To care for your tattoo it is important to understand how the healing works and why you will be asked to do certain things.
Tattooing has existed for thousands of years. It is older than the written word and religion. Fancy creams and soaps were obviously not used then and logic dictates that they are not required now. Human urine has been used on tattoos and sharpened bone to inject the ink.
Modern tattooing injects pigment particles(mostly metal oxides) into your upper dermis. The instant that happens your immune system(the army of cells that keeps you alive from invaders) attacks the pigment. Hence the swelling and redness that occurs nearly immediately. Over the course of days, your body will attempt to push the pigment out. It doesn't recognize it, it doesn't want it there. However, the pigment molecules are much larger than the cells that are attacking it, so they can't get all of the pigment out. Their contingency is to make sure they don't travel, so they anchor the pigment in scar tissue so that it is "trapped" and cannot cause any ruckus. As long as the pigment molecule isn't still deemed harmful or your immune system isn't super sensitive, the body leaves it alone. The body will get some pigment out, hence the ruined sheets that any large collector is bound to have. It will also shed the injured outer layers of skin over the course of days-weeks.
One quick word on the dangers of some tattoo inks. The chinese will sell anything people are willing to buy. That being said, mercury is commonly found in low quality red pigment and it can cause A WOUND THAT WILL NOT HEAL YOUR ENTIRE LIFE!!!! That's no bueno in my book, so pick your tattoo shop carefully. However, even quality red ink is the most likely pigment to be rejected by your body. Red reactions do not mean mercury is in the pigment.
Now that you understand what is happening, we can discuss what to do. I subscribe to "THE THREE S RULE." It's easy to remember and simple.
#1 NO SUN EXPOSURE- when I say none, I mean NONE.
#2 NO SOAKING IN WATER, SHOWER ONLY.- no bath, hot tubs, pools, oceans, rivers, etc...
#3 NO SCRATCHING OR PICKING THE HEALING TATTOO- this includes anything rubbing against the tattoo or trying to wash off the peeling skin. Don't mess with it.
These rules should be followed for 3 weeks.
There are now two ways to heal your tattoo. They are different and BOTH require you to adhere to the "3 s rule."
1- clear food wrap. cover the tattoo completely. Take the wrap off three times a day, wash the tattoo with your hand, pat it dry, replace wrap. Wear wrap 24 hours a day for 5 days. Then switch to unscented lotion daily until fully healed.
2- moisturizing creams available at any pharmacy. Wash the tattoo in the shower by hand, pat it dry. Apply cream multiple times a day in a thin coat. Don't let the tattoo dry out. Here is a list of quality creams- AQUAPHOR; BACITRACIN; A&D OINTMENT; LUBRIDERM UNSCENTED.
OPTION #1 IS THE BEST FOR LARGE WORK AND PROTECTS THE TATTOO AROUND THE CLOCK. HOWEVER, HEAT RASH CAN OCCUR HERE IN SOUTHERN FLORIDA. IF THAT HAPPENS, REMOVE WRAP. IF THAT DOESN'T SOLVE PROBLEM WITHIN 1 DAY, CONTACT YOUR TATTOOIST OR PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN.
Lastly, the sun is a nuclear furnace and it bombards us with dangerous radiation. Cryptonite is to Superman what sunlight is to your tattoo. Avoid it when possible. SPF 100 sunblock when you cannot.
THANKS FOR READING,