A tattoo scab can be a normal part of the tattoo healing process, although not all tattoos form scabs as they heal. It is considered important to refrain from picking at the tattoo scab, and to be careful that the scab is not pulled off somehow. Picking the tattoo scab can damage the tattoo or cause scarring in the tattoo area. The tattoo area should typically be gently washed with mild soap and water three to five times per day, but only the bare hands should generally be used, rather than washcloths, sponges, or other implements that may cause irritation or damage to the area. Most tattoo artists recommend keeping the tattoo area moist with an antibiotic ointment as it heals, which can help to prevent scabbing altogether.
Most artists believe that the formation of a tattoo scab is not a cause for concern. New tattoos should generally be moistened regularly with an antibiotic ointment to prevent the formation of a scab and also prevent infections. Most artists caution that the overzealous application of such ointment should be avoided, since this can actually contribute to scabbing of the tattoo area. Those seeking to properly heal a fresh tattoo are generally advised to apply just enough ointment to moisten the tattoo, but not so much that excess ointment is left behind on the surface of the skin. The ointment should ideally soak into the tattoo area completely.
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Caring for a tattoo generally involves washing the tattoo gently with mild soap and a bare hand three to five times each day. This can help to prevent scabbing and infection. If a scab does form over the new tattoo, many artists will advise continuing the regimen of cleansing and ointment application as normal. If the scab is particularly large and thick, however, the artist may advise stopping this regimen and waiting for the scab to fall off on its own. The scab should usually be protected to prevent its being pulled off, and picking at the scab or attempting to remove the scab in the bath are usually strongly discouraged.
Many new tattoos do not scab during the healing process, though the body will probably grow a translucent protective film over the area. A new tattoo should typically remain bandaged for an hour or two after its application. After this time has passed, it's generally recommended to remove the bandage and wash the tattoo gently with the fingers. Removing traces of blood and other bodily fluids can prevent the formation of a tattoo scab, and minimize the risk of scarring or damage to the new tattoo as it heals.