Newsgroups: rec.arts.bodyart,news.answers,rec.answers
Subject: rec.arts.bodyart: Tattoo FAQ 6/9--Care of new tattoos
Followup-To: rec.arts.bodyart
Reply-to: stan AT
Approved: news-answers-request AT MIT.Edu
Expires: May 15, 2007
Summary: This posting contains a bibliography of various sources

available on the topic of tattoos. Anyone who wishes to read/post
to the RAB newsgroup, or obtain tattoos should read this first.

Archive-name: bodyart/tattoo-faq/part6
Last-modified: July 30, 2004
Posting-frequency: Monthly

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This FAQ is maintained by Stan Schwarz <stan-rabfaq AT>

If you are reading this file using a web browser, and the file you are
looking at is from, click on the other archive
sites to access the FAQs instead. Ohio State's site is no longer
maintained, and continues to provide outdated versions of FAQs.

You can retrieve a copy of the FAQ via anonymous ftp from the MIT FTP
server: <>.

The FAQs are also available on thw World Wide Web at

The rec.arts.bodyart Tattoo FAQ is broken up into 9 parts:
2/9--Getting a tattoo
5/9--Artist list
6/9--Care of new tattoos <---YOU ARE READING THIS FILE
7/9--General care/removal
8/9--Misc. info


This file is structured as a traditional FAQ in the form of questions
and answers. Questions answered in this file:

Rec.arts.bodyart FAQ Part 6/9: Care of your new tattoo:
What should I expect with a new tattoo?
General advice from a medical doctor
What are some bad things for your new tattoo?

Sauna or steamroom
Preparation-H hemorrhoidal ointment
How do I care for my new tattoo?

Suggested Method #1: The Minimal Moisturizer Method
Suggested Method #2: The Huck Spalding Method
Suggested Method #3: The Noxzema Method
Suggested Method #4: The FAQ Maintainer's Own Method

Under the Berne Convention, this document is Copyright (c) 1997 by Lani
Teshima-Miller and Stan Schwarz, all rights reserved. Permission is
granted for it to be reproduced electronically on any system connected
to the various networks which make up the Internet, Usenet, and
FidoNet so long as it is reproduced in its entirety, unedited, and
with this copyright notice intact. Web sites are included. Individual
copies may also be printed for personal use.

Subject: What should I expect with a new tattoo?

A new tattoo is an injury to your skin. It's a lot like a scrape.
Typically, when the artist finishes, he or she will cover the new
tattoo with some sort of bandage. In the old days, this might have
been gauze, but now we have non-stick bandages that are much better.
Some will use clear plastic sheet, such as Saran Wrap (TM). This is
all right, and has the advantage that you can look at your new tattoo
without having to lift the bandage. The bandage is largely to protect
the tattoo and your clothes, since new tattoos ooze a lot. Also note
that tattoos will ooze ink along with the other fluids, and it is not
unusual to find an imprint of your new tattoo on the inside of the
bandage with you take it off. This is normal. Also, it is normal for
the oozing to go on for about 24 hours.


The contributor for this question is Dr. Kai Kristensen
<tattoodoc AT>, a pathologist recently retired lab director (after
almost 30 years) of an internationally reknown medical center in La
Jolla, California. While his professional expertise is not specifically
in bodyart, Kai is a bodyart enthusiast:

After the session, the best treatment is simply that which one would
give a bad sunburn. For the first few hours (or overnight) leave on the
protective dressing supplied. After removing that dressing, clean gently
with soap and water and apply a thin film of antibiotic ointment
(Bacitracin or any of the triple antibiotic ointments available over the
counter). That can be repeated during the day for comfort and sticky
clothing. The process is repeated the second and third days. After that,
keeing the area clean on a daily basis and (if you wish) lightly
lubricated with some vaseline to minimize crusting also helps minimize
the itch. Plastic surgeons keep wounds clean and moist for least scar
formation. Do not go swimming for the first day or two after tattooing.


  1. "Vaseline makes a tattoo faded". The ink is underneath the epidermis and the outer layer of dermis. There's NO WAY that vaseline can get down through the epidermis to draw out any of the ink.
  2. "Swimming makes a tattoo faded". For the same reason as the above, pool chlorine does not get to the ink to fade it. Common sense precautions include not swimming in a public pool with a raw sore, such as a new tattoo while oozing or completely raw. After the first 2 days, the surface over the tattoo is impervious and (from personal experience as well as science background) it is OK to swim.



Once it is healed, there is very little that will screw up a tattoo. The
one exception is prolonged exposure to sunlight. (the other is scarring,
but that is patently obvious).


Well, unfortunately it is. The newer inks are better at resisting fading
but whatever you do, if you spend lots of time in bright sunlight your
tats will fade (over a lifetime, not over a week). Best to try and keep
them out of bright sunlight. No one wants to become a cave dweller just
to keep their tats looking good, so just use some common sense. Think of
your tat as an investment--slather on that sunblock so it doesn't turn
into a dark blob.

Our culture has erroneously labeled the tan as healthy. Did you know
that your tan is your skin's way of dealing with the damage caused by
the sun? It's like the formation of a scab when you have a cut. You will
pay for your years of sun exposure when you are in your 40s and 50s.
Leathery, wrinkled, dry skin with freckles and liver spots. Melanoma.
Skin cancer. Regular visits to the dermatologist. Like I say, "There's
no such thing as a healthy tan!" Take it from a Hawaii local! I've seen
my share of melanoma here, and they're not even from surfers or beach

Some people have gotten angry at me about this, telling me that they
have a seasonal disorder that requires them to get some sun. A little
bit of sun is okay (and it gives you a dose of Vitamin D). But all you
need is a few minutes' worth.

Tanning booths are not good for you! They are not regulated by the FDA,
and the staff that work at these salons have been known to give out
patently false information. Many salon operators will suggest dosages
far exceeding industry recommendations, and the FDA would actually
prefer that these booths be banned altogether. Do not believe the salon
operators who tell you there is NO damage caused by their UV rays. There
are indications that tanning booths emit rays that cause the type of
damage that only shows up years later, when it is difficult to fault any
one operator. Their industry motto is "tan safe." There is no such thing
as a SAFE tan, folks. Sorry.

skin can get below the outermost surface of the skin (that's why skin
cancers are promoted by excess suntanning).

The following is information about suncare and sunblock, as well as some
specific brand recommendations by RAB readers:
o Try to use products that do not clog your pores. If your sunblock
makes you break out or feel itchy, this may be the cause.
o Avoid sunblock containing PABA, apparently found to be carcinogenic.
o "SPF" stands for Sun Protection Factor. If you can normally stay out
for ten minutes without getting sunburnt, then an SPF 2 should protect
you for 20 minutes, an SPF 6 for an hour, and so on. HOWEVER, this
does NOT mean an SPF 30 will let you stay out for five hours with
just one coat. Keep your exposure limited to the minimum amounts,
and always use an extra strong sunblock with at least SPF 30 for your
o "Waterproof" and "sweatproof" sunblocks protect you while in the
water. However, reflections from the water add to your exposure. Make
sure you use a high SPF number, and always re-apply your sunblock when
coming out of the water.
o Sunblock is not just for the beach! Make it a habit to carry one with
you during the sunnier months so you can protect your tattoo always!
The Watermelon Stick from the Body Shop is nice and portable, but in a
pinch, a tube of lip balm (Blistik, etc.) will work, as long as it has
an SPF. Dab a bit on your tattoo whenever you will be outside.

Products recommended by some RABbits:
o Banana Boat for Kids - SPF 50.
o Banana Boat's SPF 50, for Extra Sesitive Skin
o "Deep Cover" Super Sunblock, advertised in some tattoo magazines
(distributed by Deep Cover in Long Beach, CA)
o The Body Shop's Watermelon Stick
o Bullfrog Moisturizing Formula - The Body Lotion (not the Gel Formula).
o Neutrogena's Senisitive Skin SPF 17
o Schering-Plough's "Shade Sunblock" in various SPFs.


We have heard stories of tattoo artists recommending the use of
Preparation-H in the healing of new tattoos. Preparation-H is a product
marketed for the relief of hemorrhoidal tissue in the US, and comes in
both cream and suppository form (I assume artists don't recommend the

Dr. Jeff Herndon <JHERNDON AT Gems.VCU.EDU>, resident assistant professor
at the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth
University's Medical College, says Preparation-H should NOT be used
for tattoos:

According to the 1995 Drug Facts & Comparisons (Olin, et al., Facts and
Comparisons Inc.: St Louis, 1995; p 540-541) the list of ingredients
for Preparation-H are as follows:

Jeff adds simply: "I just can't figure why you'd want to spread yeast
cells on a tattoo."


The artist that did your tattoo will have something very definite to say
about the care of your new tattoo, and it is probably a good idea to
listen to him/her. Many shops will have an information sheet listing
care instructions.

The information provided in this section may or may not be the same
method your artist offers. Regardless, there are three things to
remember about caring for your new tattoo:
o Moiturize it
o Don't overmoisturize it
o And whatever you do, Don't pick your onion peel scabs!

Basically, as long as you follow these three points, you will be okay.
However as people get more tattoos, they begin trying out slightly
different methods. I have included several examples, and not all of them
will work on everybody. Some people will find that they are allergic to
some products. For example, I have always had a problem with Noxzema
skin cream, which makes me break out with water-filled pimple-like
things on my skin.

How do you know which method is best for you? It depends on the type of
skin you have, and how sensitive it is. I suggest you try a patch test
on your skin for a week or so to see if you react to the ingredients.

Having said that, I have personally discovered a very nice "new tattoo
kit" that I now use whenever I go to get a tattoo. And the added benefit
was that I discovered this "kit" in a sample size travel set, which I
can easily pack in my travel bag.

The set that I now use is the Johnson's baby product line. The kit
includes baby powder, baby shampoo, diaper rash ointment, baby lotion,
baby bath, and a bonus (in this case, a baby bib). I don't need the baby
bib, and the shampoo is just an added bonus for me. However, this is how
I use the kit, especially when I'm getting the tattoo in another city:

Baby powder: I sprinkle a liberal amount on the hotel bed sheets to
prevent my skin from sticking to the sheet.
Baby bath: A fruity-smelling liquid soap, it's very mild and has minimal
lathering. I pour a bit on my hand, rub into a light lather and wash the
tattoo this way. It rinses off very easily with non-pressurized water,
minimizing the risk of losing scabs.
Baby lotion: The Johnson's brand feels non-greasy. MY skin does not
like a layer of oily lotion, and until this, I used to pay lots of money
for oil-free Oil of Olay (is that a contradiction in terms?). Goes on
very lightly but keeps the skin moist.
Diaper rash ointment: Zinc oxide-based, I use this thick, non- greasy
ointment on certain "contact spots" of my tattoo that may rub against
clothes (i.e. bra strap, waist band).

I've found this travel kit selling for $2-$3 (US), and the small sizes
work out just right for a smaller tattoo (no larger than
8"x8". You MIGHT smell like a clean baby, though!

Other people will recommend different ointments and lotions. Some people
swear by Tea Tree Oil (toner) from the Body Shop for its healing
qualities. Others like A&D Ointment (marketed for diaper rash, I find it
somewhat greasy), and the cheapest is probably regular Vaseline
Intensive Care. If you live in a dry area and you're prone to use a lot
of lotion anyway, the last one, in a large pump bottle, may be your best

This section lists treatments to give you an idea of the breadth of
suggestions offered. These have been given "titles" using some unique
facet of the method, and is thus named only for the sake of convenience.
These methods are NOT actually called these. Each set of instructions is
followed by commentary. Special thanks to Lance Bailey
<zaphod AT> for this section.


Ancient Art puts a heap of vaseline on the new tattoo and then bandages
up the whole thing, they give you these instructions:

Tattoo Care Instructions:

  1. Remove bandaid in 18 hrs.
  2. Wash tattoo immediately, with soap and water When washing off the tattoo, there should be old ink & some body fluids. At this state there is little that can harm the tattoo.
  3. When skin feels like normal wet skin, pat dry.
  4. Put nothing on the tattoo for 3 days.
  5. From the 4th day, apply the tiniest amount of lotion possible once a day to keep it from drying out completely; gently work it in. (Mike suggests a drop for a 1"x4" piece).
  6. Do not get the tattoo wet; moisture is your enemy.
  7. Do not permit sun on tattoo.
  8. Do not get the tattoo wet; moisture is your enemy.
  9. Scabbing may or may not occur. Scabbing is normal. Do not pick scab.
  10. Do not get the tattoo wet; moisture is your enemy.

His strongest advice: "MOISTURE IS THE TATTOO'S ENEMY".
On using Vaseline: Neosporin is Vaseline-based, & doesn't hurt.
On using Neosporin: Not really neccessary, but it doesn't hurt.
Strong warning: Never let the shower directly hit the tattoo.

This procedure is how I healed the four I got at Ancient Art and they
seem to be the slowest to heal. After 2.5 weeks, they still have scabs.

Lance Bailey says: I used to go to great lengths to keep my tattoos
moist while healing. But now, looking at the ink I healed then, and
other art which is not much older but healed without all the moisture, I
see that the ones where I kept it real moist to prevent any scabs are a
lot fainter--grey where the others are still black. I quite literally
drew a lot of the ink out of the piece. Yes, it is important to keep the
tattoo from drying out, but a scab is part of the normal healing
process, and trying to fool mother nature is risking trouble. Your
mileage will of course vary.


  1. Bandage(*) should stay on for at least two hours.
  2. Remove bandage, rinse gently with cold water and blot dry.
  3. Apply Bacitracin ointment 4 x a day and blot out the excess.
  4. Keep tattoo fresh and open to the air. Do not bandage.
  5. For the first week, avoid swimming or long soaking in the water.
  6. For the first month, avoid too much exposure to the sun.
  7. Do not pick or scratch scabs
  8. Itching is relieved by slapping or alcohol.
  9. Keep tattoo covered with loose clothing.
  10. After tattooing clean whole area w/ green soap & white paper towel.
  11. Spray it with alcohol and hold a paper towel on it.
  12. apply film of Bacitracin ointment.
  13. Cover with bandage or Handi-Wrap and securely tape it on.

I have yet to try this method, but have seen a few tattoos which have
been bandaged with handi-wrap and they turned out just fine. (Huck
writes that the handi-wrap stops people from peeling off the bandage in
the first few hours to show friends.)


This method is recommended by Suzanne at Creative Tattoo (Ann Arbor,

  1. Remove bandage after 4 - 5 hours.
  2. Wash gently with soap or water.
  3. Do not scrub or soak until completely healed (usually a week). Showering, however, is OK.
  4. Usually neccessary to re-bandage.
  5. Keep tattoo OUT OF THE SUN or tanning booths while healing. Once healed, ALWAYS use sunscreen on colors.
  6. We reommend Noxema Medicated Skin Lotion twice a day to aid healing & comfort. DO NOT USE Vaseline, oils, anything greasy, or anything with cortisone. Oils block your skin from contact with air, inhibiting healing
  7. Tattoo "peels" in 4-7 days. Do not pick or scratch!

"Your tattoo was applied with sterile equipment and procedure, and with
non-toxic colors. We guarantee the workmanship. Healing and caring of
your tattoo is YOUR responsibility."

This is how I healed a 3-inch band around my right ankle. While the
healing was more like 2 weeks, I also protected it from the shower with
a bag. For the last few tattoos I noticed that after I stop covering it
in the shower (after about 2 weeks), the tattoo seems to speed up in
healing. I suspect that this might be either timing (it was ready to
heal), or the action of the shower helps to knock of any dead skin thus
promoting better healing.

I only used a wee bit of Noxzema twice a day, leaving the art "moist and
glistening" but with no "smears of white cream." Am very happy with this
method. The cream really does help the itching and the final result is a
good deep black.


  1. Remove the bandage and shower that night.
  2. Wash gently with soap or water.
  3. Apply A&D or some such petroleum-jelly-based ointment before bed and again the next morning.
  4. Apply lotion the second night and then twice a day for a week. Lotions I like are the Vaseline Intensive Care line and Lubriderm.

I've healed lots of tattoos with this basic care regimen. The only
other caution I have is that I usually wear something to cover the
tattoo the first night. Not necessarily a bandage, but just a T-shirt
or something like that to keep from sticking to the sheets.

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This ends "rec.arts.bodyart: Tattoo FAQ 6/9--Care of new tattoos." This
should be followed by "rec.arts.bodyart: Tattoo FAQ 7/9--General