Cropped shot of a tattoo on a woman's arm
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Getting a tattoo may be a decision years in the making or an impulse decision, but once you've got it, the most important thing you can do is take great care in the healing process. Tattooists have aftercare down to a science; it's the layperson who can mess up hours of work, ending up with a permanent piece of blurry or faded artwork. If working out is on your daily agenda, there are ways to safeguard your tattoo and still get your heart rate up.

Aftercare 101

Immediately after getting your tattoo, your tattooist should cover your tattoo with a thin layer of ointment, add a nonstick bandage and tape it to your body. For the next three or four hours you should rehydrate, eat a little something and lie low. After the first four hours, remove the bandage carefully and apply a thin layer of the ointment recommended by your tattooist. Leave the tattoo uncovered unless you will be sleeping on the tattooed part, in which case cover it with plastic wrap, and always keep it moist with the ointment.

Working Out: How Long to Wait

If you have a workout routine that is scheduled for a few times a week, try to wait at least 48 hours after getting your tattoo before you work out. However, if you are in training or cannot function without a daily workout, you can cut the time to 24 hours. If you must work out, avoid any workout that will stretch the skin where you have been tattooed. For example, if you've just had a back or chest piece done, don't lift weights, do crunches or perform pullups. Try opting for a treadmill session, walk or run, unless the tattoo is on your leg or inner arm. Use your common sense to avoid rubbing or chafing on the newly tattooed body part, adjusting your workout and clothing as necessary for a few days.

Sweat, Bacteria and Irritation

Avoid workout clothes that will rub or irritate the new tattoo. If you are heading to the gym, always cover the tattoo with ointment, a nonstick bandage, plastic wrap and tape. The bandage will absorb sweat and seepage and the tape and plastic wrap will keep it clean. Even in the cleanest gym, bacteria and viruses abound; the last thing you want to deal with is infection. Immediately after your workout, wash your hands, remove the bandage and continue with your routine aftercare.

No Soaking

One of the worst things you can do to a new tattoo is get it wet. Do not shower for at least 24 hours. Don't soak in anything -- a bath, hot tub, lake, pond or pool -- until your tattoo is fully healed. Avoid saunas and steam rooms as well. Your tattoo will be in the process of slowly scabbing and peeling. Getting the scab wet can make it come off before the ink has healed into your skin. If that happens, you can end up with a blurry, blotchy or faded mess, not the look you want.