Tips for traditional bamboo tattoo aftercare
Not all tattoos are created equally. Traditional style tattoos (be it bamboo, thorns, or other hand-poked methods) are done in a VERY different style than machines, and for this, you must be prepared to expect different results. Aftercare of your tattoos is one of the most important aspects to ensuring your tattoo stays in the very best condition as is possible (and to reduce any risk of infection).
Read through our Frequently Asked Questions (and their answers) specifically related to Sak Yant on our Everything you need to know about Sak Yant page!
Suggested Tattoo Aftercare
Every artist or tattoo master will suggest something different, but this is what we have personal experience with and have seen great results.
1. You will remove the bandage after an hour
-DO NOT LEAVE ON LONGER THAN 4 HOURS! Bacteria will grow
2. Wash the tattoo gently with clean hands using warm water and DIAL GOLD SOAP until all ointments and debris is removed.
-DO NOT SCRUB EVER!
-DO NOT USE SCENTED SOAP
-(Note: some soaps say “clean”. This is a scent)
3. Dry with a paper towel
-DO NOT USE REGULAR CLOTH TOWELS. Fuzzies can get stuck in the tattoo
4. Apply a THIN layer of UNSCENTED coconut oil if no allergies are present. Unscented lotions can be used as well, but I suggest coconut oil first. DO NOT USE PETROLEUM-BASED LOTIONS. The tattoo can not breathe
5. You will do this process (wash, dry, moisturize) TWICE PER DAY FOR 2 WEEKS
DON’Ts FOR TATTOO HEALING
– DO NOT go drinking alcohol the night before, and try to avoid alcohol for the following several weeks! Alcohol and other drugs, even cigarettes or Advil/paracetamol will thin your blood, or cause your healing to behave differently.
– DO NOT go sun-tanning until your tattoo is fully healed. Avoiding the sun’s damaging UV rays on your new ink is very important! A tattoo becomes part of your skin – and if the sun damages your skin, it will damage your new tattoo! (also avoid tattooing on newly sunburnt skin – ouch!).
– DO NOT let anyone touch or slap your healing tattoo. Dirty hands cause infection. Slapping it can blow out the lines.
– DO NOT scratch or scrub your healing tattoo. I know it itches! RESIST!
– DO NOT go swimming, go in a sauna, or soak in a bath until your tattoo is healed after 2 weeks (approximately). This is very important!
– DO NOT allow your healing tattoo to get sunburned. Protect it with clothing or stay out of the sun.
– DO NOT put sunscreen on a healing tattoo. ONLY use it after all scabbing is done or it could cause irritation and or infection.
– DO NOT use Vaseline or any substance like it on your new tattoo. It does not allow your tattoo to breathe and will pull out your ink.
– DO NOT over wash or skip cleanings.
DOs FOR HEALING
– DO expect minor bruising or raised skin. Just like if you get cut, the skin is just doing its job to heal itself, and these are perfectly normal.
– DO pat your tattoo gently if it itches with clean hands, or add a thin layer of aloe lotion for dryness (avoid pore-clogging lotions though).
– DO allow all flakes and scabs to fall off on their own. Assisting them will cause the ink to come out in spots.
– DO shower normally and make sure all soaps are washed off completely.
– DO contact your WSE Travel immediately if you have questions or a concern about your healing. Often, the concern is nothing.
– DO show it off and enjoy!
Is tattoo blowout common in bamboo tattoos?
In short, no, tattoo blowout is not overly common from bamboo traditional tattoos. However, it is more common than with a tattoo machine.
People tend to forget that this is a “traditional” tattooing technique and a cultural tradition that’s based on faith and magic… not representational artwork or individual expression. That’s hard for many foreigners to understand, that these tattoos were NEVER intended as an aesthetic, but served a purpose far more profound than anything skin deep (literally and figuratively). Many are traditions that are thousands of years old. Bamboo-style traditional tattoos, for the most part, are ancient and raw.
No matter who the tattoo master, we have seen the occasional guest who had tattoo blowout, though have chosen only to work with those whose percentage is far lower, due to their skill and knowledge, even if blowout is unavoidable sometimes. The most common areas for tattoo blowout are in sensitive and thin skin areas. Wrists, thinly skinned areas of the arms, over the ribs, thighs, and other regions which have sensitive or thin skin.
Improper tattoo aftercare
We’ve talked to foreigners and locals that have had some of these issues in various countries where traditional tattooing is practiced and we suspect that in many cases improper tattoo aftercare is to blame.
First, they aren’t prepared. A lot had alcohol and drugs still in their blood which causes issues. Even something like aspirin/paracetamol thins the blood, making the ink more likely to bleed out and become more grey than black, looking prematurely faded.
Most (younger) people we’ve talked to go out drinking and partying after getting a tattoo. That is bad for the body and therefore can affect the ink.
We’ve also heard how people heal out the tattoos, and some are horrifying. Aftercare is VERY important, especially the “no soaking and no swimming” part, but so many break it, as it can be too hard to resist while on holiday around some of the nicest beaches in the world.
In the tropics, sweat and heat are also an issue. We suspect that the tattoo blowout or bleed-out issue is 50% caused by technique of application and 50% by neglectful aftercare.
Traditional tattoo history
At the end of the day, traditional tattoos are a practice that is more than 5000 years old dating back to the first mummified tattooed body discovered. Not much has changed in the technique since it is pretty basic in its function. Pierce the skin + insert ink.
One of the only major changes that have occurred has been the mixing of animistic beliefs with some major religions, such as the Sak Yant tattoos in Thailand merging with Buddhism. These changed some of the meanings and images found, from celestial, and geometric patterns, as well as natural patterns such as frogs or tigers, into deities and religious symbolism.
Next, was the emergence of metal rods or needles, which were cleaner than the natural materials being used prior, such as bamboo or thorns. This changed the accuracy of the tattooing, however did make the punctures more prone to greater depth, and width (major contributors to tattoo blowout).
Finally, the very recent introduction to tattoo machines. Often, artists or tattoo masters have started adopting these newer mediums as their hands are less susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome – a disease in the joints from repetitive motion (often in the wrist for tattoo artists, after years of tapping the traditional tattoos).
Even with all these considerations to the evolution of tattoos, several things have remained constant. The tattoos themselves were never meant as vanity items. They are for spirituality, protection, or other traditional reasons. They are more about their meaning and significance than they ever were as a practice of beautification. The other major thing that has not changed, is that aftercare of the tattoos is incredibly important for them to heal properly.
Getting a traditional tattoo
With all of this in mind, traditional tattoos are one of the most memorable experiences you can have! They are something Where Sidewalks End is very honoured to be able to share with our guests. Just please understand that though we have done our best to find the very best artists and tattoo masters – you do run a higher risk of imperfections than you do with a tattoo machine. This is just the “nature” of this more natural and ancient style of tattooing.
By taking the appropriate care and attention needed for the following several weeks after your tattoo, to let them heal properly and fully, you will greatly reduce the risk of both blowout and imperfections – though the risk still remains.
If you are ok with this risk, you could be entering one of the most immersive and meaningful experiences of your lifetime.
Connect on a level that’s more than skin deep on your travels. Choose the best Traditional Tattoo for you from our Ink Experience collection.