AFTERCARE GUIDELINES FOR TATTOOS
• Remove the bandage after one hour, two maximum. All wounds need to breathe if they are to heal properly.
• Wash the tattoo using your fingertips or hand only. Use a mild antibacterial soap and warm water. Take care to remove all traces of blood as this will cause scabbing. Do not scrub the tattoo with a washcloth during the two week healing period. Always gently pat the tattoo dry with a clean soft cloth or just let it air dry.
• Apply a thin coat of ointment to the tattoo, Aquaphor, A&D Ointment and Tattoo Goo are all very good.
(Just enough to make it shine, a little goes a long way) Work it in well. Dab off all the excess with a paper towel. You should barely be able to tell that it's there. This is just enough to keep the tattoo moist and to keep it from scabbing. Your body heat will liquefy the ointment and it may become glossy looking or runny. This means there's too much on there. Dab more off. Too much ointment will only suffocate the tattoo and liquefy any scabs that may have formed causing the ink to fall out and look blotchy. There is no need to re-bandage the tattoo. Aquaphor, A&D Ointment, Tattoo Goo and Vitamin E Oil can all be very good for your new tattoo.
• Ointment can be applied whenever the tattoo is feeling stiff or dry but beware of over-moisturizing. Your body will absorb what it needs where it needs it. Apply ointment twice a day for two to three days then switch to a regular moisturizer like Aveeno, Eucerin, Keri, Lubriderm, Curel, Jergens, or Vaseline Intensive care. Apply moisturizer twice a day for the remainder of two weeks. Do not use lotions that contain color or fragrance or sparkles until the healing is complete. (Usually anywhere from ten days to two weeks;Possibly longer for slower healers.)
• Your skin will form a protective layer no matter what you do. If you do not keep it moist or if you keep it too moist (it's a personal balance, different for each individual), it will form a thick, hard scab that may crack when you move. When you form this kind of a scab the ink sits within it and slowly heals into the skin. When the tattoo is kept moist it doesn't have a chance to form a scab but does form a thin membrane to protect the tattoo while it heals. This layer peels off very similar to a sunburn (do not peel your tattoo, you will pull the ink out!) and it is perfectly normal to see small flakes of colored skin falling off during this stage of healing.
• You must keep your tattoo clean, however, long showers or baths must be avoided for 2 weeks. Prolonged soaking can and will loosen scabs if any have formed, or will soak through the soft tissue turning it into a soggy mess and cause your ink to flow down the drain. This includes Swimming in the Ocean or a Pool, Hot Tubs, and Saunas. Short showers are best, under ten minutes if possible.
• Please refrain from scratching or picking at the tattoo. Scrubbing with a washcloth can be very harsh on a tattoo and will cause your colors to fade. Disrupting the tattoo while it's healing can also cause scar tissue. It is normal for the tattoo to become very itchy during the healing time. To relieve this, slap it with your hand (this will sting it and take away the itch).
• The sun is BAD for your tattoo, even if you've had it for a loooooong time. A sunburn on a new tattoo can cause a lot of problems. It will dry out your tattoo and cause it to form a horrendous scab much of the time causing the tattoo to fade before it is even healed. It will take much longer to heal completely. It promotes scarring in a new tattoo. Wait until it is fully healed to go back in the sun or a tanning bed and make sure you put on a high quality SUNBLOCK (not sunscreen). But, do not apply sunblock while the tattoo is healing.
The tattoo is under your skin, and your tan will form above it. If you get too dark, some colors (white, yellow, pink, and orange) may not show up as brightly as they could. Over time, excessive exposure to sunlight will cause your tattoo to fade no matter what colors are used.
• Just a note:
Remember that hands and feet reproduce skin cells much faster than other parts of the body. A tattoo in these areas will sometimes take an extra two weeks to heal. During this time refrain from washing dishes, wearing gloves, or wearing socks and shoes (sandals must not rub the tattoo). Any friction of this type WILL wear away the tattoo within a very short period of time.
Tattoos in these areas are almost never guaranteed.
• Individuals heal in so many different ways, it's hard to tell (especially for first-timers) exactly what will happen - whether the tattoo will scab or peel. A tattoo in one spot may heal completely different from a tattoo in another spot. The way an artist works the skin can also make a difference in the way a tattoo heals. There is no way to fortell exactly what every tattoo is going to do while healing or how to heal it.
• Yes, it's probably better for a tattoo to peel, but sometimes people just don't heal this way. Sometimes a scab will form no matter what you do. For some, it's hard to tell whether or not a scab is forming. Sometimes a piece will look like it's scabbed over but will peel, other times it's obvious that a thick, hard scab has formed. If a scab does form you may have to do things a bit differently... You should always check with your artist before you change any of your aftercare procedure. Each artist has their own methods of aftercare.
• Maybe it's just me, but I notice a lot of people getting tattooed and then over-applying ointment and lotion - too frequently or just too much of it. Keeping it too moist, to the point that it's nearly turning any repairing tissue to mush. Then, while they sleep the mush hardens, turning to a scab. Morning comes and on goes more goo... that then absorbs into the scab turning it to mush again... and later, dries out to form a thicker scab.
• Sometimes a tattoo just needs to scab. If it does form a scab discontinue the ointment or moisturizer. Let the tattoo 'dry heal'. You will have to keep an eye on it and keep any scabs from getting pulled off prematurely, but personally, I find it to be the best way. If anything, apply a sparing amount of moisturizer or ointment twice a day or less, if at all. No matter what, your body will heal. Touch ups are always available.
AFTERCARE GUIDELINES FOR BODY PIERCINGS
Cleaning Solutions. Use one or both of the following solutions for healing piercings:
• Packaged sterile saline solution with no additives (read the label), or a non-iodized sea salt mixture: Dissolve 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized (iodine-free) sea salt into one cup (8 oz.) of warm distilled or bottled water. A stronger mixture is not better; a saline solution that is too strong can irritate the piercing.
• A mild, fragrance-free liquid soap—preferably anti-microbial or germicidal.
• WASH your hands thoroughly prior to cleaning or touching your piercing for any reason.
• SALINE soak for 30 seconds 2-3 times per day. Invert a cup of warm saline solution over the area to form a vacuum. For certain piercings it may be easier to apply using clean gauze or paper towels saturated with saline solution. A brief rinse afterward will remove any residue.
• SOAP no more than once or twice a day. While showering, lather up a pearl size drop of the soap to clean the jewelry and the piercing. Leave the cleanser on the piercing no more than thirty seconds.
• RINSE thoroughly to remove all traces of the soap from the piercing. It is not necessary to rotate the jewelry through the piercing.
• DRY by gently patting with clean, disposable paper products. Cloth towels can harbor bacteria and snag on jewelry, causing injury.
What is normal?
• Initially: some bleeding, localized swelling, tenderness, or bruising.
• During healing: some discoloration, itching, secretion of a whitish-yellow fluid (not pus) that will form some crust on the jewelry. The tissue may tighten around the jewelry as it heals.
• Once healed: the jewelry may not move freely in the piercing; do not force it. If you fail to include cleaning your piercing as part of your daily hygiene routine, normal but smelly bodily secretions may accumulate.
• A piercing may seem healed before the healing process is complete. This is because tissue heals from the outside in, and although it feels fine, the interior remains fragile. Be patient, and keep cleaning throughout the entire healing period.
• Even healed piercings can shrink or close in minutes after having been there for years! This varies from person to person; if you like your piercing, keep jewelry in—do not leave it empty.
What to do?
• Wash your hands prior to touching the piercing; leave it alone except when cleaning. During healing, it is not necessary to rotate your jewelry.
• Stay healthy; the healthier your lifestyle, the easier it will be for your piercing to heal. Get enough sleep and eat a nutritious diet. Exercise during healing is fine; listen to your body.
• Make sure your bedding is washed and changed regularly. Wear clean, comfortable, breathable clothing that protects your piercing while you are sleeping.
• Showers tend to be safer than taking baths, as bathtubs can harbor bacteria. If you bathe in a tub, clean it well before each use and rinse off your piercing when you get out.
What to avoid?
• Avoid cleaning with Betadine®, Hibiciens®, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, Dial® or other harsh soaps, as these can damage cells. Also avoid ointments as they prevent necessary air circulation. Click here to download information on triclosan dangers
• Avoid Bactine®, pierced ear care solutions and other products containing Benzalkonium Chloride (BZK). These can be irritating and are not intended for long term wound care.
• Avoid over-cleaning. This can delay your healing and irritate your piercing.
• Avoid undue trauma such as friction from clothing, excessive motion of the area, playing with the jewelry, and vigorous cleaning. These activities can cause the formation of unsightly and uncomfortable scar tissue, migration, prolonged healing, and other complications.
• Avoid all oral contact, rough play, and contact with others’ bodily fluids on or near your piercing during healing.
• Avoid stress and recreational drug use, including excessive caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
• Avoid submerging the piercing in unhygenic bodies of water such as lakes, pools, hot tubs, etc. Or, protect your piercing using a waterproof wound-sealant bandage (such as 3M™ Nexcare™ Clean Seals). These are available at most drugstores.
• Avoid all beauty and personal care products on or around the piercing including cosmetics, lotions, and sprays, etc.
• Don’t hang charms or any object from your jewelry until the piercing is fully healed.
Extra care tips & When to contact your Piercer?
• Unless there is a problem with the size, style, or material of the initial jewelry, leave it in the place for the entire healing period. See a qualified piercer to perform any jewelry change that becomes necessary during healing. See the APP website to locate an APP member, or to request a copy of our Picking Your Piercer brochure.)
• Contact your piercer if your jewelry must be removed (such as for a medical procedure). There are non-metallic jewelry alternatives available.
• Leave jewelry in at all times. Even old or well-healed piercing can shrink or close in minutes even after having been there for years. If removed, re-insertion can be difficult or impossible.
• With clean hands or paper product, be sure to regularly check threaded ends on your jewelry for tightness. (“Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.”)
• Carry a clean spare ball in case of loss or breakage.
• Should you decide you no longer want the piercing, simply remove the jewelry (or have a professional piercer remove it) and continue cleaning the piercing until the hole closes. In most cases only a small mark will remain.
• In the event an infection is suspected, quality jewelry or an inert alternative should be left in place to allow for drainage or the infection. If the jewelry is removed, the surface cells can close up, which can seal the infection inside the piercing channel and result in an abscess. Do not remove jewelry unless instructed to by a medical professional.
Added care for particular piercing areas:
• A hard, vented eye patch (sold at pharmacies) can be applied under tight clothing (such as nylon stockings) or secured using a length of Ace® bandage around the body (to avoid irritation from adhesive). This can protect the area from restrictive clothing, excess irritation, and impact during physical activities such as contact sports.
EAR/EAR CARTILAGE AND FACIAL:
• Use the t-shirt trick: Dress your pillow in a large, clean t-shirt and turn it nightly; one clean t-shirt provides four clean surfaces for sleeping.
• Maintain cleanliness of telephones, headphones, eyeglasses, helmets, hats, and anything that contacts the pierced area.
• Use cation when styling your hair and advise your stylist of a new or healing piercing.
• The support of a tight cotton shirt or sports bra may provide protection and feel comfortable, especially for sleeping.
• Genital Piercings—especially Prince Alberts, Ampallangs, and Apadravyas—can bleed freely for the first few days. Be prepared.
• Urinate after using soap to clean any piercing that is near the urethra.
• Wash your hands before touching on (or near) a healing piercing.
• In most cases you can engage in sexual activity as soon as you feel ready, but maintaining hygiene and avoiding trauma are vital; all sexual activities should be gentle during the healing period.
• Use barriers such as condoms, dental dams, and waterproof bandages, etc. to avoid contact with your partners’ body fluids, even in monogamous relationships.
• Use clean, disposable barriers on sex toys.
• Use a new container of water-based lubricant; do not use saliva.
• After sex, an additional saline soak or clean water rinse is suggested.
Each body is unique and healing times vary considerably. If you have any questions, please contact your piercer.