Tattoos and Tea Ladies: caring for your ink

Happy day all! Today I’m talking about something quite close to my heart (literally): my tattoos and all the care you need to know when getting them. I’m not a tattoo artist so everything I write below is what I’ve learnt from my own ink. Every tattoo artist will tell you something slightly different from the last one but it’s up to you to use your discretion since you know how your body heals.

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Top: swallow tattoo done @ Adreneline Tattoo in Toronto Canada, Bottom: Anchor and Frame done @ Cape Electric Tattoo by Waldo | now you all have got to see my side boob, stretch marks etc we’re totes besties now 

I got my first tattoo at 19 after moving to the other side of the world for university. That same year I had been on all of the continents (except for Antarctica obvs.) and I’d read that sailors used to get a swallow tattoo for every 2 000 nautical miles they’d travelled. Before it was done, I was already thinking about what I’d want to get next knowing the first wouldn’t be my last. The second, I got after I had to put down my beloved Cocker Spaniel two years ago. I used to say she was my heart so I thought an anchor was most appropriate. I have always loved vintage nautical tattoos possibly because I love the whole Rockabilly/Pin Up/Americana thing. They are both simple and elegant in my eye and are totally personal depending on how much meaning you assign to them. My first tattoo was something I’d been thinking about for a VERY long time with a lot of research and drawing and re-drawing until I was happy and then I spoke to the tattoo artist who I then had him draw out one final time because one line just wasn’t *quite* right. You have to know that in 10 years time you’re still going to love it and that in 50 years you’re still going to think it was a good idea and that it’s not just a phase.

The day you book it:

1. I’d say once you make the decision to get some ink that the best thing before backing out is to think: Am I really going to look after this for the rest of my life? Am I going to avoid getting sunlight on it and use a high SPF regularly when I do expose it to sunlight? Am I willing to spend the money on it later on in case there is fall out and to keep it crisp?  If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to these then your tattoos are going to look wonderful, even when you’re all wrinkly. Hell I think they always look badass.

I kinda want to be this old lady one day

2. Another thing I’ve seen SO many people end up doing when getting tattoos is that they don’t put enough thought into and later on need to get it covered up. My brother has had to do this because he is the king of getting a tattoo for tattoo’s sake and once had two very infected wrists (it looked like elephant skin for a long time) which is the one he’s had to rework.

3. Start using a fragrance free gentle body lotion. Toss the fancy stuff for later. For my first tattoo I used fragrance free baby lotion but now I prefer using either Aqueous cream or Nappy Rash cream. If you touch anything by Vaseline or with lanolin or petroleum jelly in it, then you may as well not bother. I like to keep the skin nice and soft in prep for tattooing and it helps if you already have it ready for after your tattoo has been done.

After Care:

1. One of the things you’ll be told just after you’ve been inked is that you should keep it wrapped for however long the artist tells you and not to be afraid when you clean it as it will have seeped. What you don’t understand at first, is that your body is actually trying to purge the ink from your skin and the seeping can be a little frightening. You will need to rinse it a few times and clean it with a gentle soap because the skin will not only feel like it’s on fire, but also be slightly raised where the needle made contact but it will also feel slimy and gross. Imagine sea snot.

2. For that first day or so avoid exposing it to anyone who will listen about your new tattoo and wear clothing that wont chafe the area. Because germs. I learnt this one the hard way. My bra was rubbing against my fire laden tattooed side-boob and I wanted to tear at my flesh. Nice huh.

3. Do not and I mean do not re-bandage. Think of your tattoo as minor surgery. Whatever you’re told to do by your tattoo artist is what you do and no tattoo artist will ever tell you to re-bandage because you cannot heal correctly if it is kept moist and covered. Finish. End. Kahput.

3. You’ll start scabbing a day or so later and it will be the itchiest, driest thing but don’t you dare itch it! Keep that nappy rash cream or aqueous cream with you at all times to reapply when it gets really bad but don’t get to excited and slap it on, rather use a tiny bit for a thin layer and let it soak into the skin. You still want the area to be dry but hydrated.

4. No swimming for the first few weeks. The salt and chlorine is not friends with your new tattoo. Think of it as sucking the ink out of your skin.

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see those pretty rings? it’s the salt sucking up the ink in your skin. nice huh?

When things go bad:

If your tattoo gets infected it will look really red and angry and the ink itself can look really grey. Sometimes pus might be involved. Make your way back to your tattoo artist and let them have look, they’ll know what to do. My cousin told my brother to put Detol cream on it wand re-cover the infected area. This was probably the worst move he could have done. Once it’s finally healed, you might have fall out and your ink might look a little patchy from the infection. BUT! If you went to a good studio and look after your tattoo as explained by the artist, the chances of infection is pretty slim.

Long Term Maintenance:

1. Keep your tattoos out of sunlight. It will be the first thing to fade your ink. It’s also why I have mine on hidden parts of my body even though I am not a fan on suntanning in general.

2. Use a good moisturiser after your month of healing. I like using straight shea butter but it’s quite hard to get. I’m also a big fan of Eucerine and Nutraderm. I’ve been told by a friend of mine that Lush Dream Cream R185 helps keep the colour vivid but I haven’t tried it myself yet but I do trust her.

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The most recent tattoo I have @ Pearl Harbour Gift Shop in Toronto, Jan 2013: as you can see there is a bit of fall out in the thicker parts of the Infinity sign that I need to get spruced up a bit.

Finally, I want to say that your tattoos are for you and no one else. I have an Infinity sign tattoo that sometimes can be seen and people have made comments on how cliched it is. What they don’t know is that I share this tattoo with two of my closest friends in the world, in the same spot because we miss each other every day. I never feel like I need to justify or explain why I have a certain image on my body because it’s for me an no one else. So even if you have a butterfly or dolphin on your ankle, it’s for you and no one else.

Love your ink and love your decision to decorate your body

Jodi

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2 comments

  1. Reading all this, especially about the aftercare made my foot tingle. I got a small tattoo on the inside of my ankle back in 2009 and when I think too much about it, it still hurts :) Crazy body, remembering pain 5 years post date! I would love more tattoos but it hurt so bad that first time, plus it took a really long time to heal, I think I might be slightly allergic to the ink or something. Loved the advice you gave.

    1. Thanks so much! Different parts of your body has thicker and thinner skin which is probably why your inner ankle hurt as well as being directly over bone. My side was fairly sore but not unbearable (I do also have an unusually high pain threshold) but my one near my collar bone I couldn’t feel a thing. I’m planning on getting one on my upper thigh this year to cover up an odd scar and I’ll definitely do a play by play on the healing process on our Instagram when I get around too it. I’m still very much in the design phase of it still.

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