First of all, CONGRATS on your new tattoo!
I use the highest degree of care before, during, and after a tattoo procedure to make sure that my client's skin is above all else clean, with as little trauma to the area as possible. Please follow my recommendations for aftercare, as I am speaking from years of experience. Many professional tattoos have encountered healing problems due to carelessness.
What to expect after getting your tattoo:
After finishing your tattoo, I will rinse your tattoo with an antiseptic solution and apply a breathable polyurethane-acrylic adhesive medical bandage, similar to Tegaderm. The Tegaderm is a protective bandage that goes over the tattoo, keeping germs out and keeping blood, ink, and lymph fluid in, which promotes healing.
Please be aware - the "tattoo soup" that collects under the bandage can look thick and gross, but it's completely normal and healthy! The Tegaderm may "spring a leak" and cause fluid to drain out through a crease in the covering. Don't worry, gently clean the skin around the bandage and leave the edges as intact as possible. Your tattoo may be warm and sore; that's normal. You may continue normal activities and showering, but do not submerge or saturate your bandaged tattoo. Sweating can also weaken the adhesive, but light workouts 24 hours after application are fine.
Most fluid buildup stops within 24-48 hours, but continue to keep the bandage in place for 3-5 days. If you have an allergic reaction (redness or irritation) to the adhesive, take the Tegaderm off and continue with the rest of the aftercare.
You'll see the fluid under the bandage drying up, some reabsorbed in the skin, and some remaining on the surface. A dry, crinkly surface to the bandage is a good sign that the wrap is nearly ready to be removed.
After 3-5 days, you can remove the Tegaderm.
Wash your hands.
Find the edge of the bandage, and gently pull it back over itself in the direction of hair growth. If you're having difficulty removing it, try running some warm water over the area, or using coconut or olive oil to loosen the adhesive.
Next, you'll need to wash your tattoo. I recommend a mild liquid antibacterial soap without heavy dyes, lotions, beads, or fragrances. Gently cleanse the surface of your tattoo and dissolve any remaining fluid buildup on your skin.
Pat your tattoo completely dry with a fresh paper towel, do not use a hand or face towel.
If you choose to use an ointment, use a tiny amount of any fragrance-free, alcohol-free lotion or balm that works for you. You want your tattoo to stay CLEAN and DRY. The ointment should act as a moisturizer to keep the skin from feeling 'tight' or 'crispy' as it is healing and will help soothe the itchiness that accompanies a healing tattoo.
**Do not use Neosporin. It has components that draw foreign particles out of wounds, which is necessary for cuts and scrapes. However, the ink particles need to stay IN the skin and not drawn out, which could leave empty patches.**
Anything that comes in contact with your fresh tattoo should be clean and dry, including clothes, towels, and the sheets on your bed. I speak from experience when I say that while it's great to have puppies and kitties that like to cuddle on your bed, their paws track everything right into your bed. That is NOT something you want to invite into the healing skin of a fresh tattoo. Avoid any jewelry, tight clothing, or seams that will press or rub against your new tattoo.
Typical Things You'll Notice While Your Tattoo is Healing:
After a few days, you'll see some peeling and possibly light scabbing. DON'T PEEL IT.
"Fish Food Flakes": The skin flakes that fall off your healing tattoo will have the same ink pigments as your skin has, which is why I call them "Fish Food Flakes"
You will start to itch, just like a sunburn when it begins to heal. DO NOT SCRATCH OR PICK. Continue to wash your tattoo and apply a small amount of lotion.
Protecting Your Tattoo:
After your tattoo has healed, you'll want to keep it protected from the sun's ultraviolet rays from now on. These can fade and damage the color of a brilliant tattoo very fast, regardless of your skin's natural pigment. Before spending a lot of time in excessive heat, protect your tattoo with a minimum of 30 SPF sunblock. Sunblock will keep your tattoo vibrant for many years to come.