You’ve thought long and hard about the kind of tattoo you want to get, you’ve worked with an amazing artist to develop a striking design, and you’ve sat through long hours to get a beautiful piece of art drawn on your body. Or maybe you just walked into a tattoo parlor on impulse and decided to mark this moment in your life with something permanent! Either way, you will want to make sure that your tattoo heals properly and stays bright for many years to come.
Dr. Bronner’s products have long been prized for tattoo aftercare by tattoo artists because of their effectiveness as cleansers and moisturizers, while still being gentle on sensitive skin—many tattoo shops specifically recommend our products on their websites. A tattoo is essentially a wound—tattoo guns use fast-moving needles to inject ink deep into the skin. Making sure your tattoo is properly cared for in the first few weeks is the key to preventing infection and keeping a tattoo looking great for the long term. What follows is a step-by-step guide to caring for your new (or old) tattoo with Dr. Bronner’s.
The initial bandage
Tattoo artists will usually apply a thin layer of balm, jelly or moisturizer once the tattoo is finished, then completely wrap the tattooed area with a bandage or plastic wrap. If your tattoo artist is not already a Dr. Bronner’s aficionado, you can make sure to provide them with a tin of Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Organic Magic Balm for this initial application.
Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Organic Magic Balm is perfect for moisturizing and healing new tattoos. It contains coconut oil and jojoba oil to soften and moisturize, while hemp seed oil helps repair skin and reduce inflammation. Avocado and olive oils keep your tattoo smooth and supple. All the ingredients are organic and most are sourced from fair trade projects.
Though it can be tempting to remove the bandage to peek at the tattoo, most artists recommend that you leave it on for the first three to twelve hours (smaller tattoos need less, while larger ones need more). Remember that the bandage is protecting your delicate skin from being exposed to bacteria or sunlight, and from rubbing against clothing. It is also there to minimize scabbing.
The first wash
After about three to twelve hours (go with your tattoo artist’s recommendation), it is safe to remove the bandage and give your new tattoo its first wash. At this point, your tattoo may look as if its weeping or oozing a thick, sticky substance. No need for alarm, as this is quite normal. What you’re seeing is in fact excess fluid (plasma) and ink from the tattoo process.
It’s important to clean off your tattoo and Dr. Bronner’s Baby Unscented Pure-Castile Liquid Soap is just the soap for this job! Most tattoo professionals recommend the Unscented variety so that you are not putting any potentially irritating essential oils on your sensitive skin. Make sure to use warm water, and wash your hands thoroughly before washing your tattoo. Avoid using a washcloth or anything that might irritate your skin—simply wash the tattooed area gently with your fingers.
After washing, pat your skin dry with a paper towel and allow the skin to air-dry for at least ten minutes. When the area is completely dry you can reapply a very thinlayer of the Unscented Organic Magic Balm and leave it uncovered. Some recommend not applying balm at this point, and simply letting the tattooed area breathe. If you do want to apply balm after the first wash, you need only use a small amount.
The initial phase (first few days)
Initially, your tattooed skin may feel warm to the touch and have a reddish appearance, like a severe sunburn. This is normal—remember that your tattoo is technically an open wound at this point. During the first few weeks you should avoid completely submerging the tattoo into water—the only time your tattoo should be wet is when washing it.
You can continue to wash it just as outlined above. Showers are preferable to baths, so that you don’t submerge your tattoo. Continue applying a thin layer of Unscented Organic Magic Balm after washing and drying the tattoo. You can wash the tattooed area once in the morning and once at night. If you feel you really need a midday wash to clean off excess plasma, then you can add a third wash.
The healing phase (second week)
For many this is the most difficult phase after getting a new tattoo. The skin can begin to scab and often becomes terribly itchy. You might be tempted to pull or pick at scabs and flaking skin, but YOU SHOULD NOT! Scabs are part of the healing process and need to come off on their own when they’re good and ready. Pulling them off early will slow down recovery and can damage the tattoo itself, forcing you to go back for touch ups.
To calm the itching and keep your skin from peeling, you can continue applying our Organic Magic Balm (but remember a thin layer will do). Another option recommended for this phase is to moisturize with our Organic Lotions (the Lavender Coconut Lotion is the most lightly scented). The Organic Lotions will calm the itching, let your tattooed skin continue to breathe and are easy to apply in a gentle way that will not cause you to accidently remove scabs.
The recovery phase (third week and beyond)
The final stage of healing can be slow and requires patience. While most of the larger scabs will have flaked and fallen away by now, small scabs and bits of dead skin may still appear—but these will clear up as the healing process continues.
At this point you can choose from your moisturizer of choice: either our Organic Magic Balm, our Organic Coconut Oil, or one of our Organic Lotions. Organic Coconut Oil has natural antimicrobial properties and can also help rejuvenate skin like our balms. Make sure that you are not sharing your coconut oil jar with anyone and that you wash your hands before dipping your fingers into the jar. This will help prevent any infections. Applying one of these moisturizers while protecting your tattoo from the sun, will help keep your skin from drying and your tattoo looking bright.
Some final tips
- Wear loose-fitting clothes! Tight fitting clothing around your tattooed skin can cause irritation.
- Drink plenty of water!
- For the first month or so, keep your tattoo fully covered up if you plan to be in the sun. After the first three to four weeks, once the tattoo has fully healed, you should always apply sunscreen to the tattoo if it might be exposed to the sun.
- Don’t scratch it, not matter how itchy. If you’re feeling super-itchy, then it’s time to apply some of our Organic Lotion or Unscented Organic Magic Balm!
Thanks to Dr. Bronner’s sales staff and tattoo aficionados Grant Van Peski and Marc De Rosa for contributing their expertise to this article.
Do you have experience taking care of your tattoos with Dr. Bronner’s? Please let us know!
Rafi Loiederman is Content Editor at Dr. Bronner’s, and has been using the company’s products for over 20 years. He enjoys recording and performing music, is an avid hiker and naturalist, and an erstwhile linguist.