I occasionally see someone with tattoos that obviously has not taken care of their tattoo while it was healing. This can be easily identified by loss of color in small patches where scabs were prematurely removed or “light lines” from drying out too soon. These tattoo blemishes can be corrected quickly, but who wants to get tattooed twice? With proper care your tattoo will retain its color/ink better.
What you need to realize is that your skin will try to push out moisture the first day or two, but after that it starts to dry out. It is in the third or fourth day that most damage will occur to your tattoos. After five or six days your body should have produced a new layer of skin over the tattoo and you will start to see peeling of the dead top layer of skin.
It is extremely important to keep your tattoo moist during the first five days of healing and I would recommend, for comfort, that you continue for a full week. Once you let the tattoo dry out you will get scabs and scabs will damage your tattoo easily if removed prematurely or even bumped against something. By keeping the tattoo moist your body will not be able to produce scabs over the affected area. If you keep your tattoo moist for an entire week you will avoid scabbing and have a much better looking tattoo.
There are a variety of products that can be used to keep a tattoo moist. The most common are petroleum based gels like Vasoline. I use Bacatracin which is a petroleum based first aid ointment that prevents infection. I find that Bacatracin keeps the skin a bit more soft and moist than plain Vasoline. Be sure to only use unscented products with any open wound.
I also wrap my tattoo’s in clear plastic wrap for an entire week. This acts like a second skin, covering the tattooed area, preventing irritation, trapping moisture in the skin, and resist dirt to the wound. This process of wrapping my tattoos is another reason I use Bacatracin to prevent infection even further. It is extremely important to change your entire wrap and wash the tattoo with soap and water at least twice a day. Using plastic wrap will also save your clothes from being destroyed by leaky tattoo ink and that pesky gel that stains whatever it touches.