There has been a lot of debate on whether you should let your tattoo "dry heal" or "wrap heal". Many say that one version of the healing process is better than the other. To get to the bottom of things, we're comparing results of tattoos that were left to heal using just oxygen to those that used various wrap to heal their tattoo.
Many tattoo artists nowadays do not recommend letting your fresh tattoo heal via air drying for a number of reasons. One primary reason is that when you have an open wound in your skin (which is what a tattoo is), staph bacterium can enter and cause some major infections. In many cases, staph infections are so bad that it drastically alters the results of a tattoo. Another issue with dry healing is scabbing, and what that means for the tattoo as the skin heals.
Scabbing, in and of itself, isn’t of terrible concern. However, when not cared for and hydrated, scabs can actually pull out ink pigment as they heal. Additionally, as scabs become dry and irritated, they begin to itch. And, every time an individual scratches their healing/scabbing tattoo, they essentially rip open their skin and risk losing more ink pigment. Furthermore, scabs catch on clothing, bedding, and the like commonly. Unfortunately, when this happens, it is likely that the tattoo will lose a portion of ink, due to the scab lifting ink with it as its removed. For those reasons, most tattoo artists recommend wrapping.
You get tattooed, and your artist decides to slather an assortment of topical products on your art, cover it in saran wrap, and call it a day. Sounds great, right? Wrong. There are some serious problems with using plastic wrap on a tattoo. The first, being that an occlusive seal is created upon application. An occlusive seal means that no oxygen can enter or exit an area, prompting bacteria to grow. Trapping bacteria in a closed system along with your bodily fluids and the constant 97-100º F temperature creates a breeding ground for infections.
Oxygen is vital for a healing tattoo. Thus, Saniderm and other similar medical bandages are engineered to be permeable to gases. This lets your skin continue to “breathe,” along with the benefits of having a physical barrier to protect your healing tattoo. Because they are breathable, tattoo bandages can be worn for several days at a time while your tattoo heals. Additionally, customers who used Saniderm and other similar tattoo bandages during healing reported that the colors in their tattoo dulled and faded during healing less compared to other healing methods.
(II) East Coast Versus West Coast Tattoos — Is There a Difference?
Interestingly, there is, indeed, a distinction between East Coast and West Coast tattoos. And, upon further investigation, we found distinctions between tattooing styles in four major divisions of tattooing in the US. We essentially created a tattoo map of the United States, which is how we came up with these four divisions. The divisions are, namely: the Metropolitan Division (New York-area), followed by the Atlantic Division (the rest of the Eastern Time Zone-area), continued by the Central Division (Central Time Zone-area), and ending with the Pacific Division Finals (Pacific Time Zone-area).
Culture is an incredible creature, and it absolutely impacts people and the art that they create. Differences in culture significantly shape and influence tattoo artists in each respective division, which ultimately determines what tattoos come from an area.
We looked at a large number of tattoo artists from New York City and the surrounding metro area. And, while we found artists doing just about every tattooing style, we noted a heavy prevalence of American traditional and black & grey artistic influences, as well as more skyscrapers, bridges, and skylines than in other divisions.
In the Atlantic Division, we noted heavy American traditional and illustrative artistic influences. We also saw more tattoos done in color than in the Metropolitan Division. We witnessed a true melting pot of tattooing styles and artistic influences in the Central Division. There were a wide variety of colors, and highlighting using either fine lines or blurred, shaded edges. The final and largest division, the Pacific Division, brings its own unique flavor to the tattoo community, with an abundance of fine line-work, realism, and some of the best portrait tattoos we've ever seen.
(III) What You Should Know Before You Get Your Next Tattoo
So, you’ve made the decision to get a tattoo. What's next? There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing your next tattoo. You need to find a design you like, search for a tattoo shop that you like, and book an artist that you like. Not to mention, what do you look for when you visit a prospective shop? What types of questions should you ask your artist? We've done some of the legwork in this article, and answered all of those questions for you!
When deciding what kind of design to get, you always want to keep a few things in mind:
You will have this tattoo forever. Yes, there are options for removal; however, they are expensive, painful, and can scar your skin.
Shop around and look at different designs on on social media to see what resonates with you. If you have the time, think about visiting tattoo shops to get feedback on your design.
Ask your artist if they have any recommendations on how to improve your design. Taking a broad suggestion to your artist is never a good idea, rather take very specific suggestions to your artist and see if they have any ideas that can improve your design, or give you something better.
One popular way to find a tattoo artist is to take to Instagram. Do keep in mind, however, that nearly all artists who have significant social media followings (particularly Instagram) will also have a significant wait list. When there is a waitlist, be prepared to put down a deposit on your tattoo to hold your appointment. Wait lists in excess two years have been reported certain renowned artists.
Another potential direction for your search is to begin looking at different types and styles of tattoos. Some of styles you might come across are traditional, realism, watercolor, tribal, new school, neo traditional, Japanese, and blackwork. Styles of tattooing are very diverse; preference on style is highly subjective.
Once you have chosen your design and found a prospective artist, we strongly advise visiting their shop. Keep an eye out for things like the general cleanliness of the shop. Once you speak to your artist, it's okay to ask them about their credentials, and about how long they've been tattooing. Veteran artists are asked these things often, and have likely prepared to answer those very questions.
Spend some time looking at your artist's portfolio and the way they present their artwork. It's also a good idea to talk about pricing and sessions regarding to the tattoo you want. Make sure to be as clear as you can with your expectations, but stay open to your artist's suggestions. Additionally, it may not be a bad idea to get some blood work done before you get a tattoo; your artist's form may ask you if you have any blood diseases.
Thankfully, etiquette in the tattoo industry is not terribly convoluted, and fairly straight forward. Below are a couple of etiquette tips to help keep you on your artist's good side:
(1) Don't bring lots of people to get your tattoo. Other people will serve as a distraction to the artist, and it isn’t nice to bring them in there.
(2) Don't "pre-game" for your tattoo. Most artists won’t do a tattoo for you when you’re intoxicated. Some may, however many intoxicants (such as alcohol) thin your blood, which can complicate quite a few things in the tattooing and healing process.
(3) It is common courtesy to tip your artist after each session. There is a lot of work that goes into a tattoo behind the scenes that most artists aren't directly charging for. The usual rate is 10-20% (similar to service in other industries), which can fluctuate at your discretion.
The best advice going into a tattoo session we can give is: stay hydrated. Be prepared with water and a light snack, as even a single tattooing session can take several hours. As far as pain goes, no matter what anyone says, you are still being stuck with a needle repeatedly, and that will hurt. However, getting a tattoo in an area where your bones are near the skin, without a whole lot of muscle or tissue covering it, such as feet, ankles, knees, ribs, and shoulders will typically be more sensitive. We recommend practicing deep breathing to help your body relax as much as possible during the tattooing process. It may also a good idea to ask your artist for ways they've found successful to help clients relax.
(IV) Tattoos and Tanning
As summer approaches, social media will begin to flood with posts about hitting the beach, going boating, and fitting into that swimsuit. While getting that nice summer tan may be high on your to-do list for the season, if you’re sporting tattoos, there’s a few things you’ll have to take into account before donning that bathing suit and sunning away.
The most important thing to be aware of is that prolonged and frequent exposure to the sun can fade your tattoo. This means that showing off your ink over the summer can actually cause long-term damage to your tattoo.
If you’re a tattoo collector, you’re going to find yourself in a predicament. Do you show off your ink and risk sun damage or do you keep it out of the sun and protect your expensive investment?
Before you panic, don’t worry. You didn’t designate yourself to a life indoors as a hermit, just to a few additional steps of continuing tattoo aftercare.
Here’s the skinny on how to protect your ink during the summer season…
When you’re heading out into the sun, always make sure to cover your ink with sunscreen. It is recommended that you apply a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 50 over the tattooed area and continue to reapply as often as the product requires.
While this is the minimum necessity for protecting tattoos, there are some products available on the market that are specifically designed to help prevent fading in your ink. These are often made by companies with a foot in the tattoo industry, such as Ed Hardy’s Black Elixir Tanning Lotion, JWOWW Tattoo Color Protection, and Supre Tattoo Dark XXX Tanning Lotion, just to name a few.
Using tattoo-specific products is often best when it comes to caring for your tattoo during sun exposure.
The sun isn’t the only way to damage your tattoo. The damage itself comes from UV rays, which are present in artificial tanning supplements, too. This means tanning beds pose just as much of a danger to your ink as being out in the real sun. You’ll need to take the same precautions if you are artificially tanning as if you are out at the beach all day.
Why Protection is Important
Burning and peeling can actually damage your tattoo faster than just sun exposure, so be very cautious not to prevent burning in any way possible.
After being in the sun or in a tanning bed, a moisturizer will help lessen the effects of the exposure. Look for a tattoo aftercare lotion that couples as a tattoo moisturizer, as these are designed to help reduce blurring or fading over time.
When it comes to fresh tattoos, in this case, the best advice is to stay out of the sun altogether. New tattoos are more susceptible to burning, so avoid direct exposure to the sun for at least two weeks. Of course, it’s better to play it safe and stick to the shade for three to four weeks as you shouldn’t apply sunscreen to a fresh tattoo.
(V) A Guide to the Tattoo Healing Process from Start to Finish
You’ve gone and done it. You’ve made that appointment to get your new tattoo. It’s an exciting time—and you can think of little else leading up to the day. You’ve read articles online and you have a pretty good idea of what you’re in for. But, as you’re heading out of the studio after your tattoo session, proud of your epic ink, you realize something…
You don’t know what to expect after getting a tattoo.
While it's great to know how to prepare for the tattoo itself, understanding the healing process is actually one of the most important parts of the entire experience.
Why, you ask?
No matter how amazing of an artist you have, a mistake in the healing process can cost you a lot more than just the quality of the art. In some cases, you can find yourself dealing with complications such as infection and loss of color.
So, how does the healing process work?
Let’s take a look.
When it comes to the tattoo healing process, it can be broken down into three stages. While the entire process generally takes between three to four weeks to finish completely, every person is different and may experience different stages at different times in the progression. Always remember that your healing and your friend’s healing may not necessarily be the same.
With that being said, there are several factors that you can always expect during the tattoo healing stages.
The first stage of tattoo healing starts the moment the tattoo artist completes your tattoo—the open wound stage. As your tattoo moves through this stage, it is important to know that the area will ooze excess ink and clear plasma for at least 24-hours.
Taking care of a new tattoo through this stage is similar to taking care of an any open wound – it requires washing several times a day and keeping the area clear of contaminants such as dirt and pet dander.
Healing is Peeling
With any healing skin wound, you’re going to experience the itchy phase. This can last roughly a week, but it is vital to ignore the itchy feeling so as not to disturb any of the ink or shape of your tattoo.
As this stage comes to a close, the layers of skin above your tattoo will begin to lift off. It will appear similar to the peeling phase of a sunburn. Do not itch or pick at the skin during this time. Using an artist-approved moisturizer or ointment, it is possible to reduce the itchiness without causing any damage to the work.
While you are in the second stage of tattoo healing, you may notice the color of your tattoo change in appearance. Your skin will develop new layers of skin that will replace the original layers, and this can give off a white filmy appearance until it settles and absorbs the pigments. Don’t panic. When your tattoo is done peeling, the colors will be vibrant once again.
After the second stage, you may think your body is completely healed, however, always keep in mind that the healing below the skin is still occurring for several weeks. While your risk of infection has passed at this point, you should continue to keep the area clean and moisturized so your body can complete its natural healing process.