Dear Hope: Will My New Tattoo Get Infected?


Dear Hope,

I turn 18 in 3 months and I’m getting a tattoo. I’m getting 3 butterflies on my shoulder. I have always wanted one, but my parents said I had to wait till I was 18, because they would not consent to it.  I’m so ready to get it except one thing.  I have heard horror stories about it getting infected.  How easy is it to get an infection and how can I avoid it? I really want to get my tattoo.

  • Butterfly girl

Dear Butterfly Girl

Getting a tattoo is a big and permanent decision so make sure you have really thought it through before you get one.

After your tattoo is finished, the tattoo artist will give you instructions on how to take care of it.  Make sure to follow all of their instructions to avoid getting an infection.

Leave your bandage on for 3-5 hours unless they tell you longer.  After the bandage is removed, wash the area with warm water and a mild anti-bacterial soap.  Use your hands to wash it, because anything else can be too harsh.  Gently pat dry with clean paper towel.  Allow skin to air dry and then apply the anti-bacterial ointment your tattoo artist recommended. They will probably tell you to do this 3-4 times a day for about 4 days.

Remember showering is fine, but do not go swimming or take baths for about 2-3 weeks.

Scabbing is normal so do not pick or scratch because this can lead to infection.

Until it heals, check it and see if there are any changes like a rash, swelling, or discharge coming out of the tattoo.  If you see anything like this it could be an infection, call your doctor to get it treated.

Before you jump in and get a tattoo, research different tattoo artists.  Make sure they do the style you want and talk to them.  Ask them all of your questions.   For example, ask about after care and how long they have been tattooing.  Ask them to show you pics of their work.  Make sure the studio is clean and that they sterilize everything.  Ask around and see if other people have used them.

Again, think this through. Remember it is a permanent decision!


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