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In the world of tattoos, Japanese designs have always held a special place. Traditional and modern Japanese tattoos are highly sought after for their intricate designs and deep symbolism, growing in popularity all around the globe. Pop culture also plays a significant role in popularizing Japanese tattoos, with manga, anime and video games showcasing elaborate designs on their characters.

As with any tattoo, proper aftercare maintains the longevity and vibrancy of your new ink. In this article, we will discuss some tattoo aftercare tips specific to Japanese tattoos.


Caring for a Traditional Japanese Tattoo

Traditional Japanese tattoos, also known as Irezumi, are often large and detailed pieces that cover a large area of the body. Many of our customers would opt for a full sleeve, back or chest piece that can take several sessions to complete, as the intricacy of the design, size of the tattoo, and the pain threshold of the individual contribute to the time taken. With such an investment in time, effort and money, it is essential to take proper care of your traditional Japanese tattoo.

In our Sydney studios, we have seen countless clients with traditional Japanese tattoos that have healed beautifully, and we have compiled some aftercare tips to help you achieve the same results:


Avoid the Sun

Sunlight is the biggest enemy of a new tattoo, and we cannot stress this enough. It may be tempting to show off your new ink in the sun. But keep in mind that your tattoo is essentially an open wound – it’s still healing and sensitive, and so exposing it to the sun’s harsh rays can cause inflammation, scarring, and fading of the colours. A few weeks after getting inked and once the wound has healed, you can apply sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 when sunbathing or spending time outdoors.


Keep it Clean and Moisturised

As with any open wound, your best bet for preventing infection is to keep it clean, moisturised and protected. In most cases, your tattoo artist will wrap the tattoo in cling wrap after finishing to protect it from bacteria and ensure a safe journey home. 

Once you remove the cling wrap, gently wash your tattoo using fragrance-free soap and lukewarm water to remove any excess ink, blood or plasma. Gently pat dry with a clean towel and apply a thin layer of unscented moisturiser or tattoo-specific aftercare product to keep the skin hydrated and promote healing. 


Avoid Scratching or Picking at Your Tattoo

As a natural reaction to the healing process, your tattoo may feel itchy or scab during the first two weeks as the skin is repairing itself. Fight the urge to scratch or pick at these scabs, as it can cause damage to the tattoo and increase the risk of infection. Continue applying the ointment or moisturiser recommended by your tattoo artist to alleviate any itching.


Wear Loose Clothing

While your tattoo is healing, it’s essential to wear loose clothing over the area. Tight clothes can cause friction and irritation, leading to discomfort, scarring and affecting the overall appearance of your new tattoo. Opt for breathable fabrics like cotton and avoid synthetic materials that can cause excessive sweating and trap bacteria.


Stay Away From Chlorinated Water

Chlorinated water found in swimming pools, hot tubs and even tap water can be harmful to your new tattoo. Chemicals like chlorine can irritate the skin and cause infections, so it’s best to avoid them until your tattoo has fully healed. Let your skin heal for at least two to three weeks before taking a dip in the pool or hot tub, and even then, make sure to rinse off and moisturise your tattoo afterwards. A dry tattoo will delay the healing process and can cause scabbing.


Watch Out for Signs of Infection

While rare, there is still a risk of infection with any new tattoo. One study notes that only around 5% or less of individuals who had their tattoos done experienced some form of infection. Still, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for any signs of infection, such as excessive redness, swelling, pain or pus oozing from the tattoo site. You may also ask your tattoo artist and get in touch with a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

Some other general aftercare tips for your new Japanese tattoo include avoiding direct contact with pets, using clean sheets and towels, and avoiding intense physical activities that can cause excessive sweating or friction on your tattoo. If you encounter any itching or discomfort, just lightly pat the area or apply an ice pack to reduce any swelling. 

If you have any other concerns or questions regarding your tattoo’s aftercare, consult your tattoo artist for professional advice and do not hesitate to reach out to your health care provider for any potential infections.


  • Celia

    There’s certainly a lot to learn about this topic.
    I like all the points you have made.

  • Jannette

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