If you have just gotten a new tattoo or are looking to get one, it’s likely you’ve seen people wrapping their new ink in what looks like plastic. This is called “wrap healing” and is very common within the tattoo industry. Wrap healing is a method that covers your new ink for the first few days to help protect it from infection.
There’s another group of people that don’t wrap their tattoos during the healing process because they think it’s better for the tattoo to be exposed to air and oxygen which promotes healing. I know people in both camps and both work. Each individual must study the options and decide for themselves.
No matter which route you end up going, I always get ask “Should I wrap a tattoo at night, especially the first night after getting it.” My answer to this is always “Yes.” Not only will this help protect your fresh ink, but it will also save you some pain, especially if you have a large piece. However, it’s important to note that you should wear a breathable wrap like Saniderm instead of a regular plastic wrap which doesn’t allow oxygen to get to the wound.
If you don’t wear a wrap on the first night, it’s likely the blood and plasma from the area around your ink will stick to the bed sheets and your clothes. It can be a bit painful when the material pulls away from the skin if you aren’t careful. That’s one of the reasons I always recommend wearing a wrap for at least the first night.
In the article below, I’ll give you some additional details and tips on wrap healing.
Why Do People Wrap Their New Tattoos?
Wrapping tattoos has been a step in the aftercare process of new tattoos for decades. The manner in which it is done has change though thru time. Back in the 1960’s thru 1980’s, new tattoos were wrapped in a normal bandage like you would use for a regular cut or burn.
There’s three primary reasons tattoos are wrapped:
- Blood/Plasma – This is probably the biggest reason many people wear wraps. Since your tattoo is an open wound, it is going to bleed and ooze plasma in the early days of healing. This will continue for several days. A wrap is good to have so that it helps control the leaking of these fluids.
- Leaking Ink – Any time you get a new tattoo, it’s going to leak some amount of ink. This will vary from person to person depending on the location of the tattoo and other factors. Ink tattoo will stain clothing. Wearing a wrap helps soak up the ink (if using cloth) or keep it contained and separated from your clothing or bed sheets to prevent staining.
- Protect from infection – As with any wound your body suffers, keeping it protected from an infection is a top priority. A wrap adds a barrier between your healing skin. The wrap is working just like a band-aid that you apply to your finger when you get a papercut.
As the popularity of tattoos grew, the need for people to wrap their tattoos but still be able to show them off increased. That’s when tattoo artists began wrapping their customer’s new ink in plastic wrap or saran wrap.
In time, as companies realized there was a market to sell plastic wraps dedicated to those getting tattoos, more products were brought to the market.
How Long Should I Wrap My Tattoo At Night?
It will vary from one person to another as far as how long they should wear a wrap at night. Typically, it’s going to about 7 days. The wrap will create a barrier that prevents ink, blood and plasma
from staining your bed clothes and sheets. However, it’s also creating a barrier by preventing your sheets and clothing from rubbing up against it.
Once your tattoo has start peeling, you can stop wrapping your tattoo during the night. However, there’s been times I’ve worn them longer so that I don’t accidentally scratch at it during the night.
Wraps are also helpful to wear during the night if you have pets that sleep in the same bed with you. The wrap will prevent pet dander from getting into the wound, but it also prevents the animals from licking it during the night (I had a dog that did this and it drove me nuts!).
How long do you keep your tattoo wrapped?
There are a lot of varying opinions on this question. Some people don’t wrap their new tattoo while I’ve know others to keep theirs wrapped for a week or more.
If you have a small tattoo, you can get by with wrapping it for just a couple days. For larger tattoos, such as a sleeve or a large piece on your back, I’d recommend wrapping them for up to a week. This is especially true at night.
However, I must stress the importance of allowing your tattoo to get some fresh air. If it’s been 3-4 days since you just gotten your back tattooed, and you are going to be hanging out around your house or apartment for a few hours, consider taking the wrap off to allow it to get some fresh air. It’s also important to use the opportunity to clean it at this time as well.
You should try to clean your tattoo every couple of days if possible. Even if it has been wrapped.
What happens if you leave a tattoo bandage on too long?
If you leave your bandage or wrap on too long it could increase the risk of infection. This is especially true if you aren’t replacing the wrap, cleaning your tattoo, and allowing it time to get some oxygen.
Again, cleaning and caring for a tattoo is not much different than taking care of a cut or scrap you’ve had on your body. The key is to keep it clean and help reduce the opportunities for infection while your body is working to heal itself.
What happens if you don’t wrap your tattoo?
The biggest risk to not wearing a wrap is that it increases your risk for infection. It’s the same as a cut on your finger, if you don’t wear a band-aid to protect it during the healing stages, then it’s at a greater risk of getting an infection.
I know several people who have not wrapped their tattoos and everything was fine. Personally, if I’m going to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on some new ink, I’m going to spend the extra 20 bucks to get some wrap and wear it for a week. I want to take every precaution that I can to ensure that my new artwork doesn’t get damaged in any way.
Should I Wrap My Tattoo When It’s Peeling
No, it your tattoo is already peeling, you’ve missed the window. When your skin starts peeling, it indicates that your skin has sealed itself and the risk of infection is greatly reduced at this time.
If you tattoo has begun to peel, you can apply a healing ointment called Aquaphor (Amazon Link). This ointment is made for babies when their skin becomes dry and chapped. However, it is very popular with the tattoo industry and widely used during the healing stages.
If you would like additional information on using moisturizers for your tattoo, check out this article I wrote.
What Is The Best Plastic Wrap For Tattoos?
The most popular plastic wrap on the market right now is made by Saniderm. You can find their product by clicking here (Amazon link). Saniderm works by protecting you open wound from infection but also allowing oxygen to get to your tattoo to assist in the healing process.
The great thing about Saniderm is that it is versatile enough to work on just about all body parts. This includes: back, feet, hands, arms and legs.
One misconception with Saniderm is that it is ok to wear it while getting wet. It is NOT recommended that you use Saniderm as a barrier to water.
A couple tips for using Saniderm:
- When you apply your wrap, make sure the tattoo area is dry. Do not apply any lotion or anything to it before apply the wrap. Dry the area, apply the wrap and leave it on for 2-4 days. Remove it, clean it, and reapply the wrap.
- When it’s time to remove your wrap, it’s likely the edges will still be firmly attached to your skin. If so, apply a small amount of coconut oil around the edges of the wrap. Allow it to absorb for a few minutes. Next, take a warm shower and slowly peel the edges away from your skin.