What Are Tattoo Wraps And How Long Should I Keep My Tattoo Wrapped?

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A tattoo wrap is the sign of an exciting new art piece on your skin! But for first time tattooers, or experienced tattooers who have gotten more elaborate pieces, knowing just how long to keep the wrap on your tattoo can be confusing. Aftercare post-wrap can also become overwhelming. This article covers just about every question that you may have about your tattoo wrap.

What is a Tattoo Wrap?

A tattoo wrap is what the artist places over your tattoo after it is complete. You will leave a shop with a tattoo wrap on your fresh ink, preventing bacteria infiltration during its most vulnerable period; the first few hours of healing.

Wraps are completely sterile coverings done in the ultimate sterile environment. Every artist has their own preferred wrap product or system for their art, and no wrap is better than the next.

Some varieties of tattoo wrapping include:

  • Saran Wrap - This is usually wrapped around a tattoo covered in ointment or vaseline, and the edges are taped down using medical tape.
  • Cloth or Fabric Bandages - Just like gauze used on wounds, some artists use cloth bandages on new tattoos.
  • Medical Grade Adhesive Wraps - Medical grade adhesive wraps like Saniderm apply like stickers and are created specifically with tattoos in mind, offering a breathable covering on a new tattoo.
  • Plastic Wound Gauze - This type of fiber gauze is coated in a plastic to prevent it from sticking to the wound; it soaks up excess plasma and blood when covering the tattoo.

How Long Should I Keep My Tattoo Wrapped?

With so much conflicting information about tattoo wraps, it is easy to become overwhelmed about when you should be removing your tattoo wrap. Though the wrap acts as an ultimate barrier of protection for your tattoo, it does have an expiry date on efficiency!

A tattoo wrap keeps bacteria out of your tattoo, ensures a hydrating environment to soothe swelling and irritation, and allows your tattoo the opportunity to rest directly after trauma. While there is a sweet point of tattoo wrap success, it’s important to always remember that more damage can be done to a tattoo by keeping a wrap on for too long than can be done to a tattoo by taking it off too early. 

Your tattoo artist may give you specific directions about your tattoo wrap and the length of time it should remain on for. If this is the case, it’s always best to follow the direction of the artist who knows your skin and knows their art.

If your tattoo artist does not give you any direction, we always recommend removing the wrap after four to six hours.

While some people like to keep a tattoo wrap on for their first sleep to avoid the tattoo making contact with bedsheets and collecting dirt and grime, we don’t see the necessity of sleeping with a tattoo wrap, especially when rest gives it the optimal time to breathe and heal.

For sleeping with a new tattoo, simply check out How To Sleep With A New Tattoo - Your Helpful Guide.

When unwrapping a new tattoo, you can’t merely dive in and get going. It’s important to follow some specific steps in order to ensure your vulnerable wound receives optimal aftercare.

  1. Prior to unwrapping your new tattoo, ensure you have washed your hands thoroughly.
  2. After washing your hands, you can gently remove your wrap. Have patience and do this slowly, as pieces may stick to your wound. If this happens, simply wet the area with some lukewarm water to unstick the wrap from your tattoo. Do not pull at these pieces.
  3. Using antibacterial soap, you can now begin to clean your unwrapped tattoo. For more information on cleaning your new ink, check out our article How Do I Clean My New Tattoo? - An Ink Aftercare Guide.

Depending on the wrap used, your experience removing the wrap may differ.

  • Saran Wrap - You may notice this wrap coming undone earlier than four hours, so it’s better to remove the wrap earlier and wash your tattoo than allowing germs to go under the wrap.
  • Cloth Gauze - This product may stick to a tattoo, so be extra careful during the removal process.
  • Medical Grade Adhesive Wraps - These are usually stuck directly onto the tattoo, so it may cause additional sensitivity when peeling them away.
  • Plastic Gauze - Though these are excellent at absorbing excess ink, blood, and plasma without sticking to your tattoo, be sure to thoroughly wash your ink as usual.

If you are ever in doubt as to when a wrap should be removed, don’t hesitate to call your tattoo shop and ask for directions.

Can You Re-Wrap Your New Tattoo Once the Initial Wrap Has Been Removed?

Most experts and experienced tattooed folks will heavily discourage rewrapping your tattoo, and here at Tattoo Set, we feel the same.

When a tattoo is wrapped for the first time, it is being done in the most sterile environment and using professional sterilization products and washes. You put your tattoo at severe risk if you try rewrapping it on your own, no matter how careful you are with the cleansing process.

A poor tattoo wrap could also cause your tattoo to lack the necessary oxygen for healing which can lead to severe scabbing or blister growth. Blisters can then lead to infection which not only poses a health concern but may also severely impact your ink.

Your skin is going through a regeneration process that is forming a barrier which is just as protective as an artificial wrap. With proper aftercare and thorough attention to ensuring it doesn’t come in contact with dirt, grime, or tight clothing, you simply don’t need to rewrap your tattoos.

If the work you do makes you concerned about the safety of your new tattoo, or for health regulations it needs to be covered, it’s recommended that you use medical grade adhesive wraps like Second Skin or Saniderm. These breathable wraps will stay in place and protect your tattoo under harsh external conditions. It is not recommended that you wear these for more than eight hours, and you should follow a thorough aftercare process upon removal.

It is always better to select lightweight, breathable clothing as a cover for a new tattoo rather than rewrapping it.

Our Final Thoughts

The direction of your tattoo artist on how to manage and when to remove a tattoo wrap should always be followed. In the circumstances of not being informed, you can either call the shop and ask, or follow our four to six hour rule. Remember that it’s always safest to unwrap your fresh ink earlier rather than keeping it on for too long.

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