We hate to say it, but sometimes artists don’t provide the best tattoo aftercare instructions. You might be left with questions like, “Should I wrap my tattoo before bed?”
If you’re wondering how long you should keep your tattoo covered, we hope you’ll find the answers here. It’s definitely OK to wrap a new tattoo and leave a bandage on overnight.
That’s one of the biggest challenges people face – how to sleep with a new tattoo. But before you cover the ink with cling film and go to bed, there’s something you should know.
Plastic wrap is not ideal for new tattoos. Neither is a gauze bandage.
If possible, use a tattoo aftercare bandage or medical dressing like 3M’s Tegaderm. These wraps are breathable, and that’s what you need for proper healing.
We understand that you might not have immediate access to products like those, and therefore you’ll turn to plastic wrap. Here’s how to do that as safely as possible.
How to wrap your tattoo before bed when you don’t have a tattoo aftercare bandage
Here is the TL;DR summary:
- Cleanliness is crucial. Wash your hands, then wash the tattoo first.
- Pat it with a clean paper towel. Let it breathe for a few minutes until the skin looks dry.
- Wrap carefully without putting pressure on the tattoo.
- Remove the plastic first thing in the morning and rewash and apply tattoo ointment or moisturizer.
Ask any nurse, and you’ll discover that wounds heal faster when they are kept clean and moist (1).
But moist doesn’t mean wet, and that’s the risk you run when you use cling film instead of a breathable bandage on a new tattoo. The plastic traps fluids and allows bacteria to thrive. You really don’t want your tattoo to get shriveled up and slimy or infected, do you? After you spent all that time and money, it’s going to wreck the ink.
Then, clean your new tattoo and pat it dry with a fresh paper towel. It’s technically an open wound, so it’s smart to protect it from contamination. Using the bathroom’s hand towel exposes it to lint and bacteria. Let it sit in the open air for a few minutes until the skin looks dry.
Finally, wrap the tattoo with cling film. It may be easier if someone else (with clean hands) helps you with the plastic wrap. Make it tight enough that it won’t slide around but loose enough that it doesn’t pinch or put any pressure on the skin.
You can sleep like this for the first night if necessary. It will keep ink, blood, and plasma from staining the bedding. But, remove the wrap first thing in the morning and rewash the skin. Remember to apply tattoo balm after drying.
Keeping the tattoo clean and lightly hydrated helps it heal faster. The skin will be less irritated, less painful, and less itchy, and form fewer or no scabs.
Best solution: wrap the tattoo in regenerative film or an aftercare bandage
If you want your tattoo to heal quickly, try moist healing with an aftercare bandage made for wound care. You’ll see a couple of examples in a moment.
Here’s how to use a tattoo aftercare wrap:
- Wash your hands and wash the new tattoo.
- Pat the skin dry with a clean paper towel and let it breathe for about fifteen minutes.
- Cover the tattoo with the bandage without putting pressure on the skin.
- Follow the instructions that come with the bandage. Some can be left on for as long as seven days.
That’s right – tattoo aftercare bandages don’t need to be changed every day.
Think how convenient that would be.
You don’t have to worry about your clothes rubbing on that sensitive skin. There’s no stress about bleeding ink onto the sheets. And showering is a heck of a lot more comfortable.
Saniderm Tattoo Aftercare Bandage
This is the most-recommended tattoo bandage. Think of it as a second skin.
It’s medical-grade since it keeps out germs, dirt, and water while still letting the skin breathe.
It won’t harm the ink. Instead, it reduces healing time, sometimes by half. What’s interesting is that some artists say it keeps tattoos more vibrant.
Plus, it’s eco-friendly and latex-free to prevent allergic reactions.
Choose from a variety of pre-cut sizes and rolls for any size of tattoo.
How do you use a Saniderm bandage for sleeping?
For the first night after you get a new tattoo, we highly recommend using a Saniderm bandage.
Step one: wash your hands, then cleanse the skin with antibacterial soap. Dry it with a paper towel.
Step two: let it air out for a few minutes.
Step three: use clean hands to smooth on the bandage. Make sure there’s at least 1 inch of extra dressing around the tattoo.
Step four: don’t panic when you see blood, plasma, and ink inside the bandage in the morning. For the first day or two, it’s normal for tattoos to leak.
Step five: remove the bandage if needed. It comes off easier with warm water in the shower. Wash the skin, dry it, and re-bandage.
Now, leave the bandage on for up to a week (if it doesn’t need changing) and go live your life.
The week after that, continue to cleanse the tattoo and apply moisturizer.
3M Health Care TEGADERM Dressing
Here’s another excellent option for wrapping a new tattoo before bed. It’s a medical-grade wound dressing that guards against contamination and friction.
Peel off the protective backing and press the sticky side down against the clean, dry skin. After that, peel off the protective covering, leaving the transparent bandage in place.
As you’ll see, it’s very thin and lightweight, which is why it has two covers.
Recovery Derm Shield Tattoo Aftercare Bandage
Here’s a budget choice that’s far better than cling film for your new tattoo. It’s comprised of glassine, polyurethane film, and EVA film for total of three breathable layers. Yet, it’s waterproof.
If you need to trim it, leave the protective backing on while you cut it.
We hope we answered your questions today about how to sleep with a new tattoo. Would you like to know more about tattoo aftercare? We have several articles reviewing the best products for tattoo protection.
1. https://www.ucihealth.org/blog/2018/10/wound-care published October 30, 2018, accessed March 8, 2021
2. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/cover-wound-air/ by Dr. Christi Cavaliere, MD, published May 19, 2017, accessed March 8, 2021