tattoo, tattoo tips, tattoo mistakes, new tattoo, tattoo aftercare

10 Biggest Mistakes To Avoid After Getting A New Tattoo

So, you just went out and got that beautiful new tattoo you’ve been dreaming about, Congratulations! Now it’s time to arm yourself with the information necessary to ensure that your new ink heals properly, allowing you to appreciate a beautiful, vibrant tattoo for years to come.

**Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission at no additional cost to you. I will only ever recommend products/services that I love, and feel are valuable to my community. Thank you! For more information, please visit my Disclaimer page.**

A new tattoo is an incredibly exciting time, whether it’s your first time going under the gun or your 20th. Each piece is a unique and beautiful work of art, one that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Leading up to your tattoo appointment, most people will take the time to research their options, which tattoo artist they should trust, and what they should do in preparation. However, few put the same amount of time and attention into figuring out what they should do afterward.

The choices that you make in the days and weeks following your new tattoo are key to the healing process. However, many of the pitfalls and mistakes that people make are unknown and overlooked. If you’re looking to avoid these potential pitfalls, I’ve got you covered! In talking with a few tattoo artists I’ve come to know and respect, they revealed what they believe are the biggest mistakes people make after getting a new tattoo:

#1. Hands Off The Bandage

Okay, you CAN take the bandage off eventually, but too many people rip that baby off way too early out of excitement as they can’t wait to show off their new ink. However, you need to remember that in getting a tattoo, you literally have an open wound on your body which means that it is highly susceptible to infection. If your tattoo artist has taken the time to carefully bandage the area (which every good tattoo artist will do) then you need to be sure to leave it on for a minimum of two hours, although a little longer is highly recommended.

#2. Careful With Water

While showering is completely okay in the days following your tattoo, you want to avoid any situation in which you may be completely submerging yourself in water. This includes not only that relaxing bath but also going for a swim or soaking in the hot tub. Your tattoo is still healing, this takes time, and exposing it to water in this way can cause serious damage to that amazing artwork you just paid for. Most tattoo artists that I have spoken with recommend waiting at least 2-3 weeks before climbing into your favourite bubble bath.

#3. Speaking of Showering…

Even if you take a shower, there are steps that you need to take in order to keep your tattoo safe. The biggest mistake at this stage is the use of loofahs and sponges to help get yourself clean. While you may love these products on a regular basis to help exfoliate your skin, using them around a new tattoo will ‘exfoliate’ the scabs right off preventing healing and causing damage to the work. You want to avoid any scrubbing actions in order to prevent fading and smudging. Instead, gently wash the tattooed area with just your bare hand and a mild antibacterial soap (free from artificial colours and perfumes). Also, I feel like this should go without saying BUT just in case, avoid shaving the area until the healing phase has completed.

#4. Dry Off With Caution

When your shower is complete, your work isn’t over quite yet. There is one more mistake that tattoo artists often see – the way you go about drying yourself off. Many people will hop out of the shower quickly rubbing themselves down with their towel like they would any other day, but the rubbing action can damage the scabs. Instead, you need to be careful to gently pat the area dry. If possible, leave it open to air dry afterward as the scabbed area often absorbs a significant amount of water in the process. Continue in this way until the area is fully healed.

#5. Pay Attention to Movement Early On

After you get that new tattoo, you’re able to return to life, as usual, however, you need to be mindful during the healing phase about how you’re moving. Take note of where your tattoo is located and how often that area moves and shifts. This is especially important with larger work or those that stretch across joins like the elbows and knees. When you bend and stretch your tattoo during healing it can cause the scabs to crack and break, while also irritating the area, which will have a negative impact on the healing process. Feel free to hit the gym, but you may want to modify your workout for a few weeks.

#6. Risks of Dirt, Grime and Germs

Try to remember that your new tattoo is literally an open wound. What steps are you taking to protect it from the dirt and bacteria around you? For example, if you get a tattoo on your foot, are you running around in sandals exposing it to dirt and grime everywhere you go? Are you planning on hitting the beach exposing yourself to lake water or the ocean? You may be surprised to learn how much bacteria are hiding in the average water body! This isn’t a long-term change, but during the healing process, you need to go that extra mile. Infections are serious business, so don’t risk it!

#7. Show Restraint With the Aftercare Products

Whether you are using a commercially formulated aftercare product or a trusted ointment, pay attention to how much you are using over the course of an average day. Using too much product can actually suffocate the tattoo which, in turn, promotes bacteria growth. Therefore, while your actions are well-meaning, you may actually be encouraging an infection. Only use a thin layer of product on your tattoo at least twice a day for approximately 3-5 days. You want to be sure that you do so as soon as your tattoo has fully dried anytime that you wash it. These products will definitely help to encourage proper healing, just remember that there is too much of a good thing.

#8. What Are You Wearing?

Your clothing choices early on can help or hinder the healing process. Select items that are loose fitting around the area of your new tattoo, allowing it to breathe. This will also ensure that you don’t have tight-fitting clothing or shoes rubbing against your tattoo, in turn, rubbing off the scabs or irritating the skin. Pay attention to the finer details. When I first got my wrist tattoo, I suddenly realized how many of my shirts had tighter bands around the wrist, a detail I had never considered before. Once the healing phase has passed you can wear whatever your heart desires again, but for a few short weeks, be selective.

#9. Hands Off

It’s a natural human instinct, when we’re itchy we scratch right? Unfortunately, scratching the area around your tattoo may have some pretty serious consequences when it comes to how that beautiful work will heal. Picking at your scabs or scratching your tattoo during healing can cause the scabs to fall off before they are ready, leaving you with lighter patches in the work or even holes. Resist the temptation, keep your hands off and allow it to heal.

#10. Sun Protection Is Key!

This is a tip that you need to keep in mind not only early on but moving forward with your tattoo. If you want to keep your tattoo looking bright and vibrant for years to come, the sun really is your enemy. I’m not suggesting that you stay holed up in a cave avoiding the sun entirely like a vampire (although if that’s your thing, power to you). However, when you are heading out in the sun take a little extra care. Early on, during the healing process, you want to keep your tattoo covered and away from the sun at all costs. This may require a slight shift in your wardrobe choices, but it’s worth it! After approximately 3-4 weeks, when the initial healing phase is completed, you can start to use sunscreen – Make this a priority! Sunburns and blisters are going to fade your tattoo rapidly. Slap on the SPF every time you’re stepping out in the sun year-round (yes, even in the winter, the sun is still shining).

tattoo, tattoo tips, tattoo mistakes, new tattoo, tattoo aftercare

For those who have a tattoo, what mistakes did you learn the hard way? Any advice for those getting their first tattoo? If you’re preparing for your first tattoo, what would you like to know more about? 

74 thoughts on “10 Biggest Mistakes To Avoid After Getting A New Tattoo”

    1. The first one is usually the hardest because you don’t know what to expect – once you cross that line, it’s hard to stop lol

  1. After getting my first tattoo I couldn’t handle how itchy it was, someone told me that the best thing to do if it’s really bothering you is to lightly smack the area of the tattoo to stop it itching!

    It worked but I’m not so sure how wise / safe that is hahahha

    I think the one tip I would give is to not be afraid to ask them to re do the stensil when they put it on your skin, I wanted mine a fair bit lower than It is but I didn’t want to say 🙁

    1. I’ve heard the hitting the area trick before too, although never tried it myself first hand. As long as you’re not smacking on the scabbed area hard I’m sure it’s not going to cause any damage.

  2. Ahh, I’ve been thinking about getting another tattoo recently, so it’s pretty serendipitous that I found this post! My last one was five years ago and I’d forgotten a lot of the aftercare procedure. Thanks for the tips! I’ll be checking back in when I actually work up the nerve to get it done.

    1. What are you thinking about getting? There was a big gap of time between my first two and I had to relearn a lot of the tricks and tips too… by tattoo 3 we were smooth sailing lol

  3. This is so interesting! I don’t have any tattoos, nor am I planning on getting any, but I love the entire culture around tattoos. I had no idea there were so many things you have to keep an eye on when you get a new tattoo.

    x Envy

    1. The hardest part is that most of these things are daily activities you just ‘do’ without putting thought into it, so it wouldn’t even cross most people’s minds to think of it any differently.

    1. Sunscreen is SO important, but I totally know how you felt… I may or may not have went camping immediately after my wrist tattoo – like outdoors in the dirt and grime with a tattoo that I had done earlier that day hahaha

  4. I only have one tiny tattoo on my hip but it hurt so much that I very much doubt I’ll be getting another one any time soon, I’m such a wuss! These are great tips though, Britt. I think I read somewhere recently that Bepanthen is a good after-tattoo care cream because it allows the skin to breathe, unline Savlon – is that right? But yes, definitely avoid scratching the area, no matter how itchy it is! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Lisa |

    1. Yes, I have heard that about bepanthen too, although I’ve never experimented first hand to see the difference. While it wouldn’t completely eliminate the risk (you could still slather it on too thick), if the claims are true it could definitely help!

  5. These are great tips! I only have one tattoo, but I think I would like more. My first one is only small. But I definitely stuck to most of these. This will be helpful when I get my next one. Thank you for sharing xx

  6. I’m getting my first tattoo this year as it’s the year I turn 18 and I’m so excited! Thank you for sharing these tips, I will remember them so I don’t disturb the healing process x

    – Charlotte /

  7. These are great tips! I only have two small tattoos but I want to get a much bigger piece next time, so I’ll definitely have to keep these in consideration when I get it. I remember getting my first tattoo at the same time as my flatmate got one, and that same evening she had a bath… I was horrified! Haha!
    Beth x Adventure & Anxiety

  8. I don’t have any tattoos right now but I’d never say never! This is a really informative post and I found it really interesting. I’ll bear all this in mind if I ever decide what I want to get. Thanks for sharing Britt! <3 xx

    Bexa |

    1. It’s surprising how the things that annoy us most are completely unexpected! I got one across my left collarbone and had to battle bra straps – it didn’t matter what style, nothing wanted to play nice lol

  9. When I first got mine I was always paranoid I was going to knock the scabs off in the shower so would shower with my arm out of the water and pat it with a wet flannel and let it air dry!! I’m planning on another once I have saved up some money so will be keeping this post in mind.

    Vikki |

    1. What are you planning on getting? I was super paranoid with my first one (which was on my back, try keeping that dry hahaha) but then I became more confident and knew how to take care of the others better without stressing over it.

  10. One thing that I learned was to NOT go with the cheapest place! A quality artist will cost $$! Ask friends for recommendations. My first tattoo was done at a sketchy dive outside a Navy base in Virginia. It was small (imagine 3 dimes in a row = my heart & 2 flowers) but it didn’t age well and I’ve since had it covered.

    1. This is so true! I actually wrote a whole blog post called ‘8 Tips For Your First Tattoo Experience’ talking about the planning process leading up to your tattoo.

  11. I’ve been thinking about getting a small tattoo. Is it possible to have scar tissue tattooed or is it best avoided?

    1. What are you thinking of getting? Whether or not to tattoo over scar tissue is a very individual question – it’s going to be more difficult so you want to make sure you find a qualified artists as it is more likely to blur. It’s also going to be more painful, so if you have a lower pain tolerance you may want to reconsider. That being said, one of my upcoming pieces is designed to cover a couple scars.

  12. I like to think I am the expert of looking after my tattoos, but there was some information in this guide I have honestly never even though of!

    Thank you for sharing 🙂

    1. I think we’re all learning, regardless of how many we have or how much experience we have! I know I am

  13. Francesca Gaze

    Thank you so much for sharing these tips! I am having a tattoo soon and I always forget things, but I am glad I found this post. 🙂

  14. I’ve always wanted a tattoo but I’ve been too chicken to ever try it. I’m glad you know how to care for new tattoos because I want to be as prepared as possible for the future.

    1. The first is generally the most nerve wracking because you don’t know what to expect. You just need to bite the bullet and go for it – Once you’ve done it once, it gets easier for the rest!

    1. When I had my one done I was told to keep it covered for an extended period of time too. There was a time when that was the best advice that was known in the industry…

  15. Those were all great tips. I find a shower the hardest one to lay off. If you ever get a hot shower on a tattoo it feels amazing, but it’s one of the worst things you could do. When I got my sleeve done it was so hard picking out the right shirt to wear because I found everything would rub on it and peel it and depending on the material you would get fabric sticking to it. But yes, thank you, great tips 🙂

    1. I had the clothing struggle as well when I had my shoulder/collarbone area done – It didn’t matter what I tried, everything seemed to rub on it

  16. I got my first tattoo this summer while on a trip to Hawaii and got flowers on my ribs. The artist used this new plastic that was kept on for a few days after which skipped the scabbing/itchy phases. These tips were useful for when I get my next, still debating on what I want but I’m sure the local artists don’t use that new product and aftercare will be a lot different. I do have to say loose clothing was a key element and also I think keeping it moisturized was super important

    1. Loose clothing makes a BIG difference! That or adjusting your attire to avoid things that are going to irritate you – for example, when I got a tattoo along the front of my collarbone I stuck with strapless bras to avoid having a bra strap lying across it during healing.

  17. These were such good tips for after-care tips! I got my tattoo quite a few years ago and thankfully had no issues with it, but I wish I had had your list just to make sure I was doing everything right! I’ve been itching for a new tattoo lately, so I’m going to bookmark this page so I can have it on hand in the future! 🙂 But I remember when I got my tattoo, it was near my collarbone near my shoulder, so I was so scared of having my bra strap rub at the scabbing! Plus, I was paranoid and check it constantly to make sure it was alright, lol.

    Emily |

    1. My one tattoo sits across my collarbone and that was definitely a concern. I picked up a new strapless bra. It made a HUGE difference not only because it wasn’t rubbing but also because I wasn’t worrying and stressing about it.

  18. Great advice! I just got my sixth tattoo and started using coconut oil for aftercare. OMG, amazing. You can’t use too much at a time, just at thin layer, but it feels so nourishing and it’s helped my tattoo heal so well! I don’t think I’ll ever use anything else in the future (going for my eighth and ninth in a couple of weeks). Also, stoked to be working from home where I can be sans clothing for healing time 😀

    1. I LOVED the working from home aspect when I got my last tattoo. There is something to be said for the ability to wear whatever I want to keep myself comfortable during the healing process hahaha

    2. I’m planning my first tattoo at 36. I LOVE coconut oil so I’m super happy that I came across this post and your comment! I’m getting the word bibliophile on my lower right forarm, like where the wrist and arm meet, but not on my wrist. I’ve read the wrist can be more painful than the arm.

      1. That sounds exciting – I’d love to see a picture once it’s done!
        I have a tattoo that extends down onto my actual wrist. The only real issue I found, pain-wise, was the very center of the wrist where the pressure point is located. That was one of the most painful experiences in that one single spot. That being said, it’s a very short moment and then it’s over!

  19. Hello. I had my first tattoo done almost 2 weeks ago. I was recommended to use coconut oil, the kind I had is the kind also used in cooking too. So I used that, but everyone with tattoos that I knew swore by bepanthen cream. So I bought some and informed my tattoo artist who didn’t recommend me using it. So I used s combination of the two. Bepanthen cream if I was covering it so it stayed moist or if it felt dry and coconut oil the rest if the time. My skin got dry (with the oil) so I used a bit more bepanthen cream. Now my tattoo is scabbing I am terrified that the buys underneath look lighter in places where the scabs have come off. I won’t know until it’s all healed. .my tattoo artists does corrections from scabbing for free, but I’ve literally been really good and not worn tights, not covered it unless I’ve really have had to. Have I been doing the right thing? Should it have scabbed or not? Are my cream choices good?

    1. Bepanthen cream used to be the go-to recommendation, and some old-school minded artists will still suggest it. They have undergone some changes in their ingredients and chemical makeup which has changed the view of many artists, which is why it’s no longer as highly recommended. That being said, there are some situations where a person does everything 110% right and by the book only to find that it doesn’t quite heal right. All we can do is do our best, wait to see how it heals and address any concerns at that time.

  20. Thank you! Will be screenshooting and carefully following this list haha! I just got my first tattoo (a dragonfly on my forearm) my artist is having me use second skin I think it’s called so it’s just like a clear sticker thing that they slap on and then I’ll put a fresh one on tomorrow wait a week or two and then apparently it’ll be fully healed! I feel like I’m obsessing over my tattoo a bit in the negative, I like it a lot I just keep overthinking things bc it’ll be there forever! I’m sure I’ll feel more confident once it’s healed, my artist did a great job and I love the design.

    1. That’s a VERY common concern for people when getting their first tattoo. As you get used to it being there, your concern about it always being there will start to diminish simply because you get so used to it that you don’t even think about it anymore.

  21. These are great tips! I see so many of these overlooked, it just gives me chest pains haha. I’m maybe a little over-cautious with mine, but it does mean they are still in good condition, even the ones that are coming up to 10 years old!

    Em x

    1. I wasn’t as cautious as I should have been maybe in the past, but I’ve been lucky and they still look great. I’m definitely more aware now!

    1. We’ve recently opened up tattoos again here, but there was a rush to book appointments and most places are booked solid for the next few months. I have an appointment in November!

  22. I really love tattoos but I haven’t one myself just yet. I’m pretty sure which design I want but for some reason I’m just too scared to actually go for it! I think I’m worried that I’ll regret it. But I think I’ll end up getting one in the future though so these tips come in handy already!

    xoxo Simone |

    1. I went through similar concerns in the beginning. That being said, I LOVE each of mine now. I say just follow your heart, whatever that may be.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.