You should keep the tattoo dry. Well, if you have been hearing statements like this from seasoned tattoo artists, it might just be the time to rejig the strategies a bit with wet healing a tattoo. While the name might sound confusing to some, wet healing a tattoo is a process of approaching tattoo aftercare from a different and less popular perspective.
Wet healing a tattoo means keeping the tattooed region from drying out— eventually keeping a stern eye on scab development. And if the term wet heal seems like a contradiction to your standard aftercare belief or even an oxymoron, it might just be the time to be more receptive to the new era of tattoo healing.
However, wet healing a tattoo (especially a newly made one) requires you to understand a few things about the process— including the definition, parts that are more perceptive to wet healing, reasons for not dry healing certain areas, and the associated pros and cons. And if you have only just come across wet heal as a term but are already feeling intrigued, keep reading along as I will be answering every doubt you have throughout this discussion.
What is Wet Healing a Tattoo, exactly?
Doesn’t keeping a tattooed area moist sound more like inviting bacteria in droves? Well, you might be right. Yet the wet healing method, in theory, is not exactly that. Instead, it is a healing approach where the newly tattoed skin surface is not allowed to run dry. The area is often closed off and mostly moist, which can be disconcerting at times.
The wet healing tattoo process, or rather the wet healing method, is not a lot of different aftercare treatment than dry healing, especially in the long run. Instead, wet tattoo healing is just like wound healing that doesn’t allow the surface to go unattended and dry during the first few days.
Why You Should Wet Heal a Tattoo?
Wet healing offers something very important— continuous moisturization. Some areas dry out quickly, eventually depleting the ink reserves. Tattoos that dry out quickly can cause scales and scabs to appear fast and aggressively, which impacts the overall health of the area. Wet healing a tattoo, despite needing 24 x 7 monitoring, cuts out the problems mentioned above.
Suppose you have tattooed a region that hardly stays still (for instance, the shoulder caps). In that case, wet healing of a tattoo is advisable as every movement of the adjacent joint causes the tattoo to micro tear. If the skin is excessively dry, the micro-tears are more obvious and prone to cause scabbing.
In case you prefer mental models, here is one:
Take a chunk of tamarind (necessarily dry) and try twisting it. Instead of getting twisted, the piece of tamarind keeps breaking off with visible cracks. If you try the same example with a moist chunk of tamarind, you will see that the lump is more malleable and doesn’t show cracks. Thus, wet healing.
How to Approach the Wet Tattoo Healing Process?
Now that we have established a strong case in favor of the wet healing tattoo process, it might just be the time to get a bit theoretical with the approach.
Cleaning the area before starting a wet heal is a move that doesn’t require any added emphasis. For the wet healing of a tattoo, it is better to wait for the initial bandage put up by the tattoo artist to come off. Once there, you need to cover the surface with Aquaphor or any other non-invasive ointment— something the tattoo artist might already have recommended.
After that, you might need to plastic wrap the surface again to secure down the ointment, helping it get better absorbed and speed up the healing process. But then, it’s not like confining the new tattoo to a plastic prison, 24 x 7. You must remove the wrap twice a day and follow the cycle till the tattooed area starts showing signs of improvement.
Once you see that tattoo starts to flake (which would now be controlled thanks to wet healing), you should stop the wrapping-unwrapping and allow the tattoo to take its usual dry healing route.
Just to reiterate, here are the points to keep in mind while wet healing:
As for the process, here are the steps to perfect any wet tattoo healing strategy:
- Remove the initial tattoo studio art wrap.
- Follow it up by washing the surface for the residues.
- Try using fragrance-free essentials to wash if you want the best wet-healed treatment.
- Pat the surface dry, let it stay for a while and then apply the organic ointment (thin layer only).
- Start wrapping the area twice every day till the flakes start to show up.
- Once the flakes appear, you can subject the wound healing process to air dry, as you would with any other open wound.
Note: The idea here is to recommend wet healing a tattoo and trap every bit of your skin’s moisture inside, especially to keep the tattoo lustrous for a longer time.
Dry Healing Vs Wet Healing
Some lotions and creams contain artificial ingredients that can actually further irritate your skin or cause allergic reactions that interfere with the healing process, including alcohol petroleum lanolin mineral oil, such as vitamin A or D parabens phthalates fragrance.
Some combination of these ingredients can affect your skin and tattoo ink.
However, Dry healing eliminates this risk completely. But this risk is avoided if you use natural oils or moisturizers like shea butter.
Another concern with dry healing is picking or rubbing the healing area.
Moisturizers can help lubricate the skin and make it less likely that any scraping, picking, or rubbing makes your skin peel and your tattoo heal improperly.
They can also make your skin itch less than with dry healing. If you’re the kind of person who can’t resist scratching anything that itches, you may want to rethink dry healing.
Body Parts that are better off Wet Healed
As mentioned previously, some body parts should always be wetly healed. For instance, the shoulder caps, fingers, elbow-specific regions, arms/legs, and more. Also, when it comes to larger tattoos, the wet tattoo healing process might not always be feasible as it is hardly easy to cover the entire back phoenix with a plastic wrap once, much less two times a day.
But that’s not it. The moist environment, courtesy of the healing ointment, can also come in handy if you want to protect a recently tattooed area that invariably stays covered with clothing throughout the day. This would prevent the surface from getting frequently bruised or damaged due to all that potential scarring.
However, you should also be mindful of the dryness or water retention abilities of the concerned area. That way, you can choose the best healing method for tattoo wounds. For instance, allowing the tattoo to air dry as a dry heal cure might be useful if you have a non-dry skin type.
Wet healed tattoos have a faster healing time and better stress response— but only if you gently rub the relevant ointment on the surface, preferably one layer only. Regardless the aftercare method of choice isn’t just about the skin type or tattoo ink. Instead, it also comes down to how badly you want to avoid scabbing or skin irritation.
Pros and Cons of Wet Healing Tattoo
Now that I have talked about the process, things to consider, and even the pet peeves associated with wet healing, it is time to focus on the advantages and disadvantages of the process.
If you are a tad uncomfortable regarding the aftercare disadvantages of the wet treatment, you can always opt for the dry healing method for tattooed skin.
As a process, wet healing a tattoo is effective. Yet, its role and set of benefits might vary from person to person, depending on the type, nature, and placement of the tattoo. The skin texture of the individual also matters when it comes to choosing between wet and dry healing. Regardless, the process works if you, as the concerned person, have dry skin and the recently made tattoo is constantly in contact with the clothing or requires a lot of joint-based movement.
Also, a qualified medical practitioner would say that there is no right or wrong approach when it comes to healing. A healthcare practitioner might recommend air-drying for some body parts or ask you to gently rub an ointment to wet heal a tattoo. Eventually, all the ideas to heal a tattoo, including dry dressings, washing the surface and moisturizing it frequently to avoid scabbing, constitute medical liabilities and response to known conditions.
Some might cause more harm by building a perfect environment for bacterial infection, while some might heal tattoos whilst providing an exciting experience. At the end of the day, it is the nature of wounds, body, wash method that heals, tattoo artist advice, size of the art, existing infection or the idea to treat, and even the ink used by the artist that determines whether the tattoo aftercare needs wet or dry care.
And to perfect a wet healing tattoo, you must read through the entire article with attention, especially the washing part. Also, once you are sure about this aftercare strategy, it is important to connect with a healing professional to get the job done in the best possible way.