The fifth part of On Tattoos has just gone live on Anchor, iTunes, and Google Play. In this episode, I go over all the ins and outs of tattoo healing: Do’s and Don’ts, what changes to expect as your skin heals, how to wash and dry your tattoo, what “dry” and “wet” healing are (though not which is best, that’s something you’ll find out for yourself), and give other bits and pieces of advice I’ve amassed over half a decade of getting tattooed (so far)!
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Around a week ago I finally finished a tattoo on my calf that’s been a work in progress for the last two and a half years, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s not my only tattoo, but unique as my only colour tattoo to date. This final session consisted of adding a host of colours to the tattoo: blue, yellow, orange, red, brown, green, and white.
My only anxiety prior to this final session concerned the horror stories I’ve heard of bad reactions to red inks, which thankfully in my case do not apply. In fact, with the exception of blue – unfortunately the most abundant colour in the tattoo (other than black, of course) – all of the colours have settled as beautifully: slight flaking but no excessive scabbing or itching, good going for the first week of healing (generally the most bothersome period, in which a tattoo is at its most vulnerable)!
Since my first tattoo session, about three years ago, I have had great success employing a dry healing method as suggested by the first artist to decorate my skin, as far as I am aware the preferred method in her native Japan. Dry healing has not only been incident free and produced deep and consistent blacks (and will hopefully work as well for the colours), but is about as simple as aftercare comes:
- Remove the plastic wrap around 3 to 4 hours after leaving the shop.
- Gently wash off any plasma, ink, and blood with warm water and a little unscented antibacterial soap.
- Gently pat dry with kitchen roll (or any other disposable paper towel, though the softer the better).
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 two or three times a day.
And that’s it! Simple!
Some additional steps I like to take include:
- Avoiding strenuous exercise involving the tattooed area for the first few days, and ensuring I give the area an extra wash should it get sweaty or dirty.
- Letting the area breathe as much as possible, leaving it uncovered when at home and wearing loose, soft clothing when outside (which can help prevent the tattoo getting dirty or scratched, and will protect it from the sun).
- Using clean bedsheets (some people like to use a spare set, as any leaked tattoo ink will never come out).
However, as previously alluded to, my experience with the blue on the other hand has been a little less straightforward. Areas of blue ink have dried out much more than any other tattoo I’ve healed, and today I noticed a couple of small areas had cracked and looked slightly bloodied. Whilst it occurred to me that the cold climate won’t help the dry skin issue, the other colours have settled beautifully and all dryness and damage appears to be limited to blue areas which leads me to believe it may have something to do with my body’s reaction to this specific colour of ink. Hopefully it’ll turn out to be nothing a bit of moisturiser won’t mend, but only time will tell. And if not, a little touch up should do the trick…