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Vaseline on tattoos: is it fine or bad? Why?

This seemingly magical ointment still raises debate in the tattoo world
Vaseline on tattoos
Unsplash

Taking good care of a fresh tattoo is essential to prevent the skin from peeling or becoming infected and ruining the design. Aftercare tips can vary greatly depending on the tattoo artist, but there seems to be one in particular that generates more debate, and that’s the application of vaseline on tattoos.

Vaseline on tattoos: why is there a disagreement?

When you get a fresh tattoo the skin gets very sensitive, almost as if it has an open wound. That’s exactly the way the body will perceive it and will try to heal it.

To enhance and speed healing you should moisturize the area frequently to keep the skin healthy and prevent it from flaking or getting an infection. The main issue that people take with vaseline is that it is not a moisturizer but rather an emollient cream.

How does vaseline work?

Vaseline on tattoos how works
Source: Melhor com Saúde

Unlike moisturizers, emollients don’t feed the skin with nutrients. Instead, they soften it to smooth its surface and prevent flakiness.

To do this, vaseline and other emollient creams have occlusive agents. These create a layer of protection over the skin to prevent any loss of water and promote its self-healing and self- moisturizing from the inside.

What’s the issue with vaseline on tattoos, then?

The problem with applying vaseline on tattoos is that the layer of protection it creates works both ways.

It can prevent dirt or bacteria from getting into the skin pores, but while applying it you can also trap germs inside. Plus, it creates a humid pocket over the design, and since the skin is vulnerable, you will have all the right conditions for germs and bacteria to flourish.

Another issue tattoo artists take with it is that while “pulling” the water from inside to moisturize the skin, the emollient cream can also do the same to the ink that didn’t have time to settle yet. This could create faded patches and ruin the design.

Is vaseline on tattoos a no-no, then?

Not really. For starters, there are plenty of anecdotes out there about how well vaseline works out on tattoos. So, it is really a matter of you weighing the pros and cons of it.

However, even if you decide to skip it and use other moisturizing options like coconut oil, for instance, you can still use vaseline to your advantage when you shower.

Since you shouldn’t drench the tattoo while it is still fresh, you can apply a layer of this cream to create an impermeable barrier while you wash up, and then carefully remove it or not.

How to take care of a fresh tattoo

The aftercare of a fresh tattoo is extremely important to prevent infections and ensure the design doesn’t change or fade.

The bandage

Vaseline on tattoos bandage
Source: Will Keightley / Flickr

After the tattoo is done, the artist will apply a moisturizer and bandage the area. The skin will be at its most sensitive moment then. The bandage is intended to offer protection in the first hours to prevent it from rubbing against anything and bacteria to infect it.

The artist will tell you how long you should wait before removing it. The time can change depending on the location of the tattoo.

Do not remove the bandage before recommended, not even to show the design to your friends. Once you take it off, don’t reuse and throw it away instead.

The first wash

Once you’ve waited the recommended time, you can remove the bandage and wash the tattoo to remove the fluids, blood and ink surplus that it released.

Clean your hands very well and wash the tattoo with lukewarm water. Be gentle. You can also use and hypoallergenic soap to help remove the thicker fluids and the moisturizer the artist applied.

Pat the tattoo dry with a clean paper towel and let it air-dry completely. After you can apply a thin layer of moisturizer. Do not bandage the tattoo again.

Aftercare

Vaseline on tattoos aftercare
Source: Lush

Keep cleaning and moisturizing your tattoo often to support its healing and avoid infections.

Don’t drench the tattoo while it is still fresh. Use your fingers to apply the water and rub it very gently instead. Apply a moisturizing cream several times a day, but don’t overdo it. Always apply thin layers to nourish the skin without blocking the pores.

Once the tattoo is fully healed, you can apply sunscreen to protect the skin and the design. However, while it is still fresh, avoid exposing it to the sun completely and do not apply anything over it other than moisturizing creams. That includes sunscreen.

What not to do after a new tattoo

Since you shouldn’t be drenching the tattoo, you should refrain from any water activities. Avoid wearing tight clothes too, as they can affect your blood flow in the area and will be constantly rubbing on the tattoo, which can irritate the skin and damage the design.

Most of all, don’t scratch or pull any scabs out of the tattoo. The body will treat it as a regular wound and a coarse layer will form over the design. This is completely normal and part of the healing process.

Different methods and opinions

The topic of moisturizing the skin to support its healing is not consensual among tattoo artists. Some believe that the best strategy is to simply let it be. As long as you keep the area clean and there is no sign of infection, redness or fluids coming out you can just let it dry-healing.

There isn’t a right or wrong way and it’s solely a matter of opinion and experience. Just talk with your artist and ask him his opinion and what his experience has taught him.

Check out below how to do a dry-healing tattoo aftercare if you’re curious about it.

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