By Master Tattoo Artist Rev. Kita Kazoo
Signs of Normal Healing
At first the tattoo looks shiny, swollen and the colors are extra bright. Within 24 hours the scab forms, this should be very thin, looks like the tattoo and with proper care is slightly flexible.
After about 4-5 days the tattoo will go through a period of peeling. This looks similar to a sunburn peeling. The scab that peels off will be the color of the tattoo, and it will look like your tattoo is flaking off. Sometimes this stage is accompanied by mild itching which can be relieved by rubbing it gently with more ointment or lotion.
Do not ever leave your tattoo slick or sticky.
Always blot off any extra ointment or lotion.
When the tattoo is completely done pealing you will notice a layer underneath the new tattoo that contains healing skin cells that will cause the skin to seem milky rather than transparent. Don’t worry about this; it’s all part of the healing process and only takes about a month to go away. If you want, you can put lotion on the tattoo to help it look brighter and more healed during this final stage of healing.
Symptoms of Bad Healing
When healing goes wrong there are very few things that can happen. Some of the signs that things are going wrong are; extreme seeping, heavy scabbing, excessive inflammation, and sometimes a rash (little bumps) or pimples.
Often when things go wrong people assume that the tattoo is infected. Unless you work or live in a very dirty environment (see below) it probably isn’t. You should always show the tattoo to your artists before heading for the doctors’ office.
Most doctors know nothing about tattoo after care and some of them are prejudice against tattoos. They often time prescribe unnecessary drugs and treatment that can make the healing even worse.
A professional tattoo artist has been trained in healing correction. They know what infected tattoos look like and will only send you to a doctor when necessary. Seeing the right person can save you time and money, not to mention the finished look of your tattoo.
If you don’t practice good personal hygiene, pick your tattoo, wear tight clothing or let clothing stick to it, scrub the tattoo, or take too long or are not careful in the shower, your tattoo will not look nice when it is finished healing. It can have ink missing and sometimes heavy scar tissue over it.
Always follow the care instructions. If you feel like you don’t understand them, please call and ask for help. Though we can not correct healing issues without actually seeing the tattoo, we are happy to teach you more about our healing instructions.
We’d rather spend a few extra minutes helping you to have a good healing than to have to try to fix up a tattoo healing gone wrong.
Your Health –
If you have any immunity deficiencies, blood disorders such as diabetes, or are on certain medications such as steroids or blood thinners your tattoo could be affected. It could take longer to heal and not turn out very well.
It is a good idea to consult your doctor before getting a tattoo if you suspect there may be a problem. It is a good idea to inform your artist of any health issues so they can tailor the healing to meet your needs.
Damaged Skin –
Long term cigarette smoking, drinking too many soft drinks, eating poorly, and over exposure to the sun damages skin. A tattoo on damaged skin will rarely look as good as one on healthy skin.
Sometimes the colors and lines aren’t as bright or clear as they would have been and the artists can not do anything about it. If you have damaged skin you will have to keep your expectations reasonable. Sometimes if the skin is damaged the artist will want to do the tattoo in stages as avoid overworking* it and to hopefully make the healing process easier on you.
If your skin is older, thin, weak, or sun damaged it can also be harder to heal. However, with a little patience and care the tattoo can heal out fine. So be sure to follow the directions carefully and for the full length of time, which can be longer than healthy skin
(*When the skin is damaged it is very easy for the artist to accidentally overwork the tattoo. Doing this it can also cause the scabbing to be thicker. If this happens it isn’t the end of the world. Just be patient and when the tattoo is completely healed your artist will want to touch it up for you.)
Sun Exposure –
The sun is your tattoos worst enemy, if you expose your healing tattoo to the sun it can fade the ink before it is even healed. Tattoos that are exposed to the sun too soon look faded, blurry, washed out and much older than they should. Under no circumstances expose your healing tattoo to prolonged direct sunlight or tanning.
Even a healed tattoo, with time, will fade when exposed to the sun or tanning beds. If you must expose your healed tattoo to those evil UV rays are sure to use a high SPF sun block (at least 45)
Allergic Reactions to Latex –
If you are allergic to latex you will more than likely know before you get your tattoo. Let the artist know so they can accommodate you. The signs of an allergic reaction to latex are extreme rash/redness in the case of latex (from gloves worn by the artist) we can use non-latex gloves and tape on you.
Allergies to Tattoo Ink –
Allergic reactions to tattoo ink are very, very, rare but unfortunately possible. Most professional tattoo pigments are made out of natural ingredients that shouldn’t cause a problem. They have been proven by their use successfully in the tattoo industry for many years.
Most people don’t have any idea they are allergic to certain colors of ink until after the tattoo has been applied. However we have noticed that people who are allergic to metals and have reactions to cheep jewelry often do react. At our shops, we have only seen reactions with one particular red which we rarely use.
If you are allergic to a pigment it will be evident by just that particular color bubbling and raising off of your skin. It looks like a blister or a raised red mole. It will itch and not look completely healed no matter how long it has been.
You have two choices. One is to remove the offending color or to use hydrocortisone cream to control the itching and promote healing which can take up to 5 years. Removal is not any more painful than the tattoo process and after it heals another color can be used to finish the tattoo.
If you are concerned about having a reaction to tattoo ink ask your artist about doing a “prick test” where a small dot of each color to be used in your potential artwork is tattooed under your skin at least 10 days before your tattoo. This will cost you extra money, but if you have a lot of allergies sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry.
Exposures to Toxins or Bacteria –
If you work/live in an environment with dirt and filth you run the risk of infection. Emergency rooms, nursing homes, hospitals, being around animals & their waste, toxic chemicals, and filth of all kinds can cause serious infections.
It is nearly impossible to get an infection in a professionally applied tattoo. Tattoo shops are required to use more safety precautions than hospitals, doctors, and dentists do. Most shops are inspected regularly by the local health department and display a certificate of their status. If you are still worried about the shop, go someplace else.
Be smart and use common sense. If you have a dirty job, wear loose protective clothing and do not touch your tattoo unless you have washed your hands. Dirty bedding is another problem. Put fresh sheets on your bed if you haven’t done so within a few days of getting your tattoo. Wear clean clothing. Use clean towels and washcloths.
Advices from Family & Friends –
When things go wrong people tend to panic. Tattoo healing problems are not an emergency.
If you think that you are having a reaction to your tattoo or the aftercare, the best thing to do is to go back to the tattoo shop where you got the tattoo. It is very important that you consult your artist.
After looking at the problem and asking a few basic questions they can tell what the issues are and help you over come them. Very few healing problems are unsolvable or require medication.
Do not go to your friends and family for advice. They do not have the training to help you. There is a lot of out of date tattoo folk lore going around. Everyone you talk to will have a different opinion and idea of what to do. This can be dangerous.
Advices from Other Tattoo Shops -
Do not go to another tattoo shop. Each artist uses the care instructions that they know will heal their work the best. This is usually different from one artist to another. What works well for one artist can mess up someone else’s work.
Another problem with going to a different shop is that tattoo shops are very competitive with each other and an unethical unprofessional tattooist will lie to persuade clients to switch artists. They will sometimes go so far as to give out bad advice to ensure the failure of the tattoo.
Do not call around, or look for advice on the internet. NO ONE can help you without seeing the tattoo first.
Your artist knows how you can save your tattoo if you deal with the situation right away. Do not rely on outside sources.
Do the right thing. Take care of your investment.
You’re going to have it the rest of your life…