The Guide to Neck Tattoo Aftercare
As tattoo stigma continues to fade from society, neck tattoos are becoming increasingly more acceptable. They’re striking in appearance and often indicate a bold, adventurous attitude.
And because they can’t be concealed with clothing, it’s important that they heal properly to maintain their signature look. That’s where a consistent aftercare routine comes into play – to keep your ink looking fresh forever.
Proper aftercare for your neck tattoo
The aftercare process is similar to that of other body parts, with just a few extra things to consider. Let’s start with the most important thing to remember about your new ink.
It’s a fresh wound and must be treated with care. Protect it by practicing standard wound care, avoiding sources of bacteria (swimming, sunlight, dirty jewelry, etc.), and monitoring for signs of infection.
Before we get into how to properly care for and preserve your neck tattoo, let’s cover some basics.
How to clean a neck tattoo
First things first – keep your head as still as possible for the first 24 hours. You may not even realize it, but you move your neck a lot.
With the constant twisting and wrinkling of skin, your ink could become damaged before it even heals. Constant twisting & turning will cause the area to bleed, increasing the odds of infection.
When you leave your session, the area should be covered with antibacterial cream and a wrap or bandage. Leave this on for 8-12 hours after your session so that your skin can begin healing.
If your session was in the morning, take it off before bed. If your session was in the afternoon, feel free to sleep with it on for the first night.
When you are ready to take it off and clean it for the first time, here’s what to do.
1. Gently remove the wrap
There’s a chance that the wrap or bandage may stick to your skin – this is normal. Gently remove it to avoid damaging your skin. This is one of those times where you absolutely should not “rip the Band-Aid off.”
2. Wash your hands
Wash your hands with warm water & soap for 30 seconds before touching the area. You’ll be using your fingers to clean the skin directly, so put the wash cloths and paper towels away for now.
3. Clean the area
Using cool or lukewarm water, apply a fragrance-free, antibacterial liquid soap and gently scrub the area with your fingers. Repeat this process at least 2x per day in the morning and before bed, or if the area is exposed to potential bacteria such as sweat or dirty clothing.
You can do this at the sink or in the shower, whichever is easiest for you. At the sink, you can check to make sure you’ve cleaned it thoroughly, making sure you didn’t miss any part of the ink. If you choose to clean your tattoo in the shower, make sure to turn the water temperature down so you don’t burn your healing skin.
There are special soaps made for tattoo aftercare available – they work fine. But if you want to save some money and protect your ink, choose a fragrance-free, liquid, pump soap. We like Dr. Bronner Liquid Baby Soap ($8) and Dial Liquid Hand Soap ($2). Both are available on Amazon and at most major retail stores.
Note: We don’t recommend using a soap bar because even though they might be fragrance-free, they tend to sit in water and collect bacteria when not in use. This increases your chance of infection.
4. Wash & dry your skin
Once you’ve properly cleaned the tattoo area, wash away the excess soap with water.
Gently dab the area dry with a disposable paper towel or antimicrobial cloth. Don’t rub your skin with the paper towel as this will damage the ink immediately.
It’s important to avoid using a hand towel as they can harbor bacteria, exposing you to a potential skin infection. This is especially the case if it’s unclean.
Your tattoo is clean. Now it’s time to moisturize.
How to moisturize a neck tattoo
What to apply
Just like the soap, you should use a scent-free or fragrance-free, white cream lotion or moisturizer to hydrate your skin.
If you want to step up your aftercare game, apply Ink Balm to your tattoo 1-2x daily instead of lotion to protect and preserve your neck tattoo forever. It relieves pain & itchiness, prevents infections, moisturizes, and keeps your ink looking fresh.
Why moisturizing is important
Moisturized skin helps your skin cells regenerate more quickly, reduce irritation, and create a healthy environment to heal the damaged skin.
Forget that old saying that it’s best to let wounds “dry out.” It doesn’t work, especially with tattoos.
Dry skin reduces cellular activity and delays the healing process. And it’s more susceptible to bacterial infections, which will ruin your tattoo.
When to moisturize
Apply your daily tattoo moisturizer 3-5x per day, including after every cleaning. Don’t worry, you won’t have to continue this pace forever, just the first two weeks. After that, moisturize the area regularly as a part of your daily routine.
If you’re using Ink Balm, apply just 1-2x daily for optimal moisture, skin health, and ink vibrance.
With daily cleaning and moisturizing, your new neck tattoo will heal just fine. But to get the most out of your ink, there’s a few extra things you should do to ensure a healthy healing process.
Don’t move or tilt your head too much
As we mentioned earlier, you turn your neck quite a bit throughout the day. Especially in the first few days, it’s critical that you remain as still as possible. The constant wrinkling of your skin will make it impossible for your tattoo to heal properly. It will fade quickly and potentially become infected due to the constant bleeding.
Just sit still for a few days. Watch TV, read a book, or even work at your computer. If you’re seated against a chair or couch with a tall back, place a pillow between your head and the surface to keep your neck off of it.
How to sleep with a neck tattoo
Sleeping with a new tattoo can be uncomfortable, especially if it’s on your neck. Here’s to make it bearable for the first few nights.
Clean your sheets & pillow cases beforehand to prevent infections in your own bed.
Sleep with a tank top and try your best to keep the area directly off of the pillow.
If it’s on the back of your neck, sleep on your side. If it’s on the front or side of your neck, sleep on your back.
What to wear while it’s healing
It should be obvious that turtlenecks are not the appropriate choice for your new tattoo. You need to let it breathe.
You’re going to be wearing a lot of tank tops, so get used to it. These enable your skin to breathe and avoid any friction between the fabric and the ink.
Similarly, don’t wear any bras, bikinis, or jewelry that may irritate your neck or upper back.
Skip the workouts for a few days
Gyms are a breeding ground for bacteria. And as much as we all love a good workout, your skin needs to rest for a few days.
Sweat will irritate your ink, delaying the healing process. After 3-4 days, you can resume your normal routine. Just make sure you skip barbell back squats.
This is easier said than done. Scratching freshly damaged skin is a great way to make sure it never heals. It will cause inflammation, infection, and fading.
If you’re constantly fighting the urge to itch the tattoo, apply moisturizer to get rid of the sensation.
Don’t go swimming
Pools, lakes, and oceans are a must-avoid for the first few weeks after your tattoo. Even with chlorine, these bodies of water are not sterile and will likely cause infection, ruining your ink.
Aside from infection, chlorine and other pool chemicals can negatively affect the color, vibrance, and overall cosmetic appearance of your new tattoo.
You really shouldn’t be going near a pool or the beach for the first few weeks after your session. But if you want to spend a day at the pool or the beach, keep your head above water and cover the area with a bandage just in case. Don’t use a clear wrap as UV rays can penetrate it, harming the skin.
If you accidentally get your tattoo wet, clean & moisturize the area immediately to prevent an infection.
Stay out of the sun
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.
It’s best to completely avoid the sun for 3-4 weeks after your session while your tattoo heals. But with summer plans, that’s not always possible.
To protect your ink, use a broad-spectrum, fragrance-free sunscreen that is at least 30-50 SPF. Try to find one made from organic ingredients – artificial ingredients can irritate your healing skin.
How long does a neck tattoo take to heal?
The skin on your neck is thin, which can complicate the healing process and cause more pain. And as we’ve mentioned, the constant twisting & turning of your neck doesn’t make things any easier.
As such, neck tattoos can take longer to heal than others – usually about 6-8 weeks.
Do neck tattoos heal well?
Neck tattoos can take longer to heal than other parts of the body because of the thin skin and constant mobility.
And though you’ll eventually resume wearing something other than tank tops, the constant friction of shirts against your skin may cause it to fade more quickly than other tattooed areas.
But with proper aftercare and Ink Balm, you can extend the lifespan by years.
To make the most out of your neck tattoo, keep it clean, moisturized, and away from any bacteria or friction.