Almost everyone knows what Vaseline is, and most people are likely to have a tub of it hanging around in a cupboard somewhere in their home. But are petroleum jelly products safe for a new and healing tattoo?
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Is Vaseline Safe for My New Tattoo?
Vaseline is a product that is formulated with mineral oils and waxes, which was invented after observing oil workers applying jelly to their wounds and burns. What most people don’t realize is that Vaseline is actually a derivative of oil refining, where the carcinogenic properties of the oil are removed and a condensed, soothing product remains.
People love Vaseline or other petroleum jelly products because the thick, greasy consistency instantly makes your skin feel hydrated. It’s for that reason that many people use it on skin irritations and abrasions, or severely dry skin. But this instant gratification can be very misleading.
This non-porous product can actually trap dirt and grime into the wound, and prevent it from accessing oxygen which is essential to healing. Though it does a good job of holding in moisture, it doesn’t actually moisturize or hydrate, itself. When applied without properly washing and drying a wound, this has the potential to create a prime breeding ground for bacteria to grow, which could lead to blistering, thick scabbing, or potentially infection of your wound.
Some people could also experience sensitivities to mineral oil-based products, and using Vaseline on your open wound may instigate an allergic reaction. Other people have reported breakouts due to the oil clogging their pores (though Vaseline advertises that it is non-comedogenic). In addition, the jar format means that it is prone to bacteria contamination, as well.
Though your tattoo artist may grab a little Vaseline to soothe your skin post-tattoo, it’s not a recommended go-to in the aftercare process.
When Should You Use Vaseline on a New Tattoo?
Vaseline and petroleum-based products should be avoided for the first three weeks of your tattoo. If you are turning to the jar for help, it’s to create a protective barrier over your tattoo when showering. Though not even this is necessary if you are showering properly with your new tattoo.
When showering with a new tattoo, you should make sure to do the following:
- Set a cool or lukewarm temperature, and direct the showerhead away from your tattoo.
- Wet your tattoo using cupped hands; do not put the water stream directly on your tattoo.
- Clean your tattoo thoroughly with antibacterial soap.
- Quickly exit the shower; keep your showers under 15 minutes.
- Pat your tattoo dry with a fresh towel or paper towel that leaves no product remnants.
- Moisturize the area if the tattoo is older than 72 hours.
Some people may decide to use Vaseline to cover their tattoo in a shower because they want to protect it from unnecessary contact with water or other soaps, choosing to wash their tattoo right before they exit the shower.
If you choose to do this, you must be sure to scrub your tattoo gently but meticulously, as Vaseline is often quite difficult to remove. Leaving the product in your wound could cause a serious issue down the line.
Other than for this specific reason, Vaseline should not be used on a tattoo until it is at least a month old. It does not offer the proper hydration or care that a tattoo needs as it is healing, but will provide a lovely shine to your tattoo when it’s fully healed or as it is aging.
What Should I Use on My New Tattoo Instead of Vaseline?
With so many amazing products on the market that will not only soothe your irritated tattoo but may also speed up your healing time, there’s no need to touch the Vaseline.
Here are a few recommendations that are more suitable for a new tattoo, and remember that most should not be applied until after your tattoo has stopped weeping (around 72 hours).
- Ointments - Ointments can be used during the weeping stage of a new tattoo, in small amounts. They are packed full of nourishing ingredients that combat swelling and irritation. Here are some of our favorites.
- Natural Products - If you are looking for all-natural and safe alternatives to moisturize your new tattoo, you should check out the healing properties of shea butter, coconut oil, and aloe vera.
- Quality Tattoo Lotion - Lotion has a high water content and they keep your thirsty tattoo hydrated when it needs it most. Our favorite is After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer and Aftercare lotion.
- Nourishing Creams - Creams, which have a thick consistency that are usually packed full of nourishing ingredients, are an aftercare essential. Our favorite is tattoo cream is La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Balm B5, but there are many mineral-free options on the market.
- Aveeno - Aveeno, like Vaseline, are one of those brands that you happen to find in almost every bathroom cupboard. It has many fragrance-free, hydrating and soothing alternatives for your aftercare needs.
What if I’m Already Using Vaseline on My New Tattoo?
If you’re reading this because you’ve already applied petroleum jelly to your new tattoo, don’t panic; closely monitoring your tattoo and more careful aftercare moving forward will prevent any complications from happening.
Your first step should be to thoroughly wash your tattoo to remove any remnants of the Vaseline, as this thick product tends to embed itself into wounds. You may need a few rounds with antibacterial soap, and be sure that you are being gentle as this is a raw and sensitive area.
Closely monitor your tattoo for any signs of problems or infection, such as:
- Thick or bubbly scabs
- Redness around the tattooed area
- Your skin feels hot to the touch
- Extreme sensitivity or swelling
- Any pimples or pus-filled bumps
If at any point your tattoo begins to look concerning, speak to your tattoo artist and be sure to mention the aftercare process you went through.
Normally, catching Vaseline use early in your new tattoo stage simply means some loss of ink and a bit of an extended healing time. Any patchiness, dullness, or missing ink can be rectified with a touch up when the tattoo is healed.
Our Final Thoughts
While Vaseline can give a lovely sheen to an older tattoo that helps amplify its coloring and details, it simply has no place in the healing aftercare of a new tattoo. Vaseline and petroleum-based products could, in fact, cause more complications with healing than offering solutions to dryness and irritation. WIth so many amazing tattoo care products on the market, leave the Vaseline in the cupboard where it belongs.