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Tattoo Care First 48 Hours

Woman pours water over her arm tattoo

The most important part of getting inked is tattoo care. Not sure where to start? No problem, we’ve got you covered! Just follow our tips for tattoo care in the first 48 hours and you’ll make it through your healing phase and end up with a tattoo that is vibrant and scar-free after it heals.

Photo: Pexels

Tattoo Care on the First Night

Tattoo care begins as soon as your artist finishes up your new ink and gently places a Saniderm over it. But it certainly doesn’t end there!

Here’s how to begin caring for your tattoo in the first 48 hours.

New Tattoo Shower Care

Woman pours water on her tattoo
Keep your tattoo dry except when cleansing (Source: Pexels)

The most important thing to remember with a new tattoo is to keep it clean and dry. That ideally means leaving the Saniderm on for the first 24 hours and not getting your new tattoo wet in the shower.

If you do take a shower after getting your tattoo, either keep the inked part of your body out of water or use an alternate method of bathing that’s less likely to get water on your tattoo. A bucket and a mug or a wet towel can do the trick for a quick bath before bed.

Tattoo Summer Care

Two women with tattoos relax in the sun on a wooden bench
A healing tattoo doesn’t need sunlight to grow! (Source: Pexels)

If you happen to get inked during the summer, you’re going to have to extra care of your tattoo during its first 48 hours.

First, and most importantly: keep your tattoo out of the direct, hot sun and away from sweat during the first few days. If you do end up sweating, make sure you wash your tattoo and replace the Saniderm as quickly as you can.

Tattooed man and woman relax at the beach
Beaches are a big no-no for new tattoos (Source: Pexels)

Sun exposure is also known to cause premature fading on a new tattoo. So as much as it might pain you to do so, steer clear of the beach and pools while your tattoo is healing!

Exercise and Tattoo Care

Man with tattoo on his right arm wraps his hand up in preparation for a spar
Exercising with a tattoo (Source: Pexels)

Ideally, you wouldn’t exercise right after getting a tattoo. We’ve already noted that you don’t want to get your tattoo wet or sweaty during the first few days.

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But you also don’t want to subject a healing tattoo to germs or excess wear-and-tear. That, unfortunately, means you shouldn’t be working out or visiting a gym while your tattoo is in the initial stages of healing.

Sleeping with a Healing Tattoo

Man with arm sleeve tattoo sleeps on beige colored sheets
Try not to sleep on a healing tattoo (Source: Pexels)

An important step for tattoo care in the first 48 hours is to make sure you don’t sleep directly on your new tattoo! Not only will this hurt, but you might also end up messing up your tattoo while it’s still fresh and starting to heal. Additionally, make sure your sheets are clean and sanitary.

Outside of topical care, it’s also generally recommended that you stay hydrated and steer clear of excessive smoking, alcohol, and any substances that might slow down your natural healing process.

Smoking might slow down healing in the first 48 hours of tattoo care
Smoking, alcohol, drugs, and medication can slow the healing process (Source: Pexels)

If you happen to be on medication, especially blood thinners, be sure to consult your doctor and/or your tattoo artist on appropriate care to take while your tattoo is healing.

Caring for a New Tattoo

Tattoos on your arms and legs are ideally going to be easier to care for since it’s easier to keep them safe and dry. These placements are also more accessible, so it’ll be easier to cleanse your tattoo daily.

It is, unfortunately, not quite so straightforward with tattoos on other parts of your body.

How to Take Care of a Lip Tattoo

Inner lip tattoos need proper care within the first 48 hours
Inner lip tattoos require more care (Source: Pexels)

Lip tattoos are notoriously prone to fading. This is because this area is more likely to see wear-and-tear from daily activities and is generally not going to stay dry long.

To ensure your inner lip tattoo heals as best as it can – and doesn’t fade any more than it needs to during the first 48 hours – keep it clean by rinsing it often, particularly after you eat anything. This is especially important to do if you smoke.

Tattooed woman sipping a drink
Lip tattoos need frequent cleansing (Source: Pexels)

Follow your artist’s instructions, keep the area dry if possible, and apply aftercare products diligently. And – most importantly – do not pick at scabs as they form!

Upper Back Tattoo Care

Woman with mandala tattoo on her upper back
Upper back tattoos are harder to reach than others (Source: Pixabay)

Back tattoos are hard to reach, which makes it harder to keep them clean. Since loofahs and rough towels are out of the question, it might take some minor contorting to be able to reach your tattoo and cleanse it daily.

Too much twisting around, however, is not going to do you any favors. It might cause scabs to fall off too quickly and mess with the tattoo’s healing process.

In this case, you might find you’re going to need help from a friend or partner. If that isn’t an option for you, you can always go back to your artist’s studio and ask them to help you when it’s time to change your Saniderm. Be sure to call in ahead, though!

Foot Tattoo Care

Woman with foot tattoo dips her feet in water
Feet tattoos require extra care (Source: Pexels)

Foot tattoos are second only to lip tattoos in their ability to fade quickly from daily wear-and-tear. Tattoo care in the first 48 hours is hard enough, but it’s even more so for foot tattoos – especially if you plan to be on your feet soon after getting them.

Proper foot tattoo care means not wearing shoes as often as possible. That means either going totally barefoot, staying indoors while you’re at it to prevent getting your new tattoo dirty, or wearing simple open sandals.

If you must wear a shoe, first cleanse your tattoo thoroughly, moisturize and wrap it up, then put on a pair of clean soft cotton socks before you slip on your shoes.

Tattoo Aftercare

Outside of the basics, it’s also important to understand how to care for your tattoo beyond the first few days.

Saniderm Tattoo Care

Tattoo artist wrapping female client's tattoo with saniderm for proper tattoo care first 48 hours
Keep your fresh tattoo wrapped (Source: Pexels)

Tattoo artists use Saniderm over new tattoos to keep them clean, dry, and to help them heal faster. The Saniderm acts like a second skin and is crucial to your tattoo healing properly.

How long you leave the Saniderm on will depend on how fast you heal, but ideally, the first Saniderm your artist uses comes off within the first 24 hours. You’ll replace the Saniderm frequently as you care for your tattoo in the first 48 hours.

Tattoo Care After Saniderm

Once you remove the Saniderm, you need to cleanse, moisturize, and place another Saniderm over your tattoo.

What kind of soap to use for tattoo aftercare?

The best soap for tattoo care is one that is mild and fragrance-free. Medicated soaps are often a good choice for a healing tattoo since they’re less likely to have any irritants. Be sure to not use washcloths or towels. Opt for gentler paper or microfiber towels instead, and gently pat dry.

Woman with tattoos opening a bottle of cream
Keep your tattoos moisturized (Source: Pexels)

After you’ve thoroughly cleansed away excess ink, dry blood, dead skin, and plasma, make sure to use a light moisturizer on your tattoo.

Aquaphor for tattoo care

Close up of a person applying petroleum jelly on their foot
Petroleum jelly might be too heavy for a healing tattoo (Source: Pexels)

Petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, is sometimes recommended since it is highly moisturizing and thought to encourage faster healing. However, some people find petroleum jelly causes premature tattoo fading and advice against using it.

Instead of the jelly, however, you’ll find most artists and tattoo lovers alike swearing by Aquaphor’s healing ointment for tattoo care. While it also contains petroleum jelly, it isn’t 100% petroleum-based, meaning it isn’t as heavy or as likely to ruin your tattoo.

A&D ointment for tattoo care

Another alternative to petroleum jelly and a highly recommended one is A&D ointment. The product features vitamins A and D and is used to treat minor wounds. Which, naturally, also makes it a great choice for tattoo care in the first 48 hours.

While a general rule of thumb is to apply A&D ointment to a new tattoo a few times a day for the first few days, it’s best to ask your artist how much you’re going to need for your new ink.

Vegan Tattoo Care

Are there vegan options for tattoo care? You bet!

Tattoo care oil

Lightweight oils make good moisturizers for tattoo care first 48 hours
Lightweight oils are great for tattoo care (Source: Pexels)

The most accessible option for vegan tattoo care is to opt for a lightweight, vegan oil. Argan oil is a great choice to keep your tattoo moisturized after the Saniderm comes off.

Not all products containing argan oil are truly vegan or cruelty-free, however, so be sure to read the labels before you buy! Alternatively, check with your artist for recommended tattoo care oils.

Hemp tattoo care

Help and cbd oil are great for tattoo care first 48 hours
Hemp oil works wonders for tattoo healing (Source: Pexels)

In addition to being popular anti-inflammatory pain relievers, hemp and CBD oil are also quite moisturizing, making them perfect for ensuring your tattoo heals faster.

Aloe vera gel for tattoo care

Aloe vera gel in a small container with a tube of aloe gel in the back
Aloe gel is cooling and healing (Source: Pixabay)

The gel from the aloe vera plant is naturally antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and highly moisturizing, making it perfect to use in your tattoo care regimen. And what’s even better, aside from it being vegan, is that a little goes a long way.

Cocoa butter for tattoo care

Close up of raw organic cocoa butter
Cocoa butter is a great moisturizer for healing tattoos (Source: Pixabay)

Raw, organic butters are well known for being nourishing and moisturizing. Cocoa butter in particular is a great addition to your tattoo aftercare routine.

Just like with argan oil, however, not all products with cocoa butter are vegan, so be sure to check the label before buying. Or, alternatively, ask your artist for some product recommendations!

You’re on Your Way!

Now that you’ve gotten through caring for your tattoo in the first 48 hours of its healing, you’re on your way to being able to show off your gorgeous tattoo!

Keep the basics in mind: cleanse, moisturize, wrap. Steer clear of water, sun, sweat, and germs. As long as you follow these simple rules, your tattoo will heal up in no time and you won’t be left with any scarring or premature fading.

And once healed, you can flash that new tattoo around in all its unwrapped glory!

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