A tattoo is more than just a piece of artwork — it’s a piece of you. And just like any other part of yourself, your tattoo requires substantial care. However you may feel about your tattoo when you’re 80, odds are you really love it when you first get it, which happens to be when your tattoo is most vulnerable. For some natural tattoo aftercare tips, we spoke with Alfredo Ortiz of Brooklyn Grooming. Ortiz has several tattoos of his own, and his company has recently developed an effective natural tattoo balm. While reading these tips, we urge you to keep in mind that all tattoos are different; when in doubt, defer to your tattoo artist’s explicit instructions.
Practice Tattoo Beforecare
You might not think that a tattoo needs much care beforehand, because, well, it’s just a patch of skin. However, you must make sure you and your skin are absolutely ready to receive the tattoo. Since we’re in the middle of summer, we should mention that it’s especially important to make sure your skin isn’t sunburnt at all. Many artists will not put a tattoo on skin that’s even a little bit pink, so take care of yourself.
Find a Hygienic Parlor
You must engage in a thorough vetting process when choosing a place to get your tattoo. Though it might seem funny and cool to stumble into a shady back-alley tattoo parlor after a night of heavy drinking, you should think through the decision and make sure you find the right person to do it. “Think about it: you’re going to a place where they’re basically going to grate your skin,” says Ortiz. “You have to make sure the place is hygienic and clean so you don’t get an infection.”
Limit Exposure to Sunlight
A lot of people like to get their tattoos just before summer starts, then show off their new ink during the warm season. Unfortunately for these folks, tattoos do not “weather” sunlight very well. Instead of showing off your new tattoo, you should try to keep your ink covered as best you can when you go outside. Don’t worry, that tattoo will be on your skin forever — there’ll be plenty of summers to show it off. You should also cover your tattoo on especially humid days, as the extra moisture in the air could make your tattoo more susceptible to bacterial infection. Oh, and don’t go swimming for a couple weeks after getting your new tattoo; so basically, you can’t have any summer fun at all when you have a fresh tattoo.
Keep Your Tattoo Clean
Though you can’t go swimming, it’s fine to take quick showers. In fact, you’ll need to shower after getting your tattoo, both for the sake of your tattoo’s cleanliness and the general public. As it turns out, showering with a tattoo isn’t that big of a deal. “Just try to keep your tattoo away from the actual the water flow,” says Ortiz. “Don’t rub it, obviously, and don’t scrub it.” Be sure to use a gentle application of mild soap to keep your tattoo clean.
An important part of keeping your tattoo clean is also keeping your hands clean. “If you’re going to use any balm or ointment, it has to be after you wash your hands,” says Ortiz. “Because otherwise, whatever bacteria is on your hands is going to be transferred to the balm or the ointment.”
Wear Loose Clothing
As you can imagine (especially if you’ve gotten a tattoo before) your skin becomes very sensitive in the days after getting your ink. For this reason, you shouldn’t wear tight clothing around your tattoo. “I’ve seen people get lower back tattoos on Venice Beach, then just put on their normal pants and walk away,” says Ortiz. “It’s like sandpaper on the skin. So you don’t want anything tight, and nothing that rubs against the fresh ink of the tattoo.”
Consider Dry Healing
A tattoo is more than just a doodle on the surface of your skin — it’s a wound etched into your body forever. There are a couple schools of thought when it comes to healing a tattoo: wet healing, which involves the application of all “wet” medicines and ointments; and dry healing, which involves a more hands-off, natural approach. Ortiz is a proponent of the latter method. “With dry healing, you don’t use anything at first — just water and you just let it dry. After about three days, when the first layer starts scabbing, that’s when you start applying the balm.” You must resist the urge to pick the scab, and instead let it come off naturally.
There are a lot of petroleum-based products out there that supposedly do some good, but really aren’t that effective. “Instead of healing the tattoo, they’re really just irritating it,” says Ortiz. “Many of them clog the pores and prevent oxygen from getting to the skin. You want to make it easy for your skin. Our tattoo balm has unrefined sesame oil, hempseed oil, shea butter — all of which will help your tattoo heal naturally.”
After about three weeks, your tattoo should be more-or-less completely healed. For the remainder of your life, you can use the Brooklyn Grooming tattoo balm whenever you need a little extra moisture.
“I use it all the time,” says Ortiz. “It’s a personal preference. Sometimes my tattoos get a little dry and it’s like using a moisturizer. It’s really up to you — any time you feel like you need an extra boost, go ahead and use it.” If you’re not already vigilant about regular sunscreen application, you should make it a priority after you get a tattoo.
So there you have it; just a few natural tattoo aftercare tips to help your tattoo heal during its most vulnerable days. It’s important to keep in mind that every tattoo is different; again, we recommend that you follow the explicit directions of your tattoo artist and ask him or her about the suggestions mentioned above. Enjoy your new ink!
You can buy Brooklyn Grooming’s Tattoo Balm on their website — $22 for a 2 oz. tin