Taking care of your new tattoo is simple, and should be no problem at all if you follow some easy care instructions I have listed below.
To make it COMPLETELY EASY for you, I have made a series of little movies for you to watch that give you the information I would like you to know in order to be an informed tattoo consumer. You can watch them below as streaming videos:
It is to be hoped that viewing these videos has inspired you to advance your epidermal embellishment. People often find truth in the old tattoo adage: "A mile to the first tattoo; an inch to the second." If you are interested in a custom Celtic piece for your next tattoo, please investigate the video portfolio and photos of my work at my:
Once you are convinced that I am the artist for you, learn about setting up an appointment at the:
If you arrived at this page because you just got a tattoo, and that is enough for you for now, then here is my written advice about care:
The goal is for you to be an informed consumer, whether you come to my studio, use one of my designs somewhere else, or maybe are just thinking about getting a tattoo and stumbled across my internet site in your process.
In any responsible tattoo studio most of the set-up is disposable, and until recently it was enough that the machine equipment was autoclave sterilized between uses. That's what I did for the first 20 years of my tattoo career. But now we have PRION diseases.
Prions cause diseases like Mad Cow, and because they are misfolded proteins, they are not alive and cannot be killed by autoclaving. So if a tattoo artist uses a metal tube in their machine and carefully cleans it in an ultrasonic and then autoclaves it, they are still not able to get rid of this class of diseases.
You might think they only have mad cow in the UK, but Alzheimer's is also caused by a prion, and leaves the same sort of holes in your brain. The main difference is that it is slow-moving and usually affects old people while mad cow strikes the young also. It is something that can be passed with blood contaminated equipment, and is a new risk factor with tattoos.
So equipment needs to be sterile, and it is just as vital that the tattoo artist does not cross-contaminate their work area. Once they start to handle the machines and equipment they should be wearing disposable gloves, and when they turn to you to start the tattoo they should put on a fresh pair. If they answer the phone of course they need to strip off the bloody gloves first, and everything they handle during the process should be covered with a plastic barrier film to keep it from getting blood on it. Then this is replaced fresh before the next client.
You have seen a change at your dentist's office, I hope, and seen that they now place these barrier films and plastic bags on equipment. Just because tattooing is a somewhat transgressive act don't think that you should be any less observant, and that the artist should be careless with your health.
It is your responsibility to observe an artist at work, and decide if this is a safe place for you to be tattooed. And you might want to think about the fact that your dentist knows this about his tools, and yet he continues to autoclave and re-use them. It is now law in the European Union that medical, dental and tattoo equipment be single use, but in America the government doesn't check the beef for mad cow and is not acting in your best interest by apparently preferring that you remain uninformed.
For me it is a moral issue, so I use an ENTIRELY DISPOSABLE setup. Everything is single-use. That way you and I both know I have done everything I can to prevent a disease brought in by one client from passing to another.
Years ago I was trained by a representative of the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta in the Blood Borne Pathogens Standards. I presume every client has mad cow, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, hepatitis or AIDS; and I act accordingly. That way I don't risk contamination and neither does the next customer. This is the moral part of the job, and I appreciate your trust both in my artistic ability and my ability to make this a safe procedure.
But, once you leave the studio it is your responsibility to heal it well. This should take about four weeks of attention, then your tattoo will be a thing of beauty that will last as long as you do. Before you get the tattoo you might want to increase your intake of foods containing vitamins C, A & D, as those are known to promote skin healing. It is also sensible to abstain from alcohol or aspirin during the days immediately preceding a tattoo, since they thin the blood, which can cause excess bleeding that washes the pigment back out. Read on for detailed written Tattoo Care Instructions.
Leave the bandage on either 2 hours or overnight. If you are going to be sleeping on hotel sheets, hey, the bandage is cleaner. Best to wear some sort of cotton clothing that covers it so that if the bandage comes loose in the night you don't end up stuck to the sheet. It won't be funny that you left a print of your tattoo on the sheet when you realize it ripped away a healed layer of skin. With some sort of pj on, if you get stuck to it you can go into the shower, get it wet, and gently peel it away.
When the bandage is removed gently wash the area with a mild soap and water, working loose any bits of dried blood or ooze that might be on the surface.
DO NOT REBANDAGE. At this point you want to begin to moisturize your tattoo, and let it breathe. Use UNSCENTED good quality hand lotion frequently and sparingly. The one I personally think is the best is CUREL FRAGRANCE FREE because the main ingredients are glycerin and water. Most hand and body lotions are made of alcohol and oil, and just don't work as well. But the most important thing is that you look at the ingredients in whatever you are going to use and make sure there is NO FRAGRANCE.
Also notice I am saying LOTION not OINTMENT. A lotion allows the wound to breathe as it heals. An ointment covers it with a layer of grease, which will cause it to start leaking out the ink, and eventually you'll set up a big scab. That scab is made out of ink you are losing, so don't let it happen. Just use an unscented lotion frequently and sparingly, rubbing a small amount all the way in as often as possible.
Believe me, I KNOW that you are going to have friends tell you to use Neosporin or Bacitracin. Don't do it. They contain antibiotics, which they have no healing value unless there is infection present. You will need them if you introduce dirt or germs into the tattoo, but for normal healing you want a moisturizer.
So keep on using the moisturizer for four weeks, and for the first couple of days I would say it is not too much to put it on once an hour. As soon as the tattoo begins to feel a bit tight or dry, feed it moisture! The more you do so, the quicker the skin will heal over. The idea here is to PREVENT SCABBING. A scab will be the pigment pulled up and out onto the surface. Obviously if you want the brightest possible tattoo you want to leave the pigment beneath the surface. The best possible healing will be a couple of peels, like after a bad sunburn, like a snake shedding skin.
Do not pick or scratch at it while it is healing. Don't mess with the crust.
Remember to wash your hands before applying the lotion. If you have handled money your hands are filthy. If you pet an animal and then rub in lotion, eeeuuuuugh, think about where they might have been. Be sensible, remember that it is a wound that needs your help to heal.
If it is difficult for you to clean your hands every time, carry some Purel or another "waterless hand sanitizer" in your pocket. First clean your hands, then rub in the lotion. FREQUENTLY and SPARINGLY.
No direct sunlight for 2-3 weeks. This is absolutely vital with red ink, it can easily develop a photosensitivity and you DO NOT want to experience the intense itch of this reaction. But with every color of ink, even black, the sun is a major cause of new tattoos looking blurred and the reason old tattoos fade.
No soaking in water, no swimming, hot tubbing, or direct shower water beating on it for 2-3 weeks. Of course you can keep clean, we want you not to stink when you show off your new art, but if the healing bit soaks up water it will be like going swimming when you were a kid and had a scab. Remember how the waterlogged scab would float away.......there goes your new tattoo! Seriously! No surfing, dudes!
If it does get wet in the shower, gently pat it dry, don't rub at it with a towel. Then, immediately after getting it dried off, remoisturize it.
If you work out, or do contact sports, take a bit of a break. Worry about getting contact abrasions that could knock off the healing skin, or in a gym worry about over-straining delicate perforated tissue and getting a stretch mark, or touching a piece of sweat-contaminated workout equipment with an open raw area..... wait a couple of weeks.
It is up to you to protect your investment. By giving your tattoo proper care while healing you insure that you will enjoy it for the rest of your life. It will age as gracefully as you do.
Should something begin to seem awry, here is my common sense "without seeing it" advice:
****I AM NOT A DOCTOR AND THESE ARE JUST SUGGESTIONS***
IF IT GETS REALLY ITCHY: get a HYDROCORTISONE CREAME 1% at the grocery store, like LANACORT or CORTAID, and use that on it instead of the Curel. Give it a day, it should bring down the swelling if what you are getting is a histamine reaction to the foreign material placed in your body. Another way to cut the itching is to get BENEDRYL, also a non-prescription item. Recognise that it is a measure of the health of your immune system how it reacts to having the pigment inserted into your body.
If some sort of contaminant or environmental pollutant has gotten into it then you may need to switch to NEOSPORIN CREAME (not ointment) or BACITRACIN CREAME or one of the other triple-antibiotics, all of which should be available at the grocery store in creame form. You don't want a petroleum form, that would smother the healing tattoo in grease. Give these topical products a chance to kill the starting infection. Some people have an allergic reaction to antibiotics, and can go into anaphylactic shock, so use sparingly and only when needed.
If the body part is an extremity, like the ankle, keep it elevated above the level of your heart as much as possible to bring down the swelling.
If after two days you don't see significant improvement then go to a doctor and get their advice. If you are around kids or animals you may easily have gotten something that is causing an infection, like staph, in the open surface area of the tattoo, and a doctor will give you a cycle of antibiotics to fix that.
If you are wanting some reassuring words you could email me, but basically I am just going to repeat this advice. Without actually seeing the tattoo in person there is no way I can make an informed comment. I am always shocked at the number of people who read this page and then email me for consolation or help, who apparently do not feel comfortable with going back to the person they trusted to do their tattoo and asking for help.
It is the responsibility of the tattoo shop to be informative and helpful, and to help you get the best result possible so that you enjoy your tattoo and want to get a lot more of them. That's why I play these little movies for my clients. This way I know that even if I'm feeling in a rush that day, or distracted with a million tasks, I KNOW every person got the same amount of information I believe it is vital for them to have. And that's why I have placed them here on my public web page, because I believe in tattooing as an ancient, splendid, important way to externalize your aesthetics and affirm your identity. I want you to have a success with getting a tattoo, most especially if you have come to me for it or have used one of my custom designs. But most importantly it is good for the tattoo industry as a whole that clients are as informed as possible.
Be safe and BE ART.
A nice letter from someone who was helped by this information:
Thank You Pat,
I just finished getting my fifth tattoo and checked your web page again for your aftercare tips. I followed your advice on my previous tattoos and they ALL turned out to heal absolutely perfectly. No scabbing, just that lizard skin peel you so accurately described. I read your web page after my very first and then reminded myself of the correct procedure after each subsequent one. I am 64 yrs old and got my first one @ 62 yrs old so my skin is not what would be described as in the "bloom of youth", but your tips made sure my tattoos healed, infection free, but have truly held their original colour. If I decide to add one more to my collection I will make the trip to beautiful Santa Barbara and spend my money wisely with you!!
Thanks again, great movies, you provide a valuable service.
Regards, Kevin M.