Each new piece of body art is special and you want to keep it looking as bright and crisp as possible. A new tattoo will flake and peel during the healing process and may even scab a little bit. To prevent a new tattoo from overly scabbing and thus possibly losing color and clarity, the first two weeks is the most critical time to carefully follow aftercare instructions.
Keep it moist. This is the most important step and the one that must be followed explicitly or you greatly increase your chances of causing your new tattoo to scab. Whether you use an aftercare product suggested by the tattoo artist, an over-the-counter ointment or an unscented hand lotion or moisturizer, you must keep your tattoo moist. If it dries out and starts cracking, where it splits is where you are going to see scabbing.
Don't saturate it. While keeping it moist is vitally important, you can overdo it and keep it too moist or what you'd call saturated. This can especially become a problem if you use petroleum or lanolin based product that clogs your pores. These products can not only pull out color, but they actually hamper the healing process. A slow healing tattoo has the potential to scab just as much as one that doesn't get enough moisture during healing.
Wear loose clothing during healing. Tight, restrictive clothing, especially those that rub against the area where your new tattoo is located can cause irritation which can lead to scabbing. It's also wise to wear clothing made of breathable materials such as cotton. Avoid nylons and polyesters.
Use your hands to wash your tattoo. Always wash your hands prior to touching your tattoo and then gently wash your tattoo with a mild, antibacterial soap and your fingers. Never use a wash cloth, sponge, bath puff or any other material while washing the area. Then, thoroughly rinse all of the soap off. This is especially important the first time you wash your tattoo, because you will have traces of blood and plasma that have dried. It's important to carefully remove this debris to prevent a new tattoo from scabbing.
Pat your new tattoo dry with a clean towel or simply let it air dry. Rubbing your tattoo can pull off the thin layer that is also referred to as a scab or "onion flake" which forms a protective layer over the fresh ink. This scab is necessary and you don't want to pull it off before it's ready or you will end up with larger scabs that are harmful. Re-apply ointment, lotion or moisturizer.
Avoid workouts that stretch the skin around the tattooed area. Heavy workouts also cause excessive sweating which can irritate a new tattoo, so try to avoid extremely physical activity. If it can't be avoided, then shower promptly following the activity to wash off the sweat and salt (refer to Steps 5 and 6). Also avoid contact sports, where the protective scab can be knocked off.
Remember that although you want to keep a new tattoo moist, excessive water is harmful. For the first two weeks, take quick showers without letting the spray directly hit your tattoo. Don't soak in any kind of water including bathtubs, oceans, lakes, swimming pools or hot tubs. Not only can the water seep under the skin and draw the ink out, any germs found in the water source can potentially cause infection, which can lead to scabbing and scarring.