Tattoo Care First 48 Hours: Step-by-Step Guide

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Getting a tattoo is just the first step, the real task of taking care of the tattoo starts after. Proper aftercare during the first 48 hours is crucial for the healing process.

In this blog post, we will provide you with some essential tattoo aftercare tips for the first 24-48 hours, which will ensure that your tattoo looks great for years to come. For the whole aftercare process, see our professional tattoo aftercare instructions.

Tattoo Care First 48 Hours: Traditional Method vs Second Skin Method

If we had to give you a short version of the whole process of taking care of your tattoo the first 48 hours, it’d look like this:

  • Keep it wrapped.
  • Keep it clean.
  • Keep it safe.
  • Avoid the sun.
  • Avoid soaking the tattoo in water.
  • Avoid heavy exercise.

For a more comprehensive guide on the step-by-step process of tattoo aftercare, keep reading:

💡 In this blog post, we’ll be discussing the TRADITIONAL HEALING method and the SECOND SKIN/TATTOO FILM method.

Tattoo Care First 48 Hours: TRADITIONAL METHOD

First 24 Hours

Proper care of your tattoo during the first 24 hours is vital for its healing process. Your tattoo is essentially an open wound, which makes it susceptible to infections and other issues. To ensure that it heals correctly, do this:

– Remove the bandage after a few hours

After the tattoo session, the artist will wrap a bandage around your tattoo to protect it while it heals. After a few hours, take off the wrap and gently wash your tattoo with soap and warm water. Use a clean paper towel to pat it dry and apply a thin layer of moisturizer/ointment. Remove any excess ointment by gently blotting it with a paper towel, and continue patting dry until the plasma stops seeping out.

Once that’s done, let it air dry.

For a professional approach, check our post on how to clean your new tattoo.

– Re-bandage before bed time

Before going to sleep, gently wash your tattoo and pat it dry. After that, re-wrap it. Don’t use any ointment.

Next 24 Hours

– Wash and moisturize

When you wake up, remove the wrap from your tattoo and gently wash it with soap and warm water. Then, use a clean paper towel to pat it dry and apply a thin layer of moisturizer or ointment.

DO NOT continue to wrap your tattoo during the daytime.

– Bed time: repeat

Follow the same routine as the night before.

For more details on new tattoos and bed time, see our article on how to sleep with a new tattoo.

Tattoo Care First 48 Hours: SECOND SKIN METHOD

First 24 Hours

– Keep the bandage on for 24h

The initial piece of tattoo film that your tattoo artist puts on you after your appointment should be kept on for 24 hours. It’s normal to have fluid build-up under the film, and if it leaks, you can use a small piece of film to patch it or remove the film and replace it with a new one.

Next 24 Hours

– Wash the tattoo and re-wrap

Wash your tattoo using unscented, mild soap and pat it dry. Cut a piece of tattoo film to cover the entire tattoo, leaving a 1-2 inch border. Press the film firmly onto your skin to make sure it sticks. Do not stretch the film during application, and wear it for 4-5 days.

Do not exceed 6-7 days.

TIP 💡 Apply the film gently to avoid air bubbles.

– Removing the film

When removing the film, do it while showering and pull it off along the plane of your skin, not upwards. If you have a reaction or remove the film before the recommended time, follow the removal instructions.

Tattoo Care First 48 Hours: Basic Tips

Keep it (very) clean

Keep your tattoo clean to avoid harmful substances and bacteria from entering the wound. Gently wash it with warm water and soap, then pat it dry with a clean paper towel.

Moisturize the area

Keep your tattoo moisturized with a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer to prevent dryness and itching. Use a thin layer of moisturizer to avoid clogging pores and slowing down the healing process.

Keep it extra protected

It is important to be mindful and cover your new tattoo with a clean, non-stick bandage or tattoo film for the first 24-48 hours to protect it from potential irritants.

Wear baggy clothes

Wear loose-fitting clothes over the tattooed area to avoid friction and irritation.

tattoo care first 48 hours tiger

Avoid This The First 48 Hours

Avoid sunlight

Exposure to the sun can damage your skin and cause your tattoo to fade, even if it’s covered with clothing.

Avoid soaking in water

This includes swimming, soaking in a bath, or taking long showers.

Water can be a breeding ground for bacteria which can cause infection if it enters an open wound like a fresh tattoo. Additionally, soaking a tattoo in water can soften the scabs and cause them to come off too early, potentially leading to scarring or other complications.

Avoid contact (as much as possible)

Bacteria and germs can easily get into an open wound, so it’s important to avoid contact with anything that may introduce these harmful substances to your healing tattoo. Avoid contact with animals, dirty clothing or bedding, and keep your hands clean when touching the tattooed area.

Avoid vigorous exercise

Exercise can increase blood flow and cause sweating, which can damage the healing process of your tattoo. It’s best to avoid vigorous exercise for the first 48 hours, and to limit the amount of exercise you do for the first two weeks after getting your tattoo.

For more details on this topic, see our article on working out after getting a new tattoo.

Don’t scratch or rub

Itching is a common side effect of the healing process, but scratching or rubbing your tattoo can cause the ink to bleed out, prolonging the healing process. Instead, try to gently pat the area to relieve the itching sensation.

avoid scratching

What Next?

During the next few days of the healing process, it’s important to keep your tattoo clean and moisturized until it’s fully healed, which usually takes around 2 weeks.

For a detailed step-by-step guide on how to take care of your tattoo, see our aftercare instructions.

After your tattoo has healed, it’s important to continue taking care of your skin by drinking plenty of water and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. See our guide on tattoo aftercare long term for tips on how to keep your tattoos looking fresh in the long run.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, the first 48 hours after getting a tattoo are crucial for its healing and success. It’s important to follow the proper aftercare routine, which includes keeping your tattoo clean, moisturized, and protected from potential irritants.

Remember, taking care of your tattoo is not just about the first 48 hours, but also about maintaining good skincare habits in the long run.

With a little bit of patience and care, your new tattoo will be a beautiful addition to your body for years to come.


Should I clean my tattoo the first day?

After waiting at least 5 hours, it’s safe to take off the bandage and clean your new tattoo. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly first. Use your fingers to gently clean the tattoo with hypoallergenic soap and warm water.

Should I put ointment on my tattoo the first night?

With traditional healing, a thin layer of ointment is typically applied on the first night and continued for a few days. However, with a second skin product, no ointment is applied until the 3-4 day as the product itself acts as a protective barrier over the tattoo.

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