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I got my first tattoo in November 2021. Without telling my parents, I secretly went to my appointment in Dallas where I was tattooed by my all-time favorite artist, Faisal Al-Lami.

I was so nervous I made my best friend hold my hand as he began tattooing my arm with some Pakistani imagery I provided him with as inspiration. At the end of the session I was so proud of myself, and I was so in awe of his work.

Now, two years later, I have seven tattoos and I plan to get many more. If you plan to get a tattoo, here are some tips on taking care of it.

During The Appointment

Oftentimes, the easiest part of the process is just getting the tattoo. Sure it may be painful, but adrenaline kicks in fast and many artists will use creams or sprays with lidocaine in them to numb the body depending on how large or intricate the piece is.

Typically the numbing lasts for two to three hours. To me, tattoo needles feel like a cat scratching my body, uncomfortable but still tolerable. When I got a tattoo with numbing cream, I found that it made the tattoo appointment much more tolerable, and didn’t affect the healing process. But this can vary from person to person and artist to artist.

Right After The Appointment

Each tattoo artist has a different recommendation as to how to handle tattoo aftercare. Some artists will typically use something called Saniderm, or second skin, on the tattoo after your session.

According to the Saniderm website, it is a bandage for tattoos that is breathable and flexible, yet durable enough to protect your tattoos from outside irritants. This is used to create a barrier between any potential harm for the first couple of days.

Some artists do something called the dry-healing method, in which you do not use saniderm, but rely on constant moisturization and cleansing to ensure the tattoo heals well. I have used both methods, and I think they both work well. I have noticed no difference in the quality of my tattoos.

A Few Days Post Appointment

As for my tattoos with Saniderm, I usually take off my Saniderm after the third-day post-appointment in the shower. According to the Saniderm website, it is essential to take it off in the shower or under running water because it loosens the grip of the wrap and makes it much easier to take it off. If not, you risk messing up the tattoo or hurting yourself unnecessarily.

I usually gently peel the Saniderm off and immediately rinse the tattoo with an unscented soap. I use any kind of unscented antibacterial soap. This is because tattoos are essentially an open wound, and need to be treated properly as a means of reducing infection.

I prefer bar soap because it’s not abrasive and usually unscented, making it very gentle on the tattoo. This article by Reuzel goes more into depth about how to wash your tattoo. Afterward, you can pat dry the tattoo and moisturize it using an unscented lotion.

There are many tattoo balms on the market such as HydraBalm, but any form of unscented lotion works just as well. I typically use Nivea Cream or my LaRoche Posay moisturizer. These are easily accessible to me because they are often already in my bathroom post-tattoo. It is important that the lotion used is unscented.

During the summer months, it is very important to layer any unscented sunscreen on your tattoos. Otherwise, the tattoo will fade faster and you will need to get it touched up faster. I usually use sunscreens that don’t suit my skin type and don’t want to get rid of.

Above all, it is important that you do not scrub or soak your tattoos. It is strongly recommended to not go swimming or use hot tubs post-tattoos as it increases the risk of infection.

As someone who has many tattoos, the experience of taking care of them is just as important as getting the tattoo itself. I see it as a form of cherishing the art that you are choosing to put on your body.

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