There’s Got to Be a Morning After(care)

This is a post about my tattoo healing process.  Some people may be grossed out or even offended by the descriptions.  Also, my experience may be different from your experience, and each tattoo heals differently under different circumstances.  This is a (hopefully) humourous look at my own circumstances.

“It rubs the lotion on its skin” is a fairly innocuous line from a famous horror movie that has taken on new horror for me thanks to the aftercare process for my new tattoo.  You may think, “Hooray!  No more needles!  It’s over!  The worst is done!  Oh, just wait.

First sesh bandage.  Man, was this guy comfy.

You may get sent home with a piece of plastic wrap or a bandage taped over your fresh ink.  It will sit there as a badge of honor, letting everyone know that You Are A Badass.  I secretly thrill at spotting instances of Fresh Ink About Town, and want to (delicately) high-five Fellow Badasses when I see them.  And it’s not just me:  I feel like there’s a little comradery betwixt people who’ve endured a little pain in the pursuit of becoming a human canvas.  Case in point:  yesterday, I accidentally smushed my banana in my purse.  Holding it up sadly on the train, the man standing nearest me offered an empty plastic bag to dispose of it, pointed to my bandage, and smiled, “Smarts, doesn’t it?  It’s understandable.”  This random act of subway kindness, I believe, was thanks to the Fellowship of the Inked. 

Ah, the bandage will be your friend for a few hours.  Strangers will be nice to you, cut you a wide berth, and NOT shoulder-check you for a few blissful hours.  But eventually, all good things must end, and the bandage comes off.

Now, you’d think – you’d think – that after two hours of oscillating needles in your dermis, a little thing like masking tape on your skin wouldn’t be a big deal but OH BUT IT IS!  It totally definitely absolutely is.  When it comes time to remove the bandage in your home, try to do so when no one else is around.  That way no human shall bear witness to your whimpers, squeaks, and high-pitched utterances of “it’s in my armpit!  Whyyyyyyy?!?!”What feels like five hours later, you will have at last gingerly removed the bandage to find – and I would never post a photo of this here so don’t worry – what I affectionately like to think of as a total and complete shitshow.  Smeary bloody peeling bruising grossness.  It looked so good a few hours ago in the tattoo parlor!  You posed for the mirror, you posed for an Instagram from your artist, isn’t time supposed to heal all wounds or some junk? 

They like me, they really like me!  Like, 105 times “like me”!

Alas, no.  And now it’s time for what I call in my head “Baby’s First Bath”.  Never having bathed an actual baby (seriously, would you give ME a baby?), I’m only imagining it goes like this:  you run water for a really long time, trying to get the temperature perfect.  You use the gentlest soap you can find, which you spent at least 15 minutes in the aisle at Duane Reade trying to decide upon.  There’s water all over the floor.  There’s a lot of crying.  It’s horrible and it seems to go on forever and you feel like a total failure as a human being.  Parents, is this accurate?

And you won’t understand why this hurts so much.  Needles, sure.  Even ripping tape off your skin, yes.  But warm soapy water?  It’s like the ultimate betrayal!  It hurts to the touch!  How are you supposed to wash something that you don’t even want to make physical contact with!  Why do my fingers suddenly feel like little cheese graters!  It defies explanation!

And finally, oh finally, the lotion.  I was instructed to use a small amount of Aquaphor, which is a sticky gel along the lines of petroleum jelly, and only a tiny amount.  It turns out I had been using too much?  Shirts are apparently not supposed to stick to your skin if you’re using the right amount.  Lotion is typically applied in a spreading motion, however, the only way applying lotion for the first time is even tolerable is with tiny, quick, gentle dabs.  This will mean LOTS OF LOTION.  Which OH GOOD, is going to be harder to wash off the NEXT TIME you hafta “give the baby a bath,” which you will, three times a day, for the next 2-3 days.  OH JOY.

But at the end of it all, you’ll have an amazing piece of art you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.  Eventually, it will heal.  Your friends will think it’s awesome.  Your mother will HATE IT.  And you’ll catch yourself in the mirror thinking, “This is who I’m supposed to be.  This is the person I always dreamed of becoming.  I’ve never felt more me.”  And two weeks later, you get to do it  ALL OVER AGAIN.

In less than a week, Google Reader goes Bye-Bye! 
I don’t want to see this beautiful thing end, and neither do you. 
Let’s try to make it work, baby, we can beat the odds! 
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5 responses to “There’s Got to Be a Morning After(care)”

  1. Looks awesome!

    I loved your description of aftercare – I get asked about mine all the time (probably because I have so many), and I actually do things a little differently.

    The first night, take the bandage off and wash the tattoo in water just hot enough to almost be uncomfortable. Then (and this is just me), I re-wrap it with saran wrap after I put a little bit of Aquaphor on. This bleeds damn near everything out in the first night! Then, Aquaphor for a few days, Eucerin after that, wham bam thank you ma'am!

    I would say that a good gauge of 'enough' Aquaphor is that the skin is a little shiny, but not overly so, and definitely not sticky.

    Just saying – for the next time. 🙂 Great post!

    • OUCH! Hot water sounds PAINFUL! I will try this next time – wrapping my chest piece sounds too complicated, I feel like I would have to mummify my whole upper body! Sounds like it would work for limbs, though! Thanks!

    • Ha! Gross! The shit show occurs doubly: first when it is freshity-fresh fresh, and then on the Peeling Day. I did not know this. I did take Peeling Day photos but only for those who could stomach it!

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