization is key to maintaining the health and vibrancy of your tattoo. By following a consistent aftercare routine and using the right products, you can ensure that your tattoo heals beautifully and stands the test of time.

Long lasting results

Moisturizing your tattoo is a vital part of the aftercare process. By keeping your tattoo hydrated, you can prevent excessive dryness, scabbing, and itching.

Choose a tattoo-specific moisturizer or fragrance-free, hypoallergenic lotion and apply it 2-3 times a day. Consider using a tattoo balm for additional nourishment and protection. Follow these tips, and your tattoo will remain vibrant and healthy for years to come.

Reference Table

Moisturizing Products for Tattoo Aftercare


​Tattoo-specific moisturizer

Formulated for optimal hydration without irritating the healing skin.

Fragrance-free, hypoallergenic lotion

Gentle on the skin and suitable for those with sensitive skin.

Tattoo balm

Creates a protective barrier, locks in moisture, and nourishes the skin.

5. Tattoo Aftercare Bandages and Second Skin

Tattoo aftercare bandages, also known as second skin, can provide an added layer of protection and promote faster healing. These bandages are specially designed to create a barrier between your tattoo and the outside world, shielding it from dirt, bacteria, and friction. They can also help to lock in moisture, allowing your tattoo to heal more effectively.

For a long time we were to cover new tattoos to help them heal. Then over the last few years there has been a growing voice to leave them uncovered once you remove the initial covering. I understand the reasoning to leave it uncovered but I'm still of the opinion to leave them cover for the initial days and here's why:

  • To keep it clean and free of germs: Because new tattoos are sensitive to infection, covering them can assist to keep them clean and free of germs.

  • To avoid scabbing and scarring: If a new tattoo is not properly cared for, scabbing and scarring can result. Covering the tattoo can keep it moist and help avoid scabbing.

  • To alleviate pain and swelling: Because new tattoos can be unpleasant and puffy, covering them can help alleviate these symptoms.

One popular brand of tattoo aftercare bandages is Saniderm. These transparent, adhesive bandages are breathable and waterproof, making them ideal for protecting your tattoo during the initial healing stage. The flexible material conforms to the contours of your skin, providing a comfortable fit while allowing your tattoo to breathe.

To apply a tattoo aftercare bandage, clean your tattoo with mild soap and warm water, pat it dry with a clean towel, and wait for it to be completely dry. Then, cut the bandage to size, ensuring it covers your entire tattoo. Peel off the adhesive backing and carefully place the bandage over your tattoo, smoothing out any air bubbles. Leave the bandage on for the recommended time, typically 24 to 48 hours, and then gently remove it.

After removing the tattoo aftercare bandage, you'll notice that your tattoo may appear shiny and the skin may feel slightly sticky. This is normal and indicates that the bandage has effectively protected your tattoo during the crucial initial healing stage. Continue to follow your tattoo artist's aftercare instructions, which may include washing your tattoo with a mild, unscented soap, moisturizing with a tattoo-specific product or hypoallergenic lotion, and avoiding direct sunlight.

Tattoo Aftercare Bandages

Second Skin

Provide protection against external elements

Creates a barrier between the tattoo and the outside world

Promote faster healing

Allows the tattoo to heal more effectively

Transparent, adhesive

Breathable and waterproof

Conform to the contours of the skin

Provides a comfortable fit

Locks in moisture

Allows the tattoo to breathe

6. Protecting Your Tattoo from Sun and Irritation

Shielding your tattoo from the sun and potential irritants is vital for maintaining its vibrant colors and preventing complications. Exposure to direct sunlight can cause your tattoo to fade prematurely, while friction and irritants can lead to inflammation and infection. To ensure the long-lasting beauty of your tattoo, follow these essential aftercare measures.

1. Cover Up

Whenever you expose your tattoo to the sun, whether it's during a day at the beach or a stroll in the park, make sure to cover it with loose-fitting clothing. This will help protect your tattoo from harmful UV rays and minimize the risk of irritation. Additionally, wearing breathable fabrics like cotton will provide better airflow and reduce the likelihood of sweat accumulation, which can hinder the healing process.

2. Use Tattoo Aftercare Wraps or Sheets

Tattoo aftercare wraps or sheets, such as plastic wrap or special film, can offer an extra layer of protection during the initial healing stage. These wraps create a barrier between your tattoo and external irritants, preventing them from coming into direct contact with your fresh ink. They also help retain moisture, allowing your tattoo to heal properly. Always follow the instructions provided by your tattoo artist when applying and removing these wraps to avoid any potential complications.

3. Follow Printable Tattoo Aftercare Instructions

Many tattoo artists provide printable aftercare instructions that outline the steps you need to take to care for your tattoo. These instructions may include specific dos and don'ts, recommendations on cleaning and moisturizing, and a suggested aftercare routine. Following these instructions meticulously will minimize the risk of infection, speed up the healing process, and ensure the longevity of your tattoo's vibrancy.

By following these protective measures, you can enjoy a beautifully vibrant tattoo for years to come while reducing the risk of complications and fading.


Tattoos are a form of self-expression and art, and taking care of them is essential to ensure they remain vibrant and visually appealing. Proper tattoo aftercare involves listening to your tattoo artist's instructions, keeping your tattoo clean and moisturized, protecting it from the sun and irritants, and choosing the best products for your skin.

By following these guidelines and maintaining a consistent aftercare routine, you can enjoy your tattoo for a lifetime without worrying about fading, scarring, or infections. Your tattoo is a unique work of art, and with the right care, it will continue to shine brightly for years to come.

Whether you're a tattoo enthusiast or considering your first ink, remember that tattoo aftercare is a crucial part of the journey. Embrace the process, and your tattoo will reward you with vibrant and lasting beauty.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How long does it take for a tattoo to heal completely?

  • A tattoo typically takes about 2-4 weeks to heal fully, but it can vary based on individual factors and the size of the tattoo.

2. Can I remove the bandage right after getting a tattoo?

  • No, it's essential to keep the initial bandage on for at least 1-2 hours to protect the tattoo from airborne bacteria. Follow your artist's instructions for removal.

3. Is it normal for a new tattoo to scab and peel?

  • Yes, scabbing and peeling are part of the normal healing process for tattoos. Avoid picking or scratching the scabs.

4. What type of soap should I use to clean my tattoo?

  • Use a mild, unscented soap without harsh chemicals to clean your tattoo. Tattoo-specific aftercare soaps are available.

5. How often should I wash my tattoo during the healing process?

  • Cleanse your tattoo gently with soap and lukewarm water twice a day, and pat it dry with a clean towel.

6. Can I go swimming with a new tattoo?

  • It's best to avoid swimming pools, hot tubs, and baths until your tattoo is fully healed, as soaking can increase the risk of infection.

7. When can I expose my tattoo to sunlight?

  • Wait until your tattoo is fully healed before exposing it to direct sunlight. Always apply sunscreen with a high SPF when outdoors.

8. Is it safe to use petroleum-based products on a healing tattoo?

  • It's generally best to avoid petroleum-based products as they can clog pores. Stick to tattoo-specific aftercare products or hypoallergenic lotions.

9. Can I wear tight clothing over my new tattoo?

  • It's better to wear loose-fitting clothing that doesn't rub against the tattoo during the healing process to prevent irritation.

10. What should I do if my tattoo becomes excessively itchy?

  • Avoid scratching it; instead, tap or pat the itchy area gently. Over-the-counter anti-itch creams can provide relief if necessary.

11. Are there specific foods that can help with tattoo healing?

  • Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can support overall skin health and the healing process.

12. Can I drink alcohol while my tattoo is healing?

  • It's best to avoid alcohol during the healing process, as it can affect circulation and delay healing.

13. Should I cover my tattoo with a bandage when sleeping?

  • While not always necessary, covering your tattoo with a clean, breathable cloth or bandage can prevent it from sticking to sheets or clothing.

14. Can I resume regular exercise after getting a tattoo?

  • You can engage in light exercise, but avoid activities that cause excessive sweating and friction on the tattoo.

15. How can I tell if my tattoo is infected?

  • Signs of infection include prolonged redness, swelling, pus-like discharge, severe itching, and increased pain. Seek medical attention if you suspect an infection.

16. What's the difference between tattoo balm and lotion for aftercare?

  • Tattoo balm is thicker and creates a protective barrier, while lotion is lighter and more easily absorbed. The choice depends on personal preference.

17. Can I use numbing creams for tattoo aftercare to reduce pain?

  • Numbing creams are typically used before the tattooing process and not recommended for aftercare. Follow your artist's guidance for pain management.

18. Is it normal for a tattoo to lose color during the healing process?

  • It's common for a tattoo to appear dull or faded during the initial healing, but the vibrancy usually returns once healing is complete.

19. Can I apply makeup over a healing tattoo to conceal it?

  • It's best to avoid makeup on a healing tattoo to prevent infection. Wait until the tattoo is fully healed before applying cosmetics.

20. How often should I follow up with my tattooist after getting inked?

  • Your tattoo artist will provide specific instructions, but follow-up appointments are typically scheduled to assess healing and discuss any touch-ups if needed.



bottom of page