An Important Note from Mo: All information listed on this page is based on my own experiences and research that I have personally gathered. By no means should anything on this page be taken as a recommendation by me or be taken as absolute fact.
How do I care for my new tattoo?
Is it ok if the tattoo gets a little dry/scab?
My tattoo is feeling pretty tight and looks really dry, should I use lotion at this point?
How safe is Tattooing?
What is cross-contamination?
What is an autoclave?
What is spore-testing?
Can I go tanning?
Does getting tattooed hurt?
Where does it hurt the most?
What is in tattoo ink? Can I get a reaction from it?
Tattoo aftercare can vary from tattooer to tattooer or shop to shop. The following is how I care for tattoos on myself…
I keep a bandage on for 2 hours at most. Most bandages applied to tattoos are not breathable. Having a bandage on for long durations of time can create an environment ideal for the growth of bacteria (warmth and moisture). The purpose of the bandage is to ensure that your tattoo is safe from the elements as you leave the shop and return home or another safe environment. I would not go out to public places with a tattoo that has just been made. The less exposure to people and different environments your tattoo is subject to, the less chance one will have of being exposed to bacteria or infection.
I use a body wash with emu oil 2 to 3 times per day. The first wash is done when the bandage has just been removed. After washing, the tattooed area is known to ‘weep’ or seep out bodily fluid. This can be blotted with a paper towel. Blotting can help prevent scabbing.
It usually doesn’t happen right away, but eventually, the tattoo does become itchy to the point where I feel like I want to scratch it or it feels really tight. To me, that’s a sign that the tattoo is very dry and needs a bit of moisturizer. I prefer to use Emu oil. I apply it sparingly by putting a drop on my finger and spreading it along. I continue to spread drops of emu oil until I’ve covered the tattooed area. I prefer not to give a regimented time frame for the use of emu oil. I let my skin tell me when it needs it (itchiness or feeling really tight). While using the emu oil, I continue to wash the tattoo 2-3 times in a day.
I stop doing the frequent washings at a point where the tattoo is no longer shedding black or coloured flakes. The skin will look like it is just peeling and shedding. At this stage, I use an emu oil moisturizer about 2-3 times in a day.
During the healing process, I only have showers. I don’t take baths, go swimming, or go into saunas. I avoid having the tattoo exposed to the effects of the sun. The showers I have are luke-warm so my skin-pores do not open up and I make them quick showers so I don’t over-saturate my skin. I avoid activities that would cause me to excessively sweat. I would avoid activities that cause friction (even friction from clothing) or constant movement of the skin that has been tattooed. Loose and breathable clothing, such as cotton, is best to wear if the tattoo is in an area that should be covered. Avoid wearing lightly coloured clothing or using lightly coloured bed sheets during healing as some of the ink may transfer over. I also make sure to have newly washed bed sheets to sleep in.
On average, a tattoo usually takes 7-10 days to heal but could take longer for areas that have been saturated with ink (filled solid). One will find that a colour tattoo seems to take longer to heal than a black and greywash piece would.
There is no problem with the tattoo getting a little dry during aftercare. You’ll probably wake up one day during aftercare and notice that the tattoo is looking VERY flaky and dry. I just continue with washings and again use lotion only when the tattoo is itchy.
Your tattoo can also develop a scab. Most Scabs develop on areas of the body where the skin expands and contracts the most. The aftercare can only help so much. The truth is that ink is not supposed to be in the skin and the body will try to reject it. Not much can be done about a scab once it develops. I just continue following my aftercare. A scab can possibly effect the outcome of a tattoo. It can cause an area of a tattoo to be missing ink after healing. After the tattoo is healed any holidays (missing ink) can be touched up by your tattooer and usually for a minimal set up fee where no profit is made.
Any very serious complications with the healing of a tattoo should be consulted with a health practitioner.
I find that if I’ve followed my aftercare loyally that any problems during aftercare become minimal. The constant washing allows me to use water as a natural moisturizer and takes off the dry flakes without having them picked off. Sometimes after the water is gone from washing the tattoo does get dry which is normal. Any itchiness is a sign from my body that it needs more than just a washing. That’s when I would use an emu oil product such as Tattoo Therapy. If the tattoo feels tight, it’s usually because a lot of area is tattooed or the tattoo is in an area where the skin expands and contracts a lot. Try not to use that area of the body if at all possible or use it minimally.
That would depend on where you choose to get your tattoo. You can protect yourself by becoming a smart consumer and educating yourself on safe practices. Learn what cross-contamination is, what an autoclave is, and what is spore-testing. While you’re at it, make sure your doctor, dentist, and so forth are in practice of such things. It took me a long time to find a dentist who would show me proof of spore-testing!!! As far as I know, there have been very few cases of hepatitis B found to be from tattoos and there haven’t been any cases that I know of involving AIDS, HIV, or Hepatitis C. Most professional shops are very conscious of safe tattooing, hygiene, sterility, and prevention of cross-contamination. You run the risk of getting an infection or worse if you get tattooed in someone’s basement or in the back of a van. Beware of extremely under-priced tattoos as well; chances are a cheap tattoo is done by someone who cuts corners. Ask specific questions in regards to safe practices. If the tattooer hesitates in answering your inquiries, run the other way!
Cross-contamination is the spread of micro-organisms from one surface to another. This can happen if a person (even if wearing gloves) touches a contaminated surface and after touches another surface then contaminating it. There are many bacteria and other micro-organisms that are aided in multiplying in this way. Hepatitis can live in dried blood exposed to air for over a week!!!!! Ask your tattooer if they ever taken a course in regards to safe-tattooing or blood borne pathogens. Your tattooer should have cleaned the work station and safe guarded his equipment with plastic bags. Your tattooer shouldn’t be touching unprotected surfaces or his/herself with their soiled gloves. If they touched their clothes or hair with gloves on while you where there, chances are they did so with the person before you! Thus, they just did cross-contamination. New ink caps should be used for ink so as not to contaminate ink bottles. If your tattooer needs more ink, they should be discarding their gloves to go get more and the ink bottle should not touch the cap when they go to refill the ink. Things that should be bagged include the tattoo machine, the clip cord, the wash bottle, and the knob that adjusts power.
An autoclave is a device that uses steam and pressure to sterilize equipment. This means that all bacteria, fungi, viruses, and spores are destroyed. Autoclaves work by creating and environment that maintains a pressure of 103 kPa and a temperature of 121 °C for at least 20 minutes. As an extra precaution, I run my equipment unpackaged first before running them through packaged.
To ensure that an autoclave functions correctly a spore test is done. A laboratory sends packets which are placed in an autoclave in order to test if an autoclave can effectively destroy spores. After the packets are run through a cycle, they are sent back to the laboratory for testing. A tattoo shop should be able to provide you with a recent spore test result. I would not recommend getting a tattoo from a place that cannot provide you with such information, just like I wouldn’t go to a dentist who cannot provide such info! I’m not sure if it’s true, but one dentist told me that the Canadian dental association does not require that autoclaves be spore tested!!! Scary? Yes. Most Health Departments require tattoo shops to perform spore tests bi-monthly.
A tattoo does fade from constant exposure to the sun or tanning beds. It does not matter at what stage the tattoo is at… constant exposure will affect it regardless. During the aftercare and the first couple of months of having the tattoo is when the fading effect of tanning can do more damage. I like to tell my clients to not bother with tanning the tattooed area for at least one year so that it has much time to settle in.
Yes it does. How much it hurts depends on your pain threshold. Generally, the pain involved with tattoos is bearable. It’s a burning sensation very similar to that burn when you scrape yourself against the ground. If you truly fear that getting tattooed with hurt a great deal, you shouldn’t get tattooed. You’re simply not ready until you can say to yourself, “This is just a moment of time, so all I gotta do is just deal with it, relax, breathe normally and let this person do their thing.”
Generally, where you are most sensitive to touch is where you have less of a pain threshold.
Tattoo ink is actually not really ink but pigments derived from metal salts (and sometimes contain plastics) or synthetic organic dyes. Other ingredients typically include water, glycerin, and alcohol. There is no such thing as an FDA approved ink and generally is unregulated although some regulation is coming into effect in various parts of the globe. Ink Allergies are very extremely rare but do happen. Tattoo ink (while in bottle) should not be in contact with direct sunlight or heat and is usually not recommended for use near your eyes. If you’re concerned about getting an allergic reaction to tattoo ink, I would recommend asking your tattoo artist to do a test patch on you before you decide to get tattooed.