Are you considering using aloe as part of that moisturization process, whether during healing or afterwards? We're here to help you out!
Tattoos are a complex art that permanently alters your skin’s pigment and provides you with a memory that lasts a lifetime. Aloe vera, on the other hand, is a complex plant that is well known for its multiple healing properties and medicinal qualities. So the question is: where do these two stand with one another? Is it a harmonious relationship, or is using aloe vera on a tattoo something you should be cautioned away from?
Keep reading to find out!
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Can Aloe Vera Be Used in Your Tattoo Aftercare?
According to the US Natural Library of Medicine, aloe is known to have, “potent antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties,” and has been known to also be a virucidal, antifungal agent, meaning it combats viruses and fungus growth. It would make sense then that you’d turn to aloe when you’re in the process of healing your brand new tattoo.
We all want our tattoos to be free of bacteria and infection, especially in the first few days of healing when our skin is most vulnerable. It’s for that reason that we turn to unscented products with antibacterial properties. But at the same time, we are healing a piece of artwork on our body that requires a different healing process than a normal scar, wound, or injury. Does aloe fit into that need?
The opinion on this subject from artists and professionals in the tattoo industry are pretty evenly scaled between yes and no.
Because aloe promotes the growth of new and healthy skin by stimulating the immune system and encouraging repair, there is some concern that the enzymes used during this process may adversely affect the tattoo ink that is located in your upper epidermis layer.
In addition, because aloe concentrates on the upper level healing of the skin, it usually doesn’t get absorbed as deep as a new tattoo requires while it’s going through the healing process. This can have adverse effects to the hydration you are looking for, and can, in fact, be drying on your tattoo. As such, some artists may advise against the usage of aloe gel during the first days of healing.
On the other side of the coin, many professionals believe that it’s for that exact reason - it’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and upper-level moisturizing properties - that aloe vera should be used during the tattoo’s healing process. Many say it is comparable to other tattoo ointments that have similar natural ingredients and properties, and that this thin layer of moisturization helps avoid scarring and allows your tattoo to breathe during the most important time during its healing process.
Luis Pedroza of AMB Wellness suggests that tattoos truly do benefit from aloe vera, stating,
“A hydrogel formulated with Aloe Vera can easily improve wound healing of a freshly applied tattoo, while also reducing the formation of exudative crusting and preventing further ink loss. It also absorbs exudate, allows oxygen through, adheres to the moist wound [sic] surface and can be removed with little inconveniences for the user.”
He continues by saying that using aloe vera through a spray solution on your new tattoo,
“has many benefits such as fostering hemostasis to a fresh tattoo, a moist wound healing environment, and ability to absorb any ongoing exudate from the micro-punctures created during the creation of the tattoo on the skin.”
In layman's terms: aloe vera is the perfect balance of moisturization and dryness, of anti-bacterial goodness, of absorption, and of cell reproduction to lead you to the precipice of tattoo perfection - a shiny, healed, and smooth new tattoo.
What To Consider When Using Aloe For Tattoos
As you can tell, this isn’t a simple yes-or-no answer. In addition to tattoo artists and professionals being torn on the subject, there is another factor to consider: allergic reactions.
Aloe vera and aloe gels are one of those natural products that can cause reactions in sensitive individuals. It’s always recommended that if you’ve never used aloe vera before, that you conduct a patch test inside of your elbow to see if you have an irritation or reaction.
Reactions can include symptoms such as:
- A skin rash or hives
- General irritation such as burning
- In very rare cases, it may cause swelling or welts
In addition, you have to be sure that you are purchasing aloe vera that has no additives, such as fragrances, coloring, or fillers. On an open wound like a tattoo, a sensitivity or additives in your product could lead to an artistic disaster, or worse, a serious infection or allergic reaction.
Proper & Consistent Care
Moisturizing your tattoo is essential to a successful healing process because it manages so many factors, such as itching, peeling, hydration, and scabbing, and a perfect balance of moisture is crucial. Aloe vera seems to fit this bill because it ensures that the tattoo is:
- Protected through the natural ingredients which contribute to antibacterial needs and healing
- Not over moisturized which could cause infection
- Benefiting from hydration through a layer of moisturizer that still allows the tattoo to breathe
The safest bet as to whether aloe vera is right for your particular new tattoo is to consult with your artist or the professionals in your tattoo parlor. They may suggest alternatives that are better suited for your needs, and will allow you to avoid the topic of aloe gel all together.
But it’s important to remember that tattoo care should continue far after the 3-10 days of primary healing are through. Once your tattoo wound is no longer fresh, and after you’ve proceeded with a patch test to ensure you aren’t sensitive to aloe, it is definitely a moisturization option that should be considered.
Tattoos do need moisture, and skin needs to stay healthy in order to benefit your overall health. Aloe maintains the hydration of the epidermis, keeps itching and dryness at bay, while also initiating the development of new cell growth. This means your healed tattoo will continue to look bright and shiny, just like it was the day you walked out of the tattoo shop.
How to Use Aloe Vera As Part of Your Tattoo Aftercare
Usually, your aftercare should look something like this:
- Once your tattoo is complete, the artist will cover the area with petroleum jelly and an initial bandage.
- After 24hours have passed you should remove the bandage and carefully clean the tattoo and area surrounding it with warm water and antibacterial soap. Make sure to pat dry with a clean paper towel and do not rub.
- You can then put on a thin layer of aloe vera gel to promote healing and avoid tattoo infections.
- At this point, general tattoo etiquette would suggest against rebandaging your tattoo to give your tattoo access to air and keep the tattoo dry. However, you should always take advice from an artist that is experienced, who may advise covering your tattoo for longer period of time under certain circumstances, to avoid damage such as rubbing on things like bra straps.
- Repeat this process at least twice daily for the first week. Wash your tattoo with a clean washcloth and pat dry with a towel before reapplying the aloe. Aloe's healing properties will keep skin hydrated and avoid issues like tattoo peeling and flakey skin.
- Continue to regularly moisturize with aloe vera products or tattoo ointment for another 2-3 weeks.