How I Heal a Tattoo

This post will probably eventually become a page for future reference but for now I’ll do it as a blog post.

As it has been a week since I’ve gotten my last tattoo I am well into the healing process and dare I say it it’s almost fully healed by now. I know what you’re thinking, “it’s only been a week!” Well yes, but after a week I’m about 90% healed and after two weeks I’m healed completely. A lot faster than most who have tattoos recall their healing time. Alas, I think it’s a good time now to talk about how I heal a tattoo and a product that in my opinion is a notch above the rest.

My healing process consists of two phases but the first phase is where all the magic happens. Back in the day your only real options were A&D ointment, unscented lotions and mild soaps and just washing, blotting dry and lotioning countless times per day. Well, I ain’t got time for that shit and neither do any of you for that matter. Nah, there definitely IS a better way. It’s called Saniderm. Saniderm is sort of a derivative of Tegaderm has been used in medicine for a long time for like burn victims, surgical wounds, etc. Eventually, a couple of people realized its potential for healing tattoos, thus Saniderm was born. It works on the exact same principle (a waterproof, microbe-proof yet oxygen permeable dressing) but it’s reasonably priced enough you can buy large rolls of the stuff and the adhesives are specially designed to not pull ink out or otherwise degrade the appearance of the tattoo.

The stuff is super simple to use. You just put it on and go about your day. The makers of Saniderm recommend changing the first bandage out after a day or so and then replacing with a new one which can be worn for several days but for all except two of my tattoos I’ve been able to leave the first piece on the entire time. The only time it might be necessary to change the dressing is if you’re a super seeper (which some people are and my knife and saltire on my right leg seeped heavily for two days requiring a whopping 3 pieces of Saniderm!) or you have relatively thin blood and therefore bleed a lot. In such cases, the excess fluid accumulation will break the seal and you’ll need to change the bandage but other than that I’ve not found it necessary. If you exercise and sweat heavily this might also eventually weaken the seal and require a new piece.

Once the Saniderm is in place you’re good to go. You can continue to shower/bathe, exercise and swim as normal because it’s waterproof. This whole thing about avoiding water with a fresh tattoo isn’t a worry anymore. Just be sure when you towel off you blot it dry rather than scrubbing or wiping. Just make sure you keep the area clean (I normally just give it a light wash twice per day – once in the shower in the morning and then once in the evening). So long as the dressing is sealed, it is virtually impossible for infections to set in.

Another benefit of Saniderm is that is all but eliminates the need for touchups. Of my six tattoos, five have healed and remained studio fresh. Only one required a touch-up and that was no fault of the Saniderm, rather it was my own experience with tattoos (it was my first after all) and the artist was still new to tattooing. Tattoos 2 thru 5? All still studio fresh and I don’t see any reason why tattoo 6 won’t be the same. For whatever reason, the Saniderm preserves the ink better than any other healing method.

As if that all wasn’t good enough, due to the moist healing environment such dressings promote scabbing is all but eliminated and itching is greatly reduced (the makers of Saniderm claim no itch but this isn’t true in my experience; there is still some itching but it’s much less intense and lasts a much shorter duration).

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. After about a week the Saniderm is about ready to come off. The stuff does stick pretty damn well so I normally remove mine in a hot shower with plenty of soap to help break the seal. On one occasion I needed the help of some olive oil to further degrade the bond (note that these are all methods that are recommended by the makers of Saniderm). After removing Saniderm, provided you just left it alone as you should have an almost healed tattoo. Usually the next day after I remove Saniderm I begin peeling (the last stage of tattoo healing regardless of your method as the epidermis is irreparably damaged from the tattoo process) and then I’ll switch to a light, unscented, non-comedogenic (important for me as I’m prone to breakouts) lotion to ease discomfort and keep the tattoo looking bright as it will usually dull during this time. Keep in mind this isn’t the multiple times per day thing – usually I’ll just lotion once per day after showering (and note during the peeling process you still should not vigorously scrub or exfoliate the area; just hand wash, blot dry and apply the lotion and you’ll be surprised how much just easily sloughs off simply doing that). After 5-7 days or so of this phase the tattoo will have peeled completely and I will have a completely healed tattoo that’s still as bright and vibrant as when I first left the studio. From there, proper care and maintenance (religious use of sunscreen, occasional lotioning and staying hydrated) should keep your tattoo bright and vibrant for many years to come.

So that’s how I heal and maintain my tattoos. I’m not saying this is the above all and end all but I personally can’t imagine healing mine the old fashioned way. Of course, Saniderm isn’t right for everyone and there are a select few individuals who should not use it (most notably those with allergies to adhesives). If you have a known sensitivity to adhesives I’d recommend taking a small piece and sticking it to an inconspicuous spot on your body to see if you react. That said, I have a feeling once you try Saniderm you won’t want to heal your tattoos any other way. It’s just so much easier. You can buy Saniderm here. I always have some in my medicine cabinet in case I need to change the dressing on a healed tattoo,  in case I run into an artist who doesn’t really believe in it or for other wounds. In addition to being useful for healing tattoos, Saniderm is also great for healing cuts, scrapes, scratches, minor burns and the like! There’s no doubt you will find multiple uses for it so it’s always handy to have some on hand. As such, I just purchase the biggest roll they have and it lasts me a long time, but you can purchase however much or little you think you’ll need.

Anyway, I hope this helped someone. Happy tattooing and wishing fast healing for all your future tattoos!


4 thoughts on “How I Heal a Tattoo

  1. Hey! Thanks for this article, i know you posted this about a year ago, but I wanted to reply in hopes that you will see it. I just got a pretty decent size peiece on my arm. Used Saniderm-first patch for 24 hours, and the next for about 6/7 days. Tattoo looks great, no scabbing and almost done peeling, just a few small pieces left to flake off. I am wondering if I can start swimming/ outdoor activities with sunscreen of course after 2 weeks , a lot of articles say wait 6 weeks, but I used the Saniderm and it seems like it’s almost heeled! Any advice would be awesome


    • You’re fine. The six week timeline is with the old way of healing tattoos. With Saniderm the wound is completely closed in about 4-5 days. Once the wound is closed you’re in the clear. Bacteria can only enter skin through a break or tear.

      The peeling and flaking are only the epidermis layer of the skin. The dermis below it is already repaired.


  2. I had no idea what to expect with my first tattoo, so didn’t know the difference when the artist slapped the Saniderm on! He told me to expect oozing, and oh man, did it ever. Blood, plasma, and lots of ink. I’ve been concerned that the colors look faded, but after reading this, I am hopeful that the colors will return to full vibrancy once I peel after the Saniderm comes off. I’d been thinking I’d have to go in for a touchup, but maybeI won’t, then! I guess we’ll see. I have four more days to go with the Saniderm on, and it’s been a breeze. Many friends of mine have not used this method and do the moisturizing and washing every day, so they’re all eager to see how quickly it heals. Thanks for this blog post and wish me luck!


    • It should come back. What seeps is actually just what’s left on the surface of the skin as well as the extra the skin can’t hold. When a tattoo is placed it’s actually packed with more ink than the skin can actually hold. This helps retain the saturation of color.

      Just be patient and your tattoo should be vibrant again. Wait at least a month (and probably closer to 2 months) before deciding if a touch up is needed. Chances are it will be just fine once the Saniderm comes off and you finish peeling.


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