Tattoo aftercare

This article aims to determine what measures are recommended for tattoo care and why, what should not be done, and what is normal as the tattoo heals.

The guidelines provided by FTAA for tattoo care are general. In tattoo care, it is primarily important to follow the instructions given by your own tattoo artist, as factors affecting the healing of the tattoo include its size and density, location on the body, the working methods used by the tattoo artist, and the aftercare products used for tattoo care.

Always handle a healing tattoo with clean hands.

Protecting the tattoo

Immediately after tattooing, it is customary to clean off any excess tattoo ink and the ointments used during tattooing, and then to bandage the tattoo. This bandage can take the form of an adhesive dressing or some other suitable dressing. The purpose of the dressing or film is to shield the fresh tattoo, or wound, from impurities until the skin pores have closed and the wound is better able to withstand both the impurities present on one's own skin and external pathogens.

The dressing also protects, for example, clothes from fluid and blood leaking from the tattoo. The most abundant leakage of fluid stops within the first few hours after getting the tattoo, but it is normal for the tattoo wound to excrete fluid for the first couple of days.

Generally, a few hours are sufficient for the initial protection of the tattoo. Not all traditional tattoo protection methods may allow air to pass through, so prolonged use is not recommended. The conventional dressing should be removed from the tattoo within 1-4 hours, while an adhesive dressing can be kept as protection for the tattoo for 1-5 days.

Adhesive dressing

An adhesive dressing is a breathable barrier, which allows it to be used for longer periods, generally around 1-5 days, during which the tattoo begins to heal underneath it. Although the adhesive dressing allows air to pass through, it protects the fresh tattoo from impurities, and you can shower with it.

The adhesive dressing does not stretch as much as the skin, which is why it can cause skin irritation if it tightens or wrinkles when changing positions. For this reason, it is not advisable to use an adhesive dressing in areas with a lot of movement, such as creases. Positions where the dressing tightens or squeezes should be avoided during its use. The adhesive dressing should be removed if it starts to irritate or feels otherwise uncomfortable, or if visible skin irritation occurs around its edges.

Fluid may seep under the adhesive dressing from the tattoo. Fluid does not hinder the healing of the tattoo, but if a significant amount of fluid accumulates under the dressing within the first few hours - so much so that it obscures the tattoo - the dressing should be removed, as this layer of fluid prevents the dressing from breathing and provides a potential breeding ground for bacteria.

To remove the adhesive dressing from the tattoo, gently pull it against the skin.

After removing the protection

It is not recommended to cover the tattoo during later stages of healing, as the tattoo wound should be allowed to breathe. However, if the healing tattoo is at risk of exposure to dirt, dust, secretions, or other pathogens, the tattoo should be protected during contact. Afterward, it is good to wash, dry, and moisturize the tattoo again. If the tattoo needs to be protected in special situations, it should be moisturized with clean hands, covered with a clean barrier such as a sterile dressing, and secured around the edges so that the barrier does not slide off the tattoo.

If the fresh tattoo is protected, for example, with a shirt sleeve, fabric bandage, or similar, it is advisable to apply a layer of moisturizer between the tattoo and the fabric to prevent the tattoo wound from sticking to the fabric. However, if this does happen, the fabric should be carefully removed from the wound by rinsing it gently under lukewarm water. Afterward, the tattoo should be thoroughly washed with water to ensure that fabric fibers do not remain in the wound, causing irritation or infection.

Washing the tattoo

After removing the initial protection, the tattoo wound should be washed to remove any fluid using potable, lukewarm water, not, for example, lake or seawater. The tattoo should be washed by gently rubbing it with the palm of the hand. A washcloth or any other aid should not be used to prevent damaging the scab that has formed on the surface of the tattoo.

If potable tap water is not available for some reason, the tattoo wound can be rinsed with bottled water or saline solution. Saline solution is also the preferred option for washing various skin injuries at home. Water/saline solution rinses visible dirt and bacteria from the wound and the surrounding skin. It is not necessary to use strongly disinfectant agents or soap for cleaning the tattoo wound unless it is infected.

After washing, the tattoo wound can be either left to air dry or gently patted dry with a clean towel or clean paper towel.

The tattoo should be washed daily (except when protected with a wound dressing film).

Disinfectants should not be used for regular tattoo cleaning because they dry out the skin and also kill bacteria that promote healing.

Moisturizing the tattoo

Moisturizing the tattoo helps promote wound healing, prevents excessive scabbing by keeping the skin cells soft, and thus creates the most even and neat healing result possible. Neglecting moisturization can hinder wound healing, cause color loss from the tattoo along with the hardened scab, and lead to uneven scarring in the area.

The tattoo should be moisturized with a suitable ointment for wound care. It can be antiseptic and neutral, fragrance-free basic cream. There are countless options for moisturizers, from pharmacy products to various tattoo ointments from industry companies. Different skin types may require different care products.

Corticosteroid creams should not be used for the care of a healing tattoo. Over time, one can develop allergies to different active ingredients in creams, such as dexpanthenol, which is used in products like Bepanthen.

The ointment should be applied to the tattoo in a thin layer, ensuring proper absorption. Too much ointment should be avoided, as a thick layer can clog the pores and cause pimples. Excessive moisture in the wound can also lead to moisture damage, slowing down the healing process. Excessive moisture in the wound also creates a favorable environment for harmful bacteria.

Tattoos are recommended to be lightly moisturized 2-3 times a day, but the actual number of moisturizing sessions depends on the type of ointment used, the size of the tattoo, and the skin type. The tattoo should be kept lightly moisturized throughout the entire healing process, and moisturizing should continue until the tattoo has completely healed.

The healing time depends on factors such as the size of the tattoo, its location on the body, the individual's immune system, and many other individual and external factors. Moisturizing the tattoo should always be done with clean, washed hands to prevent the transfer of harmful bacteria to the fresh wound.

The tattoo artist may instruct the client on how to care for the tattoo based on factors such as how it is protected, the type of tattoo, and its location on the body. Care instructions may vary depending on the tattoo, as a delicate fine line tattoo is different from a massive full-color image.

What to avoid during tattoo healing:

Exposure to dirt, friction, and excessive heat

The tattoo wound should not be exposed to dirt, friction, or excessive heat. During the healing process, activities such as sauna, swimming, sunbathing, or using a solarium should be avoided. Contact with animals should also be avoided.

In the first few days, a scab will form on the surface of the tattoo, which should be allowed to come off naturally so that the skin underneath has time to repair. The type of scab formed varies from person to person, depending on factors such as skin type, tattoo size, and technique.


Exposure of the fresh tattoo wound to friction or similar external stress can damage the scab that has formed over the tattoo and cause irritation, often slowing down and complicating the healing process. During the healing phase, clothing and activities that may rub against the fresh tattoo should be avoided.

Sauna, sunbathing, solarium

Sauna, sunbathing, and using a solarium raise the temperature of the wound and increase sweat production, creating favorable conditions for harmful bacteria. Additionally, UV radiation is particularly harmful to fresh scars where the skin surface has not fully healed. Therefore, the tattoo should be protected from the sun especially during the first year after getting it. The better the protection from UV radiation even afterwards, the brighter the colors of the tattoo will remain over the years.


Excessive moisture in the tattoo wound creates an ideal environment for harmful bacteria, slowing down the healing process. Especially in natural waters, bacterial strains pose a significant risk of infection to an open tattoo wound. Swimming or bathing in public pools, spas, or similar facilities is not recommended, as water treatment chemicals such as chlorine are not beneficial to the tattoo wound. It is especially important to avoid soaking the tattoo in hot or warm stagnant water (such as in a hot tub), where bacteria like Legionella may thrive.

Animal contact

Contact with animals should be avoided to prevent additional bacteria from entering the tattoo wound. Animals should not be allowed to lick the tattoo or touch it in any way. Handling animal excretions near the tattoo wound must be avoided, especially.

As the tattoo heals

Normal symptoms in a fresh tattoo wound during the first few days include mild pain, redness of the skin, tenderness in the tattooed area, accumulation of fluid resulting in swelling or bruises on the tattooed area, and fluid leakage. Mild increase in body temperature is also normal after getting a large tattoo.

Abnormal symptoms include increased secretion of pus, spreading redness around the wound area, increased pain, and foul odor from the tattoo wound. If you suspect that the tattoo is infected, it is important to contact the tattoo artist and/or seek medical attention.

Signs of a severe infection include severe heat and severe pain. This may also manifest as general symptoms of infection, such as high fever and symptoms of sepsis. Sepsis, or blood poisoning, is a life-threatening systemic infection characterized by fever and general malaise - the person is visibly seriously ill. In such cases, immediate medical attention is necessary, as untreated sepsis can lead to death fairly quickly.

When the tattoo has healed

Even in a healed tattoo, swelling or a feeling of warmth may occur due to exposure to UV radiation or friction, but these symptoms are usually temporary. If the tattoo remains constantly raised, it may be a sign of hypertrophic scarring, which can result from factors such as friction during the healing process, tattooing too deep into the skin, or a tendency of the skin to form hypertrophic scars.

If anything about the tattoo raises concerns, it's always a good idea to consult the tattoo artist, even if some time has passed since getting the tattoo.