The excitement of getting a new tattoo can sometimes overshadow the importance of the aftercare routine.
Although a tattoo is a beautiful piece of art, it’s also an open wound when it’s first done on the skin. The tattoo artist has used a needle gun to poke holes into your skin and pour ink in, but those holes are still open and susceptible to infection.
To prevent infection and allow your tattoo to heal properly, you’ll need to follow the aftercare instructions given to you by your artist. For most, this will include starting with Aquaphor (Amazon link) and switching to a fragrance-free lotion during healing.
Many people, however, debate how long to use Aquaphor on the new tattoo. Sometimes different artists will tell you different lengths of time, so if this is your fourth tattoo and you’ve had a new artist every time, you may have heard conflicting advice.
Generally, it’s best to use Aquaphor for around 3-4 days after getting your tattoo. After that, you can switch to an unscented, moisturizing lotion such as Lubriderm.
There are a lot of details to remember about your tattoo aftercare routine, and each one is important. In this article, you’ll find all the information you need to know about using Aquaphor for the healing process of your tattoo.
What Is Aquaphor?
Aquaphor is a line of skincare products, but when it’s talked about in the tattoo world, we’re referring to the specific Aquaphor Healing Ointment.
The Aquaphor Healing Ointment is a petroleum jelly-based product. It contains 41% petroleum jelly and many other ingredients helpful for wound healing, such as lanolin alcohol, bisabolol, mineral oil, glycerin, and panthenol.
All the extra ingredients added in Aquaphor help it to heal your tattoo properly.
Some people may read that Aquaphor is a petroleum jelly product and think they can use Vaseline instead, but that is not the case.
Vaseline is 100% petroleum jelly and will create a barrier against the skin. This barrier won’t allow for any air flow, which a tattoo needs to heal.
Aquaphor is perfect because it provides a good amount of moisture and protection through the petroleum jelly, but it still allows for some air flow and has added ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties to aid in the healing process.
Why Do You Use Aquaphor On Tattoos?
As we mentioned above, Aquaphor is ideal to use on tattoos because it provides moisture and protection while allowing air flow. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which help heal the wound properly.
Aquaphor is used for the first 3-4 days because it provides more moisture, protection, and healing properties than lotion. With a brand new open wound, you want to use the product that’s going to help it heal the best.
New tattoos are extremely dry, but they also leak several fluids such as blood, excess ink, and lymph fluids. If these fluids can build up and form a scab over the tattoo, it can cause damage and distort your tattoo.
Aquaphor can prevent this from happening. If applied correctly and at the right time frame, it can stop these fluids from leaking to a point of build-up over the tattoo.
The Aquaphor will also prevent these excess fluids from drying over the skin, which avoids the problem of big scabs.
A few scabs on a healing tattoo are normal, but you want to avoid them as much as you can. If you do get scabs, you want to prevent them from cracking.
Can You Put Too Much Aquaphor On A Tattoo?
Yes, you can put too much Aquaphor on a tattoo. If too much is applied, the layer of petroleum jelly will be too thick and it won’t allow for proper air flow and wound healing.
When you apply the Aquaphor to your tattoo, it should be a light layer. Apply it gently and smooth it around the surface of your tattoo. It should not be sticky or shiny.
Allow the Aquaphor a few minutes to soak into the skin. After five minutes, if the Aquaphor still looks sticky and shiny, you’ll need to dab some of the excess off with a clean and dry paper towel.
When To Switch From Aquaphor To Lotion
You should switch from Aquaphor to lotion after around 3-4 days.
Pay attention to the signs your tattoo is giving you. Like any other wound, you will be able to tell if it’s healing properly.
You will notice during the washing process, and even as you apply the Aquaphor, that little specks of color or scabs are rubbing off. This is normal, and is typically a good indicator that your tattoo is ready to switch to lotion.
The exact time frame will depend on your skin and the way your tattoo is healing. Everyone’s skin heals differently, so monitor your tattoo and watch for signs of good healing.
When you switch to lotion, be sure to choose one that is fragrance-free. A brand that is typically recommended by tattoo artists is Lubriderm. They have an unscented lotion that’s highly moisturizing and works great for tattoo aftercare.
Can I Use Aquaphor The Whole Time My Tattoo Is Healing?
It is not recommended to use Aquaphor the whole time your tattoo is healing.
The intensive moisture and layer of protection that Aquaphor provides is needed for those first few days of healing. With a fresh tattoo, there is a risk of infection or damage to the tattoo if not taken care of properly.
However, after the first few days of proper aftercare, you’ll notice that your tattoo is already starting to heal up nicely. While the full healing process for a tattoo lasts around 4 weeks, you’ll notice visible improvement after a few days.
To allow your tattoo to heal properly and give it enough air and room to breathe as it heals, you’ll want to switch to lotion.
Lotion will provide a good amount of moisture without suffocating the tattoo and stifling the healing process.
Can I Sleep With Aquaphor On My Tattoo?
You can, and you likely will during those first few days of tattoo healing.
Since bed sheets are often not cleaned as regularly as they’re supposed to be, it’s recommended to wear a loose clothing item over your new tattoo as you sleep.
This clothing item should be soft and loose, so avoid any leggings or tight clothing.
If you notice your tattoo sticking to your clothing or bedding, gently peel it away and wash it according to the proper aftercare routine.
Does Aquaphor Pull Ink Out Of Tattoos?
You may notice excess ink leaking from your tattoo, or colorful specks coming off as you wash your tattoo.
These are normal and are not a result of using Aquaphor. Your fresh tattoo will leak a little bit of excess ink regardless of whether you use Aquaphor or not.
If you’re worried about using Aquaphor because you think it will damage your tattoo or cause you to lose color saturation, have no fear. Aquaphor can be used safely and it will not pull ink out of your tattoo.
Recommended Tattoo Aftercare Routine
Your tattoo artist will give you a specific aftercare routine for your tattoo.
Always listen to your artist. They are taking into account your specific skin and how it took the ink, the ink that they used, and their knowledge of how your tattoo will heal based on the size and color.
Some artists may forget to give you the aftercare instructions, though, especially if you already have tattoos. They may assume you know the routine and will send you on your way.
If this happens and you can’t quite remember the proper steps, we recommend following the process below.
- Keep the wrap on that your tattoo artist has placed over your fresh tattoo for at least 1 hour, if not 2-4.
- After the first couple of hours, head to a clean bathroom and remove the wrap or bandage.
- Using warm water and clean hands, wash your tattoo with unscented and a mild soap. Plain Dial soap works well. Gently wash the tattoo using a lather of soap in a circular motion. It may sting a little, but be sure to remove any blood, lymphatic fluid, and ointment as you wash.
- Rinse the tattoo and ensure it’s completely clean and clear. No soap suds or bubbles should remain.
- Lightly dab the tattoo dry with a clean paper towel.
- Once your tattoo is fully dry, apply a thin layer of Aquaphor Healing Ointment.
The process of washing, drying, and applying Aquaphor or lotion to your tattoo should be repeated 2-3 times a day. If your daily schedule is hectic, try doing this in the morning and in the evening.
When cleaning and drying your tattoo, never use a washcloth, loofah, body towel, or any other reusable product. Your tattoo should only be touched by fresh, clean, disposable items, aside from the clothing you wear over it.
Speaking of clothing, do your best to wear loose, cotton clothing over your tattoo. It can be a cotton blend or polyester item, but the idea is to avoid tight or irritating fabrics such as spandex or Lycra.
This aftercare routine should be followed for at least the first two weeks of your tattoo’s healing process. It may need to be prolonged depending on the way your tattoo heals.