A person is shown flexing their arm. Tattoos are on the arm as the person is sticking their tongue out with one eye winced as well.

Your Ultimate Guide to Tattoo Care in the First 48 Hours: Dos and Don’ts

2 min read

While the hard (and painful!) work may be over, it’s vital that you know how to take care of a tattoo properly in the first 48 hours post-procedure. A tattoo is effectively a wound, and performing proper tattoo aftercare will reduce the risk of infection and ensure it heals properly. You wouldn’t leave a precious painting out in the rain, would you? In the same way, your beautiful new ink needs proper TLC. Here’s how...

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New tattoo care: The first 48 hours

Remember that the speed at which your new tattoo will fully heal depends on how big or how detailed it is, and the process can take months. But in the first 48 hours there are some important things you can — and must — do to help with your tattoo aftercare.

Cover it up

New tattoo care starts at the tattoo studio. Post-tattoo, your artist will usually apply an antibiotic ointment (PDF 238 KB) (although it is debatable whether this is good for your tattoo) before covering it up in a bandage or plastic wrap. This will help prevent the tattoo from rubbing against your clothing or being exposed to bacteria (which could cause infection) and sunlight (which could fade your tattoo). The artist should share tattoo aftercare instructions and advise you on how long the bandage needs to stay on, which will vary from tattoo to tattoo.


Keep it clean

People often ask, should I wash my tattoo on day 2? Generally speaking, you can safely wash your tattoo once you have been advised to take off the covering. Ensure your hands are clean, use warm water and fragrance-free hypoallergenic soap, and be very gentle. Then pat (don’t rub!) the area dry.


Avoid touching

It might be tempting to rub or touch your tattoo, but you should avoid touching it as much as possible, as this could cause an infection.


Can you use Vaseline® on tattoos?

Want your tattoo to heal safely and look good? You’re going to want to avoid dry skin before and after you get your tattoo.

Dr. Shari Marchbein sings the praises of petroleum jelly as a means of sealing in moisture and taking care of wounds, “Petroleum jelly is not only amazing at soothing irritated skin and promoting wound healing, but it can also act as a protective barrier for the skin.” Occlusive products, such as petroleum jelly, keep wounds moist, which helps them heal quicker. You can use it in the lead-up to your tattoo to keep skin moisturized, but make sure you stop a few days before as you don’t want to go into your appointment too greasy to tattoo.

To aid the skin healing process, the tattoo needs to be kept moist. You can use a very thin layer of hypoallergenic ointment or fragrance-free lotion like Vaseline® Intensive Care™ Advanced Repair Unscented Lotion, or Vaseline® Healing Jelly Original. Repeat daily for 2-3 weeks to help wound healing.


Be patient

A tattoo takes time to heal, so don’t worry if it doesn’t instantly look as you expected. Be sure to wear sun-protective clothing when outside, and always call your artist or your doctor if you are worried about the healing process or experience any signs of infection.

New tattoo care: After the first 48 hours

To continue taking care of a new tattoo, drink plenty of water as this will help keep your skin hydrated. After two to three days, you may see scabs start to form. Eventually, the scabs will flake off naturally. Don’t try to hurry the process, as this could cause scarring, and take extra care when washing. Be sure to continue washing your tattoo once or twice a day and apply a fragrance-free moisturizer to aid healing.

After a couple of weeks, your skin may be feeling itchy as it heals, but using Vaseline® Healing Jelly Original Jelly and other moisturizers can help soothe this. Try our refreshing  Vaseline® Intensive Care™ Soothing Hydration Lotion that’s enriched with aloe vera extract for a refreshing effect. If your tattoo still looks red and swollen after 48 hours, you may have an infection, so it’s important to speak to your tattoo artist or doctor.

It can sometimes take months for a tattoo to fully heal, so continue to keep your skin clean, dry and hydrated. And don’t pick it! Once it is fully healed, moisturize with highly nourishing lotions like Vaseline® Intensive Care™ Lotions and protect your skin with a high-SPF sunscreen to maintain color and vibrancy.

We hope this has helped you feel prepared for your new tattoo. Following these tips in conjunction with the advice from your tattoo artist and healthcare professionals can help you make sure your skin heals well and looks as beautiful as can be. Got one you want to get rid of? Check out our Aftercare Tips for Safe and Effective Tattoo Removal.


Can I put water on my tattoo after 2 days?

You shouldn’t submerge your tattoo in the bath at this early stage but be sure to regularly wash your tattoo gently with cool to warm water (no hot showers!) especially after exercise. 



These articles provide general tips and information about improving skin health. They have been written by health and beauty writers. They have not been written by health care professionals and, as such, don’t constitute medical advice. If you have a serious skin condition, please consult a medical professional.

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