How to Take Care of Finger Tattoos

Credit: Kheila Cruz

If you want something small that can be on display, or easily hidden under a ring, your fingers are a great place for tattoos. But they are also parts of the body used most throughout the day. Whether you’re a desk jockey, bartender, or artist, your digits are always in motion. So, what does this mean for your tattoo? Want to know how to take care of finger tattoos? Read on to find out.

Ultimately, what’s most important is that you go to the right artist and follow their care instructions. But first, before covering how to take care of finger tattoos, there are a few things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of getting a finger tattoo.

First, you’ll need to confirm the artist you want to work with does finger tattoos. Some tattoo studios have policies on areas of the body they won’t tattoo. At Peril Tattoo in Melbourne, co-owner Penelope Tentakles says her studio, which employs one other artist, has a blanket no finger tattoo policy. “The skin on fingers is very thin and has a high turnover of cell regeneration which makes it hard for ink to stay in.”

Ink not staying in is a normal part of the healing process, it’s just one that isn’t as obvious in other tattoos. When tattoo ink is deposited into your skin, under multiple layers, your body attacks the ink as it would an infection because it’s not supposed to be there. In a fleshy area of the body, like your bicep or thigh, the skin cells aren’t regenerating as often and you probably wash those areas less than you would your hand. With each wash, you’re taking off skin cells and so, as a result, some people who get finger tattoos find they fade faster than others and need to get them touched up more often. 

Tentakles doesn’t share this info to deter anyone from getting a tattoo where they want one though, even with her studio’s policy. “If you could avoid using your hand at all for the entire healing period, that will probably give you the best chance at healing a finger tattoo,” she says. “But a finger tattoo – especially the sides of fingers – applied by the best artist in the world has no guarantees at all about how evenly it will heal.” Although she applies these words of caution to finger tattoos, the same expectations should be had for anyone getting a tattoo: there are no guarantees. 

Nickhole Arcade of Waterproof Black Tattooing in Olympia, WA, echos Tentakles’s thoughts on tattoo placement. “I recommend only doing the tops of the fingers on the knuckle side. I do not recommend doing the insides of fingers. They heal very inconsistently and don’t really stay that well.” She also encourages clients to remember that some pictures they find on Instagram or in image searches often show freshly healed tattoos, and not ones that have weathered a few months or years, so to prepare your expectations accordingly. 

Arcade also offers another explanation as to why some finger tattoos don’t age as well. “There are places that pigment is not made by the body: the inside of eyes and mouth, palms, and bottoms of the feet are very pink no matter how dark a person’s skin is,” she explains. “These areas do not make pigment so they don’t really hold pigment either.” She recommends going to an artist experienced in giving finger tattoos — and asking to see photos of their healed work, which a lot of artists can produce thanks to social media and clients tagging their artists in photos.

Once you’ve got a finger tattoo though, what’s the best way to take care of it? Our hands are one of the most exposed parts of our bodies, year round. Tentakles stresses the importance of sunscreen, recommending the spray-on Coconut SPF 50+ made by INK-EEZE. However, she warns clients to never put sunscreen directly on a fresh tattoo and, instead, to opt for a physical sunscreen. For hand and finger tattoos, this means covering them with a towel or UPF piece of clothing. Fortunately, as people grow more concerned about sun damage on their skin, there’s no dearth of sun protection clothing and towels made for these moments. 

Aside from placement, minimizing use of your fingers in the days after getting your tattoo, keeping them shielded from the sun, and regularly moisturizing your hands is key. They tend to be drier than other parts of the body given how often they’re washed throughout the day, so put a bottle of unscented, gentle moisturizer next to your sink and in your bag. Moisturizing minimizes the amount of exfoliation your hands experience and will help keep your tattoo looking fresh. But know that, even if it starts to fade as all tattoos do sooner or later, touch ups will always be an option and, often, are not as expensive as the initial tattoo.

If you liked our post, “How to Take Care of Finger Tattoos”, check out How Much Does a Hand Tattoo Hurt?

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