So far, I have six (soon to be seven) tattoos. Of those, I’ve got two (soon to be three) hand-poked masterpieces done by none other than the famed Matthew “Mattie” Elliott of Cape Town.
I’m fairly new to the whole tattoo scene. I didn’t get my first tattoo for a long time because I was dead set on becoming a famous model with ink-less skin. That dream eventually has gone out the window, I was free to get as inked up as I could possibly want or dare. But when I got my first tattoo a couple of years ago, I was absolutely clueless as to how to care for it. Did I wash it? Should I cover it up? Could I sleep on it? Should I wear loose clothing or would tight clothing be fine? I had no idea about what proper aftercare etiquette looked like.
Luckily for me, Karin Mostert not only did my first few tattoos but also filled me in on what to expect. And for hand-poked tattoos? Do they heal differently than tattoos created with the aide of a machine? For the most part, no. But there are a few small differences.
Right after I got my tattoos, Mattie wrapped my arm up like a mummy. A large, square bandage was placed directly over my tattoo and then immediately swaddled up. Basically, you have to ensure to cover your tattoo as soon as humanly possible. I’m sure you’ve been told before how tattoos are wounds. And so, they must heal. In order to heal in the safest way, they ought to be covered. That way, the sunlight can’t pierce through, clothes won’t brush up against it, and other bumps along the way won’t harm it. When you do wrap it up, don’t use plastic wrap on the tattoo. Plastic wrap will create a moist and oxygen-deprived environment beneath the bandage. That’s the perfect recipe for bacteria to grow.
As safe as bandages are, you can’t just keep them on forever. You need to remove the bandage once you get home or after it’s been stuck on you for several (around five or so) hours.
You don’t want to over-wash your new tattoo. You could easily end up irritating it. Once you take off your bandage, run lukewarm water over the area before soaping it up with a small amount of unscented antibacterial soap. You only need to do that once a day. Don’t scrub at the tattoo because that’s an easy way to mess up the fresh tattoo. Pat it dry and leave it alone. When you shower or bathe, take special care so as to not fully submerge your tattoo in water. Avoid letting body soap and hair products drip down on your new tattoo.
For the first week or two, you should definitely avoid the sun. It can cause your tattoo to fade. After the first couple of weeks, put sunscreen on your tattoo. Don’t put it on before because that can irritate the area of your tattoo. Unlike tattoos done with a coil or rotary machine, hand-poked tattoos do have the appearance of healing faster and having less scabs appear. But this does not mean that you can skip any of these steps. Baby your tattoo for several weeks until your skin makes a full recovery.
While your tattoo continues to heal, it’s good to keep the area moisturized. So pick up a good, unscented lotion and apply a small amount to the area after the first few days. After a while, your tattoo will look fully healed but you still should be careful. Tattoos heal faster on the surface. Deeper levels of the skin may still be healing.
How do you typically choose to take care of your fresh ink?