Neosporin is a doctor-recommended go-to brand for cuts, scrapes, and scratches. With rave reviews guaranteeing advanced healing times, it seems logical to want to grab some and slop it onto your new tattoo.
Can You Use Neosporin on a Tattoo? Despite being a skin wound, tattoos require a different aftercare process in order to preserve the ink sitting in your dermis; does Neosporin compromise this process?
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What Is Neosporin?
Neosporin is an over-the-counter topical ointment that is petroleum-based. It contains antibiotic agents, neomycin, bacitracin, and polymyxin that help treat minor skin infections and advance the healing time of cuts and burns. Antibiotics in an ointment kill and stop the growth of bacteria on your skin and provide infection protection.
It is a recommended ointment for at-home solutions for minor skin issues, as it is easy to get and affordable. With a petroleum base, it forms a barrier-like protection over the wound so you often don’t need additional bandages.
Precautions With Neosporin
As with all antibiotics, if it is overused, the effectiveness of this product will decrease as your body forms an immunity against it. It’s for that reason that it is not recommended that you use Neosporin for more than a week. Neosporin does have an expiry date and should not be used after the best before date.
In addition, due to both the petroleum base and the ingredient neomycin, this product can cause severe allergic reactions in sensitive users. With any new product, you should conduct a 48 hour skin test on the inside of your elbow. If this product is used on a cut or an open wound and you are allergic to it, the reactions could be significantly more severe, causing blistering or excessive bleeding, leading to infection.
Allergic reactions to Neosporin may also appear as red bumps and rashes around the area. This is a rejection of the antibiotic ingredients absorbed by your skin.
Can You Use Neosporin on a Tattoo?
Neosporin is an ointment that is not frequently recommended by tattoo artists for tattoo aftercare, for a variety of reasons.
Reason Not to Apply Neosporin
- The primary reason that you would not want to use Neosporin on a new tattoo is because of the very specific healing process a tattoo requires to ensure that the ink stays settled in your dermis. These ink particles are foreign to your body, and the antibiotics may try and combat these foreign pigments, causing severe loss of ink.
- The risk of allergic reactions with Neosporin makes using it on a new tattoo simply not worth it. This immune system rejection and the subsequent symptoms could distort your tattoo or cause scarring over the area.
- Neosporin encourages a specific kind of scabbing in wounds, and these thick scabs could pull out ink in the process.
- New tattoos, especially in the first week of their lives, require oxygen to heal properly. Neosporin blocks a wound’s ability to breathe due to the ingredient petroleum in the product. This ingredient does not allow proper ventilation of the wound and can also be extremely dehydrating. This could actually result in an infection for your new tattoo.
- Neosporin is not formulated with tattoos in mind. There are numerous ointments available that are much safer alternatives for tattoos.
If you decide to use Neosporin despite these warnings, it should only be used after the first 72 hours and in very small quantities so as to not suffocate the wound. You should perform a skin test prior to using the product, as any allergic reactions on your tattoo could be disastrous. Never use it for more than a few days at a time, or you will build up a resistance to the antibiotics in the product.
Since your tattoo is not infected, it shouldn’t be a product that you consider. Proper aftercare will result in far better healing of your new tattoo.
Alternatives to Neosporin For a New Tattoo
Neosporin is simply not necessary for a new tattoo, and may, in fact, present more problems to the healing of your fresh ink. Here are some alternative methods to keep your tattoo protected.
- Proper aftercare such as a thorough washing and cleaning twice daily is the number one solution to keeping your tattoo free of bacteria and infection. Have a look at our article, How Do I Clean My New Tattoo? - An Ink Aftercare Guide.
- If you absolutely need a product to help with the inflammation or the pain of a new tattoo during the first days, pick a breathable ointment that is formulated with tattoos in mind. We narrow down our favorites in our article on the Best Tattoo Ointments: Top 7 Reviewed .
- Moisturizing your tattoo is important to help combat excessive scabbing and to hydrate your vulnerable wound. Choosing a product that does not contain petroleum, a product that restricts breathing and may clog the wound, is essential.
If at any point during your aftercare process you become concerned with the look, feel, or state of your new tattoo, do not hesitate to speak to your tattoo artist who will provide product recommendations or suggest that you speak to a dermatologist or medical professional, should your issues be more severe. The safety of your ink is of utmost importance, but so is preserving your overall health.
Our Final Thoughts
A tattoo is a skin wound but of a different caliber. As such, Neosporin may simply complicate the healing process rather than assist with preserving your new ink. There are many aftercare alternatives that will produce more positive results, so reach for something better formulated for tattoo health and leave the Neosporin in the cupboard for other cuts and burns.