Got Ink? Taking Care of Your New Tattoo

At least 21% of Americans have at least one tattoo. Since tattoo ink is considered a cosmetic product, it is not monitored by the FDA. Regulation occurs at the state or local level, and requirements – including aftercare – vary by location. Aftercare is technically wound care. About 3% of people who received tattoos reported at least one infection and 4% developed a complication like pain or itching. Thirty states license tattooists and require verbal and written aftercare instructions, and there is wide variation in the quality of advice given.

Basic tattoo aftercare ensures healing without infection. A completed tattoo should have ointment applied and be wrapped with a bandage to be worn for several hours to absorb serum and pigment leakage. The tattoo should then be gently washed with soap and water and moisturized once or twice a day until the skin is completely healed, from two to four weeks. Infection may result in altering the final appearance of the tattoo. To minimize complications, avoid wearing tight clothes over the area and avoid prolonged water contact.

Since people who get tattoos do not follow up with a physician for aftercare, getting a tattoo should be made safer. Wearing gloves and regular testing of autoclaves may be a burden on tattooists, yet dispersing proper aftercare instructions may be more successful in preventing infections. Medically sound wound care instructions could be dispersed to state public health departments and tattooists. The effect on the health of the public may significant.
Walter Liszewski, MD; Jared Jagdeo, MD, MS; Anne E. Laumann, MBChB, MRCP (UK). “The Need for Greater Regulation, Guidelines, and a Consensus Statement for Tattoo Aftercare.” Dermatology. JAMA, 4 Nov 2015. Web. 5 Nov 2015.

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