WHAT TO DO
Always wash your hands with antibacterial soap before cleaning your tattoo! Liquid pump soap is recommended over bar soap.
If not using a Saniderm bandage, leave your bandage on for at least 2 hours, not exceeding 24 hours. After removing your bandage, gently rinse your tattoo with warm water and pat dry with a clean paper towel.
Most of the artists at Constellation use Saniderm to bandage your tattoo. Saniderm is a breathable, flexible bandage that can be left on for 2-5 days, giving your tattoo optimal healing conditions and protection from irritants and infections in those critical first days of healing. Saniderm is both latex free and hypoallergenic, and often contributes to faster healing times and darker blacks. I recommend keeping it on for 2-3 days, but keep an eye on any sign of break-out or skin irritation, removing your bandage if experiencing skin irritation, bandage tearing, or ink/blood/plasma leaking out from under your bandage.
Your Saniderm bandage will fill up with bodily fluid and look pretty gnarly- this is normal! If any breaks in the bandage or leakage occurs, remove the bandage immediately. When you are ready to remove your bandage, it's easiest to take a warm shower, and peel off the Saniderm as you would a band-aid: start at the top, and pull downward and with the direction your hair grows in the surrounding area. If you are having a difficult time removing the bandage, you can use a mild, unscented liquid soap (such as Dr. Bronner's unscented castile liquid soap) to help ease it off. It should come off in one sheet, with an imprint of your tattoo. Don't worry- it hasn't pulled out any ink, this print is just the layer of fluid that has dried between your skin and the bandage. Gently wash your tattoo with mild soap and warm water, then get out of the shower and pat it dry with a clean paper towel. You may apply a healing ointment such as Aquaphor or A&D.
Wash your tattoo twice daily with mild, unscented liquid soap (Dr. Bronner's unscented castile soap is still a great choice!), pat dry with a clean paper towel, and lightly apply a thin layer of unscented moisturizer such as Lubriderm, H2Ocean, coconut oil, or a sanitary salve. I do not recommend coconut oil to most people- only use if this has worked for your skin type before, and you have access to a clean, personal supply not prone to cross-contamination through kitchen use.
If using a salve, such as the locally-made herbal Tattoo Salve by Maple Twig Medicinals sold at Constellation Tattoo Studio, make sure you keep the lid tightly sealed, and stored at room-temperature or in a cool, dry place when not in use. Always wash your hands thoroughly before touching the salve, or otherwise only touching the salve with an unused q-tip, cotton swab, dry paper towel, tongue depressor, or any other disposable, sanitary swabbing device.
WHAT NOT TO DO
Do not use a tanning bed for at least a month after getting your tattoo. Avoid exposure to direct sunlight for the first month as well. Always use a sunscreen with high SPF (and/oror zinc oxide as a dominant ingredient) on your tattoo when exposing it to the sun.
Do not soak in any water for at least two weeks after getting tattooed, preferably 3 weeks for bigger, denser pieces. This includes bathtubs, hot tubs, hot springs, pools, lakes, rivers, the ocean, etc...
Avoid heavy sweating in the are of your tattoo for at least two weeks, if possible. This means to slow down your gym routine, and don't go to the sauna!
Do not let your tattoo stick to sheets or clothing. Try to avoid tight clothing, wearing loose-fitting clothing while healing your tattoo, if possible. If you find yourself stuck to fabric, do not rip it off dry- instead, go to a sink or shower and soak the stuck fabric under running water until it detaches from the tattoo on its own.
Do not sleep on dirty sheets, do not wear unclean clothes around/on tattooed area, and limit contact with pet hair! These are great ways to limit your chance of getting an infection.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Your tattoo and the area around it may be slightly swollen and red for the next week.
Color/pigment may seep to the surface. It's okay to clean this off and reapply ointment.
A thin scab should form evenly over the entire tattoo and should peel similarly to a sunburn. Areas with heavy black fill may take longer to scab. Please do not pick at or scratch your tattoo!
The color/darkness of your tattoo may seem dull or uneven while your tattoo is healing. It should be totally healed after a month.