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Tattoos and piercings: Aftercare tips

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Did you get a tattoo or piercing? Here’s how to take care of it.

Tattoo aftercare

Here are some tips for looking after your new tattoo.

New tattoos will be sore for a few days and can take up to two weeks to fully heal.

Your tattoo artist should provide you with specific aftercare instructions for your new tattoo, but these general tips should help you care for it:

  • Bandage it: leave the bandage on for four to six hours, or for however long your tattoo artist says you should.
  • Wash it: once the tattoo stops bleeding, wash your hands and then gently remove the bandage. Wash your tattoo with a mild soap and warm water, using your fingers (not a wash cloth). Pat it dry with a towel (but be careful not to rub).
  • Apply lotion: apply a thin layer of unscented body lotion. You can also try a healing ointment such as vitamin E.
  • Don’t touch it: while the tattoo heals, it will scab, flake and peel. Don’t pick it! Leave it alone and keep applying lotion to it twice a day (or more if it’s itchy).
  • Wear loose clothing: for the first few weeks, make sure that clothing on or near the tattoo is clean and loose.
  • Don’t submerge or soak it in water: avoid soaking your tattoo until it has completely healed. This means no swimming pools, lakes, hot tubs or soaks in the tub. Be careful when you’re showering, too.
  • Avoid direct sun: keep your tattoo out of the sun for the first few weeks. After that, always cover your tattoo with sunscreen, as sun exposure will fade tattoos.

Remember, if you need to talk, you can call a Kids Help Phone counsellor at 1-800-668-6868 or chat with us online.

Piercing aftercare

Here are some tips for looking after your new piercing.

New piercings can take a few weeks or several months to heal, depending on where they are on your body.

Ask your piercer how long your piercing will take to heal and for any specific instructions on how to care for it. In general, here’s what to do with a new piercing:

  • Keep it clean: wash your piercing twice a day with a gentle soap and warm water. Use a clean cotton swab to cleanse near the hole.
  • Rotate it: when the piercing is soapy, use clean fingers to rotate the jewelry.
  • Remove crust: remove any crusty material with a cotton swab. Crust is usually made up of dead skin cells.
  • Continue cleaning: continue to clean your piercing twice a day for about two weeks. After that, clean it only once a day.
  • Avoid dirty water: stay out of hot tubs, bathtubs, lakes and pools while your piercing is healing, as submerging your piercing in unclean water can cause an infection.
  • Avoid other people’s bodily fluids: don’t let new piercings come into contact with someone else’s saliva or bodily fluids until they heal. Otherwise, you could put yourself at risk for infections such as Hepatitis C and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Be extra careful with oral piercings: rinse with warm salt water or a non-alcohol based mouthwash after eating or drinking for the first two weeks after getting an oral piercing. Suck on ice cubes if your piercing is swelling a lot, and be sure to brush your teeth to prevent bacteria from infecting your piercing.

Is my piercing infected?

Signs that your piercing is infected can include redness, pain, burning, swelling and pus. If you’re experiencing any of these signs, visit a health care practitioner.

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