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    Keeping Your Tattoo Lookin’ New Is Actually Pretty Simple

    Spoiler: Stock up on lotion and SPF.

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    When you get a tattoo, you’re making an investment that will live permanently on your body, until death (or painful, multi-session laser removal) do you part. This is news to no one, of course, yet many of us often fail to protect this investment as well as we should in order to ensure it heals without a hitch — and remains crisp and vibrant in the long run.

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    We chatted with some professional tattoo artists to get their advice on the best before-and-after tips for your fresh ink and ways to keep your new art looking, well, new in the years to come.

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    Don’t drink before (or after) getting inked.

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    Try not to rage before getting a tattoo, including the evening prior. “Drinking heavily the night before complicates the process, as the body has time to thin the blood and that make the application harder,” says Jes Valentine, owner of Haven Studio in Brooklyn. “Plus, no one likes to deal with a drunk person when they’re about to get tattooed. If someone wants to have one drink to calm their nerves before a tattoo that’s totally fine.”

    Thinned blood, however, is a major issue not only for the tattooed but for the artist as well. “It may cause excessive bleeding during the tattoo, which may dilute the pigment, making it complicated for the artist to saturate the ink properly,” says Mike Rubendall, owner of Kings Avenue Tattoo in New York.

    And if you’re going to drink booze in the immediate aftermath of being tattooed, do so in moderation, because that can compromise the quality of the work too. “Not only can alcohol potentially cause extra trauma to the skin during the tattoo, making it more uncomfortable, it could lead to healing difficulties as well as some of the pigment falling out,” Rubendall says.

    Avoid aspirin — opt for Tylenol (and a sandwich) instead.


    Pain relievers like ibuprofen and aspirin can also thin your blood. “Based on my experience, one or two Tylenol before your appointment wouldn’t have any negative effects and may help with swelling,” Rubendall says. To help avoid feeling lightheaded or headachy during the session, make sure you eat a substantial meal before your appointment and stay hydrated.

    If you haven’t gotten tattooed before or you know you have a low pain tolerance, popping a pain reliever could actually help ensure a quality tattoo. “A huge part of getting a tattoo is being able to sit still,” says Matt Marcus, owner of Three Kings Tattoo, with locations in NYC and LA. “Clients have a responsibility to the process as well, so if a pain reliever will help you sit, then I am all for it.”

    Follow your artist's aftercare instructions.

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    Different tattooers have different approaches, and they know best. “If you’ve been tattooed by a professional, then you really have to go out of your way to screw up the healing process,” Marcus says. He recommends using an ointment like A&D or Aquaphor for 24–48 hours, letting a tattoo breathe (i.e., don’t cover it back up with a bandage), and switching to unscented lotion after that.

    Valentine, however, swears by Saniderm (which will be applied by your artist), “a clear, second-skin-type, breathable, waterproof bandage that stays on for a few days and heals the tattoo with minimal scabbing.” She’s noticed that tattoos heal quickly using this method, and clients have been consistently happy with the results. TL;DR: Do what your artist advises.

    Moisturize — and don’t pick your scabs (gross!).

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    “Once the surface of your skin appears scaly and feels itchy, you can switch to an unscented lotion,” says Rubendall. Both he and Valentine recommend Lubriderm, widely recognized as the gold standard when it comes to tattoo aftercare. “Keep in mind your tattoo may scab, but don’t pick or scratch the tattoo. This can cause some of the pigment to disappear.”

    Beware the summer.


    If you can avoid getting inked in the summertime — or when you know your skin might have a ton of direct sun exposure or you’ve got pool parties on the agenda — then wait!

    “Extreme sun, suntan lotion, having your tattoo submerged in any water, and chlorine will all absolutely destroy your healing tattoo, so why risk it?” Marcus says. Showers are fine, but steer clear of baths, hitting the pool or ocean, or submerging your new ink in any body of water until the healing process is complete (usually two to four weeks).

    Slather with SPF forever!

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    Fading is inevitable — your tattoo simply isn’t going to have the same crisp lines in 20 years as it did when you first got inked. (There’s a reason why touch-ups exist!)

    “For longevity you should just follow the same advice any dermatologist is going to give you for regular skincare,” Marcus says. “Drink lots of water, use lotion on dry skin, wear higher SPF if you’re going to be in extreme sun.”

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