- After getting a tattoo, you should clean and moisturize it twice a day for the first week.
- You should also avoid going in the sun since sunlight can fade the ink in new tattoos.
- It takes about two weeks to a month for a tattoo to completely heal.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Tattoos are an exciting way to adorn your skin with custom art that you love. But the tattoo process doesn’t end when you leave the tattoo shop. Your aftercare routine is extremely important to make sure your new ink heals properly and looks great.
How to care for your new tattoo
Technically, a new tattoo is a wound, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Mount Sinai. In order to heal your skin, you must keep the area clean and moisturized in order to protect against infection.
- Your artist will cover the tattoo with a bandage and tell you how long it should stay on. Love personally recommends leaving the bandage on for 24 hours.
- After removing the bandage, gently clean the area with antibacterial soap and water. Never scrub a new tattoo with a washcloth or any other abrasive material.
- Next, moisturize the tattoo with a thick oil-based moisturizer such as Vaseline or Aquaphor. Love says this keeps the tattoo moist and prevents scabbing. Apply this moisturizer two or three times throughout the day.
Repeat steps two and three every day for the next week.
After the first week, Zeichner says you can switch from your heavier moisturizer to a lighter fragrance-free moisturizer — but you should still be applying it twice a day.
“During the next several weeks, the tattoo itself may appear healed on the outside, but the deeper skin layers are continuing to repair themselves. Continue to moisturize on the outside, and take care not to traumatize the skin,” says Zeichner.
Additionally, you should know what to avoid while your tattoo heals. For the first couple of days, Zeichner says you should steer clear of intense exercise that would result in significant sweating, since this can disrupt the healing process.
You should also avoid sun exposure while the tattoo heals. Zeichner says sunburns can cause fading. If you have to spend time in the sun, he recommends using a
oxide sunscreen, since it’s less likely to cause irritation than other sunscreens.
How long does a tattoo take to heal? It can take anywhere from two weeks to around a month for a tattoo to heal, depending on its size and location, says Love.
Long-term tattoo care
Tattoo upkeep is never finished — even after it’s completely healed. If you want to preserve the tattoo’s vibrant appearance, do the following:
- Keep the skin moisturized: Use a fragrance-free moisturizer once a day, or more frequently if you’re prone to dry skin.
- Use SPF 30 or higher sunscreen on your tattoo: The sun can damage the surface of the skin where the tattoo pigment is and cause fading — applying sunscreen can help prevent this from happening, says Love.
Aftercare is crucial for your tattoo to heal properly and healthily. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your tattoo artist or dermatologist if you have any questions or concerns about your tattoo during the healing process.
Once your tattoo is totally healed, you should still give it some TLC to make sure it looks great for years to come.
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