Here are the basics on how to properly heal your tattoo. Everything else on this page dives into the healing process and some more explanation as to how the tattoo heals. But if you need a quick overview, you're looking at it!
Wash your tattoo a few times a day with clean hands, antibacterial liquid hand soap, and warm water.
use a non-scented moisturizer if needed. all while making sure it is not over moisturized so it can make it through the 4 stages of healing. This is a little tricky but a good rule of thumb is that If you look down at it and think, "oh, that could use some lotion!" then use a small tiny amount of lotion. if you can't tell if it needs it or not, then it probably doesn't need it. Your body does a great job of letting you know what it needs.
and finally, no messing with it! No picking, No Scratching, No excessive or overly extended movements of the tattooed area. nothing that will cause your body's protective barriers to break or become irritated. Otherwise the healing process starts all over again, and your body is going to want to push out the tattoo.
It's really that easy.
While the above basics should get you though most tattoo healing situations, We will always suggest that you listen to the tattoo artist that gave you your tattoo. They know how they want you to heal their work based of their experiences with their clients. Not following their guidelines could void your ability to receive any touch ups you might need. So if you have questions about your tattoo, always reach out to you artist first.
But remember, while your tattoo artist has a ton of experience, its never a substitute for actual medical advice. Check with your artist first before anything else, but never be afraid to seek medical advice if you feel its necessary.
Below you'll find exactly how a body heals surface wounds. This is extra credit for sure and can help you understand how the process works so you can make better informed aftercare decisions.
The Healing Process
STOP THE LEAK
Hemostasis is the process of the wound being closed by clotting. Hemostasis starts when blood leaks out of the body. The first step of hemostasis is when blood vessels constrict to restrict the blood flow. Next, platelets stick together in order to seal the break in the wall of the blood vessel. Finally, coagulation occurs and reinforces the platelet plug with threads of fibrin which are like a molecular binding agent. The platelets adhere to the sub-endothelium surface within seconds of the rupture of a blood vessel's epithelial wall. As the fibrin begins to mesh, the blood is transformed from liquid to gel through pro-coagulants and the release of prothrombin. The formation of a thrombus or clot keeps the platelets and blood cells trapped in the wound area.
WE WILL REBUILD
The proliferative phase of wound healing is when the wound is rebuilt with new tissue made up of collagen and extracellular matrix. In the proliferative phase, the wound contracts as new tissues are built. In addition, a new network of blood vessels must be constructed so that the granulation tissue can be healthy and receive sufficient oxygen and nutrients. Myofibroblasts cause the wound to contract by gripping the wound edges and pulling them together using a mechanism similar to that of smooth muscle cells. In healthy stages of wound healing, granulation tissue is pink or red and uneven in texture. Moreover, healthy granulation tissue does not bleed easily. Dark granulation tissue can be a sign of infection, ischemia, or poor perfusion. In the final phase of the proliferative stage of wound healing, epithelial cells resurface the injury. It is important to remember that epithelialization happens faster when wounds are kept moist and hydrated. Generally, when occlusive or semiocclusive dressings are applied within 48 hours after injury, they will maintain correct tissue humidity to optimize epithelialization.
CLEAN UP CREW
Inflammation is the second stage of wound healing and begins right after the injury when the injured blood vessels leak transudate (made of water, salt, and protein) causing localized swelling. Inflammation both controls bleeding and prevents infection. The fluid engorgement allows healing and repair cells to move to the site of the wound. During the inflammatory phase, damaged cells, pathogens, and bacteria are removed from the wound area. These white blood cells, growth factors, nutrients and enzymes create the swelling, heat, pain and redness commonly seen during this stage of wound healing. Inflammation is a natural part of the wound healing process and only problematic if prolonged or excessive.
Also called the remodeling stage of wound healing, the maturation phase is when collagen is remodeled from type III to type I and the wound fully closes. The cells that had been used to repair the wound but which are no longer needed are removed by apoptosis, or programmed cell death. When collagen is laid down during the proliferative phase, it is disorganized and the wound is thick. During the maturation phase, collagen is aligned along tension lines and water is reabsorbed so the collagen fibers can lie closer together and cross-link. Cross-linking of collagen reduces scar thickness and also makes the skin area of the wound stronger. Generally, remodeling begins about 21 days after an injury and can continue for a year or more. Even with cross-linking, healed wound areas continue to be weaker than uninjured skin, generally only having 80% of the tensile strength of unwounded skin.