After the tattoo is complete you may want to bandage the tattoo. Basic First Aid teaches us that denying a wound of oxygen will dramatically slow the healing time. Since the invention of the plastic wrap, people have been putting it on there tattoos. Don't do this. What is a green house? A green house is a building with a frame and glass so the sun can get in and make things grow. Your giving people a bacteria farm by putting plastic wrap on a tattoo. Light can get in and heat up the tattoo causing bacteria to grow, the plastic seals away all oxygen so your body cannot fight the infection or allow the natural healing process. You must view a tattoo as a wound, it's an abrasion comparable to skinning your knee. The first two hours of a tattoo healing is the most important. The tattoo will seep blood and plasma (the clear stuff) for about fifteen minutes. You can bandage the tattoo to help guard against bacteria on the clients ride home, but after about thirty minutes it needs to come off. If you bandage tattoos then you need to pick up some non stick gauze and medical tape. Clean the tattoo very well with green soap and rinse all the soap off with water. If you leave the soap on then you will dry out the tattoo. This is the only time that I will recommend using a small amount of vasoline on the tattoo. This will help the bandage not to stick to the skin. Cut a section of the non stick gauze to fit over the tattooed area and another two inches. Only tape the top and bottom so the wound can breath. If oxygen can't get to it then it can't heal. Tell your client that it must be taken off within thirty minutes and not to bandage it again. If they work in an area that will get the tattoo dirty, have them ware clothes that will cover and protect it. If you leave a bandage on longer than thirty minutes, then the blood and plasma will dry causing the bandage to stick to the wound. If they pull it off then they will pull out your work. Have them wash the tattoo as soon as they take off the bandage in warm water and antibacterial soap. This removes any blood, plasma, and extra pigment left in the skin. If the bandage does want to stick then you can have them run warm water over the bandage to loosen it from the skin.
For larger tattoos you want you client to take a hot shower. Not so it burns them, but as hot as they can stand. The hot water will open up the pours and then wash it with antibacterial soap. When they rinse off the tattoo they should use cold water. The hot water opens everything up, and the cold seals it after they wash out all the crap that needs to be gone. The next day they won't be half as sore, and the tattoo will heal twice as fast. The ancient Japanese use to jump in a natural hot spring to soak there tattoos clean, then after a few minutes they would get in the cold water to achieve the same goal. If a healing technique is 2,000 years old then it must be right. Smaller tattoos don't need to worry about this, but the larger piece will thank you later, after they forget about how bad the hot water burned. Make sure to have your client wash there tattoo with there hand, in circular motions. A cloth will cause more damage to already irritated skin.
The first thing I want you to put on your tattoo is pure acetone and used engine oil. What, you don't like the sound of that? That's what everyone has been doing for years. Maybe not those chemicals but they have been putting crap that pulls out the pigment causing fading, and seals bacteria in the skin, and you as an artist tell people to do this every day. Lets use our heads here a little. Tattoo pigments are a chemical housed in a carrier solution. For the exact nature look back at the pigment section, but the most used carrier solution is water, and glycerin. Tattoo artist are telling people to put chemicals like "A+D Ointment", "Neosporin" Bacitracion, " Vasoline", Petroleum Jelly, "Triple Anti-Biotic Ointment", and Other chemicals like brand name "Tattoo Goo". Every one of these chemicals are oil based. Have you ever mixed oil and water? They don't mix. The oil base in these chemicals pull out the pigment of your tattoo. You say "I've used that for years and mine are fine.", then good for you. Do you remember when you plastered that crap on your tattoo? Ever seen the pigment running down your skin two or three days after it was done? What about waking up in the morning to find the outline of your tattoo on your sheet? It's not suppose to do that. That would be the pigment leaving your skin. I know that there will be a handful of artist that will stick to old faithful, but for the rest of us with a brain, lets look a little further. The products that are made for tattoo healing are all oil based. The only reason they are a product is because you buy it for five bucks and sell it to your clients for fifteen. When I use to recommend those products I was doing five or six touch ups a week. After I stopped, I bet I have only done ten in the entire year of 2008. One out of every five clients are allergic to them also. Symptoms include swelling, infection, red rash around the tattoo, almost all of the pigment coming out, a healing time of more that six weeks, and massive scarring. I refuse to carry any of these products in my shop. If that's not good enough for you then how about some more medical facts.
Oil based products like "A+D ointment" are zero oxygen barriers. What this means in that lack of oxygen will stop the healing process. Hepatitis can live for a few days on a dirty surface, and once exposed to the air, HIV can only live for seven seconds. In a zero oxygen environment HIV can live in " A+D " for more than six weeks, and Hep can live indefinitely. So if you get Hep in a jar of vasoline it can still infect you ten years later. Here is some food for thought, "A+D" is a chemical designed for diaper rash. For diaper rash it's the number one product out there, but for a tattoo it causes more than a thousand cases of staff infection per year, and one in every ten will have an allergic reaction form use on a tattoo. As a matter of fact it says right on the tube to not use this product on open wounds. "A+D" is made from lanolin, which is boiled sheep wool and "non-sterile, non-medical grade petroleum." I don't want that in my open wound.
Ok, so now that I have completely destroyed what every one was ever taught about tattoo after care, what the hell do we use? Its much easier and much less expensive. Soap and lotion. A tattoo takes on average about ten days to heal all the way. For the entire course of the tattoo healing you want to wash the tattoo with antibacterial soap. The soap you want is the non scented soap. You can get "Dial" of the cheep equivalent. Any soap with perfumes in it will cause more irritation. Most of the perfumes in soaps and lotions contain rubbing alcohol to dilute the chemical. Rubbing alcohol will burn, and dry out the tattoo. It will cause you body to work three and four times harder to heal as well as braking up the pigment under your skin. Why antibacterial soap? A tattoo is still a wound. Infection does not come from a tattoo shop. You get infection from hitting your exposed wound on something else that's infected. You wash it two or three times a day to prevent infection. After two days "48 hours" you can apply a small amount of non scented lotion. You need to wait two days because the tattoo is still setting up, or getting the protective layer over it. If you apply lotion too soon you will coat the tattoo in a layer that will hold in bacteria. If you apply the lotion too soon, there is a chance your tattoo will get red and irritated as well as up the chances for you to get an infection. Non scented lotion is for the same reason, perfumes and alcohol. If you use a lotion that burns when you apply it, then you are using the wrong lotion. The best part is that you can go to your local everything store and get the small bottles in the travel section of about fifty cents. One small tube will last the entire tattoo. So you have a dollar in the soap and fifty cents in the lotion, you can't beat that.
Just a few of the advantages to the soap and lotion method will more than impress compared to oil based products. You save money, your colors will be brighter than you have ever seen and they will stay like that. I did a large set of grey wash flowers on my fiancé, and no one believes they are more than three weeks old. The fact is I did them more than a year and a half ago. They still look brand new, and will be as black as the day I did them when she is ninety. Your tattoo will not seep after thirty minutes. This means that you will not stain your clothes or your sheets, and you don't have to fight that oil out of your clothes when you wash them and because there is no blood present to scab, the tattoo just lightly peels like a sunburn. I'm sorry but as an artist I want my work to look the best it can. I'm not going to sell my clients crap that destroys my work and there tattoo. I cut my expenses in half not having to do as many touch ups. If you have to sell something in the display case, sell a few different types of lotion and antibacterial soap. Sometimes you will see heavy scabbing using this method. This means that the client is not using the lotion often enough. My challenge to you, is do one tattoo on your self and heal it with soap and lotion like I said, If you don' think it's a hundred percent difference after three months, to see how bright the tattoo stays, then throw my book away and tell everyone I'm a quack.
Other than that, the basic rules still apply. Don't scratch a tattoo. If you scratch a tattoo then the pigment may come out with a section of scab or peeling skin, this I known as a holiday. Don't soak in the tub or go swimming. Over exposure to water softens the skin and can cause it to peel prematurely. Also do not try to shave a tattooed are till it peels, no matter how bad you may want to. A razor will open it right back up. Tanning beds are a no, Period. Covering a towel will not stop UV light from damaging the tattoo. The harmful rays that damage a tattoo are evenly dispersed by your body. If you want your tattoo to look good for the rest of your life then don't tan, it will fade your tattoo like the sun fades paint. You shouldn't tan anyway. Someone that tans everyday for ten years has a better chance of getting cancer than a smoker on two packs a day for twenty years. If you don't believe me, look it up. If you have to tan or you work out in the sun, then please take care of your tattoo. Use a high SPF sun block to keep your tattoo from fading. Also some pigments may look a little redder in color than they should. This is due to the irritation of the needle and it will go away. In a few hour the white that looks pink will be really bright. That's pretty much it for aftercare, just use your best judgment and don't go by what someone else tells you, research the products and chemicals yourself and study First Aid.
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