Simple Tattoo Aftercare Instructions for Optimum Results

When you know the proper way, tattoos are relatively easy to care for. This article will explain how to take care of it from day one, ensuring the optimum results for it and the longest lifespan.

General Things to Avoid

  • Do not pick or scratch it, no matter how tempting!
  • Avoid perfume and highly scented products during the healing process.
  • Avoid sun exposure — especially when it's healing, but generally throughout the life of it as well.
  • Try to avoid cutting it, as the scarring does show through.

Day 1

When you first get a tattoo, it will be covered over. Keep this cover on it for at least 2-3 hours after leaving the tattooist's. Be careful when removing it because, depending on the material used, it can stick. You may need to apply some water to tease it off.

On removal of the covering, wash the tattoo with a mild anti-septic soap, then rinse thoroughly. Pat dry with a clean, soft towel, then apply some ointment. Repeat this 2-3 times per day.

Choosing Your Ointment

Choosing the right ointment is paramount in the healing process. Investing in the correct type of topical cream will reap the reward of a vibrant, long lasting piece of art.

  • Preparation H. I highly recommend Preparation H ointment. Yes, it is Hemorrhoid cream, but it's also ideal for tattoos! It reduces swelling and itching, and soothes the area, which is perfect for an area of raw and irritated skin. It also preserves the colour perfectly and reduces scabbing.
  • Ointment, not gel. Be sure to choose the ointment (you can get this from chemists or most supermarkets) and not the gel. For some reason the ointment works better, and the gel dries it out.
  • Or pick your own. Feel free to make your own choice of course. Some people swear by Tattoo Goo or Bepanthen, for example. I have tried both, and I wasn't impressed by either, so I stick to Preparation H.
  • Avoid antiseptic creams. Whatever your choice is, do not use Savlon, or any similar antiseptic cream. Those will remove the colour. The routine cleaning of your tattoo should prevent any infection from setting in anyway.

Days 2-6

Use cling film. This step is my own recommendation. As someone with 13 large tattoos and no loss of colour on any, I have tried and tested this method and never had an issue. You will find people out there who will stamp their feet and declare that you must not do this, but as long as you follow the hygienic guidelines, you really shouldn't have a problem.

  1. After your cleaning process, which should be done typically 2-3 times a day (and at the very least, morning and night) and after you have applied ointment, re-cover your tattoo with fresh cling film. You can secure it with mepore tape or elastoplast.
  2. Be sure to use a new piece of cling film each time. Also, be aware that it will appear that your tattoo is "melting" if the film has been on a while. This is not the actual case, of course. It is simply the stuff that would otherwise turn into scab. This will not affect the colour of your tattoo, so don't worry!

If anything, the cling film preserves the colour. It also prevents thick scabbing from forming which would "catch" and pull off, resulting in colour loss. I highly recommend this — particularly if your tattoo is in a location where clothes rub against it. For example, I have a tattoo down my side and hip, onto my leg. I used this technique, and there was absolutely no colour loss from the waistband of my jeans or anything!

There are other benefits to this method:

  • There is no scabbing
  • Itchiness is greatly reduced, as is the "tight" sensation that normally happens.
  • It also prevents dust and germs from settling on the tattoo. (My Dad is a TV engineer, and he has to go into some really dirty places to run cables etc. He swears by this method, as before he had to take two weeks off work to allow his tattoos to heal!)

Once you try this, you won't go back, honestly!

Even if you don't want to have the film on all day, use it at least through the night. You never want to wake up stuck to the bedsheets by your tattoo! Prying them off is painful, and can severely damage the colour!

Days 7-14

  1. You can now stop using the cling film and, if desired, the ointment.
  2. Switch to a moisturiser if you choose to finish using the ointment at this stage, because the tattoo must be kept supple. Diprobase or E45 cream are both great, as they are unscented and lightweight, while being great moisturisers!

Day 14+

The tattoo should now be fully healed. If not, just keep cleaning and moisturising!

Remember that proper care continues well after the tattoo has healed.

  • To reduce fading, avoid sun exposure where possible. If it is likely to be exposed to sunlight, put high level sunscreen on it, but be careful in the placement to avoid extra white bits!
  • Keep the area well moisturised. This will enhance the colours and make them look more vibrant, even as the tattoo ages.
  • Gently exfoliate at least monthly if you don't already have this as part of your beauty routine. This will remove dead skin that would otherwise make the area look dull, you can use my cheap, effective sugar scrub recipe for this.


Good aftercare boils down to these three components: clean, moisturise, and protect. If you follow this advice, your tattoo should be as bright as the day you got it for the rest of your life! Feel free to post any comments or questions. I will reply to the best of my knowledge :)

Good luck!

© 2012 Lynsey Harte

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Comments 2 comments

Leo G 6 months ago

I got my tattoo 2 weeks ago and is red and itchy around the tattoo .

Is annoying because is not looking like I thought you t would look.

sparkleyfinger profile image

sparkleyfinger 6 months ago from Glasgow Author

Hi Leo. It's still healing after 2 weeks. There are new layers of skin developing as it heals, so it is tight and might even be dry. If you follow the steps for moisturising in the hub, it should help. The preparation H ointment works wonders with itching. And in future with new tatts, use the cling film trick- it really does work :)

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