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How do I care for a new tattoo?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Properly cleaning the skin with a new tattoo is an important step in the skin healing process. Talk to a dermatologist for advice. Your dermatologist might suggest that you:

- Leave the bandage or gauze on the new tattoo for one full day.
- Use an antibacterial soap and lukewarm water to wash the tattoo. Pat the skin dry without rubbing it.
- When a scab forms, do not rub or loosen it. The scab is helping your skin to heal and should fall off within one to two weeks.  
- Use an antibiotic cream on the tattoo to help prevent infection.
- If the skin burns, use a cold, wet compress or ice pack on the tattoo.

Taking proper care of a new tattoo can help prevent health problems and protect the quality of the artwork. Most artists give clients a pamphlet to explain all the necessary procedures. Customers generally are told to:

  • Remove the sterile bandage one or two hours after completion.
  • Wash the new tattoo gently with cool or lukewarm water, with a mild antibacterial soap.Pat it dry. (Do not rub it!)
  • Apply thin coats of antibacterial ointment and work the ointment into the skin. Excessive ointment can pull color from the tattoo.
  • Avoid soaking the tattoo in water and avoid letting the shower pound water directly onto it.
  • Avoid sun, sea and swimming pools until the tattoo is healed.
  • Do not pick at scabs. They will fall off as the tattoo starts to heal, usually in one to three weeks.If swelling or redness occurs, use icepacks.
  • Call a doctor if you notice even the slightest sign of infection.

Proper care of a new tattoo can help to prevent infection and other complications. If the tattoo artist puts a bandage over your tattoo, remove it after 24 hours and apply an antibiotic ointment. Clean the area using soap and water. Moisturize the tattooed skin frequently. Don't wear clothing that will stick to the tattoo, and don't pick at any scabs that form. This could cause infection. Keep the tattoo out of the sun for a few weeks.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.