So, you sadistically booked a time for your body to take a rigorous beating from a bunch of needles. Maybe for you it's a right of passage, a momento from a significant period of time, a blood-letting ceremony, or you simply found an amazing artist whose work you want to look at and relish in everyday. No matter what, it's an event that should be taken seriously and with respect to the artwork and to your body.
When I first starting getting tattooed, I struggled to find information on natural healing methods. Each artist gave me different information and most google searches ended with a bunch of chemical laden creams and little to no information on the how to heal from the inside.
A tattoo is minor surgery and should be regarded as such. A session leaves you with psychedelic lacerations gushing pigmented blood and rainbow plasma.
Within this plasma is lymphatic fluid. This means that --shocker-- your immune system is directly involved in the repair and vibrancy of your tattoo. If your immune system isn't functioning at its optimal strength your body won't be able to maintain or regrow the necessary tissues.
These are my tried and true secrets on how to hack your immunity and build your internal super-strength to naturally maintain your new tattoo. I've followed this method for the majority of my tattoos and those of my mister, who is far more inked than I am.
Before you get tattooed:
- Bottomline, your tattoo is going to recover quicker and more brilliantly if you yourself are in good health. If your diet is shit, you're out of shape, and you tend to always get sick, there's a good chance that you're going to struggle with your healing process.
- You need to eat a diet rich in nutrients that support your immune system and general health. Eat your greens, healthy fats and stay away from excess booze and sugar. Don't go on a bender the week before you get a tattoo and expect it to look great in the long run.
- Exercise is a crucial step to prepping yourself for a tattoo. Your lymphatic system does not have its own pump and needs to be worked by your body through movement.
Immediate post-tattoo steps:
- Leave your dressings on for at least 14 hours. Remember, you just had minor surgery. If this was done in a hospital, you'd likely be kept in a relatively sterile environment for the first few hours of the healing process to prevent infection. Who knows what pollutants or bacteria you may encounter in your environment. This is especially critical through the first night. Leave the bandages on while you sleep. You're going to roll around on your new tattoo and who knows how clean your sheets really are.
- Chill out for the next 24 hours. Your body was just put under a lot of physical stress, your adrenaline and stress hormones will be heightened and your adrenals completely taxed. Give your body time to get back in balance.
- Don't sweat excessively or exercise too intensely for the first five days. Working out can stretch the skin and contribute to unwanted scabbing. Excessive sweating can open the pores and possibly push some ink out of the skin. Also, sweat is full of toxins, which is something you would hopefully like to keep away from your new tattoo.
- Avoid saturating the tattoo with water until it's completely healed. Same principle as sweating, but also you don't want the scabs to get saturated in water and fall of prematurely. I don't soak my tattoo in water for at least a week.
- Cold water rinse: Once you are ready to take your dressings off, give your tattoo a gentle wash with warm water, a clean cloth, and unscented castille soap (like this one). Here's the most important step: rinse your tattoo with ice cold water. For years, athletes have been using cold water therapy to promote tissue repair and reduce swelling. Here's a quote from Fast Company:
"[...] cold water immersion works by redirecting blood flow "from the peripheral to deep blood vessels, thereby limiting inflammation and swelling and improving venous return (the amount of blood returning to the heart)."
Also, bacteria tends to thrive in hot water pipes.
- After Care Balm: If natural is a priority for you, look for products that contain calendula, shea butter, and beeswax. Apply a balm or oil 2 times a day for the first 2 weeks.