The Guide to Ankle Tattoo Aftercare

The Guide to Ankle Tattoo Aftercare

Ankle tattoos are seen as an entry point for people who are new to the ink scene. They’re usually simple, fairly inexpensive, and relatively painless compared to other body parts. But make no mistake, proper ankle tattoo aftercare is just as important. 

Designs often vary based on the location of your tattoo. Some prefer small designs on top of the ankle bone, medium-sized ones that wrap around the ankle, or even larger pieces that extend downwards onto their feet. Regardless of where you want it placed, common designs include flowers, a word or saying, butterflies, barbwire, and more. 

If you’re visiting a reputable artist, your ankle tattoo should only cost between $50 and $300 depending on the size & style. And fortunately, because the designs are so small, they tend to hurt a bit less (or at least for a shorter amount of time). 

But now that you have this sleek, stylish new piece on your ankle, you have to protect it. Let’s get into how you can properly take care of your new ink to keep it fresh forever.

When you get home

Once you leave the studio, your ink should be covered with a thin layer of petroleum jelly/Vaseline and a bandage or wrap to protect the skin from immediate infection.

When you get home, kick your feet up and apply ice directly to the area to reduce blood flow and limit swelling. Ankle tattoos tend to swell more than others because blood flows downwards whenever you’re on your feet. The more you can elevate and ice, the less likely that major swelling will occur.

Watch Netflix, play video games, or just listen to some music for a couple hours while your body starts to heal. 

Leave the initial bandage on for at least 24 hours after your session, then you can begin routine aftercare. 

How to clean

Just as with any new ink, cleaning your ankle tattoo is one of the most important aspects of aftercare. Fortunately, it’s pretty straightforward.

Wash your hands with warm water & soap for at least 20-30 seconds before touching the area. Then, apply a fragrance-free, antibacterial liquid soap directly to the area and gently rub your fingers in a circular motion.

You may notice a slimy substance while cleaning – that’s plasma. Though it may be unpleasant to touch, continue to clean the area until all of the plasma is gone. If any remains on the surface of your skin, it will scab and damage your new ink.

Clean the area at least 2x per day – in the morning and before bed. If you sweat or accidentally expose the area to a possible infectant, clean immediately afterwards as well.

Choose a fragrance-free, liquid, pump soap to prevent damage and avoid irritations & infections. Avoid using any moisturizing soaps or exfoliating scrubs as they will irritate the skin. Similarly, bar soaps aren’t the greatest option either because they tend to sit in water after use, where they can collect bacteria. 

Our top picks are Dr. Bronner Liquid Baby Soap ($8) and Dial Liquid Hand Soap ($2), both of which are available at nearly every store. 

Once you’ve cleaned the area, pat your skin dry with a clean paper towel or antimicrobial cloth. Don’t use a cotton hand towel to dry the area as it may harbor germs & other bacteria.

How to moisturize

What to apply

Similar to the soap, use a scent-free or fragrance-free, white cream lotion or moisturizer to hydrate the skin cells and encourage healing. Apply this 3-4x per day. We do not recommend Aquaphor or Vaseline as they trap too much moisture under your skin. 

Or if you’re looking for a do-it-all healing cream for your ankle tattoo, check out Ink Balm. Apply it directly to the area 1-2x daily instead of lotion to protect and preserve your ink. 

It relieves pain & itchiness, prevents infections, moisturizes, and keeps your ink looking vibrant forever. Don’t stress about which lotion to buy, do your skin a favor and pick up a jar of Ink Balm. 

Why moisturizing is important

After cleaning, moisturizing is the most important part of the healing process. It encourages skin regeneration, reduces itching & irritation, and creates a healthy environment for your cells to heal the damaged skin. 

If you don’t moisturize at least 2-3x per day, your skin will dry out, damaging your new tattoo before you have the chance to show it off. Dryness slows the cellular healing process and opens you up to more infections. 

When to moisturize

Apply your daily tattoo moisturizer as soon as the area begins to dry out, usually about 24 hours after your session. Clean the area after taking off the initial bandage and moisturize immediately after the first cleaning session.

If you’re using lotion, apply 3-5x per day for at least the first two weeks, then regularly as a part of your daily skincare regimen.

With Ink Balm, apply just once or twice daily for optimal moisture, skin health, and ink vibrance. 

With daily cleaning and moisturizing, your skin & ink will heal in no time. 

Other things to keep in mind

Can I wear socks or shoes after getting an ankle tattoo?

No, you should not wear any socks or shoes that cover your ankle tattoo. The same goes for jeans or tight pants. 

This is for two main reasons – first, they will rub against your skin and the friction will damage and fade your tattoo. Second, they trap heat & moisture, the combination of which creates a perfect environment for bacteria to grow and infect your body.

If your tattoo is high enough on your leg, you can wear low-rise socks & shoes that don’t touch the area. Otherwise, it’s advisable to wear sandals or flip-flops that won’t interfere with the area or trap heat. 

Oppositely, if the tattoo extends low enough onto your foot that you can wear capris, yoga pants, or cuffed pants without touching the area, those are fine. If in doubt, just wear shorts.  

Speaking of sandals & shorts…

When to get an ankle tattoo

Because you can’t wear socks, pants, or shoes for the first 2-3 weeks after your tattoo, you should try to get it done in the summer. Your ankle can breathe freely and you won’t have to worry about your feet or legs getting cold in the winter.

Where sunscreen

If you choose to schedule it for the summer, it’s incredibly important that you cover the tattoo with sunscreen whenever you are outside. 

Even a few minutes of UV exposure can fade, crack, and/or blister your tattoo, so be sure to cover your tattoo with plenty of sunscreen. 

Though it’s best to completely avoid the sun for 3-4 weeks after your session, that’s not always possible (or fun).

To safely enjoy the sun and protect your ink, use a broad-spectrum, fragrance-free sunscreen that is at least 30-50 SPF. Oftentimes, sunscreens are made from artificial ingredients that can irritate the skin, so choose one made from organic ingredients.

If you’re having trouble finding a suitable option, those made from zinc oxide or titanium oxide are both recognized as non-toxic ingredients by the FDA.

Stay out of the water

You should avoid pools, lakes, and oceans for the first few weeks after your tattoo. Even chlorine pools aren’t sanitary, and you cannot risk infecting the healing skin – it will damage your tattoo permanently.

Aside from infection, chlorine and other pool chemicals can negatively affect the color, vibrance, and overall cosmetic appearance of your new tattoo. 

If you want to spend a day at the pool or the beach, keep your feet out of the water and cover the area with a waterproof bandage (and sunscreen) just in case. 

If you accidentally get it wet, clean & moisturize the area immediately to prevent infection. 

Obviously, these same rules don’t apply to showering. But rather than take a scalding hot shower, opt for a cool water temperature to avoid burning the skin. Refrain from cleaning your ankle with a loofah or washcloth – they create friction and often harbor hidden bacteria.

Don’t itch the ink

This is easier said than done. Though you might want to scratch or itch your skin to relieve subtle irritation, you should avoid doing so – it will only damage the ink and cause further irritation.

If you’re constantly fighting the urge to itch the tattoo, apply moisturizer to the dry skin to get rid of the sensation. 

How long does an ankle tattoo take to heal?

With a proper aftercare routine, the top layer of skin on your ankle tattoo should heal within 2-4 weeks, depending on the size, location, and commitment to the healing process. 

At this point, you can start wearing shoes & socks regularly, but you should continue to maintain your standard aftercare routine

Tattoo ink penetrates deep into your skin. So even though it may look healed on the outside, the other layers of your skin may take upwards of six months to fully heal. 

It is important to note that things like sun exposure & infections can significantly delay this process, so do not take those particulars lightly. 

If you follow all of these steps and take care of your new masterpiece, you’ll be healed and back on your feet in no time. 

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