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How to Care for Your New Tattoo

Oct 26, 2007
You've talked about it for ages. All your friends had decided you were just chicken, but you finally got that tattoo you've always wanted. Now it's going to be there for the rest of your life. With the proper care, it will look brand new for years to come. If you understand how tattoos work and what happens if they don't get all the tender loving care they need, it will be easier to get into the habit. Treat your new tattoo like an investment.

The tattooist uses a gun that's about the same size as the drill a dentist would use. The number of needles it holds at one time depends on how much ink needs to be deposited to achieve the desired affect. Your skin has two layers: the dermis and the epidermis. The epidermis is the surface layer, and the dermis is underneath. The ink is deposited about a millimeter under the skin in the dermis.

Your tattooist will bandage his newest work of art before you leave his shop. Leave it wrapped up for at least 10 to 12 hours. This protects it while the skin is its most vulnerable, and gives it time to properly scab over. Once the bandage is off, don't cover your tattoo up again. Rebandaging can trap foreign particles such as dirt and lint under the gauze, irritating your skin increasing your chances for infection.

There are as many recommendations for tattoo lubrication as there are tattoo shops, but a few facts hold true. Petroleum-based products used to be the aftercare of choice, since it was inexpensive and could be found just about anywhere. It has since been discovered that they can take color out of your tattoo, and does nothing whatsoever to promote healing and stave off infection.

For a while, Neosporin was the favored alterative. It has antibiotic properties and preserved the color beautifully. However, some people developed small, red bumps on their new tattoos. The bumps generally healed without much problem, but they took some color with them when they went. Hoards of Neosporin users are walking around with spotted tats.

Bacitracin is the big thing in tattoo aftercare right now. It's good for fighting infection and keeps the tattoo moist to keep the healing skin healthy. It's not perfect; some people still have allergic reactions. There is no one thing that will work perfectly for everyone. A&D Ointment or Micotracin are good alternatives.

A&D is a great choice for people who don't do well with antibiotic ointments. While it doesn't have infection-fighting proprieties, it does have vitamins that promote healing. Unless you're prone to infection, keeping your tat clean should be enough. If your immune system is compromised for any reason, you don't need to get a tattoo anyway. Wait until your back up to speed.

Whatever your choice of ointment, use it frequently. Don't ever let your fresh tattoo dry out. Keeping the tat moist will keep your scabs from falling off too early. Eventually, the tattoo will develop a layer of dry skin over the top. Resist the urge to peel or scrub it off. That's just another way to get it infected. Let it fall off naturally.

Don't scrub or scratch your new tattoo. Don't pick at the scabs. They are natural way of protecting newly traumatized skin. Picking them off is not only gross, it's painful, will bleed and you're just asking for infection. It will make your tat look ugly, and who wants to show that off?

The color in your new tat is especially susceptible to fading in the first two weeks. During that time, avoid direct sunlight. Soaking in the bathtub is a bad idea too. In fact, spending time in any water, specifically water than has chemicals in it, such as swimming pools or hot tubs should be avoided as well.
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