Whether you’re inked all over or considering your first ever tattoo, the topic of tattoo aftercare is one that will sit at the top of your list of considerations each time you step into a tattoo studio.
After all, there’s not much point putting all that time, thought and money into getting tatted up if you’re not going to look after the piece post-ink.
Lauren Winzer knows this all too well. The celebrity tattoo artist, and ambassador for Bepanthen Tattoo, has been tattooing clients – including the likes of Miley Cyrus – for years out of Sydney studio Hunter and Fox (I’ve been inked here, can recommend). She took some time to share her wisdom with Lifehacker Australia audiences, over email.
Here are Lauren Winzer’s top pieces of tattoo aftercare advice
1.Don’t mess with your skin before heading in
So, you’ve decided on a tattoo artist, design and date. How exciting! You may be filled with nervous energy or just wanting to help move the process along, but Winzer shared that it’s a bad idea to fiddle with your skin too much before a tattoo.
“There’s no need to over moisturise or wax or shave the area – your tattoo artist will do that for you during the consultation,” she explained.
“The most important thing is to come with some good in your belly, with no sunburn, and without too much alcohol in your system.”
Put down the beer. Boozy tattoo sessions are a bad idea, okay?
2. Your new tattoo is essentially a wound – treat it as such
When it comes to the tattoo itself, Winzer said that most people assume “it’s actually one long needle dragging through your skin”.
In reality, getting a tattoo involves “lots of tiny needles ‘dotting’ really fast, up and down, throughout the skin – creating a straight line. The ink goes into the wound that the needle has created in the dermis, the second layer of the skin”.
These ink-filled ‘wounds’ will then scab over and begin to heal. Aftercare works to help the healing process, but more than that, Winzer stressed that it’s an essential step if you want to “ensure it looks just as you and your tattoo artist intended it to…”
“The ‘thINK before you INK’ Tattoo Culture Report by Bepanthen Tattoo found only 4-in-10 inked Aussies (42%) love their first tattoo now as much as they did on first reveal, and I’d make a bet that’s because they hadn’t taken proper care of it,” she continued.
“Aftercare using an ointment helps the skin actively heal after the tattoo needle punctures it, and helps to repair its natural barrier from within. Keeping the skin hydrated, but not wet, during the healing process ensures the ink heals in place and the ‘scab’ doesn’t turn into a scar.”
3. There are a handful of tattoo aftercare sins you should avoid
In a nutshell, Winzer said your best move is to listen to the advice of your tattoo artist on post-ink care. But there are some huge no-nos that remain consistent with every tat.
“Don’t go into the sun without adequate sun protection (tattoos can fade when exposed to UV), don’t apply any fake tan or perfume to the area while the skin is still healing as it could get infected (depending on what ingredients are in those products), [and] don’t go swimming in chlorine for the same reason,” Winzer said.
In addition to all that, she added that if you use soap on the area, it should be fragrance-free and “made of goat’s milk or other soft ingredients”. Avoid anything that exfoliates the skin, and stay away from “anything with peppermint oil – that can hurt!”
If you want Winzer’s tattoo aftercare routine, she recommended washing your tattoo with lukewarm water (soap is not always necessary), applying a thin layer of ointment – her suggestion is Bepanthen Tattoo, naturally – and re-applying each time your skin around the tattoo feels tight.
“You’ll know your tattoo is fully healed when it’s not raised as you lightly run a finger over it,” she said. The timeline for this will depend on the design and placement of your tattoo, but three weeks usually works as a general rule, Winzer explained.
Now go forth (if COVID-19 restrictions allow) and get yourself inked-up successfully.