Tattoo bandage

Step 1 - The bandage

Tattoo aftercare starts in the tattoo shop. Once the tattoo is done, the artist will apply a thin layer of tattoo jelly or moisturizer over the entire tattooed area. They will then cover the area completely with plastic wrap or a bandage.

Tattoo by Jonny Phillips

Step 2 - The first wash

After usually no less than 5 hours, it is safe to remove the bandage and wash the tattoo.

After thorough hand-washing, a person can gently wash the tattoo with hypoallergenic soap and warm water using their fingers.

Tattoo by Nick Hill

Step 3 - The first week

For the first couple of days, the tattooed skin may feel warm to the touch and have a reddish appearance. The colors may also appear very bright against the rest of the skin. The tattoo will become less vibrant as the healing process continues.

A person should avoid submerging the tattoo in water or getting the tattoo wet during the first 3–6 weeks, except for when washing it.

A person can continue using the washing technique above throughout the first week when needed. How often washing is necessary will vary depending on a person's activity levels and environment.

Tattoo by Jordan Phillips

Step 4 - Week two

Around the beginning of the second week, the scabs will start to flake off. It is important to be especially gentle with washing and moisturizing during this week, as it is easy to tear away scabs and damage the tattoo.

Tattoo by Jonny Phillips

Step 5 - Week three and beyond

The final stage of healing can be slow but requires patience. Most of the larger scabs will have flaked and fallen away by now. Small scabs and bits of dead skin may appear, but these will also clear up as the healing process continues.

Scabs and flaking skin can cause the area to look dry and dull. Applying moisturizer, and protecting the tattoo from the sun, will help with these issues.

The outer layers of skin should completely heal by the end of week three. The inner layers of skin can take longer to heal but require much less care.


Man with piercing

Cleaning Instructions

WASH your hands prior to cleaning or touching your piercing for any reason.

SALINE soak for five to ten minutes once or more per day. Invert a cup of warm saline solution over the area to form a vacuum. For certain piercings it may be easier to apply using a spray such as NeilMed Wound Wash.

If your piercer suggests using soap, gently lather around the piercing and rinse as needed. Avoid using harsh soaps, or soaps with dyes, fragrances, or triclosan. • RINSE thoroughly to remove all traces of the soap from the piercing. It is not necessary to rotate the jewelry through the piercing.

AIR DRY Cloth towels can harbor bacteria and snag on jewelry.

Women with piercing

What is Normal?

Initially: some bruising around the area and swelling. Some bleeding as well.

During the healing process: itching, secretion of a whitish-yellow fluid (not pus) that will form some crust on the jewelry. The skin may tighten around the jewelry as it heals.

Once your piercing is healed: the jewelry may not move freely in the piercing; do not force it. If you fail to include cleaning your piercing as part of your daily hygiene routine, normal but smelly bodily discharge may accumulate.

Your piercing may seem like it’s healed before it actually is. This is because skin heals from the outside in, and although it feels fine, the interior remains fragile. Be patient, and keep cleaning throughout the entire healing period. 

Long after your piercing is healed it can shrink or close in seconds or minutes, even after having been there for years. This varies from person to person; if you like your piercing, keep jewelry in—do not leave your jewelry out for an extended period of time.

Women with piercing

What To Do

Always make sure your hands are clean before touching your piercing. It is not necessary to rotate your jewelry, doing so is harmful.

Clean bedding, and clean non restrictive clothing are essential to limit the bacterial buildup and to keep your piercing from getting snagged.

Showers tend to be safer than taking baths, as bathtubs can harbor bacteria. If you bathe in a tub, clean it well before each use and rinse off your piercing when you get out.

Women with piercing

What To Avoid

Avoid moving jewelry in an unhealed piercing, or picking away dried discharge with your fingers.

Avoid cleaning with Betadine®, Hibiciens®, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or soaps containing triclosan, as these can damage cells. Also avoid ointments as they prevent necessary air circulation.

Avoid Bactine®, pierced ear care solutions and other products containing Benzalkonium Chloride (BZK). These can be irritating and are not intended for long term wound care.

Avoid over-cleaning. This can delay your healing and irritate your piercing.

Avoid undue trauma such as friction from clothing, excessive motion of the area, playing with the jewelry, and vigorous cleaning. These activities can cause the formation of unsightly and uncomfortable scar tissue, migration, prolonged healing, and other complications.

Avoid all oral contact, rough play, and contact with others' bodily fluids on or near your piercing during healing.

Avoid stress and recreational drug use, including excessive caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.

Avoid submerging the piercing in unhygienic bodies of water such as lakes, pools, hot tubs, etc. Or, protect your piercing using a waterproof wound-sealant bandage (such as 3M™ Nexcare™ Clean Seals). These are available at most drugstores.

Avoid all beauty and personal care products on or around the piercing including cosmetics, lotions, and sprays, etc.

Don't hang any charms or objects from your jewelry.

Women with piercing

Hints and Tips - Jewelry

Do not remove your piercing, unless there is a problem with the size, style, or material of the initial jewelry. Leave it in the place for the entire healing process. See your piercer to perform any jewelry change that becomes necessary during healing.

If you require a medical procedure,contact your piercer if your jewelry must be removed. There are non-metallic jewelry alternatives available.

Leave jewelry in at all times. Even old or healed piercings can shrink or close in minutes even after having been there for years. If removed, re-insertion can be difficult or impossible.

With clean hands or paper towel, regularly check threaded ends (aka Balls) on your jewelry for tightness. ("Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.")

If you decide you no longer want your piercing, simply remove the jewelry (or have a professional piercer remove it) and continue cleaning the piercing until the hole closes. In most cases only a tiny mark will remain.

If you suspect your piercing is infected, your jewelry should be left in place to allow for drainage of the infection. If the jewelry is removed, the surface cells can close up, which can seal the infection inside the piercing channel and result in an abscess. Do not remove jewelry unless instructed to by a medical professional.