Getting a tattoo is a big life decision, mainly because the ink will stay with you for the rest of your life (or until you decide to get it lasered off). For most people, having tattoos is the best way to express the person’s strong feelings, aspirations, and perspectives in life. However, the process of tattooing is not a joke, and neither is the healing and long-term care part. This article is mainly about how to take care of a tattoo, how to protect yourself from infection, and how to take care of the ink colors to keep them bright for the years to come.
During and After the Tattoo Session
The process of tattooing involves puncturing your skin using a tiny needle that injects the pigment into your skin. It is a very painful process and you need to be sure about getting a tattoo before sitting on your tattooist’s chair. After all, the suffering from getting a tattoo is not only during getting the tattoo, but also while waiting for it to heal which takes generally 3-4 weeks.
Before working on the tattoo, the tattooist will first disinfect the area where he will make the tattoo. You also have to make sure that your tattoo artist is not recycling his sterile needles. Getting diseases like HIV is very easy when people share needles for drugs and tattoos.
After the tattoo work is finished, your tattoo artist will cover the area with sterile gauze to keep germs from entering your artistic wound. Although the idea of covering the wound is ideal, you should not let the gauze stay there for longer than 2 hours. The gauze may stick to the wound when it dries up and it would be painfully difficult for you to remove it. Besides, a good 2 hours on top of a fresh wound would make the gauze itself conducive for bacteria-breeding.
While waiting for the tattoo to heal properly, you cannot let the area get wet for long periods of time. This means that you cannot, under any circumstances, swim in a pool or go to a sauna or spa. The wound needs to dry fast so the scabs will form easier and heal faster. When taking a bath, you have to lightly lather soap to the area using your fingers and immediately rinse the suds off. To dry the area, don’t rub it with a towel. Simply dab lightly with a cotton cloth and let it air dry.
Your fashion statement will also be affected by your decision to get a tattoo. For the next three to four weeks, you have no option but to wear clothing that will not brush up against your new tattoo. Else, it might cause infection or tattoo discoloration.
Scabs will form on your tattoo and it will be normal if the area is swollen and red for the first few days. Do not pick on the scab or scratch the area. Aside from risking infection, you are also risking the chance of taking off a scab too soon and picking off the color with it. Imagine a red heart tattoo with a big missing red piece in the middle if you pick on the scab too early. Scabs will peel off by themselves and this will happen while you are cleaning the area while taking a bath.
Protecting the Tattoo Ink
The most crucial stage of protecting the tattoo ink is while the wound is still healing and the scabs are there. Tattoos in their early stages can be really itchy and strong is the man (or woman) who can resist the temptation of scratching or picking on them. As earlier mentioned, you have to avoid scratching, picking, or applying too much pressure on your scabbed tattoo because the tattoo ink hasn’t properly settled on your skin yet.
To get a fine, evenly-colored tattoo, take care to let the tattoo heal naturally, including letting the scabs peel off by themselves. You may also protect the tattoo by applying salve (don’t use products with aloe vera as they tend to heal the wound too quickly) over the wound for the first 2-3 weeks. However, apply only enough salve that would make a thin covering over the tattoo. Applying too much salve can damage the color too.
You might be tempted to use hydrogen peroxide or rub alcohol to relieve the itching sensation without picking or scratching on the wound. Beware though, because these two things can make the color fade fast if the wound is still unhealed. Some people suggest slapping the wound instead of scratching it to relieve the itchy feeling. However, don’t do this too hard if you don’t want to open the wounds or cause further damage to the skin.
Long-Term Tattoo Care
If the tattoo has healed properly and you have a nice-looking skin print on your body, congratulations! You have passed the trying test of keeping a tattoo looking good through an arduous healing process. However, taking care of a tattoo doesn’t end with waiting for the last scab to fall off. After your wound has completely healed, your next task is to keep the color bright and to keep the tattoo looking as good as new.
One way to protect your tattoo is by constantly applying sunscreen over it every time you go out of the house. Sunburns over the tattoo will cause the tattoo to fade and look uneven in certain places. A sunscreen during the summer and lotion during winter is the best way to keep your tattoo looking bright and fresh.
For people who like working out all the time, try to keep the sweat off your tattoo as it makes the colors fade faster. Change clothes right after your work out or make it a point to wipe the sweat off your tattoo while you aren’t finished with your workout yet. In a few years, your tattoo might need some touch-ups to keep the color looking bright. As much as possible, try to go back to the tattoo artist who worked on your tattoo, especially if he has proven that he is clean and professional with his job.
Things to Look Out For
The most crucial part of getting a tattoo is waiting for it to heal. If it is still in the healing process and the tattoo is too painful, swollen, and red, you have to go to the doctor to check for an infection. If green or yellow pus is coming out, you need to go to the doctor as soon as you can to avoid an ugly hole on your tattoo area.
If the tattoo is old and you are noticing some small bumps or a large bump in the area, you have to get it checked with the doctor to make sure that it isn’t a skin tumor. Some poor-quality tattoo inks can also cause allergies and cancer. If there are raised spots on your tattoo, swelling, or an itchy sensation, better seek the help of a doctor to treat whatever is wrong with your skin. Tattoos should be a beautiful expression of yourself, but you have to make sure that it won’t endanger your life and that it will not cause you unnecessary pain.