Did you finally do it? Did you recently get the tattoo you always wanted?
It looks bright, colorful, artistic, appealing, but now you need to make sure to take care of it well and avoid getting a skin infection.
Usually, tattoo shop artists can tell you the right steps for tattoo aftercare. However, if you need trusted professional advice, you can always ask a dermatologist or your local physician. Moreover, it depends on where you live in the United States as there are few guidelines for tattooing and even fewer for aftercare.
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How To Take Care Of Your Tattoo?
Tattoo aftercare should be started as soon as your tattoo is completed. First, the artist applies a thin layer of antibiotic ointment over the tattoo and covers the area in a bandage or plastic wrap. This covering can prevent bacteria from getting into your skin and protects the tattoo from rubbing onto your clothes and getting irritated. Tattoo artists usually recommend keeping the dressing on for as long as it is needed, which may be just a few hours. It can absorb any fluids or excess inks leaking from the tattoo.
After a few hours, you can remove the bandage or plastic covering. Wash your hands well with water and soap and later wash the inked skin gently with clean water and suggested soap for tattoos. Pat the inked skin dry with a soft, clean cloth and apply a little fragrance-free and alcohol-free moisturizer. By now, you can keep the tattoo uncovered and let the skin breathe and heal. Wear sun-protective loose clothing whenever you go outside while your tattoo is healing. Also, call your tattoo artist or doctor if you experience any symptoms of infection or other problems.
You should not cover your tattoo with sunblock – even scratch, or pick at – wear clothes over it until it’s fully healed. Also, avoid going swimming or immersing your body in water. Showers are fine, but bathing in tubs is not. A general rule of thumb when it comes to the healing of tattoos is that healing depends on the size and complexity of the tattoo. The bigger the tattoo, the longer it will stay red and swollen as it causes more trauma and penetration of the skin.
After you come home from the tattoo studio with your tattoo covered properly, wait a few hours to remove it. Ask the artist about everything you can do for quicker healing and the specifics about how long to wait. Recommendations can vary depending on the type and size of your tattoo. Moreover, some artists would suggest that you only need to cover your tattoo for one or two hours.
Furthermore, you would probably notice fluids oozing from the tattoo after you finally removed the covering. Nevertheless, all the blood, plasma, extra ink coming out from the inked skin is normal. Other normal symptoms you will notice are reddish and sore skin that is warm to the touch. Wash the tattoo with clean and sterilized hands, warm water, and a bar of soap without fragrance. After that, apply a moisturizer and leave the tattoo uncovered for proper healing.
Days 2 to 3
After a few days, your tattoo will start looking duller and cloudier. This happens because your skin is healing, and scabs are forming. Henceforth, you need to wash your tattoo once or twice per day and apply a proper moisturizer. However, while washing you may notice some ink dripping into the sink. As mentioned before, this is just excess ink leaking out from the skin and a normal thing you see during tattoo aftercare.
Days 4 to 6
By now, the redness of skin should start to face and you may notice some light scabbing over the inking. These scabs usually are not as thick as the scabs you get when you cut yourself. But, these scabs are raised so do not pick at them as it can lead to permanent scarring. Continue washing your tattoo once or twice per day and keep applying a good moisturizer.
Days 6 to 14
At almost two weeks in, the scabs should have hardened and will start flaking off. Do not pick at them or try to forcefully pull them off. Scabs come off naturally, and you should let them as you can pull out the ink, leaving scars behind. Your skin may feel very itchy by now, so gently rub the moisturizer several times a day to relieve the itchy feelings. In addition, if your skin is still red and swollen at this point then you might have an infection. Go back to your tattoo artist or see a dermatologist & take the necessary medications.
Days 15 to 30
This is the last stage of healing where most of the big flaky scabs are gone or going away. You could still see some dead skin, but eventually, even that will clear up too. The inked area may look dry and dull so keep moisturizing it until the skin looks hydrated enough. The exterior layer of skin should have healed by the second or third week. But, in some cases, it can take three to four months for the lower layers to heal completely. Moreover, the tattoo should look bright and vivid by the end of the third month as it was originally intended by the artist and even you.
Tattoo aftercare products
Tattoo aftercare products include mild, fragrance-free soaps or specially formulated tattoo cleansers to clean the area. Some of the products, which you can buy online are:
- Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar
- A+D Original Ointment
- Curél Fragrance-Free Lotion
- Eucerin Intensive Repair Lotion
Should You Go Hiking After Getting A Tattoo?
Hiking is an outdoor activity that could lead to potential side effects and complications of tattoos. Your skin can be itchy, red, and/or sore for the first few days after you get the tattoo. During this time, you may also notice excess ink flowing out along with blood and fluid. This is normal. Some serious symptoms are any of the following complications:
- Infection is possible if the tattoo isn’t properly cared for – (red, warm, painful skin may be leaking pus)
- Using contaminated equipment or ink can lead to a bloodborne infection, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, tetanus, or HIV
- Even infections like nontuberculous mycobacterial skin infections are possible without proper care of tattoos
- Allergic reactions can also happen if you are sensitive to the ink your artist used
- Red dyes are known to most likely cause an allergic reaction. So avoid them if you can.
- Research has also shown that red dyes combined with blue and black dyes can also cause nonallergic skin reactions such as photosensitivity
- Scarring can be caused by needle damage or from picking at the tattoo
Taking into account all the care and attention a new tattoo requires, hiking after getting one significantly increases the risk of developing an infection. You would need to clean the tattoo multiple times a day with clean tap water and soap. It is often recommended to avoid strenuous physical activity and sweating during the healing period. Moreover, this healing period can last for about a month during which the tattoo should be kept dry and that’s why extensive sweating is not a good thing at all.
So, coming back to the original question – should you go hiking after getting a tattoo? The answer to this depends on how you feel and how well you can take care of your new tattoo. You can go for a brief hike if you take the necessary measures and precautions to avoid irritation and infection. But before you hit the trail with a new tattoo, you must know all the basic tattoo care measures. Use an ace wrap to cover your tattoo during the whole time for hiking expeditions. It is important to remember that in the wild, the vegetation and dirt can irritate your inked skin.
Definitely avoid multi-day hiking in the wilderness as it can expose your tattoo to things you may know or even don’t know about. Many unforeseen circumstances can happen during a trip in outdoor environments and not all of them can be healthy for your newly inked skin. Hence, while you are waiting for your tattoo to heal completely, choose short day hikes on paved lands or avoid going on trips.
Steps For Hiking With A Fresh Tattoo
Things you need to do if you are going out hiking with a new tattoo anyway:
- Keep yourself in a hygienic environment and research the landscape and weather well
- Avoid places with unpredictable conditions and minimum to nil sanitization
- Take precautions not to accidentally brush up against something or potentially trip and fall
- Avoid exposure to dust on the trail, which is typically infested with germs and bacteria
- Wash your tattoo when you are out in the wilderness during the initial stages of healing
- Bring along the soap recommended by your tattoo artist or dermatologist and water
- Keep in mind that excessive exposure to water can cause infection
- Washing your tattoo more than three times a day with water and soap is risky
- Prevent your tattoo from developing any kind of infection by using antibiotics if needed
- It is necessary to keep applying proper tattoo ointment every time
- Prevent your tattoo from getting exposed to the direct sun by all means
- Wear a loose cloth to cover the tattoo area to avoid rubbing and causing a rash
- Avoid extensive sweating – can create an unhealthy environment for your tattoo and the unhealed skin under it
- Always try your best to keep your tattoo dry and clean
- Don’t allow sweat to stay on your tattoos for long, use isopropyl alcohol and water to clean the tattooed skin if you are sweating constantly
- If any clothing around your tattoo gets wet, from water or sweat, make sure to dry them out to keep moisture away from the area
- Sweat is a favorable condition for the growth of bacteria. So, make sure to wipe it as soon as possible.
In short, hiking is a great experience as long as you don’t have a serious medical condition or inking that you need to constantly be aware of and take care of. For most people, hiking is a wonderful activity for both your mind and spirit. It offers a great physical workout while simultaneously providing you with the charm and beauty of a trail well-traveled.
Hiking with a tattoo depends on how ready are you to take care of your newly inked skin. A new tattoo has a risk of getting infected with germs and bacteria that are commonly found in a sweaty and dirty environment. Additionally, this is why you need to keep a close eye on cleanliness throughout your hike. If you can give your tattoo the attention and aftercare it needs, it will benefit you greatly. However, if you do not follow the necessary instructions, you will land in some trouble with your inked skin.