Tattoo wrapping may seem like a complex process, but it is rather simple. However, if it is done wrong, there are some very serious problems which may arise. Bacteria buildups and skin infections can be caused by a wrap done incorrectly. If you just got a tattoo wrapped, it is important that you know how long to keep it on for!
What is Tattoo Wrapping?
Cling film, or more commonly ‘saran wrap’, is the most common material used to wrap tattoos. Some artists may opt to use a non-translucent bandage rather than a plastic wrap. Whether it is plastic or a traditional bandage, both will get the same job done.
Tattoo wrapping is a process to keep the tattoo clean and free from infection. It’s quite obvious why this is a good thing. A skin infection on a new tattoo is perhaps the worst thing ever.
Tattoo artists adapted to using a clear bandage to allow people to show off their new tattoos. This is especially useful in getting people to keep their wrapping on. Before clear tattoo wrapping was common, people would remove their bandages prematurely and risk infection.
Why are Tattoos Wrapped?
First and foremost, a tattoo wrap keeps the tattoo clean. A tattoo is an open wound with a bunch of tiny holes through the skin. A fresh tattoo is a perfect vestibule for germs and bacteria to use to get into the body. A tattoo wrap is a covering to this vulnerable skin, allowing the skin to heal safely.
In addition to protecting against microscopic organisms such as bacteria, tattoo wrapping protects against the visible as well. Dirt, sand, water, and other objects could cause complications to a freshly inked tattoo. The plastic wrap reflects these items until the skin is adequately healed.
It’s important again to restate the fact that a tattoo is in fact an open wound! Plastic wrap acts as a temporary bandage to allow for this open wound to heal.
Before applying the tattoo wrapping to the area, a tattoo artist will first sterilize the skin. This is to make sure that there is no bacterium trapped between the skin and the wrap. If there are bacteria, it can use the environment as an incubator and create a skin infection.
Does a Tattoo Absolutely Need to be Wrapped?
Although it is not completely critical, it is highly recommend to wrap a brand new tattoo. The art of tattooing has been around for thousands of years. It is highly unlikely that the original tattoo artists were supplying their clients with sterile bandages to wrap their tattoos with. This is why I say that it is not “completely critical” to wrap a tattoo.
Not wrapping a tattoo can have some very serious consequences. Wrapping a tattoo only takes a couple moments, so it is only logical to do it. However, if you do not want to wrap your tattoo, you are at an increased risk for infections.
Just about any professional tattoo artist will sterilize your skin and wrap it after completing a tattoo. Tattoo wrapping is just part of the service that is provided, and they do it for a good reason. They want to keep their clients safe and happy and wrapping their tattoos is one of the ways that they can do this.
How Long Do I Keep My Tattoo Wrapped For?
You will want to keep your tattoo wrapped from the time that the artist applies the wrap to the time you get home. The time that your tattoo is most vulnerable is on the journey home, so keeping it wrapped is critical.
It is recommended that you keep your tattoo wrapped for a maximum of 2 to 3 hours. Although it probably won’t hurt to keep it wrapped for an hour longer, it has been found that 2-3 hours does the trick. If you keep the original wrap on for much longer than that, complications could arise.
The wrap does NOT heal the tattoo. Keeping the wrap on longer only prolongs the amount of time that the tattoo takes to properly heal. Tattoos need air to heal! Wrapping can create a moist environment prohibiting the tattoo from healing adequately.
Although we offer solid advice, your tattoo artist’s word is the most important. You should always listen to what your artist says. They may have their own time frames of how long to keep your tattoo wrapped for.
Should You Wrap a New Tattoo Before Bed?
Wrapping a tattoo before bed is a great way to protect it through the first few nights. Keep your tattoo unwrapped throughout the day. Once you’re ready to sleep, clean your skin and wrap your tattoo.
Only wrap your tattoo before bed for the first 3 nights. These first 3 nights after you get your tattoo is when the wound is most fresh. Wrapping before bed these nights can prevent scratches and such that could occur from movements in your sleep.
Plastic or saran wrap is perfect to rewrap your tattoo with. This is what tattoo artists use and it is a common household item. Using plastic wrap is super convenient and is easy enough to be done properly on the first try.
Make sure your tattooed skin is completely dry before applying wrapping before bed. If your skin is not dry, you could get an infection overnight. Moist skin can incubate bacteria creating infection.
Wrapping your skin before bed aids in the healing process! Although it is not a required step in tattoo aftercare, wrapping before bed can help in making sure your tattoo heals properly. Wrapping a tattoo before bed prevents you from subconsciously damaging your tattoo in your sleep by scratching and rolling on it. If you have pets that sleep with you, wrapping with plastic wrap before bed is especially useful.
Can I Rewrap a Tattoo After the Initial Wrap has been Removed?
Depending on the reasoning, rewrapping a tattoo can be beneficial. It is not required but there are times that a freshly inked tattoo should be rewrapped. If you’re participating in a sporting event, it is a good idea to rewrap a tattoo, for instance. If you’re going to take a shower, it is NOT a good idea to rewrap a tattoo.
It is very important that you sterilize the area before rewrapping. If you fail to do so, you’re just trapping bacteria close to your skin. This can have some pretty nasty consequences!
Do not wrap during a shower, when wearing loose clothes, or during normal non-contact activities.
Do wrap on your way home from getting a tattoo, when sleeping, when wearing tight clothes, or during contact events.
What Do You Do After Removing a Tattoo Wrap?
Take care of your skin after removing the tattoo wrap! Your tattoo has been trapped in an enclosed environment for several hours, so it needs to be tended to. Follow the instructions below when after removing a wrap.
Wash your skin once or twice with antiseptic soap. This is to sterilize the skin once more and to remove any potential bacteria in the area. Although the tattoo artist will sterilize the skin before applying the wrapping (if they’re doing it correctly), it is possible for bacteria to still manifest. This is why it is highly recommended to wash your skin with antiseptic soap after removing the wrapping.
Apply a tattoo aftercare ointment. There are many good options for tattoo aftercare ointments on the market today. Choose the one that is best for you! A quality ointment will keep your skin moisturized during the tattoo healing process.
Tip: When your skin starts to peel, do not attempt to peel it off! This is part of the healing process and picking at a healing tattoo can only lead to unnecessary and potentially painful complications.
How to Protect your Skin AFTER Removing the Wrapping
Before bathing, cover your fresh tattoo with a thin layer of Vaseline. Do this whenever you bathe within the first 2-3 weeks of getting your tattoo. This will protect it from the harsh conditions of the shower/bath.
In addition to applying Vaseline before bathing, you should wear short sleeve shirts after removing the protective tattoo wrap. Cloth in contact with your skin can create damaging friction. Wearing clothes that are not tight to the skin is a great way to prevent the issue with friction from arising.