Healing My New Tattoo
09:31 PM
foot tattoo mk.jpg My freshly tattooed foot, still a bit swollen, by Jacqueline Spoerle.

From my old days to today's N+S posts, I vowed I'd never do one of those Tattoo 101 things like How to Chose a Tattooist or Convention Etiquette. It's all been said and done. And I'm writing for people with a real passion for the art already. This dance ain't for everyone. Only the sexy people.

But the one basic aspect of tattooing that has launched a thousand theories is healing.
What's the best way to heal a fresh tattoo

For a glimpse at just how many different kinds of theories are out there, check R.A.B.'s FAQs on tattoo aftercare. Yeah, I'm takin it old school today. The list includes some offbeat suggestions like the "Noxema heal" but doesn't include the more recent "Japanese method" of hot water soaking (also noted in Wikipedia).

As for me, my back, arms, stomach, ribs and even the back of my head (see my tattoo pix here) have all healed according to the LITFA method. Leave It The Fuck Alone. Keep it clean. Dry it out. Don't scratch and later moisturize.

But this was not going to do for my new foot tattoo, needled by the wonderful Jacqueline Spoerle at the Auckland tattoo fest Sunday. I faced two problems: I was going to be on my feet for a long time and walking around not-so-clean places AND I had a 13-hr flight less than 48 hours later.

Jacqueline has been working a great deal lately with doctors in Switzerland doing reconstructive nipple and mastectomy scar tattooing for breast cancer survivors, and has asked the MDs how they suggest healing fresh tattoos. They recommended the opposite of my usual dry-it-out method: Keep it moist! In fact, she advised that I keep it wrapped for 3-4 days particularly because feet are more difficult to heal, even without long flights and running around.

That's what I've been doing.  I've also been using After Ink Tattoo Care, which I picked up at the convention. It's petroleum-free and uses natural ingredients including calendula oil, which is high in Vitamin E. See the full ingredients list here.

So far so good. It's still a bit red and swollen but to be expected. I just took the iPhone photo above in my LA hotel (a quick stopover as I wait to head back to NYC tomorrow. Another long flight!). Will post photos of the tattoo when it heals and we'll see how this new method worked.

Feel free to share your tattoo aftercare in the comments section.

The Aquaphor Method For People Who Scab Easily

1. Tattooist wraps new tattoo with saran wrap. Leave that on for at least 2 hours, or until bed time.

2. Before bed time remove saran wrap. Wash tattoo with warm water and antibacterial or plain Ivory soap.

3. Pat dry with towel and allow air exposure for 10 minutes.

4. Re-wrap tattoo in clean saran wrap.

5. Remove wrap in morning. Repeat #2 and #3.

6. Do not re-wrap. Apply coat of Aquaphor.

7. Wash/dry/apply Aquaphor for 3 days.

8. Use an artist-approved moisturizer when the tattoo starts peeling. The Aquaphor method tends to expedite the healing/peeling process for me, I peel and heal within a week and a half.

This is really interesting (/nerdy). But I think a lot of it comes down to what you know your skin responds to. For example, I've started leaving new tattoos wrapped for more like 3 hours and then I go the LITFA route. But that's because that's how I've had the most success and I know others do very different and very opposite things.

I've recently been using H20cean and while I was skeptical and resistant, it's been the best thing I've used so far. I've also heard good things about Bempanthene (sp?) but it's literally impossible to get in the states.

In other news, you DO have elf feet. I'll be damned.

Pat, I'm contemplating alternative foot modeling. If only to give you boys beer money.

For some reason, I heal pretty quickly, main healing done in about a week. I have not done feet yet but have several large tattoos on hip, thigh, sleeve, etc. My regimen:
1. Leave wrapped for a few hours then wash with soap and warm water.
2. First three days: Alternate generic Triple Antibiotic cream and Vitamin A&D cream.
3. Afterwards, alternate Vitamin A&D and Aloe Vera gel till healed.
I also do try to keep the tattoo exposed to air which is probably close to Marisa's LITFA method. :)

Trisha in Nashville

Marisa, I could only buy two Budweisers today. Please start modeling asap.

I agree with litfa method and I also agree that h2ocean is an awesome product ( all of them ). The Saran wrap method has always been something I've been very Leary of . The reason is heat, humidity, lack of oxygen, and sometimes ( depending on the area of the body)darkness. Which is a breedind ground for infection. Now with lots of heavy blending and coloring in large area of skin this Saran wrap method is vital to the healing. The one thing I would suggest above all others with this method is Barricare. This product is put out by caretech lab and is an opthomolic grade petroleum /vitamins a,d,e , and best of all it contains antimicrobial agents

I use the LIFTA method and it's working for me :)
I'm allergic to a lot of things! and a lot of things are in aftercare products (see calendula...)

I usually heal extremely slow, but since I Leave It The Fuck Alone...everything goes well and heals prettier :)

Hooray for LIFTA !

I take the clingfilm off when I get home and put a layer of Savlon (anti bacterial cream) on it.
Before bed and when I wake up for about 10 days I wash it with hot water and no fragrance soap.
I pat it dry very carefully with a clean towel.
I keep a layer of Savlon on the tattoo for 10 days or until the skin has mostly healed.
My tips - don't rub the tattooed area at all and don't let it dry out.
I'm more than happy with how all my tattoos have healed but a lot of my tattooed friends have methods which seem to work just as well.
We all heal differently so you have to stick to what works for you.

"Keep it moist" is a basic commandment in my life...

When I was in college, I hung out with a couple of guys who were on the cycling team - which should have been called the Abrasion Team, because these poor bastards would come home from every race missing MASSIVE tracts of skin. But none of them ever wound up with any scar tissue because they were soaking and re-dressing their wounds with moist bandages several times a day. While I wouldn't recommend that exact regiment for a tattoo - the proof is in the pudding...

Moist is choice.

Our method pretty much follows Carrie's version.

We have found that even the region in which we
live has changed our methods. When we lived in humid Houston we fought more to dry out the work. Now that we live in the dry desert of Vegas trying to prevent over drying in the battle.

We sleep in our wrap the first night. It has a bonus of saving your bedding and seems to create a membrane on your work not allowing too much to seep out onto the sheets. Before I used this wrap method I once imprinted a pillowcase with my enitre inner forearm pc and that thing really healed roughly.

The next morning is a quick but good hot shower wash with soap. Take your rings off so you can apply good even scrubbing power. You should feel no slickness when you have washed well. Paper towels to dry. We only starting using the aquphor part this past year or so after we caught wind of it at the first Musink show. It was a sponsor and a seemingly gentle product that helped to combat the dryness and reduce scabbing. I scar more than some people so I'll take all the help I can get with it. We rewrap at night for the first few nights until we feel the work is no longer emitting to much goo.

I also tried the japanese soak method once on my upper arm and I did not find it to be as effective. Everyone has different skin and lives in a different climate so I think it is all really one big experiment! An expensive painful one at that.

i had a similar situation with my feet, lots of running around and a flight the next day. i found that a snug shoe with no laces worked really well (like slip-ons/deck shoes)

LITHA is cool.
but Dr.Bronner's & Emu Oil (Desert Plams) works best for me.

Yes, the source of your Emu juices IS VERY important.
i used to LOVE the hot soak/compesses for the 1st few days, but now i only do it once on the 1st cleaning.

the sexy people can suck it...
this aint a fashion show. LOL!
whatever happened to all the ugly ducklings coming into thier own via body mod/art?

FUCK H2Ocean
they LIED to us, and are never to be trusted again.
they did a good job intimidating folks to hush it up too...

PS: when it comes to soap/washing, less is more!

PSS: i never re-wrap, its one of the few things that give me the creeps...

If I had to guess, I'd say that Marisa's reference to 'sexy people' refers to those people who have claimed their bodies through tattooing, and as a result, exude 'sexiness' by way of confidence rather than outward appearances... it's also a Prince reference, I think...


I found that post-shower blowdrying new ink, and waiting 'til you just can't take the itch to apply a non-scented moisturizer (I use baby lotion with coconut butter and aloe vera) makes the skin heal twice as fast as the LITFA method alone.

I've never heard of keeping a fresh tattoo moistly wrapped... but I don't have a foot tattoo either--but have been told that it takes twice as long to heal as any other part of the body.

LITFA for me. it's been working for 20+ years of collecting and if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

bad-ass tattoo marisa!
i feel so inadequate with just script on my feet ;-)

I've been told that the Saran wrap thing is a bad idea. It's meant for covering food, not as a bandage over broken, lymph oozing skin. Just like Latex gloves, there is a real danger of plasticizers and other compounds migrating into your body. Use Tagaderm, where is a medical product. Doesn't stick to wounds or "wet skin", but does provide a waterprrof barrier. I've used the Noxema heal as well as just keeping it moist with un-scented skin lotion.

Wrap or not wrap straight away, but wear something CLEAN. And then warm shower after a few hours. After that Bepanthen and continue with it for 2 weeks or so, thin layer only!

But yeh, this is of the keep-it-moist regime.

Love the report on the convention!

I leave the dressing on for a few hours, or overnight, if i finish up late. i dont like the plastic
wrap, i agree that plastic wrap is for food . I always keep my new tattoo moist.
i use tattoo goo for about a week and then switch to avenno lotion. that has worked well for me.
The tattoo on your foot is beautiful.
How long did it take to finish?

p.s. don't forget the motrin, it really helps

P.S. The linework of your new tattoo is incredible! and the details quite intense. Tough spot (for both of you!)

I've always done the method where you unbandage at least 4 hours later or the next morning, then wash with antibacterial soap, air dry or use clean paper towels and apply an extremely thin layer of A&D for the first three days, after that a fragrance free lotion for the next couple weeks ( I use cetaphil).

I always got scabs, which I figured were normal, but still a problem for a compulsive picker like myself. Lost a little bit of color here or there which I figured was also par for the course.

Now I'min the middle of a full chest piece and was considering the Aquaphor method after a few friends recommended it, but my artist said though he had heard good things about Aquaphor as well, you cant go wrong with the LITFA method and it would be better than gambling on something new.

Wow! I just let it air dry and kept it clean each day, nothing else, and there were no scabs and the peeling was done in about a week, and this is a lot of solid coverage over half of my chest.

For me I think the extra moistness of the A&D was the problem. I'm sure it also depends on the artist, as some will really work over an area several times while shading, and others are only in the skin as long as necessary.

LITFA with a really hot compress during the first wash/initial scrub off.

Heretic, love, why do you make me feel so old?!

Did no one pick up on the Salt-n-Pepa ref? Oy!

hi jst got me self a new foot tattoo and like all the above methods ive never heard of wrapping nd washing it straight away anywho i use baby lotion and coconut oil seems to work so far :>

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