Anyone who has ever gotten a tattoo has had to deal with tattoo aftercare and proper healing of the new addition to your body. I know I have. I've gotten over 150 hours of inkage done on my body from about 8 or 9 different people, ranging from some of the most incredible artists I've ever seen to some people who... well... calling them scratchers would be an insult to scratchers everywhere. It seems like with every artist and every shop comes a new "miracle aftercare method". As someone who has pretty much tried them all, I would like to talk about how good and/or bad every method I've tried was/is.
At A Glance Author Pierre. Contact [email protected] IAM Valo When N/A
A word of warning, however. I am NOT a tattoo artist. I never was a tattoo artist, and chances are I never will be a tattoo artist. Make sure you listen to your tattoo artist as far as aftercare, and when in doubt as to the aftercare method he/she is suggesting, ask them about alternatives. If that doesn't work, then I recommend checking with other artists in the area. I would also recommend directing any questions to the QOD, who are a panel of professional people in the industry. What this editorial is is simply how my body has reacted to different aftercare methods and products.
Listed below are the what I used for aftercare, the pros and cons of the product/method in my personal experience, and my rating of the method.
First, I am going to go through a list of things I've used that can be bought at most pharmacies. Note that these products are NOT created specifically for tattoo aftercare, so make sure you read the ingredients to make sure you're not allergic to anything in the cream you use.
- Polysporin - Seems to me like everyone who inked me when I was younger (pre-1999) recommended the product. I thought at first that it worked great, but now that I'm more knowledgable, I noticed that it sucked out a LOT of ink from the tatoos, making them pale and a little blotchy. I would NOT recommend Polysporin to anyone.
Rating: One star
- Vaseline - I've actually been recommended Vaseline by an at-home scratcher once. Not knowing any better, I used the vaseline on my tattoo. Massive scabbing, a little pus and LOTS of color loss and scarring later, I see why no one who would work in a real shop would recommend it.
Rating: Minus 3 stars.
- Lubriderm - Again, I've only used this once, as only one artist has ever recommended it to me personally, though I've heard of others who also recommend it. It seemed to work good from what I saw, as the tattoo healed normally. It didn't cause me any problems whatsoever, healing-wise, I didn't lose any color, and there was only minor scabbing. now if only the artist who recommended it to me wouldn't have completely screwed up the tattoo.....
Rating: 2 1/2 stars. I would give it more, as it healed properly, but I would hate to rate a product I'm unfamiliar with.
- Webber Vitamin E cream - This is one product I used successfully for quite awhile. Here in Canada, It comes in two forms: a tube and a little jar. I STRONGLY recommend you get the jar. The problem with the tube is, while you get the same product, is the paint on the packaging flakes off once the tube becomes wrinkled and, since you'e working with some sticky stuff, it tends to get on your tattoo. Another problem with Vitamin E is the fact that, while I did not lose ANY color from using it, it seems that it gets extremely dirty, and can leave black marks on clothing (which come off in the wash, thankfully). It also seems like my body started rejecting it after using it on about ten sessions. when it did work though, it was simply the most incredible healing I had gotten to date.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars
- Baciguent (AKA Baccitracin Ointment) - To me, this is THE holy grail of aftercare creams. Never Have I had anything that helped me heal so well in my life. I've been using it non-stop for the last 2 years. It seems to be the cream that lasts longest, that heals quickest, and that has not failed me yet. The only cons about this cream is it is sometimes a little hard to find, though most pharmacies can order either Baciguent or some form of baccitracin ointment, which I've also used and is the EXACT same product, just debranded.
Rating: 5 stars
Now here is a list of products I've used that were made SPECIFICALLY for tattoo aftercare, and how much success I've had using them. Remember, there are lots of other aftercare solutions on the market... This is just reviewing what I've used in my experience
I would also like to point out that some people would recommend some other aftercare, from A&D ointment, J&B Tattoo aftercare, and other creams... I am not saying they're bad aftercare solutions. For all I know, they could be the best on the market. I just haven't seen any reason to switch from Baciguent to anything else.
- Tattoo Goo - This product Was pretty damned good, if you ask me. The only problem I had with it, besides the price, was the fact that it came in a little jar, and was hardened. When it came time to goo up a particularly large tattoo when you can only get a small ammount of product on your fingers. I remember when I had gotten a session on my (particularly large) back, it took nearly 20-30 minutes to get the whole thing goo'ed up. I was told there is also a cream in a tube, but I have not seen it. It does work good, but I would not recommend it for very large tattoos
Rating: 4 stars
- Toro's Tattoo Cream - This was something I had picked up in New Brunswick on my first tattoo, and haven't heard anything about it since. I think it was the artist's way of making a few dollars. I had compared it to Polysporin with a friend back then, and it was VERY similar, if not the exact same thing. It worked for that tattoo, but I still lost quite a bit of color in it. If you're going to buy tattoo cream designed speci, I recommend you go for Tatoo goo and not search for this VERY expensive ($15/small tube) cream.
Rating: 1 star, same as Polysporin, since I'm not convinced it wasn't the same thing.
Now, I would like to talk about different methods I've tried over the years as far as healing. Most methods were suggested by artists, and some were just tried by me when recommended methods were not working. Again, Please follow your artist's instructions for aftercare, and if in doubt, ask or get a second opinion from another artist you trust. This is merely what I've tried...
So there you have it. This is how I would rate the methods of aftercare I've used over the years... I hope you all learn from my mistakes, and heal all your ink to the best of your ability. Another last few things I would like to point out, which should come as logic:
- The "leave it alone and let it heal without aftercare" method - Was recommended to me once. I would not recommend doing that to a fresh tattoo. Your skin will dry up, which will cause HEAVY flaking and scabbing. Even if you don't pick the scabs/flakes, chances are you will get some of them ripped off by either clothing, bedsheets, or even bending your bodypart the wrong way. The only time I ever have used this method successfully was when my body started rejecting the aftercare I was using, which meant I didn't know what to use on the tattoo. I let it dry and in a week, it was good as new with only minor color loss. Beats getting an infection, which is what I was starting to get.
Rating of method: 1 1/2 stars
- The "keep applying aftercare 2-3 times daily (whenever it dries up) for 2 weeks, until it heals completely" method - Was a method I used for a long time. While it does work great, the only drawback is that scabs or flakes form after about 4-5 days, and start falling at about 6-7 days. Applying normal aftercare afterwards has caused me to pull off scabs before they fell on their own (of course, everyone SHOULD know to NEVER pick a scab or a flake from a healing tattoo), which caused a little bit of color loss. Healed tattoos quite well except for that little problem.
Rating of method: 3 stars
- The "Apply aftercare 2-3 times daily only for the first week, then let it heal naturally" method - This was the method my regular artist suggested to me for the longest time. Like the previous method, it does work great, but has its drawback. That would be that once the week is done, and the tattoo's healing has progressed, it leaves the tattoo dry which can cause the scabs/flakes that may have formed and may have not fallen to be easily ripped off. It won't be ripped off by hand from applying aftercare, but could be ripped off by other means (again, clothing, bedsheets, etc...)
Rating of method: 3 1/2 stars... worked just ever-so slightly better for me than the previous method
- The "apply good ammount of aftercare to fresh tattoo, wrap fresh area with saran wrap (or other no-name brand cellophane plastic wrap), leave on for about 12 hours, clean tattoo, leave breathe for about 2-3 hours, rewrap, do so for 3 days, then keep tattoo moist with regular aftercare until healed" method - while some artists dislike this method, as it "does not let the skin breathe", it has been the one foolproof method for me. It seems to heal ever-so-quickly, as long as it is VERY well cleaned in between wrappings. Those few hours in-between wrappings has been giving my fresh ink lots of time to breathe, as it is completely aftercare-free (which also blocks your pores, which blocks the skin's breathing). It also pretty much guarantees that you won't rub your tattoo on anything unclean, which could both get germs in the tattoo (which is, in essence, a wound), risking infection, and it guarantees that your aftercare won't accidentally rub off on anything, which w ould leave that section of the tattoo dry until you would re-apply lotion. From my experience, the tattoo heals ever-so-quickly, with no scabbing or flakes after 3 days. Regular aftercare (applying 2-3 times daily) for the next week or so, to make sure the skin doesn't dry up. This method has been about as flawless as it gets. Only drawback is the mess it seems to make while removing the wrappings.
Rating of method: 5 stars
1. DO NOT PICK YOUR SCABS. If you do, then it's your own fault if it looks like shit afterwards
2. Don't go swimming until the tattoo is fully healed. If you need to, contact your artist, he may be able to suggest waterproof bandages to cover your tattoo
3. when you shower or bathe, make sure to not get water directly on the fresh tattoo. Obviously you'll get water on it, but don't go soaking it, or put the shower spray directly on it.
4. Don't go in a tanning bed or suntanning. Tan=bad for ink, especially fresh ink
5. don't go doing weight training/athletic exercise. Sweat WILL irritate the tattoo. Trust me.
6. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. If the tattoo starts pussing, bleeding, or scabs VERY badly, chances are your body isn't liking the aftercare you're doing. In that case, I recommend you immediately contact your artist.
Bottom line: take good care of your ink.
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