As someone with a lot of tattoos, I want to share something with you. Three things go into a beautiful tattoo: a great design, a great artist, and proper aftercare. Aftercare is generally pretty easy, but if you’re traveling, it can be a pain. Tattoos are most fragile in their first month, but for your skin to completely heal, it takes about 4-6 weeks. So here are some things to think about if you’re considering getting a tattoo on vacation.
What to Consider
If you’re in a country with questionable drinking water, that is a major thing to consider! When I was in Mexico, we were advised to not even shave in the shower in case we were to cut ourselves. If you can’t drink the water, don’t even think about showering in that water with a healing tattoo.
Imagine getting a splendid shoulder tattoo only to grapple with your heavy backpack, rubbing against it incessantly. Ouch! Friction is NOT good OR comfortable for a new tattoo. So consider the placement of your new tattoo.
Do Your Research
First off, consider if the tattoo you’re getting could be construed as cultural appropriation. That’s a big no-no. But if you decide it’s appropriate, make sure the symbol means what you think it means. And if it’s something in another language, triple—no, QUADRUPLE check—that it translates correctly. Don’t take the artists word for it. Show it to other people in the shop, and see if they can confirm it. Do a quick Google search. Be positive.
Get the Tattoo Closer to the END of your Trip
The best piece of advice I can give you is to get your tattoo towards the last couple days of your trip. This way, you don’t have to deal with aftercare during your getaway.
Bring Aftercare Supplies with You
To care for your tattoo, you will need unscented/undyed hand soap, and you will need unscented/undyed lotion. These can (surprisingly) be hard enough to find in your hometown, let alone somewhere where you may not speak the language. And almost impossible to find in travel size. So put together a little “aftercare kit” before you leave. You can thank me later.
What to Avoid
When it comes to after-care, the first thing to remember is that your tattoo is an open wound—treat is as such.
• Sun: The #1 most damaging thing for new tattoos. Nothing will make a tattoo fade faster than exposing it to direct sunlight. The sun can bleach out the colors, or make it dry out faster than usual, also leading to fading. Depending on where your new tattoo is, and where you are traveling, that creates a lot of restrictions. This should go without saying, but that means no tanning beds either!
• Hot Tubs and Pools: Never EVER submerge your new tattoo under water. It will cause your tattoo to get pruney, and scabs to fall off, which will leave you with a blotchy tattoo. Scabs are supposed to fall off in their own time. If that’s not enough to deter you (which, it definitely should), the chlorine and other chemicals that are in them will definitely affect your tattoo. It can even cause blood poisoning.
• Kayaking/Swimming/Surfing: Avoid lakes, oceans, rivers, etc. at all costs, because they are swimming with bacteria. And the only thing that could potentially hurt your tattoo more than sun bleaching, is an infection.
• Camping: Not only are you surrounded by dirt and germs, but a new tattoo also means no chemicals, therefore, no bug spray, no sunscreen. That makes camping a bit harder. The hardest part of camping with a new tattoo though, is cleaning it. It’s important to keep your new tattoo clean, and wash it a few times a day, and that is near impossible to do while camping.
Getting a tattoo on a getaway is one of my favorite souvenirs. And with these tips in mind, you are now ready to start collecting your own ink-based souvenirs. With these tips in hand, you’ll be in good shape.