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: cleaning & moisturizing
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 – you need to move your head as little as possible for the first 24 hours. You may not even realize it, but you move your neck a lot.
Constantly twisting your head to look at something and tilting your head & neck forward to use your phone will stretch and wrinkle your skin. This will damage your tattoo before it gets the chance to heal. Your skin will crack and bleed, increasing the odds of infection and ink damage.
When you leave your session, your neck will be covered with a wrap or bandage. Leave this on for 8-12 hours after your session so that your skin can begin healing without the risk of infection.
If your session was in the morning, take it off before bed. If your session was in the afternoon, sleep with it on for the first night.
When you're ready to clean it for the first time, here’s what you need to do.
1. Gently remove the wrap
The wrap or bandage will likely stick to your skin when you try to pull it off – 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, soapy water for 30 seconds before touching the area. Don't bother drying your hands, as you'll use your fingertips to clean your neck tattoo.
3. Clean the area
Using cool or lukewarm water, apply a fragrance-free, antibacterial liquid soap to your skin and gently scrub the area with your fingers. Repeat this process twice per day, in the morning and before bed. If you plan to workout or accidentally expose the skin to potential bacteria, clean it immediately afterwards. This may mean you have to clean it three times per day sometimes.
You can do this at the sink or in the shower, whichever is easiest for you. At the sink, you can look in the mirror to make sure you’ve cleaned it thoroughly. If you choose to clean your tattoo in the shower, turn the water temperature down so you don’t burn your skin.
There are special soaps made for tattoo aftercare – 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 cool 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. Skip the hand towel too, these harbor bacteria, exposing you to a potential skin infection. This is especially true if multiple people use the same hand towel to dry their hands.
How to moisturize a neck tattoo
What to apply
Just like the soap, you should use a 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 an overall healthy environment to heal the damaged skin.
Do not listen to anyone that tells you to let the wound “dry out.” Your skin will crack and bleed constantly, causing infection and permanently damaging your tattoo. If you want it to heal as quickly as possible, keep your skin moisturized.
When to moisturize
Apply your daily moisturizer 2-3x per day for the first two weeks, as well as after every cleaning. Your skin will heal significantly in those first two weeks. After that, moisturize the area just once or twice per day as a part of your skincare 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.
What else you need to know
Don’t move or tilt your head too much
As 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 neck tattoo is tricky, but there's a few tricks to make it bearable.
Clean your sheets & pillow cases beforehand to prevent dirty sheets from infecting your skin. 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.
You may want to place a towel between your neck and the pillow to prevent blood from staining your sheets, especially for the first 72 hours.
What to wear
It should be obvious that turtlenecks are not the ideal clothing choice after a new neck tattoo. You need to let your skin breathe. Choose a tank top instead; these won't rub against the skin and give your skin cells the room they need to regenerate.
And for the first week or two, avoid wearing 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. If you're planning to sweat heavily in the first few weeks after your new piece.
This is easier said than done. Scratching freshly tattooed skin will prevent it from healing. It will become inflamed, infected, and fade in color. If you’re constantly fighting the urge to itch the tattoo, rinse the area with cold water and apply moisturizer to get rid of the sensation.
Don’t go swimming
Aside from the shower, you need to stay out of the water for at least 2-3 weeks after your session. Lakes, oceans, and even pools will cause infection, ruining your ink.
On top of that, chlorine and other pool chemicals can negatively affect the color, vibrance, and overall cosmetic appearance of your new tattoo. If you accidentally get your tattoo wet, aside from the shower, 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 complicates the healing process. As such, neck tattoos can take longer to heal than others – usually about 6-8 weeks.
Do neck tattoos heal well?
Neck tattoos take longer to heal than other parts of the body because of the thin skin and constant mobility, but they heal well if you practice a consistent aftercare routine. Keep it clean and moisturized, it will heal in no time.