How To Take Care Of A New Tattoo And Safety Precautions

Your newly tattooed skin is sensitive and needs a gentle aftercare routine to heal safely.

Reviewed by Jingxi Gu, Licensed Tattoo Artist
Written by Nisha Baghadia, MA (Mass Communication)
Edited by Shatabdi Bhattacharya, BSc
Fact-checked by Shreya Mukherjee, MA (English)  • 

Getting tattooed is a terrific way to commemorate a memorable occasion, person, or simply life. But only getting a new tattoo isn’t enough. To help it look as good and heal as perfectly as you want, you need to know how to take care of a new tattoo. There are several steps to follow, and while your tattoo artist should ideally give you a rundown of the basic care, you may want some additional tips.

This post discusses the best things to do before and after getting a tattoo. So, how do you take care of a new tattoo? Keep reading to learn more!

protip_icon Did You Know?
Some remains of ancient mummified humans suggest that tattooing has existed for more than a thousand years.

Precautions To Be Taken After Getting A Tattoo

Tattoo aftercare is equally important as ticking things off your ‘before getting a tattoo’ checklist. Here are some pointers:

  • Listen To Your Tattoo Artist: Once the process is over, your artist will give you a list of dos and don’ts to follow. Follow their instructions to the tee.
  • Cleaning Your Tattoo: Washing your tattoo gently is an important process of post-tattoo care. Think of it as a wound that you need to take care of. Use a mild, fragrance-free soap to wash off the excess blood and ink gently. Don’t scrub it with a towel or loofah, or you may get a bacterial infection. Make sure not to soak the tattoo in water for a long time under any circumstances. Your tattooist will wrap your tattoo in a cling film and you can leave it on the first night. After cleaning it the next day, wrap it again in a clean cling film instead of a bandage to avoid friction. Get a new roll of cling film just for the tattoo to avoid contamination and use it till your tattoo dries. You need to wash your tattoo about twice a day and keep it open for a bit to check if the leaking has stopped. Do remember that washing it excessively will cause the tattoo’s colors to fade quickly.
Take care of a new tattoo by cleaning and moisturizing it
Image: Gettyi
  • Moisturizing: Your tattoo artist will give you a tattoo ointment or a tattoo wax to apply a few times a day. In case they don’t, you can follow up with a fragrance-free moisturizer after cleaning the tattoo. Sometimes, they may ask you not to moisturize at all. In any case, you could apply a thin layer of tattoo wax or moisturizer to prevent infections. Do not overuse it, or it may lead your tattoo to scab excessively. Let it breathe.
  • Flaking And Peeling: After a few days, your tattoo will start to heal. It will dry out and start flaking and peeling. This is natural, and you may continue to use the tattoo wax or moisturizer based on the advice of your artist.
  • Be Careful While Sleeping: When your tattoo is new, it is probably still leaking blood and ink, and you want to avoid positions that put pressure on it. So, if you are a side sleeper and your tattoo is on the left side of your body, sleep on your right side. Make sure your linens and pillows have a soft fabric that does not irritate the wound. And when the tattoo starts healing, wear loose, breathable fabric to ensure your tattoo gets enough air.
  • Avoid Direct Sun Exposure: Make sure the tattooed portion of your body is not exposed to direct sunlight. It will burn and damage the open wound sooner than you can imagine. Direct sunlight will not only cause the ink to fade quickly and leave it patchy, but it will also ruin the appearance of the design, and you’ll be running back to the studio for a touch-up.
  • Be Patient: Different people’s skins react differently to tattoos. Some may heal faster than others, but that’s no cause for concern. It will take a few weeks for it to heal completely, so be patient. Once it has healed completely, you may apply sunscreen or anything else that you usually would.

“Typically I consider tattoos fully healed in one month but I’ve seen clients take even longer than that to heal. When I do large tattoo pieces, my sessions are spaced out one month apart to ensure the healing process is complete before continuing work,” says Licensed Tattoo Artist, Jingxi Gu.

Image: Shutterstock
  • Do Not Scratch: No matter what, don’t touch or scratch your tattoo. Though the healing process may cause it to itch sometimes, resist the temptation of picking at it. Scratching can cause major damage to your tattoo, and you could remove the top layer of your skin. It could also cause infection. Hence, be patient and try and ignore the itching.
  • Avoid Swimming: It is generally advised to avoid swimming for 2-4 weeks after getting a new tattoo. Chlorine as well as saltwater can leach color from the tattoo. As your tattoo is still healing, you may also get a bacterial infection from the waters. And water can prolong the healing process by itself. If you absolutely have to swim, make sure you get a few layers of waterproof dressing for good measure.
  • Avoid Exercising: Experts advise avoiding any kind of physically strenuous activities and exercises for at least 48 hours after getting the tattoo. You are completely safe from bacterial infection if you can avoid sweating in the tattooed area for 4-6 weeks.

Safety Precautions Before Getting a Tattoo

Knowing what you need to do before you get inked is crucial. You should be clear about what you want and why. If it’s your first time, it’s even more important for you to be aware of the dos and don’ts. Here are some tips on what to do before getting a tattoo:

  • Consult Your Dermatologist: If you have sensitive skin or are prone to skin allergies, it is best to go to your dermatologist for a consultation before getting a tattoo. You never know how the chemicals and ink react with your skin. Even if you don’t have a history of allergies, it is best to be cautious.
  • Be Sure Of The Design: This is something that you are going to have to live with for the rest of your life, so you need to be sure of what you want. It could be a design you have wanted to get for a long time or something you decided on an impulse. If it’s the latter, sit with a tattoo artist and tell them what you have in mind. Let them use their creativity to come up with designs.

If you want to play it safe, you can get something that you’ve seen on someone else and know will look good. You can try and personalize it with the help of your artist. Whatever it is that you decide, look at the tattoo every day for 30 days. If you’re not bored by the end of it, go for it.

Image: Shutterstock
  • Placement Of The Tattoo: You may want the tattoo at a particular place – it could be your arm, wrist, thigh, chest, back, neck, or ankle. But sometimes, the design may not go with the natural flow of your bone structure. In such a situation, it is best to go with the advice of your tattoo artist. Be aware that areas with more muscle will be less painful than those with more skin and bones.
protip_icon Quick Tip
Rib cage, ankles, elbows, hips, and lips are some of the most painful areas for tattoos. Therefore, you may want to avoid them to prevent risks.
  • Take A Second Opinion: If you are not sure that you will be able to love the tattoo design for the rest of your life, take a second opinion. Ask a friend or a sibling for advice. Research online and see what people have to say about it.
  • Never Drink Alcohol Before Getting Inked: Yes, we have seen it in movies that people get drunk and land up at a tattoo parlor and wake up the next morning with no memory of where that came from. Let’s leave that to the movies.

Alcohol thins your blood. While you are getting a tattoo, your skin will bleed because it is essentially a wound. And the thinner your blood gets, the more you bleed. This may compromise the visibility of your artist and lead to the design getting messy. It can also thin the ink, and the design may come out patchy. Avoid marijuana influence as well. Also, while it is said that cigarette smoking does not have much of an affect on the tattoo process, it is best to stay away from the influence of any substance.

Safety precautions to follow before getting a new tattoo
Image: Shutterstock
  • Do Not Tattoo Yourself: You may be a good artist or feel like since it is a small tattoo, you could probably do it yourself. Don’t! Hygiene is essential, and there is a lot of sterilization that goes on before your artist even thinks of touching you with their needle. You may end up getting an infection, and there are high chances you may ruin the design (unless, of course, you’re a fabulous tattoo artist yourself).
  • Watch For Cleanliness: There are tons of tattoo artists these days – some charge a bomb, while others might offer to do it for a low rate. No matter what, make sure your artist is hygienic. Observe the workspace. If it is too dusty or dirty, chances are they will not be particular about tattoo hygiene either.

Contaminating your body while getting a tattoo can lead to a lot of infections. Make sure the tattoo artist is wearing disposable gloves, and all equipment is sterilized before they use them on your body. Also, ensure that whatever they use on you comes out of a sealed packet – watch them open it – because cleanliness is key.

  • Know The Process: Diving blindly into something as permanent as getting a tattoo is not ideal. Do your research and be aware of the entire process. If you feel something is off, let your artist know. If you have any questions about a certain step in the process, ask the artist.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind.

How To Care For A Tattoo

Image: Shutterstock


  1. Research your tattoo design and tattoo artist and be sure of where you want the tattoo done.
  1. Eat well before your tattoo appointment because pain and loss of blood can cause lightheadedness and make you feel faint. Eating will also reduce your sensitivity to pain, and you will not be uncomfortable.
  1. Make sure your clothing is appropriate for where you plan to get your tattoo. If you want it on your arm, wear a loose sleeveless t-shirt. If you want it on your back, make sure your outfit has your back exposed and your hair properly pinned up. Also, avoid tight clothing that may rub at your newly tattooed area during removal. Ink could get splattered during the process, so make sure to wear something old.
  1. Make sure the tattooist uses clean equipment. This will prevent infection.
  1. Be patient with the healing process. It can take some time, but it’s totally worth it.

“When you’re in crowded areas like airports, trains, or buses, your tattoo area has a higher chance of getting infected. Make sure to keep your skin covered and away from others,” adds Jingxi Gu.


  1. Do not drink alcohol before your tattoo appointment. Alcohol causes blood to thin, and thinning of blood will lead to excessive bleeding.
  1. Do not soak it in water as it will cause the tattoo to fade very quickly.
  1. Do not expose it to direct sunlight. Sunburns can be painful and will ruin the appearance of the tattoo.
  1. No matter what, do not scratch. Not even in your sleep.

Jingxi Gu also warns, “Absolutely do not go into pools or jacuzzis as they are full of chemicals and germs that can infect the exposed wound.”

Jacqueline Murphy, a blogger, shared her personal experience of getting her first tattoo and the aftercare tips she followed. She recounts, “After having the work done, I took the advice of Martin and left the clingfilm on for three hours as the tattoo itself was still an open wound. I think I washed it gently with warm water, patted it dry, and applied Bepanthen cream 4 times a day for the first week and twice daily for a further 2 weeks until it healed fully.” She further shares, “The skin was sore to touch for about a week, other than that, it was a problem-free process (i).”

Now you know what you need to keep in mind before and after getting a tattoo. Remember, it is permanent. So, even if you have to pay a little bit more for good quality and hygiene, do not hesitate, because it will take you a long way.

If you don’t like your tattoo a few years down the line, you can cover it up. The tattoo artist will be able to camouflage your old design to give it a completely transformed look. And if you don’t want your tattoo at all, you can get rid of it through medical procedures. But that will be a painful, long, and expensive affair. The bigger your tattoo, the more money you’ll have to shell out, and the more sessions you will have to sit through. So, do give your tattoo a good thought and consider all things before getting one.

Now, once you have your tattoo, you have to ensure proper healing. The following section reveals a general tattoo’s healing timeline.

How Long Does It Take For A Tattoo To Heal?

Tattoos usually take about 2 to 3 weeks to heal initially, with complete healing taking a few months. However, the healing time depends on tattoo factors such as size, location, and individual skin characteristics. Larger tattoos take longer to heal, especially if they are colorful. If the tattoo is on an area that faces constant friction, like your fingers, healing time will be longer than usual as well. During this time, it is necessary to keep the tattoo clean and moisturized to prevent excessive scabbing and itching. Avoid exposure to direct sunlight, soaking in water, and tight clothing during the healing process. Additionally, following your experienced tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions can speed up the healing process and help maintain the tattoo’s vibrancy and longevity.

Infographic: Signs Your Tattoo Has Not Healed Properly

Every tattoo heals a bit differently based on the individual and its location. After getting a tattoo, redness, itching, scabbing, and discomfort at the site of the new ink are all common side effects. To prevent an infection from spreading to your tattoo, it is critical to practice aftercare consistently and adamantly. However, if you have any persistent symptoms or reasons to be worried, you should make an appointment with your doctor right away. Check out the infographic below to learn more about it!

signs your tattoo has not healed properly (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Get the high-quality PDF version of this infographic.

Download Infographic in PDF version

Tattoos are a fun, creative, and exciting way to express your sense of style. You have a vast canvas to express yourself freely, whether you want to show off your inner kid or enjoy wearing your heart on your sleeve. While tattoos are exciting, remember to follow pre-and post-care steps to ensure that your skin recovers properly. The skin becomes sensitive after tattooing and vulnerable to infections. As a result, if you properly follow the preventative procedures, the skin will be able to recuperate faster after getting a tattoo. The above steps can help you understand how to take care of a new tattoo effectively. However, keep in mind whatever pattern you get inked is meaningful to you as tattoos are permanent. As time passes, your preferences will inevitably change along with your priorities and sense of style. In such cases, you may feel to change your tattoo. You can either opt to modify the pattern or undergo a laser removal procedure to remove it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I shower before a tattoo?

Yes, it is always a good idea to shower before a tattoo so that there is little chance of you catching an infection. Taking a shower will also help calm your nerves. If you don’t have time for a shower, at least wash off the portion of your skin thoroughly where you intend to get inked.

What should I eat before getting a tattoo?

You must eat a good wholesome meal before going in for your appointment. Anything that has protein and vitamin C is a great option. If you are planning on getting a bigger tattoo, it will take time. You can carry some snacks so that if you are hungry in the middle of the session, you will have something to munch on. Stay away from dairy and sugar and remember to drink plenty of water.

How long does it take for a tattoo to heal?

On average, it takes 2-3 weeks for a regular tattoo to heal. A lot of it will depend on your post-tattoo care. However, the skin below it will take longer to heal, about 4 to 6 months.

Can you use coconut oil for tattoo aftercare?

Yes, coconut oil is great for tattoos, but try and use virgin coconut oil. It has antimicrobial properties, speeds up the healing process, and prevents inflammation. When your tattoo starts to look dull and faded, apply some coconut oil to make it look shiny. Coconut oil has vitamins E and K, which are both great for the skin. It also acts as an effective moisturizer.

Should I cover my tattoo at night?

Yes. You must apply the healing ointment and wrap a cling film for the first few days, even at night. This will prevent bacterial infection, friction, and chafing from fabric.

How do I take care of my tattoo on the first night?

Your artist will treat your tattoo with an antibacterial ointment and wrap cling film around it. Ideally, let the wrap stay for 24 hours. After removing the film, wash the tattoo with antimicrobial soap, dry it and apply the ointment your tattooist gave. Depending on the size of your tattoo, your artist will let you know if you need to re-wrap it and provide additional post-care instructions.

How should the tattooed area feel after three days?

Ideally, swelling, pain, and oozing will significantly reduce by the third day. However, it will take another week or so for the tattoo to heal. You may experience itching and scabbing as the tattooed skin heals.

Should you use Vaseline on tattoos?

No. Avoid applying Vaseline on a fresh tattoo, as it may trap the bacteria, leading to infections.

Key Takeaways

  • A new tattoo needs extra care for about 2-3 weeks from the day of the session, where you have to diligently follow all aftercare instructions provided by the tattoo artist.
  • Keep it clean by using a mild soap and water twice a day, followed by a fragrance-free moisturizer as your tattoo heals.
  • Avoid sleeping on your tattoo or exerting pressure in any way as it can cause irritation and hamper the healing process.
  • Do not soak the new tattoo in water bodies such as swimming pools, hot tubs, lakes, or bathtubs as it can increase the chances of infection.

Learn how to take care of your fresh tattoo from the artist! Check out this video to get tips on how to keep it clean so that it heals properly.

Personal Experience: Source

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