"aftercare for inks"

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Over a year a go, I wrote my personal guide to getting inked; how to choose a tattoo and preparations.

I have just gone through a 5 hour session for a half sleeve tattoo, this is my fourth time getting inked. And as this is my biggest piece, I think it's useful to share some tattoo care & tips - stuff that I had gone through during the healing process, especially for the newbies. It's my first big piece, so I learnt a lot this time round.

A little bit on my tattoo first. This was a modification of my original design, done beautifully by my tattoo artist Joe (shown in last pic below) as my original design had too many lines. According to him, lines will start to smudge and fade naturally under your skin after some time, so my safest bet for a longer-lasting tattoo is to decrease the amount of lines and to make it bigger. It was a good move because I realized now, that the shading shows up much more beautifully and the details are clearer. I'm very much in love with this piece.

Eat a light meal and sleep well, very important. You need to be sure you're kept comfortable during the entire process, especially if it's a long one. Steer clear of alcohol or drugs for these substances will thin your blood and make you bleed more, which will make it hard for the artist to work on you. The ink pigments might also not stick so well onto your skin due to all that blood.

During the tattoo process, stay hydrated and keep your iPod plugged in.

Here's a very scared-looking me getting my outlines done.

When your tattoo is done, the artist would first "wipe" the tattoo down with a type of cleansing soap - which will sting a little, then apply a thin coat of Vaseline or an anti-bacterial ointment before bandaging it. Usually, my artists would use a plastic-film wrap, like a kitchen cling wrap to cover and protect the tattoo. This helps keep outside contaminations away from the 'fresh wound' and help avoid infections, and to also keep from getting blood all over you. Yes, it will continue to bleed for a bit.

My tattoo was finished at 11pm, and while I slept, I bled all over the shoulder of my pajamas top. So, just be aware of that. I believe the amount of bleeding varies from person to person.

You will then need to remove the cling wrap after about 4-8 hours and clean up in the shower, using warm water to wash off the Vaseline (which would now be mixed with the color of your tattoo. In my case, it was black colored, slimy goo). Do not scrub, just gently massage all the excess stuff off using some anti-bacterial or mild soap. I find that using Life Buoy's anti-bacterial wash works really well. Pat dry, DON'T rub, with a towel. Leave it to air dry for about 10 minutes. You can choose to re-bandage it if it still feels sort of raw and tender. Otherwise, just apply some cream and keep it dry.

The best cream to use (and recommended by all the tattoo artists I've been to) is Bepanthen cream. It's very gentle on skin and it keeps my tattooed skin moistured aside from keeping it bacteria-free. So, I decided to re-bandage my tattoo one more time after taking off the first one. My skin still felt really raw and painful to touch, so I decided it's better to be safe than sorry. After applying a thin layer of Bepanthen, I took some cling-wrap from the kitchen and proceeded to wrap two-rounds of it onto my arm. Secure the cling wrap with some tape to keep it from slipping. If in any case the bleeding hasn't stopped on your tattoo, tape some tissue or cotton to the bottom or sides where the bandaging ends are open. Remember not to leave the bandage on too long as it will cause skin rashes, making your skin itchy and uncomfortable.

About three days later when your skin has settled down with the pain, the itching will start. The tattoo will start to scab, and as much as you want to scratch and peel them off, don't. Sometimes, removing scabs will cause that part of the tattoo to have a lighter patch of color as compared to the rest. Just leave it, let the scabs naturally slough off when you shower or apply lotion. Ease the scabbing by keeping the skin lightly moisturized with some scent-free lotion but do not overdo it - over moisturizing will cause more scabbing and skin puckering. As for the itchiness, I find it easier to slap/smack the area a few times. You absolutely CANNOT scratch it.

No UV lights - either direct sunlight or tanning beds. No swimming - chlorine and salt water is bad for tattoos and you will be more likely to be exposed to the sun. Avoid hot showers or soaking in the bath tub, even steam rooms for the first week, to be safe. The steam opens up your pores and the color pigments of your fresh tattoo might leak out.

No tight clothing. It's common sense that wearing something tight which will rub against your tattoo is bad. Wear something comfortable so that your tattoo can breathe. Especially if you're on the move a lot, wear dark clothing that covers your tattoo to protect it from the sun when you're out and about.

The gym is one of those places that has the most amount of bacteria and whatnots floating around in the air. As much as I would love to hit the gym, it's a better choice for your tattoo to skip it. You wouldn't want sweat and bacteria infecting your new ink now, would you?

That pretty much covers it. A lot of it is common sense, but then again, some of you might just want to know what lies ahead of you because tattoo care is no joke. It's much better to be really careful that first week and protect your lifetime investment than to end up with a ruined piece on your body, no?

With Joe, my super tattooist who did an amazing job. :)

P/S: I received a lot of requests from people to design their tattoos after I posted up photos of mine on Instagram and Facebook. It's only fair that you should know that I have designed tattoos for people in the past for free, but right now, I have a day job and can't afford to spend much time to work on creating free artworks. Artists don't work for free, so it'll be great if you could understand why I charge for my work. :)

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All images and text here are the intellectual property of Michelle Lim, owner of the blog site www.coquettishmish.com, and related third-party ownerships. Any use, reproduction or re-quoting of the materials here can only be done with expressed permission from the blog owner, and should be duly credited where necessary.