Tattooing: Ways to Ease the Process (Before, During, and After-Care)

Estimated read time... 6 minutes

Close-Up of Shinji Horizakura Peony 3 days after being tattooed

Do you get tattoos or want to get tattoos but have come to a point where your healing process isn’t quite cutting it?  Looking for new ideas to try out to ease your healing?

This is not a guide for choosing a tattoo artist, there are sites that can help you find just the right artist, such as: www.needlesandsins.com and www.lastsparrowtattoo.com, it also goes without saying that you need to just go to the shops and see which one “fits.”*

With this said, you have your artist selected, you’ve had a consultation, and you have an appointment.  You may or may not already have tattoos, so… what’s next?

Tattooing: Ways to Ease the Process

Before:
A couple of weeks before getting tattooed, start cleaning up your diet and increasing your water intake.  Increase your ingestion of dark leafy greens (such as cooked dandelion greens), put lemon juice (from fresh lemons) into your water, and sprinkle milk thistle powder into your cereal, smoothie, or mix it with crushed sesame seeds and salt to make a liver-friendly gomasio.  Reduce, if not completely avoid, your junk/processed food and alcohol intake in the days prior to your appointment; especially eliminate alcohol in the 24 hours prior to.  Increase your ingestion of Omega-3’s – these will help keep the skin moist and lubricated, thus will help your body repair itself better.  Good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, wild salmon, and sardines.

Get plenty of exercise and movement, and prioritize getting good sleep.  All of this helps the body to optimally eliminate toxins, and get the thruways of the body prepared for the onslaught of adrenaline, endorphins, and tattoo ink ingredients that your body will encounter.  Exfoliate and moisturize the area getting tattooed about 3-4 weeks before your appointment.  The skin will be more supple, smooth, and healthier for receiving the ink and ease the healing process as a result.

Some people have the tendency to get sick with a cold after getting tattooed, or have sensitive skin with irritation and bleeding.  Taking a vitamin C supplement such as Emergen-C in the week or two prior to your appointment can help boost your immune system, and reduce excess bleeding.  I’ve tried this, and it works!

If you have scar tissue in the area you are getting tattooed, liberally apply castor oil then rub and massage the area with your fingers, cover with an old towel or piece of castor soaked flannel.  Apply heat in the form of a heating pad or a hot water bottle for 20 minutes daily for 2 weeks, take a break for a week, then if needed repeat the cycle.  If the scar hurts, just apply the castor oil, towel/flannel, and heat – no need to give yourself unnecessary discomfort, in this case there is no gain with the pain.
If you find that you’re body has a hard time processing getting tattooed, a personalized consultation can help you figure out what may be happening to help ease your recovery time.

During:
Ensure you are well rested, showered, well hydrated, have a belly full of good food (my personal favorite is soup dumplings), bring water, and have snacks for you and your tattoo artist.  I bring a warm over-sized scarf to cover-up with when I get chilled.  Wear comfortable clothing to your appointment.  Some people bring music, or something to read/watch, I don’t.  I listen to the music at the shop, and sometimes manage to talk to my tattoo artist, but mostly I just take advantage of the time there and am quiet.

Over the past two years, I’ve been tweaking and perfecting a formula to create a product (click link to contact me!) that not only addresses some of the nervousness and anxiety, but the associated muscle twitching, trembling, and the response to pain while getting tattooed.

I don’t see any downside to using an herbal product if it makes your experience more enjoyable.  Don’t get me wrong, I -and those who have been my testers- still feel the pain of a tattoo.  However, there is a distance that’s created between you and the pain, thanks to the carefully selected herbs.  This tincture helps you deal with the pain better, and it is a product that helps with your body’s response to the tattoo process by reducing inflammation and swelling.  Not only that, the tincture alleviates the natural response to twitch and tremble, so you can sit still for a longer period of time (thus possibly getting through your tattoo faster.)  Being able to be relaxed and still is not only a boon for you, but a boon for your tattoo artist as well!

January 2020 Update:

In addition to the tincture that I take for getting tattooed, I’ve also been experimenting with small amounts of CBD oil (3-4 drops for every hour of tattooing).  I started this to help with the extra painful areas of the back, and it takes the edge off.  CBD plus my tincture is a great combo!

Have a great time getting tattooed, it is a millennia old art and tradition – revel in the connection to our ancient ancestors who also practiced this art.

After:
Day 1:
After leaving the tattoo shop, I usually stop and get something to eat (most often something decadent like ice cream).  I head home, drink a big glass of water, lay on the couch, watch a movie, and then eat a healthy meal preferably prepared by someone else.  By the 4 hour mark post-tattoo, I’m more than ready to take a shower or wash the tattooed area, so I do that.

Note: Everyone’s “post-tattoo care” (aka after-care) is different, and artists have their different after-care instructions.  First and foremost, follow your tattoo artist’s after-care instructions, if they do not give you any and/or you don’t have your own after-care ritual, ask your artist!  Tattoo artists, shop managers, apprentices, and shop assistants are amazingly, wonderfully, kind people – treat them the way you want to be treated: with respect, kindness, humor and compassion.

Days 2 through Complete Healing:
Keep drinking that water and getting good sleep and food in your system!  Rest as much as possible the first couple of days after getting tattooed.  I like to drink dandelion root tea, nettles infusions, chamomile infusions, and red clover infusions in the days following getting tattooed.  These all help the body flush out any accumulated toxins (from stress, the inks, etc.), and provide the body with a wonderful source of nutrients.

Between the time that you get your tattoo and the subsequent peeling phase, I use Aquaphor per my original artist’s instructions and leave it alone.  The less fussing, the better.  I like using healing salve, but I find I have to apply it more often at this point so stick with the Aquaphor for now.  Perhaps I’ll develop a healing salve that lasts as long as Aquaphor, I will keep you posted if this comes to fruition.

Once your tattoo has peeled, the part that makes me crazy (and so many others) is the itchy phase.  This is when I apply my healing salve, it helps to reduce the itching and speeds up the healing and skin-regrowth time.  It shortens the “itchies” by a couple of days.  Consider applying ice packs when the itching gets a little too much for you.  After the itchy phase has passed, I continue applying the healing salve until I decide to switch back to regular moisturizer – for me this has been slightly different with each tattoo session.  We are unique after all!

Suffice it to say that submerging your fresh tattoo in water (ocean, hot tub, bath, pool, etc) is not a good idea!  Wait six weeks before thinking about going for a dip in the pool.  Do not over-moisturize or over-apply Aquaphor in trying to keep it “moistened” – you’ll know when your tattoo needs an additional layer of moisture – keeping it gooped up will only result in a poorly healed tattoo with lots of ink fallout!  In short – do as little as possible!

When you are healed, don’t forget to cover up those beautifully done tattoos with clothing and/or sunscreen to prevent fading.  Keep your tattoos and skin healthy for as long as possible!

What do you do when you get tattooed that makes things easier?

*Needles & Sins is a fabulous blog on all things tattoos, with artist profiles and interviews.  I cannot thank Marisa at Needles & Sins enough for allowing me to guest blog in February and for being a funny, generous, kind-hearted powerhouse of a woman.  Last Sparrow is a forum that is geared towards encouraging, and helping, people to “get good tattoos.”  I would like to express my gratitude to the folks at Last Sparrow who have answered many questions, participated and helped me with my research, and most of all – have been lovely people to get to know online and off.  It goes without saying that I must thank Yoni Zilber and Horizakura for providing me with the privilege of tattooing me.  They are top-notch tattoo artists and people. The tattoo community has been full of wonderful surprises, and I feel so blessed to be allowed to be a part of it in a small way.