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 clients' 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 a clean professional tattoo has encountered healing problems due to carelessness.
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. This essentially creates a protective blister over the tattoo, keeping germs out and keeping blood, ink, and lymph fluid in, promoting healing.
Please be aware - the "tattoo soup" that collects under the bandage can look thick and gross, but it's completely normal and healthy. Your bandage my "spring a leak" and cause fluid to drain out through a crease in the covering. This is fine, take care to gently clean the skin around the bandage and leave the edges as intact as possible. Warmth and some soreness is normal, and 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 (unless an allergic reaction to the adhesive springs up).
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.
To remove the bandage after 3-5 days, first wash your hands, find an edge of the bandage, and gently pull it back over itself in the direction of hair growth. Some people can stick to the bandage better than others. If you're having a difficult time removing the bandage, try running some warm water over the area, or using coconut or olive oil to loosen the adhesive.
After you remove the bandage, you will need to wash your tattoo. I recommend a mild liquid antibacterial soap without heavy dyes, lotions, 'beads', or fragrances. Gently wash the surface of your tattoo and dissolve any remaining fluid buildup on your skin.
Pat your tattoo completely dry with a fresh paper towel, avoid using a hand or face towel. The subject of ointments used during the tattoo healing process is hugely debated. Ultimately, use just a tiny amount of any fragrace-free, alcohol-free lotion or balm that works for you. You want your tattoo to stay CLEAN and DRY. The ointment is meant to act as a moisturizer to keep the skin from feeling 'tight' or 'crispy' as it is healing and to soothe the itchiness that accompanies a healing tattoo.
**Do not use Neosporin. It has components which draw foreign particles out of wounds, which is great for cuts and scrapes, but you want the ink particles to stay IN the skin and not be drawn out, leaving empty patches.**
Anything that comes in contact with your fresh tattoo should be clean and dry. This includes clothing, towels, and the sheets on your bed. I speak from experience when I say that, while it is wonderful to have puppies and kitties that like to cuddle on your bed, their paws track everything from the back yard to the litter box right into your bed and that is NOT something you want to invite into the open skin of a fresh tattoo. Avoid any jewelry, tight clothing, or seams that will press or rub against your new tattoo.
After a few days, you will notice some peeling and possibly light scabbing. This is normal. The skin flakes that fall off will be colored with the same ink pigments in your skin, which is why I affectionately refer to them as 'fish food flakes'. You will also 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.
After your tattoo is healed, you will always want to protect it from the sun's ultraviolet rays from now on. These can fade and damage a 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 30 SPF sunblock. This will keep your tattoo vibrant for many years to come.
If you have ANY questions or issues with healing your new tattoo, feel free to contact me!