Aftercare: How to Care for Your New Tattoo

Getting a new tattoo? Make sure you do your research on proper aftercare!

Imagine you’ve been saving up for this incredible, elaborate tattoo. For months, you’ve set your money aside, keeping your eye on the prize. You’ve already planned it all out with your artist. Then the day finally comes. You’ve saved up enough cash and you make your appointment. 

You sit there, admiring the artwork that is about to become part of your body. Meanwhile, the artist prepares their station and their living canvas. Can you picture it, how badass it’s going to look?

Tattoo Aftercare Ointment
Tattoo Aftercare Ointment

After enduring a couple of hours of needle therapy, the finished product looks just as you had hoped. You’re thrilled, your artist is happy that you’re happy and everything is all done and over with. Right?


To keep from destroying that precious artwork you just shelled out your hard-earned cash for, you have to make sure to follow proper tattoo aftercare to ensure your tattoo heals properly and beautifully.

Why practice good aftercare?

Proper aftercare is essential to creating a good looking tattoo that keeps its appearance sharp for years to come. Nobody wants to see their hard-earned money be spent on a less than desirable final product. No artist wants to see their hard work damaged due to neglect, either. 

That’s why it is important for both you, the client, as well as the artist to make sure you understand how to care for your new tattoo.

Think about the process of a tattoo for a moment. Tiny needles are being inserted into the outer layers of the skin. It isn’t very deep, but it is still inside of our bodies, which opens the door to infection. Even a small knick or cut we may encounter in everyday life can become infected if it isn’t cleaned properly; tattoo needles create thousands of these small wounds to insert the ink. 

Don’t let me scare you, though! Millions of safe, successful tattoos are performed each year. The key is to make sure that you are being safe from start to finish. Start off by picking the right artist and shop, and keep it safe and clean all the way through to the end of the healing process.

The No-No’s

Before we get into best practices for aftercare, let’s take a look at the stuff you should avoid after getting a tattoo. Many of these can cause the tattoo to heal improperly, affecting the way it looks. In worst-case scenarios, it could lead to infection.

Poor Cleaning

The first and most obvious mistake clients make after getting some new ink is simply not cleaning it or caring for it as they should be. It’s sore and not the greatest feeling thing to do for the first few days, but you have to get in there and scrub and clean that sucker!

Improper Moisturizing

Another very common mistake is letting the tattoo dry out. Aftercare ointment is essential in keeping a nourishing environment for your tattoo to heal.

On the contrary, using too much ointment can have negative effects as well. Having excess ointment, blood, or plasma sitting on the surface of the tattoo increases the risk of developing a scab. You always want to avoid a scab while healing a tattoo, as it can leave the finished product looking faded. Some ink will be left in the scab, which will eventually fall off as the new skin regrows underneath it.

What Else?

The last item on our list of things to avoid is exposure to environments and situations that are bad for an open, fresh tattoo. This could be prolonged submersion in water, being in direct sunlight, or in a particularly dirty or dusty environment. All of these things can harm a fresh tattoo that is still undergoing the healing process.

If you can steer clear of the issues above, you’re off to a good start. If you really want your ink to pop you have to take a few proactive steps as well!

Aftercare Do’s

Now for the ‘definitely do’ list! Proper aftercare of a new tattoo revolves around 2 main principles. Keeping it clean and keeping it properly moisturized.

Keeping It Clean

Cleanliness is the number one priority in the first couple of weeks following a tattoo appointment. You will want to clean the site thoroughly, even if it is slightly painful at first. Be sure to clean it multiple times per day, especially in the first days after getting the tattoo.

For the first couple of days, your skin will continue to ooze a little lymph, plasma, blood, and stray ink. It is imperative that you keep this cleaned off and prevent any build up on the surface.

The build up will cause a scab, which will have negative affects on the healed tattoo.

Applying Ointment

As mentioned above, you can do some damage to your new ink if it left either too dry or too saturated. Just like Goldilocks, the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle. It is always best to take instruction from your artist who performed the tattoo.

What to Use

Here at The Mad Tatter, we recommend either Aquaphor ointment, which can be purchased at many pharmacies and stores, or H2Ocean aftercare ointment. H2Ocean is similar to Aquaphor, but is made specifically for tattoos. In fact, H2Ocean is what we carry here at the shop!

How Much to Use

A general rule of thumb, however, is to apply a moderate amount and rub it well into the skin.

When you water plants, you make sure to get the roots and down deep in the dirt saturated with water. The same concept applies here. You want to rub the ointment in very well.

Once you’ve rubbed as much in as your skin will take, take a clean paper towel and dab off any excess ointment. The skin should look and feel normal after this. If it is still shiny, you have too much on the surface and should continue to pat the area with a clean towel.

This step is essential. Excess ointment or other build-up will cause a scab, which will have negative effects on your finished tattoo. Making sure any ointment is rubbed well into the skin and any extra is removed is the secret recipe.

Other Considerations

Make sure not to expose the area to more water than is necessary. This means no swimming, hot tubs, or baths!

Keep the tattooed area from being submerged. However, running warm water over it in the shower to help remove any build-up is perfectly fine! Just be sure your hands are clean prior to touching the tattoo and use non-scented, anti-bacterial soap on the tattooed area.

We don’t want anyone to have to go through a poor tattoo healing experience. I’m sure it’s safe to say that you don’t want that either. Who would after spending a chunk of money and enduring some pain?

While the information here is a great start and should help you to understand why tattoo aftercare is so important, it is certainly not a substitute for direct instruction from your trained artist. They know their methods and how your skin handled the process better than anyone.

If you’ve gotten a tattoo from us here at The Mad Tatter, you can head over to our Tattoo page and view our full aftercare instructions.

You dropped that chunk of change. You sat through the pain for several hours. Now it’s time to put in a little bit more work and make sure you take care of that killer new ink.

We endure it all for the final result; to be able to look down at the finished piece of art on our skin and say, “Damn, that looks good. I love it!”

If you’re ready to get a new tattoo so you can practice your aftercare, head over to our Contact page and give us a shout!

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