Tattoo wrapping seems to be ubiquitous around the world. Professional tattoo artists wrap a new tattoo with different types of wraps to protect it and ensure that it stops oozing and bleeding faster.
However, as wrapping methods vary, we can’t help but wonder which wrapping method is best and how long can a tattoo really stay wrapped?
If you’ve just arrived home from a tattoo appointment, chances are your tattoo is wrapped in cling film. So, let’s start by discussing this handy topic, and then we’ll get into some more packaging information and recommendations for your future tattoo projects.
Tattoo packaging: 7 things you need to know
1. Why do tattoo artists pack their new tattoos?
Generally speaking, tattoo artists pack new tattoos for a few important reasons;
- To ensure the tattoo stops bleeding and oozing faster
- To protect the tattoo from infectious external factors
- To help keep your clothes, furniture, and bedding clean until the tattoo stops bleeding
Even though the reasons behind tattoo wrapping are quite valid and helpful, the notion of tattoo wrapping is still one of the most debated topics in the tattoo community. Apparently, some tattoo artists don’t find tattoo packaging necessary, while others can’t imagine not packaging a new tattoo.
So if you come across a tattoo artist who for some reason doesn’t wrap tattoos, make sure you always ask them to wrap your tattoo. You don’t want to go home with bloody clothes stuck to your new tattoo. You also don’t want to transfer bacteria and germs to the tattoo and cause infection.
Under certain laws, most countries require a new tattoo to be wrapped in a sterile bandage to prevent infection, so keep that in mind as well.
2. What are the benefits of wrapping a tattoo?
As we mentioned, one of the main reasons, and also benefits, to wrap a tattoo is the fact that there is something to protect a tattoo or “fresh wound” from bacteria, viruses and germs. However, some of the benefits also include;
- The wrap creates a barrier between the tattoo and potential external infections caused by bacteria, germs, viruses, etc.
- The wrap controls bleeding and oozing, allowing you to continue your life without damage.
- The wrap allows you to sleep properly, without messing up your clothes and bedding or having the bedding stick to your tattoo.
- The wrap protects your tattoo from external physical impacts, such as during contact sports or other physical activities (which you should minimize, by the way, until the tattoo heals).
- The wrap protects your tattoo in case you need to wear tight-fitting clothing or clothing made from potentially irritating fabrics.
- If you’re moving around in a potentially dirty, unsanitized environment while your tattoo is healing, retyping the tattoo could protect it from potential infections.
3. Ok, but why do tattoo artists wrap their tattoos in cling film?
The origin of the practice of wrapping tattoos in cling film is believed to be the biker gangs of the 60s and 70s. The reason they wrapped their tattoos in cling film is pretty simple and silly; they wanted their tattoos to be visible even though they were fresh, bleeding and oozing.
The cling film is transparent and when covered it keeps blood and excess ink more tamed and less excessive and messy which would usually be the case without the cling film. In addition, the tattoo would be visible and partially protected from external infections.
The practice continued for decades to come, but nowadays cling film packaging is not as popular as it used to be. There is a lively discussion about whether tattoo artists should wrap tattoos with plastic wrap, but it depends on the tattoo artist and their preferred methods.
4. How long should I keep a tattoo wrapped in cling film?
How long you should keep your tattoo wrapped in cling film also depends on what your tattoo artist thinks is appropriate. Some tattoo artists recommend keeping the tattoo wrapped for 2-4 hours, others recommend keeping the tattoo wrapped overnight. However, it is a bit more complicated.
The time it takes for your tattoo to be wrapped depends on the severity of the bleeding and oozing, and the activities you do in the meantime. For example, if your tattoo is fresh and bleeding profusely, you should remove the plastic wrap and wash the tattoo. After that, you should not repack the tattoo unless you are going to sleep or wearing tighter clothes.
Either way, be sure to follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare recommendations. Every tattoo situation is unique, and aftercare depends on the type of tattoo, its size and location, and the preferences and practices of particular tattoo artists.
Here are some of the general recommendations for tattoo wrapping time;
- After getting a tattoo, be sure to keep it wrapped for 2-4 hours before cleaning it. After cleaning the tattoo, pat it dry with a paper towel and do not re-wrap it until you go to sleep.
- Keep the tattoo wrapped while sleeping for 3-5 days. During this time, the tattoo should begin to dry out and close, so there won’t be any risk of sudden bleeding or bedding sticking to your tattoo while you sleep.
- Once the tattoo is closed or completely sealed, no need to repack. Just keep the tattoo clean and well moisturized, and you should be fine.
Also read: How to sleep with a new tattoo: 8 tips from an expert
5. Should you re-wrap your tattoo with cling film?
Some tattoo artists will say you can use cling film or plastic sheeting to rewrap your new tattoo. However, this is also highly debatable. Many believe that tattoos would not be wrapped with plastic sheets, while others believe that repackaging should be done with something medical grade, such as specially designed packaging for tattoos with hygiene and proper sanitation.
So, instead of re-wrapping your tattoo with cling film, we recommend opting for;
TattooMed’s Tattoo Protection Film – this is a waterproof and breathable protective film or bandage specially designed for tattoos. Also known as a “second skin” tattoo wrap, this wrap will provide proper tattoo protection and breathability, so your tattoo will dry naturally and begin to heal without any delays or issues.
It is generally recommended to re-wrap a new tattoo with a sterile bandage or muslin/cheese cloth to keep the tattoo protected and damage free for the first 24 hours. Cling film should be used as a last resort, due to possible hygiene issues and potentially non-sterile or infection-causing cling film.
6. Why should I avoid stretch wrap tattoo packaging?
As many tattoo artists say, cling film is the last resort for tattoo wrapping and should be avoided. Cling film is good for wrapping the tattoo right after the tattoo is done; once you remove the cling film, within 2-4 hours, you should not use it to re-wrap the tattoo.
Now the reason is that the cling film is plastic. Plastic is not a breathable material, so it traps air in the tattoo, preventing it from drying out and healing naturally. Without drying out, the tattoo cannot close and seal.
Not to mention that the plastic film creates a tattoo vacuum, which can heat up the tattooed skin, promoting faster reproduction and growth of bacteria and germs.
There have also been cases of tattoo shattering caused by plastic wraps and plastic tattoo wraps. These cases were also accompanied by infections caused by the perpetual dampness of the tattoo since it could not dry out under the plastic wrap.
7. How do I repackage a tattoo myself?
The first tattoo wrap is done by your tattoo artist. But what happens when you want to repack the tattoo at home? How can you do it yourself? Here are some tips and tricks to use for this situation;
- Make sure you are in a clean and sterile environment; find the cleanest room in your house and if you can’t recreate the cleanliness of a tattoo studio, you might not want to repack the tattoo at home.
- Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before touching the tattoo. Use a hand soap that contains at least 60% alcohol and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Focus on the fingers, the nail and they are also between the fingers. After washing your hands, make sure you don’t touch anything other than the tattoo.
- Wash the tattoo with lukewarm water and a mild, fragrance-free, antibacterial soap. After washing the tattoo, pat it dry with a paper towel or let it air dry.
- Now that the tattoo is cleaned and dried, take the breathable wrap and carefully apply it to the tattoo. Make sure the wrap covers the entire tattoo and make sure the adhesive adheres well to the skin surrounding the tattoo, not the tattooed skin.
Be sure to keep the tattoo repackaged for a few hours or overnight. After removing the film again, you will need to wash and dry your tattoo again. Avoid leaving the scarf on for several days, as some manufacturers advise, without consulting your tattoo artist first.
When it comes to tattoo packaging, the best thing to do is follow your tattoo artist’s recommendations. When it comes to re-wrapping the tattoo in cling film, we strongly recommend that you opt for other sterile, medical-grade packaging options to avoid any potential health issues or tattoo infection. For more information, see our other tattoo aftercare articles or talk to your tattoo artists.
Also Read: What Is A Tattoo Ink Bag: All You Need To Know
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