Tattoo aftercare generally follows the same principles – clean and moisturize often, avoid sources of bacteria, and monitor for signs of an infection. But for some tattoos, like those on your feet, there’s more to proper tattoo aftercare. Foot tattoos can be challenging to heal. They’re painful and often require you to make significant changes to your daily routine for at least a couple of weeks. But with the right tattoo aftercare routine, you’ll be back on your feet in no time.
Before the Tattoo
Schedule it for the summerFor your foot tattoo to properly heal, your skin needs to be able to breathe. That’s why you should schedule your session for the summertime. If you get a foot tattoo in the winter, you’ll constantly have to choose between keeping your feet warm and damaging your tattoo. Save yourself the trouble and get the tattoo done in the summer.
One foot at a timeYour foot is a sensitive area – the combination of thin skin and lack of fat makes the healing process difficult. As such, you have to plan your tattoo accordingly. Space out your sessions several weeks apart to make sure that you have at least one comfortable foot to stand on.
Size mattersObviously, larger pieces hurt more and are more difficult to heal – this applies particularly to your feet. First off, larger tattoos cover more surface area, meaning greater opportunity for irritation, infection, and friction. As well, finely detailed tattoos and friction don’t mix well. Even the smallest amount of friction could permanently fade your tattoo.
After the Tattoo
Apply iceYour tattoo is going to hurt. To make it hurt less, apply ice as soon as you get home to soothe irritation and reduce swelling.
Stay off your feetIt’s unrealistic to stay off your feet the entire time your tattoo heals, but the less pressure you put on your foot – the better. All tattoos involve swelling, but foot tattoos more so than the rest. This is because blood flow to your feet increases while standing or walking around. So much like a sprained ankle, try to keep your foot elevated as much as possible to reduce blood flow, limit swelling, and expedite the healing process.
Don’t wear shoesYou shouldn’t wear socks or closed-toe shoes for at least two weeks after your tattoo because they create friction and trap heat & moisture, both of which will damage your new ink. The constant friction against your skin will not only cause redness, pain, and irritation, it will also remove some of the ink – leaving you a fading tattoo. On top of that, socks & shoes trap heat close to the skin, creating a perfect environment for bacteria and infections to grow. If your job or daily activities require you to wear close-toed shoes for several hours a day, a foot tattoo might not be the best idea – unless you get it before stepping out for a few weeks vacation. The same goes for sandals and open-toed shoes – unless you can find sandals or slippers that don’t rub against your tattoo, you should go barefoot for at least 2 weeks.
Clean it dailyMore so than other tattoos, cleaning your foot tattoo is one of the most important steps in the aftercare process. Clean your tattoo 2-3x per day to prevent infections and any damage to your ink. If you must wear socks or shoes, clean the area immediately afterwards to remove any sweat or bacteria. Clean the area using just your finger and a fragrance-free, liquid soap. Avoid using a washcloth or loofah to clean the area, as they can harbor bacteria and cause irritation due to friction. If you’re looking for a safe soap to clean your tattoo with, our top picks are Dr. Bronner Liquid Baby Soap and Dial Liquid Hand Soap. These are both available on Amazon and at most major retail stores. After cleaning the area, gently dry the area with a clean paper towel.
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturizeMoisturizing is a vital part of the healing process. It helps your skin regenerate more quickly, reduce irritation, and create the overall best environment for your skin cells to heal the damaged skin. Dry skin reduces cellular activity and delays the healing process. And, dry skin is more susceptible to bacterial infections, which will ruin your tattoo. Don’t be so eager to moisturize – avoid putting any ointment or moisturizing cream on your tattoo for at least 24 hours after your session. If you’re using lotion to moisturize, apply 3-5x per day for at least the first two weeks, then regularly as a part of your daily skincare regimen. Or, if you’re looking for an all-in-one healing cream, Ink Balm is the way to go. Apply just 1-2x per day in a circular motion using just your finger for optimal moisture, skin health, and ink vibrance.
Keep your feet out of the sunJust because you got your tattoo in the summer, doesn’t mean you get to walk around barefoot. Just like other types of tattoos, it’s important to protect your skin from 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. To be safe, it’s best to completely avoid the sun for 3-4 weeks after your session to protect your skin. If you are unable to avoid the sun, protect your ink with a broad-spectrum, fragrance-free sunscreen that is at least 30-50 SPF. If you can find one made from organic ingredients, that’s even better. Oftentimes, sunscreens are made from artificial ingredients that can irritate your healing skin.
Stay out of the waterPools, lakes, rivers, and oceans are breeding grounds for bacteria. And even though you might be able to still enjoy a day at the pool without getting a finger tattoo wet, it’s impossible to take a dip in the pool without getting your feet wet. Avoid bodies of water for at least 3-4 weeks after your session to prevent infections or damaging your ink. If you accidentally get your feet wet, clean the area immediately and apply Ink Balm to protect the skin. The same goes for showers. Obviously you have to shower, but try to limit the amount of time your foot is exposed to water while in the early stages of the healing process. Similarly, avoid harming your damaged skin with hot showers – opt for a cool water temperature instead.
How long do foot tattoos take to heal?After about two weeks, you should be able to comfortably wear shoes & socks for limited periods of time. Be sure to clean and moisturize the area as soon as you get home to reduce the possibility of infection. After four or so weeks, you should be able to wear shoes comfortably without having to worry about friction or infection. However, it’s still important to clean and moisturize daily. With consistent, healthy foot tattoo aftercare, your skin should fully heal within a couple months. Though your skin might look healthy after 4 weeks, there’s still plenty going on underneath the surface in order to ensure your skin and your ink’s long-term health.
Frequently asked questions
What can you not do after getting a foot tattoo?After getting a foot tattoo, you can't:
- Can't wear socks & shoes
- Expose your feet to the sun for long periods of time
- Swim in pools, lakes, or oceans
- Itch or scratch the area
Can you wear socks and shoes after a foot tattoo?You can't wear socks and shoes until your tattoo fully heals, which is usually about 2-3 weeks. Both socks and shoes will rub up against your skin, creating friction that will damage your tattoo design and possible create an infection.
Which shoes to wear after a foot tattoo?
For the first 2-3 weeks you should wear open shoes like sandals, flats, and flip flops. They let your skin breathe, preventing infecting or damaging your tattoo.