How to Care for a New Tattoo

Whether you just got your first tattoo or you're seasoned with the ink but want to find a new method that works better for your skin type, these steps can help you keep your new tattoo clean, healthy and looking like new.

Go straight to the source. Before considering an alternative method of caring for your new tattoo, check with the tattoo artist or studio that gave you the tattoo to see what they recommend. If this is your first tattoo, it may be best to follow their instructions in case you have any future concerns or questions. They will be able to better assist you if you followed their protocol.

Wash your hands. Before handling your tattoo in any way, make sure your hands are clean. This includes rubbing on petroleum jelly or lotion, removing the bandage, or simply touching the area around it. Your hands are full of germs that can infect your new tattoo and cause discomfort and even discoloration.

Remove the bandage. After 2-5 hours, remove the bandage and let the tattoo air dry. You should not re-bandage after this time. If you will be going to bed soon after getting the tattoo, leave the bandage on overnight to avoid sticking to your sheets. It doesn't sound pleasant, but it feels even less pleasant! If you do get stuck to either the bandage or your clothing, wet it, then gently peel it away from your skin.

Wash up. After removing the bandage, gently wash the tattoo with soap and warm water. Use your fingertips to carefully remove any dried blood that may be bothersome. Use a clean towel to pat it dry. Apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly or unscented lotion to cover the area.

Keep it moisturized. Continue to apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly or lotion to the tattoo 2-4 times a day. It is important to keep it moist, but don't apply the moisturizer so thick that the air can never reach the skin. Continue to keep the tattoo moisturized for 2-3 weeks.

Shower but don't bathe. Soaking your tattoo can affect the coloring, so stick with showers until it is fully healed. Before showering, apply a thick layer of petroleum jelly to help protect your skin from the water. While in the shower, avoid direct water pressure. Finally, wipe off any excess petroleum jelly so that only a thin layer remains.

Hands off! Other than cleaning and moisturizing, leave the tattoo alone during the healing process. Picking at it or scratching it disturbs the natural process and can affect its coloring and health. You want the skin to go through 2 or 3 layers of peeling to achieve the brightest coloring, but don't even think about "helping" it along.

Watch yourself! Once you're all healed up and ready to hit the pool, apply sunscreen to the area if it will be exposed to the sun. Sun can fade the ink, burn your skin more intensely and cause an itchy reaction. Sunscreen should only be used once the tattoo has healed.


Petroleum jelly and/or lotion can be substituted with an antibiotic ointment, but only for the first 2 days, and should really only be used if an infection is present. If your skin is not infected, the antibiotic is no better than regular petroleum jelly or lotion. Wear loose clothing until completely healed.


Stay away from alcohol or aspirin for three days before getting your tattoo as they can cause your blood to thin, which can affect the coloring of the tattoo. Do not go swimming, hot tubbing or tanning until the tattoo has completely healed.

Things You'll Need

  • Antibacterial soap
  • Clean towel
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Unscented lotion
  • Sunscreen
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