The first 48 hours after getting tattooed can profoundly affect how your tattoo will look for the rest of its life. This article will guide you through the first two days on what to expect and how to take care of your new tattoo.

Your tattoo artist will have given you aftercare instructions, and it’s crucial that you follow them closely. That being said, most tattoo aftercare requirements follow these same guidelines.

  • Keep Your Tattoo Clean
  • Keep Your Tattoo Hydrated
  • Avoid Direct Sunlight
  • Don’t Go Swimming Or Submerge Your Tattoo In Water
  • Don’t Scratch Your Tattoo

  • Let’s break it down into 12-hour increments to see how these instructions unfold over 48 hours.

    Hours 1-12: Keep It Clean

    Keeping your tattoo clean is essential for the entire healing process, especially in the first 48 hours. 

    When you leave the tattoo shop, you’ll likely have it wrapped in plastic film and will be told not to remove it for 3-5 hours or overnight. We suggest keeping it on overnight. 

    Your tattoo will do a lot of funky stuff in the first 12 hours, and it’s important not to mess with it. It needs to bleed and ooze liquids for a while till your body’s healing process kicks in and stops all of the fluids from leaking out of your new tattoo.

    If you remove the wrap too soon, deep scabbing can occur, leading to scars that can damage the ink. 

    First thing in the morning or whenever you take the wrap off as instructed by your artist, you’ll need to clean your tattoo with antibacterial or neutral soap. DO NOT use soaps with artificial fragrances; these chemicals will irritate your tattoo and cause inflammation.

    We suggest you use TLC’s Foam Soap for the entire healing process.

    Foam Soap

    It’s specifically designed to clean new tattoos during the healing process. The foam soap is exceptionally gentle on your skin, and the natural essential oils will help soothe your tattoo.

    Wash your tattoo 2-3 times per day.

    Hours 12-24: Hydrate Your Tattoo

    By now, you have washed your tattoo at least a couple of times, but as your new tattoo dries after being washed, you’ll notice that it’s starting to look and feel dry.

    The best way to keep your tattoo hydrated is with a healing salve. Your tattoo artist should recommend some brands that are good for keeping your tattoo moisturized, but we want to suggest that you steer clear from petroleum-based salves.

    Petroleum-based salves smother your tattoo and sit on top of the skin, not allowing your tattoo to breathe and receive the oxygen it needs to heal quickly.

    We advise using a salve made expressly for tattoos, like our TLC’s Tattoo Salve.

    Tattoo Salve


    TLC’s Tattoo Salve is made with natural oils, butters, and CBD to help with pain, swelling, warmth, and redness. Our salve sinks deep into the skin, promoting healing from within. 

    Use TLC’s Tattoo Salve after washing your tattoo with TLC’s Foam Soap or anytime your tattoo begins to feel dry and achy. 

    Salve and Cream

    You’ll more than likely shower during this time as well. It’s important not to take long showers with a new tattoo. You also don’t want to take a bath or go swimming in lakes, rivers, pools, or the ocean.

    Bodies of water are full of bacteria that can infect your tattoo.

    Hours 24-36: Keep Your Tattoo Hydrated & Stay Out Of The Sun

    By now, you should have a steady routine of washing your tattoo 2-3 times a day and hydrating it with salve whenever you feel it’s necessary.

    You’ll need to keep doing this for the entirety of the healing process. Clean and hydrated tattoos are happy tattoos that don’t get infected.

    Keep your tattoo out of the sun for at least a few weeks or until enough of the scabs and flakes have fallen off that you can begin using sunscreen. Sunscreen isn’t designed to go on broken skin, so until your tattoo heals, keep it covered and out of the sun.

    Tattoos in Sun

    Keeping it covered might mean wearing baggy clothes so your shirt or pants doesn’t rub against your tattoo, causing irritation. 

    Once your tattoo is ready for sunscreen, we recommend TLC’s SPF 30 Sunscreen. It’s made specifically for tattoos, so your ink stays bright for years to come.

    Hours 36-48: Don’t Scratch Your Tattoo

    Not much changes as you care for your tattoo in the first 48 hours—you keep it clean, moisturized, out of the sun, and out of water. As your tattoo heals, though, you’ll begin to experience “the itch.”


    Itchy Tattoo

    This intense itchiness means that your tattoo is healing. At this stage, you can begin using lotions or creams. Again, you must avoid lotions with artificial fragrances as they cause irritation and infection.

    Using TLC’s Tattoo Cream calms the itch and promotes healing from within.

    Do not under any circumstances scratch your new tattoo. It can be challenging to resist, but if you sat through the pain of getting tattooed, you can handle some itchy skin. Scratching can cause ink loss, and your dirty fingernails will leave infectious bacteria on your skin, leading to scarring. 

    When you feel the itch, use either salve or lotion. Again, we suggest using TLC’s Salve and Cream to combat “the itch” since it’s designed specifically for this situation.


    Taking care of your new tattoo during the first 48 hours isn’t complicated, but it does require you to be diligent. It all boils down to a few simple things.

    • Keep Your Tattoo Clean
    • Keep Your Tattoo Moisturized
    • Keep Your Tattoo Out Of Sun And Water
    • Don’t Scratch Your Tattoo

    Stick to your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions, use high-quality tattoo aftercare products, and your first 48 hours will go by with ease. If you're looking for a deeper dive into all things tattoo aftercare, check out the best tattoo aftercare guide on the internet here.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out, and we’ll get you set up with anything you need to help you through the healing process and beyond.

    Tattoo Salve