Tattoo Aftercare

Getting a tattoo is an exhilarating experience filled with fun and adventure. Each tattoo tells a unique story, but what happens once you leave the tattoo shop? Most of us are familiar with the healing process, which can be the most “annoying” part of the entire journey. Dealing with scabbing, itching, and difficulties sleeping is not always enjoyable.

Proper aftercare is crucial when it comes to tattoos, as it significantly impacts the longevity and quality of your new ink. Just like selecting a talented artist, taking care of your tattoo after it’s done is essential if you want it to last. Not only does proper aftercare help prevent infections, but it also ensures the long-term health of your tattoo and the surrounding skin. Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned tattoo enthusiast, the significance of aftercare never diminishes.

Interestingly, many states do not mandate tattoo artists to provide aftercare instructions. In states where aftercare instructions are required, it is often left to the artist’s discretion to determine what information to provide. We hope to address most of your concerns and impart our decades of wisdom and experience caring for your tattoo.

Why tattoo aftercare is important

Taking care of your tattoo is not only about preventing medical complications but also about ensuring proper healing. It’s important to remember that getting a tattoo involves more than just creating a piece of art or expressing your personal style. It is also a medical procedure, as the artist uses a needle to insert ink beneath your skin. Whenever the skin is opened, there is a vulnerability to scarring and infections.

Once your tattoo is complete, regardless of whether you spent 30 minutes or 6 hours in the chair, nothing feels better than hearing your artist say, “We’re finished!” As you leave the chair, you might notice your fresh ink wrapped in plastic wrap or covered with a second skin. How you care for your tattoo during the healing process depends on how your artist has covered it.

Both you and your tattoo artist play equally important roles in this process. Alongside choosing a licensed and reputable tattoo artist, taking care of your new tattoo at home is crucial. By following the right aftercare routine, you can maintain the health and vibrancy of your tattoo for years to come.

the importance of tattoo aftercare

When do you start a tattoo aftercare routine?

Proper aftercare for your tattoo should begin as soon as the tattooing process is complete. An effective aftercare routine reduces the risk of scarring or infection. During the first few days following the tattooing process, it is common to experience redness, itching, and tenderness in the tattooed area. You may also notice the presence of excess ink, along with blood and fluid, seeping from the skin. These reactions are normal and to be expected.

Keep in mind that tattoos with colored ink generally require a longer healing process compared to non-colored tattoos, especially when the tattoo is large or located on the inside of a joint. On the other hand, etched tattoos and line work typically cause less trauma to the skin, resulting in faster healing.

Potential Symptoms and Complications

It is important to be aware of potential complications from getting a tattoo. If you experience any symptoms of the following complications, we advise you to seek medical attention:


Improper care of a tattoo can lead to infection. Infected skin will appear red, feel warm to the touch, and be accompanied by pain. There may be pus discharge from the affected area. Keep in mind that there is a difference between abnormal pus and normal plasma discharge from a new tattoo. 

  • Plasma, a thin fluid, is typically clear to the eye. However, when wiped away, it may appear light yellow. It is normal for plasma to leak from a fresh tattoo during the initial stages of healing. This fluid discharge is a natural part of the healing process and should not cause alarm.
  • Pus is a thicker, opaque fluid that is typically a sign of infection, especially when accompanied by an unpleasant odor. If you notice pus coming from your tattoo, it is important to seek medical advice promptly.

Address infections promptly to prevent further complications. In some cases, if the equipment or ink the artist uses is contaminated, there is a risk of acquiring bloodborne infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, tetanus, or HIV. There have also been reports of other infections transmitted through tattoos, like nontuberculous mycobacterial skin infections.

This is why Good Vibrations Ink prioritizes maintaining a clean, sanitary and safe environment for every session.

Allergic Reaction

Some individuals may be sensitive to the ink used in their tattoos, leading to an allergic reaction. This can manifest as a red, itchy skin reaction at the tattoo site. A 2019 study suggests red dyes are more likely to cause allergic reactions. This being said, there is no definitive evidence for a direct cause currently. Research indicates that red, blue, and black dyes are also associated with nonallergic skin reactions, such as photosensitivity.


Damage caused by the tattoo needle or picking at the tattoo can produce scar tissue. Scarring can be permanent and may alter the appearance of the tattoo. It is important to handle the tattooed area with care to avoid scarring.

At Good Vibrations Ink, our staff’s extensive collective experience of over fifty years ensures the creation of top-notch tattoos. Employing modern and traditional techniques, our artists prioritize a safe and clean environment for tattooing and piercing. With professional training and licensing, our dedicated artists strive for true expertise and skill in their craft.

What do I need for tattoo aftercare?

When it comes to aftercare, simplicity is key, yet it remains the most crucial aspect of tattoo care. The golden rule to remember is that a little goes a long way. Regardless of the aftercare product, gently apply a thin layer to the tattooed area approximately 3-4 times daily. This allows the tattoo to breathe while maintaining proper moisture. It’s important that your skin is dry before applying the aftercare product. After showering, allow your tattoo to air dry for at least 20 minutes before applying the recommended lotion. To clean the area, use a mild, fragrance-free soap or a tattoo-specific cleanser recommended by your tattoo artist.

Good products to use and why

Your aftercare product needs to be fragrance-free, alcohol-free, and free from additives such as colored dyes that can potentially dry out your skin. We recommend using a mild, fragrance-free soap or a specially formulated tattoo cleanser. Avoid using shower gel or bar soap for tattoo cleaning. Your tattoo artist can provide recommendations for tattoo-specific cleansers.

At Good Vibrations Ink, we recommend IKONIK’s pre-care and aftercare product line, H2Ocean Blue-Green Foam Soap or Nat-A-Tat-2 Tattoo Foam Cleanser. We carry these and other products at our locations in Orlando, Florida, on International Drive.

We also recommend using clean towels, bedding, and clothes during the healing process to prevent contamination.

In addition to proper external care, nourishing your body can aid in the healing process. Consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables containing omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants can provide beneficial effects. These foods often possess anti-inflammatory properties that can contribute to the healing of your tattoo.

Products to avoid and why

When it comes to tattoo aftercare, you should avoid certain products to ensure optimal healing and preservation of your tattoo:

  • Ointments: Ointments can serve as vehicles for bacteria, potentially leading to infection and scabbing. It is best to steer clear of ointments during the healing process.
  • Petroleum-based products: It is advisable to avoid products that are 100 percent petroleum-based, such as Vaseline. The American Academy of Dermatology says these products can cause the ink to fade and prevent the tattoo from breathing properly. The non-porous nature of petroleum-based products can trap moisture, dirt, and bacteria, hindering the healing process and draining the color from the tattoo.
  • Aquafor: Although Aquafor is a protective skin ointment, it contains petroleum, mineral oil, and other ingredients that may impact the appearance of tattoos. Petrolatum and mineral oil can sometimes bind with the ink in a fresh tattoo, causing slight ink removal and premature fading. While no official study has been conducted on the extent of ink removal by Aquaphor, it may affect the tattoo’s longevity.
  • Neosporin: Neosporin is known for its healing properties and ability to fight infection. However, prolonged use of this product has been associated with allergic reactions. Allergic responses can result in small red bumps on the infected area, which may cause the ink to fade or result in a spotty design. While anecdotal, allergies to Neosporin do exist.

Beyond the products listed above, we recommend avoiding consuming alcohol in large quantities, as alcohol can cause overall inflammation in the body, potentially interfering with the healing process of your tattoo.

What activities should you avoid after getting a tattoo?

Avoiding certain activities during the aftercare period is important. Here are the main activities you should steer clear of:

  • Touching, Picking, Scratching, and Rubbing: Refraining from scratching, picking, or rubbing your new tattoo is crucial. Doing so can lead to color loss, scarring, and potential infection. If your tattoo becomes itchy, gently pat the area and apply the appropriate aftercare lotion. Avoid any actions that could disrupt the healing process.
  • Exposure to Direct Sunlight: Protect your tattoo from direct sunlight, as UV light can fade tattoo inks. Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more whenever you go outside. Reapply sunscreen every two hours. Direct sunlight during the healing process can damage your skin and compromise the longevity of your tattoo. If unavoidable, apply tattoo-specific SPF 30+ sunblock when exposed to the sun.
  • Shaving: Avoid shaving over your new tattoo until it has fully healed. Shaving could remove scabs prematurely and cause irritation. However, once the tattoo has healed, shaving is safe and can help enhance the vibrancy of your tattoo.
  • Excess Exposure to Water: While getting your tattoo wet during the aftercare process is acceptable, avoid soaking it in water for at least three weeks or until it has fully healed. Water exposure can interfere with the healing process and increase the risk of infection. Avoid swimming in pools or natural water bodies during this period.
  • Tight-fitting Clothing: Opt for loose-fitting clothing that allows your tattoo to breathe. Tight clothing can stick to the skin, restrict airflow, and cause sweating, chafing, and rubbing. Choose breathable fabrics and avoid excessive sweating activities, like a heavy workout, or wearing tight activewear that can stretch and irritate the tattooed area.
  • Excess Sweating: Avoid engaging in activities that cause excessive sweating, such as intense workouts or sauna sessions, until the tattoo has completed the second round of peeling. Excessive sweating can expose your tattoo to bacteria and potentially stretch or chafe the tattooed skin.
  • Excess Drugs, Cigarettes, and Alcohol: Avoid excessive drug use, smoking cigarettes, and consuming alcohol after getting a new tattoo. These substances can negatively impact your overall health, hydration, and skin condition. Moderation is key, and maintaining good hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly is essential.
  • Re-Bandaging: Do not re-bandage your tattoo once the initial bandage is removed. It needs to breathe and receive moisturization at its own pace. Reapplying a new bandage can impede the healing process.

By avoiding these activities, you can promote proper healing and preserve the quality of your new tattoo. Remember to follow the instructions provided by your tattoo artist and consult them if you have any specific concerns.

7 Aftercare Tips for a Longlasting, Bright, and Vibrant Tattoo

Proper aftercare ensures your tattoo heals well and maintains its vibrant appearance over time. Here are some steps for effective tattoo aftercare:

1: Cover it up (initial stage)

After your tattoo session, the artist will apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment and cover the tattoo with a bandage or plastic wrap. This protects against bacteria and prevents friction. Follow your artist’s recommendation on how long to keep the covering.

2: Gently wash the tattoo (a few hours later)

Once the recommended time has passed, remove the covering and wash your hands thoroughly. Gently cleanse the tattoo with warm water and fragrance-free soap. Pat the area dry with a soft cloth and apply a small amount of fragrance-free, alcohol-free moisturizer.

3: Allow it to breathe and heal (ongoing)

Keep the covering off and let your tattoo breathe. Wash the tattoo once or twice a day with clean hands, warm water, and fragrance-free soap. Apply a fragrance-free, alcohol-free moisturizer after washing. Avoid scrubbing or picking at any scabs that form.

4: Monitor the healing process (ongoing)

In the following days, your tattoo will go through different stages of healing. Wash it regularly, moisturize it, and avoid picking at scabs. If you experience prolonged redness, swelling, or signs of infection, consult your tattoo artist or a doctor.

5: Protect from the sun and avoid excessive weight changes (ongoing)

Wear sun-protective clothing to prevent fading caused by UV exposure. Avoid scratchy fabrics that may damage the tattoo. Additionally, try to maintain a stable weight, as significant weight changes can stretch or distort the tattoo.

6: Stay hydrated and maintain a healthy diet (ongoing)

Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants can aid healing and promote skin health.

7: Be patient (long-term care)

The complete healing process may take several months. Continue moisturizing until the skin appears hydrated again. By the end of the third month, your tattoo should have regained its bright and vivid appearance.

By following these steps and practicing proper aftercare, you can help ensure your tattoo looks its best for years to come. Remember to reach out to your tattoo artist or seek medical assistance if you experience any concerns or symptoms of infection.

Enjoy your new ink!

To sum it all up, proper aftercare is vital for overall health and longevity, regardless of whether it’s your first or twentieth tattoo. The healing process and duration can vary depending on the size and complexity of the tattoo. Larger tattoos may require more time for redness and swelling to subside due to the increased trauma to the skin.

At Good Vibrations Ink, we emphasize the importance of understanding and implementing good aftercare practices. We want your tattoos to remain beautiful and vibrant for as long as possible, which is why we provide comprehensive instructions for optimal results. If you have any further questions or concerns, please email our shop at

We hope you enjoy your new ink and appreciate the artistry behind it!