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Getting new ink is an exciting time — you likely can’t wait to show off your new body art.

However, it’s important to remember that the process of getting a tattoo involves literal wounding of your skin. Just like other types of wounds, fresh tattoo wounds need dryness and air in order to heal properly.

Improper tattoo aftercare can cause numerous problems for your new ink. The tattoo itself may become distorted, with some of the coloring looking washed out.

A tattoo that doesn’t have a chance to heal right can also scar. You may even be prone to infections, which can mess up your tattoo and potentially lead to other health complications.

It’s important to follow your tattoo artist’s suggestions for proper aftercare. Contrary to popular belief, tattoo aftercare does not include using petroleum jelly (Vaseline).

Learn why this common medicine cabinet item does more harm to new tattoos than good.

Petroleum jelly products, such as brand-name Vaseline, work by trapping moisture into your skin. These are most useful for extremely dry skin problems, especially if seasonal.

However, Vaseline isn’t a good option for tattoos. This is because the moisture-trapping effects also block your new tattoo wound from getting air. Air moving over a wound helps the healing process.

You may even be more prone to infections if you use Vaseline on fresh tattoo wounds. Signs of an infected tattoo include redness, swelling, and pus.

An infected tattoo requires prompt treatment, usually with topical antibiotics, to prevent the infection from spreading. Unfortunately, scar tissue can form and ruin your new tattoo.

It’s best to prevent infections altogether. Making sure your tattoo gets enough air can help reduce such risks.

The first 24 hours after getting a tattoo are critical to your aftercare. Your tattoo artist may advise that you wear special bandages for added protection. After a few days, you may be able to safely take showers, but you’ll still need to avoid submerging the tattoo in water when bathing.

While your tattoo is bandaged, this may allow for a very small window for using Vaseline too, since your tattoo is already covered. However, you’ll want to verify this with your tattoo artist first.

Generally, there’s no need for Vaseline on a new tattoo whatsoever. Once your bandages are off, you’ll want to stay away from Vaseline during the healing process, too.

You may be able to use Vaseline on a newer tattoo only after it’s completely healed. The only use for petroleum jelly on your tattoo is for extremely dry skin around the area.

It’s important to get new ink from a licensed tattoo artist. Not only do they have the knowledge and experience to give you a piece of art that you can be proud of, but they’re also knowledgeable about the right aftercare techniques to prevent complications after your session.

The precise aftercare techniques will slightly differ based on the healing process stage you’re in.

A fresh tattoo is bandaged for one to two hours. Your tattoo artist may put a small amount of aftercare ointment on, but you’ll need to take off your bandage to let the wound breathe. At this point, you’ll need to carefully wash the tattoo wound with antibacterial soap. Pat gently to dry.

Most tattoo artists recommend an ointment called A+D. It contains a combination of petrolatum and lanolin, which may protect your skin during the first several hours after getting your tattoo.

After the first couple of days, you can switch to a lighter, fragrance-free moisturizer, such as Lubriderm or Eucerin. This will also help alleviate itching that often occurs during the healing process.

Other tattoo aftercare tips include keeping your wound out of the sun or submerged in water. Also, avoid picking at an itchy tattoo — this can lead to infections and scars.

It can take up to three months for a new tattoo to completely heal. You’ll know your tattoo is healed once all the scabs go away on their own, and your skin is no longer red. Until you get to this point, you’ll want to follow all of your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions.

Vaseline isn’t the best choice for tattoo aftercare. Petroleum jelly traps moisture and bacteria, which can lead to infections and scarring if your tattoo doesn’t get enough air while it’s healing. You may be able to use Vaseline on old tattoos if your skin is dry.

Always talk to your tattoo artist with any concerns you may have. If you suspect that your tattoo is infected, you may need to see a doctor for treatment.

aftercare ointments and lotions

While your tattoo artist should give you the supplies you need for your immediate aftercare, you can also purchase extra ointment and lotion online: