Home / Tattoo / How Long Should I Keep My Tattoo Wrapped or Covered? – A Definitive Guide

How Long Should I Keep My Tattoo Wrapped or Covered? – A Definitive Guide

by  Kin Liu -  Last updated on April 6, 2021

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It might seem like a cliche, but we almost always see fresh tattoos wrapped. Is it to let people know you just got a new tattoo, or is there something more to it?

If you know much about your local laws, you probably know that wrapping a fresh tattoo is an absolute requirement. It’s important to prevent infection and help your skin heal more effectively. Even so, how long do you really need to keep your tattoo wrapped?

How Long Should I Keep My Tattoo Wrapped

How long should you keep your tattoo wrapped? It’s as much a question of how long as it is when. Fresh tattoos do need consistent covering for a certain amount of time. However, even when that initial timeline is over, there are certain times you should use a wrapping to shield your tattoo until it heals completely.

Right after the tattoo

Tattoo artists have to work in very sterile environments to prevent bacteria and infections. That’s why after getting a new tattoo the tattoo artist wraps up the area where the tattoo is. It guarantees, more or less, that at least you have a tattoo protected from infection until you remove the wrapping.

At the very least, most tattoo artists will ask that you keep the initial wrapping on for a few hours or more once you leave.

Trust your artist’s advice

Not all tattoos have the same effect on your skin. Smaller tattoos affect less skin, and as a result, they’re easier to keep from accidental exposure. However, larger tattoos often need to be wrapped for longer. This is because they’re much easier to accidentally expose to bacteria through incidental contact.

The same can be said for tattoos that are mostly comprised of line work versus those that are packed with shading. It doesn’t matter if your last tattoo artist only had you keep the tattoo covered for an hour. If your artist tells you to keep this tattoo covered overnight, take their advice. They are the professionals, afterall.

More About Tattoo Wrapping and Aftercare

Now you know that the answer of how long you should keep your tattoo wrapped isn’t as straightforward as it seems. How long it should stay wrapped depends a lot on the work you’ve had done, the size, and the other details of the tattoo.

Wrap time aside, there’s still a lot you should know about tattoo wrapping and aftercare.

There are different kinds of wraps

In general, you’ll see one of two different materials for wrapping tattoos in an artist’s shop. The first is pretty much what you might expect (and what you see in television and movies quite often). It’s basically plastic kitchen wrap. It doesn’t sound very fancy, but it still serves its purpose, which is keeping your tattoo protected from bacteria and infections.

The other type of wrapping is actually a special material made just for wrapping tattoos. Like plastic wrap its purpose is protecting your freshly inked skin. However, tattoo wrap does come with some advantages. For instance, it tends to be more breathable, and therefore more comfortable to wear for a longer period of time.

What to Do After Removing the Tattoo Wrapping?

So, you’ve waited, and you finally have the ‘all clear’ from your tattoo artist to remove your wrapping. It can’t be as easy as just removing the plastic and going about your business, right? While the wrapping does protect your skin while it’s on, you still have to do some work while your skin heals.

Once you take the wrapping off, wash your tattooed skin with warm water and a gentle, non irritating soap. You will have to continue this routine periodically throughout your day until a new layer of skin grows at the very surface.

After you wash your tattoo, gently dry it by patting it with a soft towel. Or even better, allow it to air dry if time allows to avoid contamination and getting fibers on the area).

When your tattoo is washed and dried, you need to give your skin a little boost to keep it healing and in good condition. There are plenty of gentle moisturizers and ointments that work well to help your skin heal.

Remember, you can’t use your favorite everyday lotion on a tattoo. It’s best to ask your tattoo artist to recommend a good aftercare tattoo lotion and use that instead.

Do You Need to Rewrap Your Tattoo?

Once you take off the initial wrapping, it certainly doesn’t mean that your skin is healed up from the tattoo. You still need to take proper care of it to avoid infections.

After taking off the wrapping the tattoo artist put on, do you need to rewrap your tattoo? In many cases, you won’t need to. Not only that, it’s more likely than not that no matter how well you do it, your wrapping still won’t be as effective and sterile as your tattoo artist’s.

With that being said, there are some instances in which rewrapping your tattoo yourself is a pretty good idea.

Here’s what we mean:

Playing sports

Most sports mean you’re getting sweaty, playing outside, and often have some form of contact with other players. An accidental bump or slip into another player is practically an invitation to bacteria and other infectious microbes. If you’re playing sports, go ahead and rewrap your tattoo yourself.

Sleeping

Not everyone chooses to wrap their tattoos at night, especially if it’s a smaller piece. However, it can be a good idea, because it prevents extra rubbing against your bedclothes, sheets, etc. All these things simply serve to irritate the healing skin. If you’re not sure where or not your tattoo merits overnight wrapping, call your tattoo artist and ask for their recommendation.

During (some) work

Not all jobs are the same. If you have a desk job, and your freshly inked skin won’t touch your work surfaces, chances are you don’t need to wrap it. However, if you work in a more physical role, it might be work wrapping your tattoo, especially if you might come into contact with less than sterile objects or surfaces.

Getting Water on a New Tattoo

At some point you will have to get water on your new tattoo, as you’ll have to clean it with warm water and mild soap. However, there’s a big difference between giving it a quick wash and keeping it under water for an extended period of time.

One of people’s biggest questions after getting a tattoo is, can I get it wet? Aside from washing it throughout the day, it’s best to avoid actually submerging your tattooed skin. Yes, that means even during a regular bath, you need to avoid dowsing your tattoo as much as possible.

However, showering is a different story, and if you want to clean your tattoo and your body, here’s your chance.

What about swimming? You might think you’re safe because swimming pools are cleaned with chlorine or saltwater. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There is still some bacteria in the water, and you don’t want to take the risk of getting an infection.

However, this advice isn’t just because you want to avoid infections, although that should absolutely be a top priority. When you get a new tattoo, the ink is still ‘settling’ into your skin while another layer of skin regenerates on top.

When you put this freshly inked skin underwater, you’re disrupting the ‘settling’ process, and essentially allowing ink to ‘drop’ out of the tattooed area.

Be Careful of the Sun

Everyone likes to show off a new tattoo, and summer is peak tattoo season. However, you should really give your tattoo time to fully heal before you go and try to hit the beach. If the sun can damage your skin on a good day, just imagine what it can do when your skin’s in the process of healing from a tattoo.

Exposing a new tattoo to direct sun can make it take longer to heal, make the skin more sensitive, and even lead to premature fading. Even after your tattoo is fully healed, skin screen is a must (as it should be even without a tattoo).

Tattoos are created when ink is deposited in the skin. So it only makes sense that the more you protect your skin, the more you’re also protecting your body art. This will keep tattoos crisp, clean, and saturated for much longer than if you neglect wearing sunscreen.

Conclusion

How long should you keep your tattoo wrapped for? By now, you know the answer isn’t always a simple number of hours. Here’s the simple answer: wrap it for as long as your tattoo artist tells you to, and rewrap it whenever you’re at risk of contaminating it.

To help your tattoo heal, avoid fragrances and look for products that are natural and hypoallergenic.
If you’re ever not sure what to do, don’t hesitate to call your tattoo artist. They’re as invested in having your tattoo heal properly as you are.

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