Updated: Jul 3, 2019
Tattooing has developed in amazing ways over the past few decades, and so has our knowledge on how the skin reacts and deals with it. It's no secret that the application of a tattoo causes trauma to the skin and can be a hassle to take care of and heal properly. I've heard and tried countless remedies for the best aftercare for a fresh tattoo over the fifteen years I'v been applying them, some with more success than others. Over the last couple years though, a game changer has been hitting the market for tattoo aftercare - the medical grade, breathable, adhesive barrier; basically a bandage you can leave on for several days. The brand I prefer to use is called Second Skin so I'll be referencing their website on this post. Check them out here https://secondskin.ink
First a bit more about what this stuff is. It's basically a thin medical grade barrier that adheres directly to your skin. It's breathable so it doesn't suffocate your fresh tattoo like plastic wrap or those meat package bandages of the past would. There's a bunch of different brands of this stuff on the market, I just prefer SecondSkin because of it's ease of application and how well it stays adhered over a long length of time including in the shower. I haven't tried them all, so I'm sure there are some other brands that are just as good.
The application happens after the tattoo is finished. I usually like to let the client chill out for ten to fifteen minutes after I'm done tattooing to give the tattoo a chance to calm don and finish bleeding. Wiping off any extra blood or plasma will help the bandage adhere better, as well as keep the buildup of additional plasma under the bandage to a minimum. I'll then apply the bandage in small to medium size strips over the entire tattoo, with a one to two inch additional barrier around it. Then.... that's it! Occasionally the client will like to replace the bandage the following day if over the first night it has collected so much plasma that the bandage is slipping off. This is fine, but be careful removing the first bandage, as the tattoo is fresh and tender. Use lots of soft soap and running water. Work it off slow from a top corner, working your way down. Replace the bandage with a fresh one. I recommend leaving the wrap on for 3-5 days. Really the first 48 hours are the most beneficial to the healing process, but as a rule of thumb the longer you can leave it on, the easier of a heal you'll have (no more than six days though!). After the bandage is removed continue on with any further aftercare your tattooer recommends. I recommend a small amount of lotion 1-2 times a day until if stops looking shiny.
Since I've started using these types of bandages, the healing results in my tattoos (especially the large scale multi colored biomechanical work) have gone from solid most of the time to great all of the time. Color loss, even in areas where I've layered multiple passes, is little to nonexistent. Clients who constantly came back with poor heals have started to come back and not need touchups (I attribute this to the bandage being dummy proof, since the client can't mess with the tattoo while the bandage is on). It also serves as a protective barrier to help minimize the chances of infection, so I sleep a little better knowing that even though there's an added level of protection between that fresh tattoo and all the dog hair, dirty gym equipment, and little kids hands out there trying to mess up my world.