You finally decided to get a new ink: you laid down and finalized the design after months of thinking, the artist drew it on your skin, and now it looks gorgeous. But now, what?

Tattoo aftercare is often overlooked, but it is actually one of the most important steps in getting a tattoo. Letting it heal properly is a major factor in whether your ink will last, if the color will hold, and if the design will look the same way as it did when you first laid your eyes on it. Here’s a practical guide to how you can take care of your tattoo and how you can preserve a beautiful artwork on your skin.

Make sure to follow proper tattoo aftercare to make sure that your new ink lasts for a long time

Leave the bandage or wrap on until you are told to remove it

After your session, your artist will put an ointment and a wrap or bandage over your new tattoo. Some artists require clients to take the wrap off after an hour while others ask them to leave it for more than 12 hours. Just follow your artist’s instruction as they know which length of time is best for you and your tattoo.

Wash your tattoo thoroughly

Once you take off your bandage, make sure to thoroughly yet carefully wash your tattoo. Use warm water and a gentle soap (fragrance-free) to remove dried blood and plasma.

Do not rub your tattoo

Once you’re done cleaning it, just pat it dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. Never rub it as it may damage the ink.

Apply lotion or a petroleum ointment

Put a small amount of lotion or petroleum ointment on your skin. Do not overdo it and smother your skin with the lotion; a pea-sized amount will definitely get the job done. If this is your first time, you can ask your artist for their recommended brand.

Make sure to avoid submerging your tattoo in water as it heals. Water have a lot of bacteria and can cause infection

Avoid going to the water

If you have a healing tattoo, make sure to avoid going to the water as it is prone to bacteria that would not only ruin your new ink but could also put your life at risk. Don’t submerge it in water; avoid baths and do not go swimming just yet. Just stick with warm showers until you are fully healed.

Do not pick on or scratch your skin

As your tattoo heals, your skin might start to flake and you may get some scabs. As tempting as it may be, avoid picking on and scratching your skin as it may delay healing and can cause the piece to fade. You might also pull off scabs, peel skin, or pull out ink, which can ultimately ruin your new tattoo. Aside from that, the hands and fingernails harbor a lot of bacteria, and laying them directly on healing skin can cause not only damage but also serious infections.

Wear sunscreen

As your tattoo heals, you can wear sun-protective clothing to cover it up when going out. Once your tattoo is fully healed, you can put small amounts of sunscreen to protect it from the UV rays.