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 to ensure that it's better protected against any knocks or bumps.
Once your tattoo is completed, your artist should disinfect the area by wiping it with a mild soap/water mixture (and sometimes an antibacterial ointment).
This process ensures that 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 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 to 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 for after leaving the studio.
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 nasty and can pose a serious risk to not only your tattoo, but also your general health by causing unpleasant infections if you’re not careful.
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 lukewarm soapy 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 knocked into - especially if the tattoo is on a very exposed area of your body such as on the forearms, shoulders or feet.
These knocks and bumps can not only be painful against your new tattoo, 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.
This is especially true if the tattoo is in an area that is highly likely to come into contact with your bed-sheets, which can expose the area to bacteria, and can also cause the bed-sheet 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 personal opinion as long as they’re a reputable and experienced professional.
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 shop, and this means that 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, then 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 that 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 tattoo 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 - so keep this in mind.
Areas of work such as building sites and restaurant kitchens, and also places such as the gym and public changing rooms harbor many millions of harmful bacteria, so always ensure that 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.
Thinking Of Getting A New Tattoo?
REMEMBER - Tattoo aftercare is extremely important, and a good quality tattoo lotion is vital to ensure fast and proper healing of your new ink.
The best tattoo lotion I've ever personally used is a (vegan) tattoo aftercare product called Hustle Butter. This stuff works amazingly during the healing process - not only to keep your tattoo really well hydrated but it's also very good at soothing that annoying itching.
Many other users of the product also advise that when using it from the very start of the healing process it appears to decrease healing times and seems to reduce heavy scabbing.
Read more about Hustle Butter here. Have a quick look at some of the customer reviews and you'll see why it's one of the most popular tattoo lotions.
Here is a selection of my other favorite tattoo lotions and ointments that are currently on the market. Be organised and make sure that you have your lotion before you get your tattoo.
The most important thing to take away from this article is to ensure that you have instant access to lukewarm water and a fragrance-free mild soap for when the time comes to remove your wrap in order to make sure that your tattoo has the best chance of remaining free from harmful germs and bacteria after taking the wrap away.
Whilst 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 it as best as you can. Always get in contact with them for their advice should you forget what to do.