How Long Should You Keep A New Tattoo Wrapped & Covered For?
Getting a new tattoo is an exciting experience for most enthusiasts, but it can also get quite confusing - especially when it comes to figuring out how long you should keep your new tattoo wrapped up for once you leave the comforts of the studio.
What Is Tattoo Wrapping?
When I say ‘wrapped’, I’m talking about the material that is placed over your freshly-inserted ink in order to keep it clean and covered so it's better protected against any knocks, bumps, or bacteria.
Once your tattoo is complete, your artist should disinfect the area by wiping it with a mild soap/water mixture (and sometimes with an antibacterial ointment).
This process ensures the area of skin is completely sterile and free from harmful germs and bacteria that can cause nasty infections if you're not careful.
Once the artist is happy with the cleanliness of the area, they will proceed to wrap the tattoo with one of a variety of materials, depending on the artist’s personal preferences.
This is the beginning of the healing stages of your new tattoo.
As the skin was nice and clean when the wrap was added, the wrap itself should now act as a shield, keep out any bacteria whilst your tattoo is still effectively a large and vulnerable wound (until it has grown a new, protective layer of skin over the area).
How Long Should A New Tattoo Be Wrapped For?
This is where many people start to get confused, and this confusion is mainly caused by the fact that there are so many different opinions with regard to the most optimal time in which to keep a tattoo wrapped up for.
What may help to alleviate some of this confusion is to begin understanding what the main purposes of getting a tattoo wrapped actually are.
As already mentioned, the main goal of having your new ink wrapped and covered is to help keep harmful germs and bacteria out of your new open wound.
These germs are can pose a serious risk; not only your tattoo, but also your general health by causing unpleasant infections.
Generally speaking, the wrap is mainly there to keep your ink germ-free, up until the point where you’re able to clean the area yourself.
Once you’re home from the studio, there’s no reason why you cannot remove the wrapping as long as you’re able to give the tattoo a good clean in soapy, lukewarm water straight away.
This initial clean not only helps to keep the area sterile, but also assists in the removal of any blood or plasma that may have dried and stuck onto the skin since the wrap was first applied.
However - it is generally advisable to wait for at least a couple of hours after leaving the studio before taking the wrapping off. This is just to let the area settle down a bit, and to allow some of the blood around the tattoo to disperse (which may also help to slightly reduce swelling and tenderness, so that the cleaning process isn’t unbearably sore or painful).
Another reason for the wrapping is to help prevent direct contact between anything that you may accidentally rub up against or knock into - especially if the tattoo is on a very exposed area of your body, such as on the forearm, shoulder or foot.
These knocks and bumps can not only be painful, but they can also aid in the transfer of germs and bacteria to the area if you come into contact with anything unsanitary.
Finally, some people prefer to sleep in their wrapping for the first night, and some artists recommend this too.
This is especially true if the tattoo is in an area that is highly likely to come into contact with your bedsheets, which can expose the area to bacteria, and can also cause the sheets to become stuck to the skin due to the drying/hardening of leaked blood and plasma.
At the end of the day, you should trust the advice that your own specific tattoo artist gives you, as they know you and your tattoo better than anybody else.
If your artist tells you that you can remove your wrapping in an hour, then go ahead. Alternatively, if your artist suggests that you keep it on until the next day, then I would suggest taking their professional opinion as long as they’re a reputable and experienced artist.
If in doubt, get in touch with your artist/studio.
Can You Re-Wrap Your New Tattoo Once The Initial Wrap Has Been Removed?
Manually re-wrapping your tattoo once the initial wrapping has been taken off is generally discouraged by most tattooing professionals.
This is because no matter where you are when you wrap the tattoo yourself, you’re never likely to be in an environment as sterile as a tattoo studio, and this means you're at a much greater risk of contracting an infection and disrupting the rest of your initial tattoo care period.
If any lack of care leads to a secondary wrap being poorly applied to a new tattoo that hasn’t been properly disinfected, there is a high chance that bacteria will end up being trapped between the skin and the wrapping material.
This scenario is extremely dangerous, as the warm, sweaty and humid environment underneath the wrap will be the perfect breeding ground for germs to multiply and move into the open wound.
Therefore, it's always best to try and resist wrapping a new tattoo yourself without the help of a professional.
Once your tattoo has been removed from the wrapping, you should do your utmost to ensure the area comes into contact with as little bacteria as possible for the first couple of weeks, until the area has grown a new layer of protective skin over the wound.
Another reason to not keep your tattoo constantly wrapped is that your skin needs to breathe. Without clean, oxygenated air, your skin will struggle to obtain all of the requirements it needs in order to successfully regenerate and repair itself.
Common areas of work such as building sites and restaurant kitchens, and other recreational places such as gyms and public changing rooms harbor many millions of harmful bacteria, so always ensure you’re extremely careful when exposing your tattoo from underneath your clothing in areas such as these.
It is also highly important to keep your new tattoo out of sunlight, as direct exposure to the sun's UV rays can cause much damage to your new and raw tattoo, and can really slow down the healing process.
While there is no definitive answer as to exactly how long you should keep a new tattoo wrapped and covered for, you should definitely listen to your artist’s opinion, and follow the advice as best as you can. Always get in contact with them for their help should you forget what to do.
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