Tattoo Aftercare Mistakes That Make Your Ink Age Faster Than It Should

First of all, congrats on your new tattoo! If you're reading this, it's probably because you're newly inked. The good news is you're past the most painful part — the inking itself — and now have to settle in for a stretch of healing.

Immediate tattoo aftercare is vital to keeping your tattoo looking its best, and it also helps to prevent premature aging. Telltale signs of an improperly cared for tattoo include blurry or faded designs, or even bits of ink that appear missing. What's more, improper care can increase the risk of scarring and infection — definitely not a good look! When it comes to the first few days after coming home from the shop, remember that technically you've been through a medical procedure. It may not look like one, but a tattoo is a wound that needs to heal, and your body knows how to do that if you give it time and a little T.L.C.

Ahead, we've rounded up a few "dos" and "don'ts" when it comes to taking care of your new tattoo, whether it's a small and delicate line design or a full sleeve.

Don't give it too much attention

A common mistake people make is constantly and accidentally irritating the skin. If you got a tattoo on your foot, you might not want to wear socks, or if it's a tattoo under the breast, take advantage of the healing process and go braless for a bit. The least amount of friction, the better. This also includes re-wrapping with Second Skin. Let your actual skin breathe.

Another way people go too far is through over-moisturizing the affected area. Look, we understand the desire to meticulously take care of your tattoo, but there is a limit. Think about the oily breakouts and buildup that come with using too much moisturizer on your face or hair, and now apply that same logic to the tattoo. "Applying too much ointment or tattoo aftercare product...suffocates the tattoo and encourages the growth of bacteria," Leo Palomino, a tattoo artist at Atomic Tattoos in Orlando, tells Bustle.

A thin sheen of ointment is all you need to apply. Your tattoo artist should have recommendations for moisturizing brands that work — and many shops now sell their own — but if you're in a pinch, you can use Aquaphor.

Don't expose your tattoo to the elements

One day, you'll be able to soak up the sun or swim in the ocean and show off your new ink. That day is not the first, second, or even third day after leaving the shop! For at least one to three weeks, it's important to allow your tattoo to heal without exposure to heat or too much water. This is especially the case if you have a fine line tattoo. With these designs, the ink isn't as densely packed as a tattoo that takes up more skin real estate, meaning the body's immune system can more easily break up the ink under the skin.

"Prolonged exposure to the sun can be super harmful to the longevity of your tattoo," says Rachel Maiman, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist at Marmur Medical, in an interview with Allure. "UV rays from the sun will penetrate the skin and essentially break down the pigments in the tattoo. Once those pigments are damaged, the tattoo will ultimately appear much lighter and less vibrant than it once did."

It's perfectly okay to shower, but avoid hot water on the affected area, and definitely don't use a loofah. Instead settle for a lukewarm washcloth and some antibacterial soap, ideally fragrance free. You'll probably know if the water is too warm; the inked area will sting and it could cause additional swelling. After you're done cleansing the tattoo, consider running some cool water against the skin to close the pores.