I've heard conflicting reports:
Immediately after a tattoo, does one need to keep it covered with plastic wrap for 24 hours? Or should the skin be allowed to breathe?
I will first tell you to take care of your tattoo exactly as your tattoo artist tells you.
Much scientific study in collaboration with trained medical professionals in skin care is something I would like to see more of in this field. Every artist seems to have a different way they recommend to take care of a tattoo, either due to personal experience or training.
That said, I can tell you how we teach our clients to take care of their new tattoo at our studio:
30 minutes after your tattoo is finished, remove the bandage your tattoo artist put over your new tattoo. Wash your tattoo thoroughly with antibacterial soap and warm water. Be sure to rinse away any and all secretions, and be sure that all soap residues are rinsed off. Lightly pat dry your tattoo with a clean paper towel.
After washing and drying your new tattoo, apply a small amount of Curel Unscented or Gold Bond Chamomile lotion and massage it into your tattoo. DO NOT apply a thick coat.
Your new tattoo will develop a layer of dry skin over the next few days. DO NOT PICK this off. Wash and apply lotion three times daily until the layer falls of on its own. After the dry skin has fallen off, there will be a period of adjustment for your skin. It is advisable to continue to use the lotion during this time, which is usually around two weeks for most people.
For some tattoos—depending on the size and location—we recommend to clients that instead of applying lotion, they instead wrap/cover the tattoo with Saran Wrap during certain times. This is usually for large tattoos that a client may fall asleep on and risk sticking to their clothes and sheets, or if the tattoo needs special protection from some hazard the client may be around. (For example, when I get a new tattoo and will be working with clients, I cover it with Saran Wrap to protect it from any aerated blood-borne pathogens, etc.)
The same cleaning and reapplication process applies as mentioned above.
As I said previously, scientific study in collaboration with trained medical professionals in skin care is something I would like to see more of. I should look into that. Then again, I'd also like to find a dermatologist who doesn't get all weird on you because you have a tattoo.
If you have questions about tattoos: tattoos in general, about getting a tattoo, about giving a tattoo, or anything else related to tattoos, just add a comment to my November 6, 2009 post, or send me the question via e-mail from my contact page. I will then dedicate an entire post to answering your question.
Until next time...