When Can I Remove My Tattoo Wrap?

Getting a fresh tattoo is so exciting that you may forget all about handling your tattoo wrap. There are a lot of different opinions on when you can remove your tattoo wrap, so it’s best to ask your tattoo artist. That being said, here are some general rules of thumb.

You can remove your first tattoo wrap as early as 2-4 hours after leaving the tattoo shop. Continue to alternate between wrapping your tattoo and exposing it to fresh air for several days (about 3-4 days for a small tattoo, and about 7 days for a large tattoo).

Want to learn more about when to wrap your tattoo and when to leave it unwrapped? Let’s talk about how to care for your new tattoo, why tattoo wraps are important, and what could happen if you remove your wrap too early or leave it on too long.

Did you know that, in some countries, the law requires tattoo artists to wrap your new tattoo? Tattoo wraps are essential because they keep the exposed area clean, therefore reducing the greatest risk of getting a tattoo: infection.

Tattoo wraps:

  • Provide a barrier against bacteria and other antibodies in the air
  • Protect the tattoo from being rubbed or brushed by other people or dirty surfaces

A tattoo is an open wound, and it must be protected from dirt and bacteria. A bad infection can result in chills, aches, or even death without proper antibiotic care. A tattoo wrap is an easy way to control the tattoo’s environment and keep it clean.

What happens if you take the wrap off your tattoo too early?
By unwrapping your tattoo too early or too often, you leave your body more susceptible to infection. You may also extend the tattoo’s healing process. To ensure the healthiest skin and the best-looking tattoo, don’t remove your wrap too early.

Be sure to ask your tattoo artist how long you should wear your tattoo wrap. If you have your tattoo done early in the day, you will want to leave it wrapped for at least 2-4 hours. If you get tattooed in the evening, you can leave your first wrap on overnight.

Once you can clean the tattoo area yourself, and it is no longer bleeding, you can remove the first wrap. When you remove the wrap:

  1. Gently wash the area in soapy, lukewarm water.
  2. Apply a healing or moisturizing lotion to further protect and nourish the new tattoo, and prevent itching.
  3. For up to one week, alternate between exposing the tattoo to clean air and applying fresh tattoo wrappings.

Can you leave a tattoo wrap on for too long?

Fresh air and tattoo wrappings are equally important. If you leave a tattoo wrap on for too long, the area may grow too moist, and prevent your skin from creating its own new, protective barrier. Without proper exposure to oxygen, freshly tattooed skin takes longer to heal and can even become infected.  

Don’t worry, you’ll be able to strike the perfect balance between wearing your tattoo wrap and letting your tattoo breathe. Change your bandage within the first few hours, or at least after your first night with the new tattoo. After cleaning your tattoo and giving it some fresh air, apply a new bandage. You can repeat this process every 1-2 days until the area has healed (2-3 days for a small tattoo, and up to 7 days for a large tattoo).

When should I wrap my tattoo and when should I let it air-dry?

For the first few days after getting a tattoo, here’s when you should keep it wrapped and when you should give it some fresh air.

Immediately after the tattoo session, for at least 2 hours or up to 12 (overnight)2-12 hours after getting tattooed, unwrap the area and leave it exposed for at least 2 hours
When sleepingWhen showering
When out and about (especially in crowds of people or in an unclean environment)When at home relaxing
When wearing tight clothing that may rub the treatment areaWhen wearing loose, comfortable clothing at home

How should I wrap my new tattoo?

In most cases, your tattoo artist will wrap your new tattoo in a sterile bandage before you leave the shop. Once you remove your first wrapping, clean the area to ensure it’s free of dirt and bacteria. Gently pat the area dry. When you rewrap your tattoo, you can use:

  • Sterile bandages that cover the area completely
  • Cheese cloth
  • Muslin cloth

Cling film or plastic wrap can be used, but only as a last resort. Keep in mind that ointments and moisturizers also provide a thin barrier, and can sometimes be used exclusively to cover a healing tattoo.

Be sure to discard your wrappings, wash the tattoo and let it breathe every 4-6 hours, or every time after you sweat. Be sure the area is not only clean, but also completely dry before rebandaging.

When you rewrap your new tattoo, you can use a standard adhesive bandage or a tattoo-specific bandage like Saniderm or Tegaderm. Cut the bandage to allow at least 1 inch between the tattoo and the adhesive. Gently apply the bandage with the adhesive side down, using light pressure. Be sure the bandage is smooth, with as few air bubbles as possible. Don’t overstretch the bandage or leave it bunched and wrinkled.

How long should I wrap my tattoo at night?

While you sleep, you might accidently lie on your tattoo, or the bed linens may stick to your tattoo. To prevent pulling, rubbing, or ripping the skin, you should cover the tattoo at night. If you sleep with another person or with pets, a tattoo covering will provide a barrier against germs and bacteria. Wrapping the tattoo will also protect your sheets from ink, blood and plasma leakage.

Most artists recommend sleeping with your tattoo wrapped for the first 3-4 nights after getting tattooed. Once your tattoo begins to heal and peel, you can more safely leave it unwrapped during sleep.

How do you remove protective tattoo film? Does it hurt?

If your tattoo is covered by a bandage or wrap with adhesive, it can be difficult to peel it off. However, don’t hesitate to remove your tattoo covering after a few hours, especially if the bandage begins to collect dirt. Here are our recommendations for making tattoo wrap removal easy and painless:

  • Wash your hands before removing the cover
  • Pull the bandage in the direction of hair growth
  • Use running water and liquid soap to help loosen the adhesive and relax the skin (try removing your bandage in the shower)
  • Break down the adhesive until it is no longer painful to remove

After you are able to remove the bandage, let the tattoo breathe for a few hours before re-bandaging.

Other aftercare tattoo tips

Here are some other tips and tricks to help you heal as quickly as possible so that you can start enjoying your new tattoo.

  • Use gentle soaps like Dove, Dial or Neutrogena
  • Apply basic fragrance-free moisturizers like Lubriderm or Eucerin
  • Do not pick at your tattoo, no matter how itchy it may get (this may cause scarring and damage to the design)
  • You don’t have to invest in fancy tattoo aftercare products – basic soaps and moisturizers can work just as well
  • Wash and moisturize your tattoo before and after you wrap it
  • Do not apply rubbing alcohol, Vaseline, or antibiotic ointment
  • Tattoo healing products like Vitalitree can be used based on your artist’s recommendations
  • Use small amounts of any product you choose – do not smother the tattoo

Your aftercare instructions will depend on the size and placement of your tattoo. Your tattoo artist will give you specific guidance based on their own experience with their other clients. If you missed or misunderstood any instructions, don’t hesitate to give your artist a call.