When we speak about tattoos, we rarely think of what comes after actually getting it inked into our skin… Aftercare is super important, and not just that – the long term care for your inked skin is just as important as the immediate care you offer it. It makes sense that if you invest time and money into the actual process of getting yourself inked that you would do the same to prolong the quality of your tattoo, no?
There are certain ingredients that can be sensitizing for your skin, whether your skin is sensitive or not, these irritations can happen at a molecular level and can be only seen over time. “Natural” does not necessarily mean better, and stuff that smells god isn’t necessarily good to actually apply on your skin, and so on. So let’s see some of the ingredients that are not very good for your skin – especially your newly tattooed skin – and what are some good tips to follow to keep your ink looking good and fresh.
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First, very fragrant oils and extracts can be problematic for skin, causing irritation. A good tip to follow is to look at the ingredient list – the further it is on the list, the smaller the quantity is used in said product.
Stuff to avoid in this category would be cinnamon, lavender (shocker, isn’t it? – lavender smells nice and may be calming but not when applied on the skin or hair or wherever. It is a member of the mint family and in-vitro research indicates that components of lavender, specifically linalool and linalyl acetate, can be cytotoxic, which means that topical application of as little a concentration as 0.25% causes cell death. The fragrance constituents in lavender oil, linalool, and linalyl acetate oxidize when exposed to air, and in this process their potential for causing an allergic reaction is increased. If you’re wondering why lavender oil doesn’t appear to be problematic for you, it’s because research has demonstrated that you don’t always need to see it or feel it happening for your skin to suffer damage.), rosemary extract, bergamot oil, lemon oil, etc.
Another thing that should be always avoided is alcohol. There are different types of alcohol – good ones and very bad ones. The good ones have emollient properties and the bad ones act like detergents and can be drying and sensitizing.
The ones you should keep an eye on and avoid are ethanol or ethyl alcohol, denatured alcohol, methanol, isopropyl alcohol, SD alcohol, and benzyl alcohol – the concern is when one or more of these are listed among the main ingredients; tiny amounts in an otherwise good formula aren’t a problem. Alcohols like SD and “denatured” immediately harm the skin, starting a chain reaction of damage that continues long after it has evaporated.
I think these are the most important things to look out for in a skincare product, whether your skin is freshly tattooed or not – but let’s move on to the good stuff!
Vitamin E is always a good idea – One of the most well-known and researched antioxidants. If there were an antioxidant hall of fame, vitamin E would likely be its inaugural member (though do not take that to mean it is the “best” antioxidant—there is no single best, just lots of great options). It’s fat-soluble and available in various forms; the most biologically active form is alpha-tocopherol.
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Panthenol is a form of vitamin B and has the ability to attract and hold moisture. It is a versatile ingredient to be used in formulas because it improves skin’s barrier function and maintains the proliferation of fibroblasts, the cells that create collagen.
Petroleum jelly, petrolatum, white petrolatum, soft paraffin/ Paraffin wax or multi-hydrocarbon was originally promoted as a topical ointment for its healing properties, it temporarily protects minor cuts, scrapes, and burns; protects and helps relieve chapped or cracked skin and lips; helps protect from the drying effects of the wind and cold weather.
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Coconut Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Shea Butter, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Cocoa Seed Butter, Coffee Seed Oil , Mango Butter, Sunflower Oil, Green, Black or White Tea are all amazing ingredients with emollient and antioxidant properties that can be and should be used whenever on the skin.
And last but not least – sunscreen! We all love the sun – it keeps us warm and alive and it’s shiny and beautiful, BUT.. too much of it is damaging for your skin – thus your tattoos.
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The tattoo is placed in the second layer of the skin – the dermis – the tan we get from sunbathing is to defend the deeper levels of the skin from UV rays, including this one, as best as it can.
So what does this have to do with your tattoo? The tan makes your tattoo appear different and changes the colors – especially the very bright ones. With no “tan filter” aka sunscreen, the UV rays go trough and damage the molecules of your skin thus damaging your tattoo. Sunburns also speed up the ink breakdown that your immune system is trying to do anyways to some extent, and while the sunburn heals, the vibrant appearance of your tattoo remains impaired. UVA and UVB rays are the main reasons for premature skin ageing – so tattooed or not, sunscreen isn’t just for preventing sunburns – it’s the best defense your skin can get against premature ageing, discoloration of your tattoos and skin cancer.
So, in conclusion you should avoid very fragrant creams and lotions, you should never put alcohol on your skin, and always wear sunscreen. If you want an ‘all natural’ solution to your tattoo care regimen try the above written oils & butters – by themselves or a mixture of them – go wild.. But always take care of your skin – tattooed or not, it’s always better to prevent than try and repair an already occurred damage.
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Featured image by Magdalena Bujak.