How to Clean and Treat Your New Tattoo

Female, full colour  rib (side) tattoo.
Female, full colour rib (side) tattoo. | Source

Tattoos are an expensive form of art to love. You can easily spend a small fortune, and you most likely did. So why would you not give your tattoo the best start it can get?

Tattoo aftercare is about cleaning your tattoo and removing contaminates that could potentially cause an infection in your tattoo. Little to no aftercare can leave your tattoo dry and potentially susceptible to infections. A dried, scabbing tattoo with cracks can be susceptible to infection. As your tattoo begins healing the moment you leave the studio, you also need to begin looking after it immediately.

During the first two hours, your body will secrete out plasma and excess ink. This plasma, a blood by-product, contributes significantly towards the development of scabs. It must be washed off with an anti-bacterial wash.

Looking after your tattoo correctly isn't a lengthy or complicated process but it is a necessary one. All you need is a little knowledge of how it's done, some antibacterial wash, and some cream or lotion.

For complete tattoo aftercare instructions, read on!

Only Use Dedicated Tattoo Aftercare Creams

There are many products on the market designed specifically for tattoo aftercare. A very well known product, Bepanthen antiseptic cream, is not one of them.

Bepanthen is not recommended for tattoo aftercare. It is intended to treat nappy rashes on a baby's bottom. Incorrect use can cause your tattoo to develop a marbled effect.

If after reading the above you still decide to use Bepanthen, ensure that it is applied extremely sparingly and thoroughly rubbed into the skin.

Tip: Take your own aftercare lotion with you to your tattoo session. That way your tattoo will only be exposed to the one brand of creams and lotions.

First Steps

Once your tattoo artist has finished, they will wash off any extra ink and blood with a soothing, cool liquid (typically sterilised water). Then, they'll liberally apply your aftercare cream and wrap it in either cling film or cheesecloth, (also known as muslin cloth) protecting it during your journey home.

Once you are home in a clean environment (within two hours), remove the cover they wrapped and secured with and wash your tattoo with warm running water.

Using only your cupped palm, wash the entire tattoo using the foam for one minute. Keep your palm cupped and gently move your hand over your tattoo.

Don't pull or drag on your skin during any stage. Pulling and dragging can cause the skin or scab to crack and possibly bleed. Any cracks in a healing wound can be painful and the potential for infection is high.

Quick Reference Guide of Products

How Many Times a Day
Anti-bacterial wash/soap
Clean tattoo
3-5 times a day
3 - 5 Days
Aftercare balm or ointment
Healing and moisturising tattoo
3-5 times a day
5 - 7 Days
Tattoo lotion
Healing and moisturising tattoo
2 times a day
One week onwards.

My top recommendation is the Tattoo AfterShock After Care Box Set. This premium pack will meet all your tattoo needs throughout its entire life. Definitely worth the investment to assist your tattoo in healing and keeping it looking fresh and bright.

In the First Three Days:

  1. Ensure that your hands are clean.
  2. Vigorously shake the bottle and squirt foam into your cupped palm. If you don't have cleansing foam, any soap with little to no perfume is another option.
  3. Apply foam or soap directly onto your new tattoo, gently rinsing off all plasma, excess ink and soaps with your hand. Note: Do not use a washcloth or anything else abrasive as it will rip apart your new tattoo. Your hand is perfectly shaped for the job.
  4. Gently pat your tattoo dry with a fresh, clean towel with minimum fluff. Fluffy towels can shed tiny pieces of cotton that can remain unseen in the tattoo, which can cause an infection.
  5. Allow your tattoo completely air dry in a clean environment. This should be no longer than 45 minutes to one hour.
  6. Sparingly apply aftercare cream or balm, covering the entire tattoo. Gently rub lotion into the skin. Do not apply to any scabs or areas that are very moist within the tattoo. Wipe off any extra cream.
  • Repeat washing and applying aftercare cream approximately two to three times a day, for the first three days to five days.

Further Tips

  • Slowly reduce washing your tattoo around the fourth to fifth day. You only need to wash it when you shower.
  • Continue applying, thoroughly rubbing it in.
  • It is not uncommon for a healing tattoo to develop light flaking and peeling of the top layer of skin. It is fine to apply tattoo aftercare cream to this healing skin.

Immediately discontinue any cream, balm, foam, and lotions that cause irritation, cause a rash, excessive discomfort or heat. If you suspect infection, go directly to your doctor. They will prescribe an antibiotic or steroid to help clear the infection and assist your healing tattoo.

Tattoo Goo is a good budget tattoo product. I recommend this product and box set particularly if you don't have a lot of extra cash to spend on tattoo aftercare. This will meet all your basic new tattoo needs.


Your new tattoo may also start developing scabs. This will start to happen at around the five to seven-day mark.

A tattoo is meant to flake and peel while it sheds its top layer of skin. Large, layered scabs are not normal and require particular care. Scabs, whatever their size needs to dry out, lift and crumble off your tattoo naturally. Prematurely removing a scab can damage a tattoo, so never pick or scratch off scabs.

Scabs should never have lotion rubbed into them. Your scabs can be washed, but they must air dry.

Looking After Your Healing Tattoo

  • After approximately one week, change your cream to a lotion. Lotions are generally lighter in consistency than a balm or cream. Also, always choose a lotion that contains sunscreen. Sun damages a tattoo quicker than anything else. You can also feel the sun burning through a tattoo if you don't wear an effective sunscreen lotion.
  • Your tattoo, after it has completely healed will only need one application of lotion a day. This should keep it fresh and moisturised and protect it from the suns damaging rays.
  • After a few weeks, you can stop doing all routine aftercare. Your tattoo will benefit from regular application of a body moisturising cream as well as the protection from a sunscreen. Any type of moisturiser can be used at this stage, as your tattoo should not be sensitive to perfumes or other chemicals. Try to choose a moisturiser that contains sunscreen, since the sun is the main factor in tattoos ageing too quickly.

Have you ever had a tattoo that didn't heal well?

  • Yes, that's why I am here. I don't want to damage another tattoo!
  • No. I don't usually look after my tattoos and they've healed fine.
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Male full color sleeve.
Male full color sleeve. | Source

Last Minute Tips

  1. Do not scratch.
  2. Do not use or wear abrasive materials.
  3. Do not over apply tattoo creams.
  4. If your tattoo begins to develop thick scabs, gently wash with soap and warm water.
  5. Only use your hand as a very gentle loofah to assist lifting.
  6. Do not pick off scabs. Let them naturally lift and crumble off themselves.

Everyone’s skin is different. How they heal is unique to them.

How your tattoo will turn out, is unique to you.

Remember, your tattoo will never appear as shiny and crisp as it did when it was freshly inked at the tattoo studio. With appropriate and continued aftercare, especially sun protection, your tattoo will always look its best!

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Comments 2 comments

jonhope 4 years ago

Sounds like a fantastic product - if it actually does what it says on the tin

Organised Kaos profile image

Organised Kaos 4 years ago from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS) Author

Hey, I used this combination with my tattoo. After a few different products caused irritation, the "Natural" Protat is great. AND NO LANOLIN

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