Taking care of your new colour tattoo, particularly when you are sleeping, is a vital part of the healing process and can determine the lifespan of both the tattoo and the maintenance of its colour. While a tattoo is mostly seen as a piece of art or a personal symbol, it is more importantly a medically open wound and needs to be taken care of accordingly. Generally speaking, most tattoos take between 1-2 weeks to heal, however every person is different and some skin may take longer to accept the ink and heal. During this time, it is important to diligently follow the instructions of care given to you by your tattoo artist, so as to avoid infection or other such problems related to the caring of your tattoo, such as when to take the bandage off, how to wash the tattoo and what ointments, if any, to use.
Sleeping with a new tattoo is tricky for the first few nights and special care needs to be taken to avoid literally ‘sticking’ to the sheets. When wounded or injured, the skin produces a clear plasma as a natural form of protection and healing, and this plasma forms into a crust over the wound.
If this crust forms over the tattoo and is pulled off, there is a risk of losing the skin that has been inked with colour, and hence losing some of the tattoo. To avoid this from happening, follow these simple steps:
1. Wash and clean thoroughly – Gently wash both your hands and your tattoo as instructed by your tattoo artist before going to bed.
2. Wear something old to sleep in – as your tattoo will more than likely seep plasma on the first night, it is advisable to wear something clean, but old, in case this happens. If you do end up ‘sticking’ to your sleepwear or sheets, don’t pull them off – simply get into the shower in your sleepwear or with the sheet and wet it off with cool or luke warm water to avoid pulling any skin off.
3. Don’t cover your tattoo – don’t cover your tattoo in a bandage – leave it open as skin needs to breathe to heal. The healing process speeds up at night, so an open tattoo will have a better chance for faster healing.
4. Sleep with your tattoo uncovered – try to sleep on the opposite side to wherever your tattoo is – if your back is covered in new ink, sleep on your front for a few nights and vice versa, to avoid the ‘sticking’ effect.
Care for your tattoo while you are sleeping during the first week is just one of a list of things to do to ensure your tattoo remains healthy and infection-free. Other important things to remember include always remembering to cover your tattoo with sun protection cream; wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing that allows the tattoo to breathe; and most importantly, don’t pick at the scab as this can cause permanent damage.