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Tattoo Timeline: First 48 Hours With a Tattoo

So, you got your tattoo; now what? The excitement of getting a brand new tattoo — the planning that goes into it, the research on the best tattoo artist in your area, and finally, seeing your vision come to life as body art. 

So now, you enter into the tattoo healing phase. The first 48 hours with your tattoo are critical — learn why and how to best care for your new art.

Getting a tattoo is no easy feat and involves the literal wounding of your skin. Tattoo aftercare begins from the moment that your artist completes your ink. Your licensed tattoo artist likely gave you instructions; these are key to follow to ensure your tattoo stays healthy, heals properly, and avoids a nasty infection. 

While every tattoo shop and artist has their unique approach to aftercare, there are several universal truths to letting your tattoo heal. In these pivotal first 48 hours after receiving your new ink, follow these instructions closely and use best practices to get the best possible result!

This article covers the essential tips and tricks to remember in the first two days of tattoo healing and recovery. Stay tuned and discover how to care for your new body art in this important stage.

Bandage Application and Removal

At the tattoo shop, the artist may put ointment on your tattoo and wrap up the tattoo with a bandage. Your tattoo is susceptible to infection in the healing phase, so it’s important to keep the bandage on for the time your artist recommends. Depending on the technique and materials applied, this can range anywhere from a few hours to multiple days. Old-school tattooers might prefer basic plastic wrap or a thin layer of cling film on the tattoo, though other options are now available. 

In recent years, more tattooists have embraced new types of bandages that can be kept on the skin for longer. These are more complex materials than your typical plastic wrap or standard bandage, allowing for greater breathability and locking in the ink and plasma. 

Some of these advanced bandages can be kept on for 24 hours, while others can hold strong for 48 hours or more. While these bandages are controversial in the tattoo community, they are generally seen as safe and effective for most tattoo recipients.

The key here is to follow your tattooist’s instructions, whether to leave your wrap on for a few hours or two days. After the allotted time has passed, you can take the bandage off. Remove the wrap with care, and don’t rush the process. 

But what if you could streamline the aftercare experience and avoid some of the common issues that come with bandaging new ink? That’s why we created our tattoo healing patches, offering an easy and safe approach to tattoo aftercare in the first 72 hours.

The concept of tattoo patch healing starts with protecting the tattoo from bacteria, dirt, and other airborne particles that pose a potential hazard to your new ink. The material is soft, disinfected, and contains a unique hydrogel matrix that moisturizes the area.

This ensures the skin stays clean, protected, and hydrated in those critical first few hours after receiving a new tattoo. It locks in the skin's natural moisture and plasma while providing additional nourishing properties when your skin needs them most.

Washing, Drying, and Moisturizing

Make sure your hands are clean; then you can wash your tattoo with fragrance-free soap and water. You’ll be performing this routine at least three times a day for the next week, so set up your station and get comfortable with the process now! We recommend keeping a fragrance-free, antibacterial soap near the sink, along with a roll of paper towels that you can use to pat the area dry after cleaning. 

When it comes to cleaning your tattoo in the first day or two, frequency matters most. You don’t need to rigorously wash the area for more than a minute or so, but ensuring you follow this routine a few times per day is key. Remember that a lighter touch is going to benefit your skin, prevent infection, and keep your ink healing as it should!

It’s normal for your skin to be sensitive around the tattoo, so be gentle and have patience. After you’ve washed your tattoo, you can let your skin have some air. 

To assist in the tattoo healing process, apply Mad Rabbit’s soothing gel, which is safe to use in the initial 48 hours of getting your tattoo. With some experience under your belt, you’ll find the right balance of cleaning, drying, and moisturizing that yields the best results for your ink and skin type.

After those initial several hours, here are some key things to remember in those first 48 hours with your new ink:

Avoid the itch...to itch

Although your skin may feel irritated around your fresh tattoo, stay away from the temptations of itching, scratching and picking at your tattoo. This can lead to unwanted scarring and further irritation to your tattooed skin. Be patient here, we know you can’t wait to show off your tattoo, but trust us, it’s worth the wait.

Behind the scenes, the tattooed area is generating new skin cells under the top layer of skin, meaning that the healing process is well underway. With the combination of lotion and air-dry methods, you’ll begin to see flaking on the tattooed area. The urge to itch will reach its peak as these tiny scabs begin to form, but this is when you need to exercise extra willpower to avoid scratching.

Itching might not be your biggest concern in the first 24 to 48 hours, but as your tattoo looks flakey over the next week or so, remember to apply lotion and use aftercare tips instead of scratching. 

Protect your tattoo from the sun

We all know that the sun can damage our skin and cause tattoos to fade, so make sure your clothes cover your tattoo if you go outside. Don’t put sunblock products on your tattoo until it’s fully healed. For now, just do your best to keep that ink away from those harsh UV rays. 

Remember that a tattoo is essentially an open wound for the first few days. This means any form of direct sunlight can be potentially harmful and even damage your tattoo. Keep your skin covered for the first few days to avoid sunburn, and remember to use a proven form of SPF sunscreen to protect your ink from UV rays once it’s all healed. 

Stay away from submerging your tattoo in water

In the first 48 hours, try to avoid too much contact with water. Showers are fine, but avoid going for a swim in the ocean or pool. Need to relieve the pain or itch around your ink? Repair your skin with our soothing gel to promote wholesome healing of your tattoo, while maintaining proper airflow to your tattoo.

While a rinse in the shower is great for keeping the tattoo clean and healing correctly, soaking in the bath will do more harm than good. Just as you’ve been told to avoid swimming in the pool, ocean, or hot tub, skip the soothing baths for another few weeks until the majority of the healing has occurred. 

Wear Loose Clothing (or Less Clothing)

In the first two days of the tattoo healing process, you want to minimize any type of rubbing or irritation on the affected area. One of the big culprits is tight-fitting clothing, which can restrict airflow to the tattoo and disrupt the natural progress of healing. Even the most comfortable and soft materials can cause issues if the fit is too tight, so opt for loose-fitting garments if possible.

If you’re spending time at home, less is more when it comes to clothing. Rock a tank top to let those arm tattoos air dry and stay clean, or wear shorts or underwear for leg tattoos to heal up. 

You may need to rethink your clothing strategy depending on the placement and size of your new ink, but with some planning, you can stay comfortable the whole time your tattoo is healing.

Limit Exercise and Strenuous Activity

Fitness enthusiasts may be disappointed to hear they should skip intense workouts for the first 48 hours after getting tattooed. The affected area is still very sensitive, and the potential for infection increases with the presence of sweat and bacteria from the gym or outdoor areas.

Let your body heal up in this timeframe instead of pushing the physical limits, then get back to the fitness grind a few days later. In the meantime, fuel up on high-quality nutrition, stay hydrated, and avoid consuming alcohol to let your body heal to the best of its ability.

Good things come to those who wait

We all know the saying...but this couldn't be more true when it comes to tattoo healing. Your tattoo needs a chance for a breather, or it may not heal properly. In the meantime, our gentle soothing gel can be used on new tattoos to aid in the restoration process. Be patient, healing times differ with every person, each tattoo has its own timeline depending on size, detail, and how your body heals.

But why stop here? Yes, it’s true that the first 48 hours with your new ink and the following first week are key to having a successful healing process, but tattoo aftercare doesn’t stop here. In fact, we can all care for our tattoos as a part of our daily routines. 

And that’s where Mad Rabbit tattoo balm comes in – safe to use after your ink is fully healed. Mad Rabbit offers the perfect all-natural tattoo aid for your aftercare needs, formulated with all-natural and organic ingredients, sourced from the greater Los Angeles area. Our tattoo aid revitalizes old tattoos and prevents new tattoos from fading. With the right techniques, tools, and mindset, you can avoid common mistakes in the first two days of having a new tattoo and get the best possible results!

Sources:

Aftercare Instructions in the Tattoo Community: An Opportunity to Educate on Sun Protection and Increase Skin Cancer Awareness | NIH

The Risk of Bacterial Infection After Tattooing | NIH

What is a Tattoo Infection? | Cleveland Clinic

Skin Care in the Tattoo Parlor: A Survey of Tattoo Artists in New York City | NIH

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