LIFE | Caring for your tattoo (and yourself)


I may or may not have mentioned that I got my second tattoo late last year. It’s a cat on my left thigh, and it’s a memorial piece for my (really rad) aunt who passed away five years ago in December. The line work is finished, and it needs shading and colouring, but I’m not in a huge hurry to get it done. That’s the thing about tattoos. There’s no rush. They’re not going to go away.

Tattoo aftercare is specific to your artist, and I would never suggest anyone take my advice over a professional’s. I did want to write a bit about caring for your tattoo, though. And how to survive getting a tattoo, although I may not be the best source of advice for this. I fainted after this piece was finished.

There’s a really funny photo somewhere on the internet of my face while getting my first tattoo. If I can find it, I’ll add it to this post. The thing is, getting tattooed is not actually that painful. I mean, it hurts, of course – of course it hurts. It’s a tolerable pain, though. It feels exactly like what you’d expect a tattoo to feel like. And as soon as your artist stops tattooing, it stops hurting. (It might hurt again later, but that’s more the burny glow of pain you’d expect from a huge, raw open wound.)

Being tattooed is quite taxing on your body, however, and it’s generally recommended that you eat a good meal beforehand and keep your blood sugar up for the duration of the session. I can endorse both Jet Planes and Redskins for this (I just wish they weren’t called that).

Most importantly, you should pay attention to what your body is telling you. I have a weird physiological reaction to things that impact my body (having blood taken, getting tattooed, getting a piercing.) As much as I try to convince myself otherwise, I will get faint and dizzy about ten minutes after said trauma is over. I did not pay attention to this after my most recent session, and then suddenly I woke up and I was lying on the table in the recovery position (thumbs up Amy, Mum, Callum and Tim for dealing with me.)


So. Aftercare. Tim Gau, who did both my tattoos and is an all-around GC, recommends cleaning a fresh tattoo infrequently with fragrance-free soap, and applying thin layers of Bepanthen when necessary. And no scratching! Even when you feel like you might die of un-fulfilled itchiness if you don’t.

The other really big thing to remember is to protect it from the sun. This is something you have to do FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE but especially so in the first year of the tattoo’s life. I usually just chuck on a layer of whatever sunscreen is in reach while I’m doing my face. This will get expensive the more tattoos you have, though.

I’m really curious to learn what peoples’ preferred method of tattoo aftercare is. If you have tattoos, what do you use? Do you swear by Bepanthen? Coconut oil? There’s no wrong answer – well, there may be a wrong answer, but I’m not here to call you out on it.

I’m also open to other people sharing their stories of fainting after getting tattooed – please! – so I can feel less ashamed of it.

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  • All my tattoo artists recommended Bepanthen. It really is a miracle cream, it stopped me from having any issues with keloid scarring and meant you could pat out ‘the scratch’, haha. The itchy moments of healing are the worst for me! One other thing I would recommend is no coffee before you go, it usually thins the blood. Great post and love the tattoo!

    • Thanks love! Slapping my tattoo when it was itchy is what kept me sane.

  • Nicole

    Don’t have a tattoo myself, not sure I could handle the commitment of one. Yours looks great! Thigh tattoos always do. I do fear, though, I would be a fellow fainter if I went through with one. The tiniest scrape and I’m out – also known to pass out merely from that time of the month, so yeah – no shame in it. Unless of course, it’s midnight and you’re fainted, pants-down in the bathroom. Yeah..

    • Both of my tattoos I thought about for a long time before getting them. I’ve made (and cancelled) spur-of-the-moment tattoo bookings before, though!
      I have never fainted from period pain but have definitely had a bad time of it with cramps… I feel your pain!

  • Arrabella Bolter

    The difference between bepanthen and the “proper stuff,” is the inclusion of lanolin in the former, which is supposed to be a bit oily. That being said I used whatever I had on hand, whether it was bepanthen or natural botty balm or nipple cream,ย  as they are really similar and made to heal raw skin?
    My next one is a memorial tattoo, that I want to get on my Mums anniversary in April. Or tone my thighs and get a 1920s Art Deco thigh garter.
    How’d you go with your inner forearm? I winced like a mofo for that one ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Inner arm was painful the further back it went, and the closer to my armpit. The same was true of my thigh actually – the further round to my inner thigh it went, the more it stung.

      • Also – art deco thigh garter sounds AMAZING!

  • Steph Hicks

    I got a tiny tattoo done on my wrist once and because I hadn’t eaten anything that morning, I ended up nearly fainting after the tattoo! I had to lie down for 10minutes hahaha so weird a! Yes I swear by bepanthen also ๐Ÿ™‚ P.S. LOVE your cat tattoo! I want one on my thigh at some stage!

    • Funny how bodies respond, eh! Thank you – I want another one on my other thigh eventually!

  • My friend nearly passed out in the middle of his tattoo session. He got this beautiful koi on the upper quarter of his back (the start of a back piece) and started feeling really dizzy halfway through. The tattoo artist said that he had seen so many people faint (and a couple that vomited!!!) after being tattooed, so don’t be ashamed at all!

    • Ooh, I don’t know if I could handle a big back session!

  • Hope Jackson

    I had quite a big peice on my thigh ( 2 Lilly’s and a swollow flying out in between carrying an open locket) I felt fine while it was being done didn’t hurt that much but then I was sitting there and I fainted straight away it was embarrassing as I had my trousers down too!

  • Alora

    I just got my own rib tattoo today; it’s fairly large, spanning from the top of my hipbone to the top of my ribcage, but it’s only line work so it was okay. During the actual process on the chair, I was fineโ€”I got a little shaky toward the end, but no tears or verbal expressions of pain. Just now, though, I went to clean it before bed and for some reason, I got very faint while applying the moisturizing cream. I very nearly passed out and was, at the least, unable to remain standing. It didn’t hurt especially much, and the lines look good; they’re hardly even red at all. A little bamboozled haha, but definitely still pleased with my piece. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • That’s very common to feel a bit woozy! Glad you like your new tattoo – it sounds like a big one!