Every tattooer has their own tattooing technique. It is important that you do what each separate tattooer tells you in order for the tattooing they did to later-on look its best. This is due to the differences in hand angle, hand speed, different machine set-ups, different needle groupings as well as different shaped needle tips... and last but not least each tattooer will have a different skin stretching technique, which is absolutely one of the most important parts of tattooing. Stretching techniques differ greatly between each craftsman.
For the last 40 years what has made my technique look the best possible has been natural healing. Etching the tattoo into the skin is literally only half the process of a great looking tattoo, and as i stated above - the etching can be done in many different ways... It takes 2 to make a great looking tattoo. 1. During the tattoo application everything that has touched your skin is sterile. If you're healthy and clean your body will know what to do... there is no infection to fight, meaning chemical medicines are not needed. Medicines are to cure an ailment or problem. 2. a tattoo is NOT an open wound. Medically speaking - a tattoo is considered a skin abrasion. The actual injury to the skin is less than a bad sun burn.
• Aftercare - just as with skin abrasions and even something such as shallow stitches, just keep it dry & leave it alone while its healing. Doing a natural heal (a dry heal) keeps the scabbing & pealing skin thin and shallow. By keeping the peeling skin and scabbing thin and superficial (and not rubbing it off prematurely) the tattoo will look better 30/40/50 years later, and that to most people is important. Lotions, creams, oils, lubricants and skin softeners do make the tattoo look nicer during the healing process, but they most often thicken the skin and deepen the sloughing tissue. The top two layers of the tattoo peel off naturally, it doesn't make sense to deepen it and peel off the third or fourth layers. Thats a huge percentage of the tattoo that should have remained in the skin. The bottom of the ugly healing, scabbing and peeling skin is a normal process, what is left is the final tattoo... the tattoo lives in between the third and fourth layers of skin, the pigment that is in the first and second layer of skin peel off. Back in the day new tattoos weren't shown until they were done healing... because the tattoo is ugly while it heals. While a tattoo is healing its not ready to be looked at.... just be patient and wait until it is done healing to show it. Stay away from anything that will suffocate, irritate or make it soggy. Don't touch your tattoo after you have touched something else, you can transfer things such as bacteria or fungus. Never touch a healing tattoo with un-washed fingers!
• Germs... the ones outside, after you leave the shop ~ To kill germs for the first few days do an alcohol rinse (not a tap water & soap rinse, this does not evaporate quick enough. Dont get it dirty and you wont need soap. The wetter you get your healing tattoo - the deeper you make the scabbing... "keep the scab shallow" and supeficial). Lightly spritz, pat or splash it with "91%" rubbing alcohol - Don't be a pussy, a little sting is part of being tattooed. Do it 3 times a day for the first 3 days. This kills any possible germs that you pick up throughout your day ...it evaporates 20 times quicker than water and it breaks down the dried plasma film that can suffocate the skin. Its a real quick thing. This is what the Japanese master tattooers have done for 200 years.
• With my clients the tattoo has usually stopped weeping by the time they leave the shop so there is most-often no need for a wrap to be applied. A bandage or wrap is necessary if the tattoo is still weeping when the client leaves the shop. we don't send 'em out into the public to smear a weeping/messy thing about town. that is the reason why a bandage is applied, It also helps keep fingers from touching it. If you've had a bandage or wrap applied, take it off in 2 to 8 hours. take it off because it is suffocating the skin and has finished doing its job. I prefer 2 hours, but if you need to go right to bed, take it off when you first wake up. An important thing to remember is your skin needs air to heal, skin breaths. Only once, when removing the bandage should you use *warm soapy water - to get any stuck lymph & plasma off (*jacuzzi temperature). If there is any dried blood it's important to wash it off. Wash off the lymph & plasma (that's the clear film of gooey stuff). This first wash is so that the skin can breath.
• Here is a beneficial tip - Only if done in the first 2-4 hours ~ warm, jacuzzi temperature water pulls out most of the swelling, it removes the lymph & plasma that is still under the skin causing swelling. It pulls the swelling out through the needle holes while they are still open (it takes 4 or 5 hours for the holes to close too much for the lymph to squeeze through, after that point it - don't get it that wet again, it will be too late for this benefit... and it will make deep scabbing).
• One, two or three weeks later (depending on your body) you can stop thinking about it and get it wet, after it peels you can treat it like normal skin. A healing tattoo feels like velvet. Once it no longer feels like velvet its done healing. it might take 5 or 6 days, it might take a few weeks, everyone is different. be healthy and you will have the best possible.
• All experienced & respected after care sources pretty much say the same thing. They all say a lot about what NOT to do- and this is perfect. They all say - • DON'T irritate it in any way. Watch out for fabrics sofeners, watch out for direct sunlight, watch out for abrasion etc... (use common sense). • DON'T irritate it with abrasive or tight clothing. • DON'T soak it in any liquid. • DON'T stretch, twist or rub it. • DON'T let it get dirty. • DON'T let it get infected. • DON'T rub it, don't pick it, don't tickle it, don't scratch it- (Keep your fingers away from it while it's healing! Doing these things WILL IRRITATE IT and that will change it! Doing these things will effect it, these things will change it by 5% to 30%. -YES~ it will itch, don't try to find a way to make it stop itching, everyone with a tattoo has felt the same thing - put on your grown up pants, leave it alone and quit whining... you etch your skin when you ask for a tattoo - then your skin heals.... it's a pretty normal thing. It's not that big of an injury, why people pretend that it's an open wound is beyond me, but it is a skin abrasion.
• Some on-line sources sell healing products, i get it, everyone needs to make a livin', they need to get money from you... they are entrepreneurs. There are some decent non-irritating products and it's fine for other tattooing techniques to use them- Personally I have seen them come and go. WHEN YOU DO USE ONE, make sure you USE A VERY, VERY THIN AMOUNT... I got nothin against them and the other tattooers using them"as long as they don't suffocate or keep the the skin wet" and as long as your not rubbing the delicate top two layers off prematurly. Do not over do it!! Keep it thin or your tattoo will have a hazy/milky look to it - 10% to 80% milky... and it could even need to be re-colored sometime inside the first 5 or 10 years. The tattoos that i did 25 years ago still don't need to be re-colored, best to be smart with it all.
• As long as you are healthy your body knows how to heal a tattoo all by itself. Putting something on the outside will not make you healthier, it will only make your skin softer during the healing process and softening the skin while it is healing is not necessarily good for the way the tattoo will look decades later. Softening the skin simply makes it less irritating while its healing .... at the possible risk of making the tattoo look hazy for the rest of your life. i have seen it thousands of times.
• This has been handed down before me. For more than two hundred years before we came along natural healing was working great. I have done it since i was a kid (unless a shop that i was working in had an after care product that they sold - or if the shop had a universal umbrella after-care procedure). Your body knows what to do. Then when the tattoo is done healing & peeling - its back to normal life. Welcome to the tattoo world.
• This is what Master Japanese Tattooers do, they have done it for 200+ years, it works great for the classic technique of stretch tattooing. This keeps the lines as crisp as possible, it keeps the colors bold as possible and it keeps the shaded Black and Faded Black as well as the powder greys looking solid as possible.
Its important to keep in mind that the way you handle your healing tattoo the very first month of having it effects the way it will look for the rest of your life if you care about what the tattoo looks like 40 or 50 years from now - it depends on what you do the first few weeks.
EDUCATION • Full Sized or Large Scale tattooing heals much different than smaller (standard) tattooing. • It is important that the client be healthy- an ill or heavily medicated person usually can't heal a tattoo very well. • Every tattooer has their own technique - it is important for you to do what each different tattooer tells you. There are many variables to a craftsman's hands, variables between tattooers, and this alone should show, obviously, that each hand will create a different pigment holding scar - which is what a tattoo is, a tattoo is a scar etched skillfully to hold imagery for the rest of the persons life ...etching the skin in a way pleasant to the eye. perhaps this doesn't matter much with smaller tattooing, but with mural tattooing it can matter greatly.
The honored Horiyoshi-3 has stated many times that it takes a year for a tattoo to heal. Yes the tattoo is done scabbing in a couple weeks, but it takes a year for the minerals / the pigments to turn into the stain that is the final tattoo. The pigments do not remain. What remains is a stain in the top of the fourth layer of skin and the bottom of the third layer, this connecting layer is where the tattoo exists, it is called the fatty globule layer.
• I have tattooed well over 30,000 hours in the skin - natural heal is what works the best for my tattooing technique... Lotions, oils & ointments will make the tattoo that i do look milky, blurry and hazy, i have seen it over and over again... but then again its your body, do whatever you want, just don't come to me later asking that i somehow get it to not look hazy or milky, it cannot be changed later.
• DRY HEAL - been doing it for a long time - it gives my clients the best tattoo that i can offer. I have used all the other techniques through the years in different shops that i've worked. Each shop having had they're own required healing method, so yes i have done them all.. It is quite obvious after the tattoo is settled in the skin. It doesn't thicken the skin layers over the tattoo, it doesn't make the tattoo look milky- By keeping the top layers thin it allows the tattoo to look crisp and vibrant for many decades to come. Our skin knows how to heal all by itself, the wetter you get it, the deeper you will be making the scab. If the scab gets deep during the heal it will change the tattoo for the rest of your life. It'll pull-out part of the ink that was supposed to stay and it'll make a thicker scar.. If you make your scab deep enough it will pull out part of the permanent deposit and thicken the skin. Now there are other tattoo techniques that need a wet heal, and that is fine... the way that i tattoo does not need a wet heal.
• How Tattoos work in the skin: There are seven layers in the skin, the tattoo is delicately etched in with needles - placed between the third & fourth layers. The pealing & scabbing that occurs is only in the top two layers of the tattooed skin... it falls off with-out removing the third & fourth layers - we do not want the scab deeper... If the scab is getting wet it gets deeper & then it pulls out the third or even the fourth layer - leaving less tattoo.
• Health is key A tattoo is an etching, it is a mild, controlled shallow scar. If you are healthy your skin knows how to heal. Every person heals differently -some people show more scabbing than others, and some people don’t have scabbing at all, some people swell more than others etc… Also important to know - 2 hours of tattooing will heal a lot easier than 6, this is the reason I personally don’t do long sessions. I mostly work in large scale, multiple session tattooing. Even though during the heal the tattoo will be itchy, scabby, flakey and ugly -it is normal healing skin. Avoid swimming; DO NOT submerge the healing tattoo until all the first stage scabbing and flaking has fully fallen off (the velvet peal). Avoid tight, restrictive clothing on a healing tattoo; this can cause color-loss and it can cause a "hard-heal". Actually avoid anything that irritates it, use your common sense when it comes to this, if something is irritating your healing tattoo it is important that you figure out what you are doing… figure it out and stop the irritation, weather it be something as little as being irritated by a fabric softener to something as irritating and harmful as a sunburn, figure it out and help your tattoo to look better for the rest of your life. Healing time is short compared to the rest of your life. An un-irritated heal leads to a great looking tattoo. Remember to use common sense... it is solely up to you.
• Later, once the tattoo is settled (and for the rest of your life) i recommend you treat the sun as something that will ruin your tattoo. The sun will fade and blur your tattoo. If you have to go in the sun with an expensive tattoo - the best i can recommend is to use a high number sunblock, the number is the percentage of UV that is blocked. A 35 sunblock lets in 65% of the sun, a 90 sunblock lets in 10%. 50% sunblock will achieve 2 hours worth of UV damage in 4 hours exposure etc... For the best looking tattoo 40 or 50 years later i recommend staying out of the sun, paying attention to how much sun damage you allow is your job. Sun damage cannot be fixed by re tattooing, it will be permanently blurry and faded. I personally have found the "best" sunblocks in the "Makeup" department rather than the "Poolside" department.
• All tattooing done by *Clark (*Peony Tattoo LLC) is applied under the strictest guidelines. All needles are new, single use and sterilized. Each needle tube is packaged in the same manner. The needles and tubes used for each client remain sealed & sterile until they are removed in front of the client; all needles and tubes are disposed of after every tattoo session. Materials are never re-used; pigment receptacles, excess pigments, rinse cups, barriers for soap bottles down to the barriers on the power supply knob and the lamps’ ... barrier are all disposed of after use. Clark wears nitril gloves (non-latex), these too are disposed of after each use. The work station, the table, the pillowing that each client uses are all covered in single use barrier. There is no possible way that any bacteria or communicable disease can be transmitted during your tattoo session. • Minerals used in tattooing are between 6.6 & 7.4 pH: the "average" human ph is eaxactly the same - all averaging 7.0 pH".