Is aloe good for your new tattoo? New tattoos have special needs, and a tattoo that looks good and ages well owes much good skin care in the first few weeks. To heal properly, tattoos should stay dry and clean. They need access to air and enough moisture to stay soft and healthy. Aloe Vera is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It relieves pain and itching, and delivers moisture deep beneath the skin’s surface, while allowing skin to breathe. Many experts (tattoo artists and tattoo addicts) however, include Aloe on their list of what to avoid in caring for a new tattoo, usually without explanation.
The Aloe Debate
Reasons I’ve found for avoiding Aloe include claims that Aloe “heals skin too quickly,” and “dries out too fast.” Some say Aloe promotes fading, some say it prevents fading. To confuse things further, Aloe is an ingredient in many products made specifically for new tattoo care (Tattoo Goo, Tattoo Lube, H2Ocean, etc.). The makers of T.A.T. products defend the use of Aloe in their products on their website: “Aloe has a long record of external use in treating skin burns, irritations and disorders. It is high in vitamins and minerals, and is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and reparative. There are cautions to observe in how much aloe juice one should drink, and in using aloe (or any topical healing agent) on deep and puncture wounds. These cautions may have become generalized over time with regard to tattoos.”
Aloe Vera’s best researched use is as a topical treatment for damaged tissue. Commonly used to treat burn victims and to promote healing after surgery, Aloe has been proven safe and effective in treating wounds, which tattoos essentially are. So why the blacklisting? The answer might have something to do with what makes tattoos different from ordinary wounds.
In a new tattoo, ink is concentrated in the uppermost layers of the skin and superficial damage in the first few weeks can have a long-term effect on its appearance. Some changes are inevitable; the lymphatic system detoxifies the body by flushing foreign matter, including ink, from the skin, resulting in some fading. With age, ink seeps into the lower layers of the skin- tattoos become more resilient and less effected my minor damage at the surface.
Back to Aloe. What makes Aloe Vera especially effective in treating wounds is its ability to support the growth of new, healthy skin. Aloe contains vitamins and amino acids necessary for new tissue growth and polysaccharides that stimulate the body’s immune response and prevent infection. Another part of the equation is Aloe’s concentration of enzymes, which slough off dead skin, stimulating new cell production. It might be this characteristic in particular that makes it questionable as a treatment when tattoos are new and ink is concentrated in the upper skin layers.
Skin care continues to be important once a tattoo has fully healed. A tattoo that is moisturized and infection-free ages well. There’s no reason why Aloe wouldn’t be safe to use on an older tattoo to keep skin healthy. In addition to providing moisture and protecting skin from infection, Aloe can be used to soothe persistent mild irritation which can result when some inks are exposed to sunlight.
Experts agree: Aloe reduces scarring
Aloe is widely recommended as a treatment to reduce tattoo scarring. Scarring can look like raised patches or bumps on the surface, and is often not visible until after the tattoo has fully healed and swelling has subsided. Scarring can result from improper tattooing techniques or complications during the healing process. Using Aloe on scars can reduce their severity as well as the likelihood of infection and further skin damage. With regular use, the surface of the skin will become more even and better prepared for any touch-up work necessary.
Some Tattoo Care Basics
- Tattoos need both protection and air circulation. Keep gauze (no plastic) on for at least 3-5 hours or overnight. Remove the bandage within 12 hours and leave off if possible (you may need to cover it occasionally to keep it clean).
- Tattoos need (gentle!) cleaning. Start with 3 or more times per day (and always after exercise) for the first few days. To avoid an allergic reaction, use a fragrance-free, hypo-allergenic soap. Lather and rinse gently. No rubbing, no loofas, no washcloths, no sponges- fingertips work best. This is the only time you should be touching your tattoo, by the way. Your hands are dirtier than you think. Pat dry with a paper towel.
- Tattoos need (some) moisture. Soft, healthy skin heals well, but choose your moisturizer carefully. Avoid petroleum jelly- not only does grease block air flow, but it can trap dirt. Also avoid potential allergens like lanolin. Antibiotic ointments can also cause irritation for some. Vitamin A&D ointment applied around the edge of the tattoo for the first few days is a safe bet. Once the healing process is underway, you can apply a thin layer of hypo-allergenic lotion several times a day to the skin’s surface to ease any discomfort and keep it healthy.
What to avoid during the first few weeks:
- Pools/hot tubs/ saunas– they increase the risk of bacterial infection and can interfere with the healing. Basically no soaking of any kind is allowed. Scabbing and flaking is a part of the healing process. When scabs are wet for too long they may come off too soon, damaging the color. Sweating has the same effect. Scabs should come off naturally.
- Scratching, picking, or rubbing. Stick to loose, breathable clothing. No bra straps, no elastic bands, no chafing of any kind.
- Shaving/waxing. The tattoo area, that is.
- Sun. Keep your tattoo completely covered in the sun for a few weeks. If you have to show it off, do it in the dark with a flashlight. Once it is fully healed, always keep heavy-duty sunblock on it to keep the color from fading.
Thanks for the 411 on how to care for my new Tattoo the info u provided answered all the questions I had in regards to caring for my new piece 🙂 I was using the Aloe gel before I read ur article and it seems to be working out pretty good. It relieves the pain and keeps it moisturized so getting more detailed info helped ease my decision on whether to use it or not…. I will continue to use Aloe gel and see how my results turn out.
how did your results turn out?
I have over 25 tattoos and have used pure aloe direct from my plant on all but one tattoo during the healing phase. The ones that I used aloe on healed quicker. I recently had a new tat with a new artist and they agreed with me that aloe vera is the best thing to use and she recommends it to all her clients.
I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your blog.
It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often.
Did you hire out a developer to create your theme?
Ron May says
ALOCANE is a professional-grade, surgically clean, Over The Counter, topical anesthetic that uses the highest grade of uncut Aloe. ALOCANE has no harmful oils, dyes, alcohol or petrolatums. It also uses 4% Lidocaine Hydrochloride, the maximum anesthetic allowed by the FDA and quickly works to drastically reduce pain. ALOCANE can be used before tattoo application to lessen the pain of the procedure and post tattoo to relieve pain, fight possible infection, and reduce inflammation. There is no better product on the Earth for burns or skin irritations. It’s also the best product with or with a prescription for cancer patients that develop radiation dermatitis.
denver facial says
What’s up, after reading this awesome article i am also cheerful to share my knowledge here with mates.
Marissa D. says
I just recently got a new tattoo, about two days ago, and I have used nothing but pure aloe gel made with 99.7% pure aloe vera gel. It states that it moisturizes and replenishes. I’ll update everyone on how my tattoo is doing a few weeks from now.
How did it go? My artist’s shop advised me to use Bepanthen, for the first 2 weeks, but I’m not liking it. It leaves a sticky film over the tattoo which gets ingrained with dust, so must also have other dirt in there.
So I wash between every application, just a quick rinse with antibacterial hand soap really.
I’m not sure if this is a good idea either, but I don’t want to be rubbing the dirt stuck to the Bepanthen into the tattoo.
I have used Aloe for years and know that even when applied liberally it dries on the surface but keeps your skin nice and soft, so I want to change to using aloe sooner than 2 weeks. I was planning on changing to alow after the 2 weeks initial healing period with the Bepanthen.
Bepanthen is a nappy rash cream btw, if you’re not familiar with it.
Hello! I had my first tattoo yesterday and also was recommended to use Bepanthen, did you swap to Aloe Vera? Does it work better?
Dave mackay says
Ive used quite a few different creams on various tattoos i found thatwith bepanthen any plasma is quickly turned to a horrible dry crusty scab. Ive since used aloe vera straight of the plant and have had no bad effects it soothes and takes down swelling which in turn takes sum pain away. It also stops itching. Use the natural remedies all in one antibac moisturiser
Nomad roach says
Thank you for the advise! Also started using aloe directly. It feels nice and soothing without the uncomfort of creams with unknown ingredients or destined for baby rash..will update on progress!! Cheers!!!
Hi I was told to use paw paw cream it work great and i have also been using aloe vera straight from the plant my tat has not faded and is healing great =) I was told not to use Bepanthen as it fades the Tat.
So glad I read this before rushing out to buy ingredients for an all natural tattoo aftercare salve (if that’s the proper word)! I was thinking of making some since my boyfriend and I are going to be getting our first tattoos soon (not matching), and I don’t want to chance chemicals damaging what I’ve been waiting over four years for. I’ve spent a few hours researching what essential oils and other natural things are safe for tattoos, and I thought “Hey, aloe Vera is great for healing and works super fast on me, so why not add some to my salve?”, though I didn’t know if it was safe. Now I do, and once I make sure the boyfriend isn’t allergic to anything I plan to put into the salve, I’ll be writing up my shopping list and heading to Whole Foods in the morning!
Heidi taylor says
If you ever need to buy any aloe gel or gelly and are unable to get hold of it..I am a distributor and would be able to supply you with my online shop website address…email@example.com
I would be interested to hear your feedback on your ongoing use of the products. The gelly is great on burns.
David SuprDave Watts says
I have 20+ tattoos and have used polysporin on all of them. I very recently started on another & left my poly at a friends place,I have this stuff called -Total Tattoo Vitamin A & D. Can I use this just overnight?,for I will buy more polysporin in the morning
Can I use this just overnight?
As there is some concern about the use of aloe vera, try using after sun lotion. As tattoos heal much alike sunburns it works well. It gets absorbed really fast, and therefore also allows the tattoo to breathe while keeping it moist. Most contain aloe vera, which is good, but it isn’t as concentrated as it is in aloe vera lotion, which means you’ll be on the safe side. Paw Paw lotion works aswell, it’s what my local tattoo shop recommend and sell, but only use a tiny amount as it’s quite thick and greasy and slowly absorbed, so your skin cannot touch any unsanetary surfaces until it has dried, as it’ll pick up dirt and dust when it’s wet.
I have been using Trader Joe’s “A Midsummer Night’s Cream-Moisturizing Cream-Extra Dry Formula-Unscented Herbal Blend with Aloe” on my new tattoos for the week or so when the tattoo is getting dry, itchy, and flaky for years. It is inexpensive and works perfectly. Aside from leaving the bandage on overnight the first night and washing the tattoo well daily–it’s all I use to heal my tattoos quickly. No drawbacks.
Kate Treharne says
Whilst I was researching the affects of using Aloe Vera Gelly on new tattoos, I stumbled upon your page. I have used Aloe Vera Gelly on my new ink and am glad to say that it has healed nicely compared to other products such as Bepanthen (nappy rash cream).
The only thing I would question is your advice on is the length of time that the new tattoo is kept covered for….(Tattoos need both protection and air circulation. Keep gauze (no plastic) on for at least 3-5 hours or overnight. Remove the bandage within 12 hours and leave off if possible (you may need to cover it occasionally to keep it clean).
– My husband has been a successful (world champion) tattoo artist of 37 years and we advise our customer to only keep new ink covered for a minimal time. This should be followed by a hot (as hot as you can take it) shower, followed by a cold water rinse. Then the antibacterial lotion should be applied. Wash the tattoo 3 times a day in antibacterial soap, pat dry. The tattoo needs to breath as soon as possible and kept moisturised for the best results.
I will be sticking with the Gel/ Gelly (Forever Living) for future ink – Here’s hoping for more positive testimonials. Kate
RayRay Risin says
Oh no, the hot/cold thing does NOT do any good, it just causes pain. That’s what my artist and even my doctor told me. The pores need to stay CLOSED, and heat opens them, plus it irritates cuts/burns/similar injuries. Cool or even kinda cold feels wonderful, and since it keeps the pores closed, can help keep out germs. I use warm water when I wash mine, then cool/cold after to close things before putting on room temp Lubriderm.
I just got lasik treatment on my face to get rid of dark spots and freckles. Now it’s healing so with new skin on burned spot. Should i apply fresh aloe vera juice on it in order to reduce scar? or will it make it worse and form more scar?
I got my 5th tatt Friday 4/14/2017, and it started to peel that Tuesday, I’m a fast peeler and healer. I let my bandage stay on for 2 hours, as recommended by my artist, then took it off, and washed it with Dawn dish detergent, it’s gentle and didn’t burn. After that, I let it air dry then applied a very thin layer of A&D ointment on it, I did this 3 times a day for 2 days. On the 3rd day I started to I use raw cocoa butter, and a shea butter mixture. It is now 4/21/2017 and it has almost completely finished peeling, and is healing well.
I was told not to use HOT water as it keeps the pores open and susceptible to infection, use cool water and pat dry with a paper towel, and let air dry. But I know we all heal differently and have different artists that tell us many things. I say use what works best for you. As long as you keep the tatt clean, dry and infection free, you should be okay.
I’m glad I came across this site though, I’ll try pure Aloe on my next tatt.
Sean Rey says
Hello, I just want to share what I usually do, and it works well with my tattoo. Immediately after my tattoo session, I put aloe until the pores somehow “tone” down, as it is usually all swollen after the session, then, after taking a bath at night and cleaning the excess ink, I clean it and just use neosporin only once (because neosporin usually heals too quickly, amd using it several times makes the tattoo fade), so that in the morning, the healing process was doubled. Then I just keep on applying either aloevera straight from my plant, or aloe gel or cetaphil. It works great and I used it on all my tattoos. I usually use aloe before sleeping, as it dries more quicly, and I use cetaohil during the day before working.
Im using fresh aloevera gel straight from the plant on my new tattoo and it s working out very well so far. It s at the drying out stage (5 days) and the aloe is moisturising nicely without the irritation that perfumed moisturisers might cause.
Mariah Johnson says
I have super sensitive skin and I broke out realllly bad for 2 of 3 of my tattoos I recently got one and it’s by my armpit I broke out only on the tattoo it was super red for a week so I felt aloe would be good thanks for the info
Jamie Rosino says
I have been a professional tattoo artist for the past 17 years and I noticed something in your article that either you did not research properly, or you simply have no clue of what you are telling people. I say this with all due respect, so please don’t take offense to my wording.
But you stated:
“Avoid petroleum jelly- not only does grease block air flow, but it can trap dirt. Also avoid potential allergens like lanolin. Antibiotic ointments can also cause irritation for some. Vitamin A&D ointment applied around the edge of the tattoo for the first few days is a safe bet.”
Now this is why I say either you didn’t research, or you don’t understand what you are saying. You begin by saying avoid petroleum jelly and potential allergens like lanolin and your reasoning is correct. However, you then go on to say Vitamin A&D ointment for the first few days is a safe bet. Now as I stated, i am a professional tattoo artist for 17 years and I am fully aware that A&D ointment became the norm for healing tattoos after Bacitracin was no longer proven effective. But you should know that the active ingredients in A&D ointment are, yup you guessed it Lanolin and Petrolatum(also the active ingredient in the petroleum jelly or Vaseline that you advise against as well). This is a clear contradiction and one that is also often made when you hear someone say something foolish such as, “Don’t use A&D it pulls the ink out you should use Aquaphor instead”. Again the active ingredient in Aquaphor is Petrolatum. Same as A&D, same as Vaseline(petroleum jelly). A&D ointment is ONLY a safe bet if you are not allergic to sheep’s wool or lanolin.
Now when it comes to Aloe Vera, i advise my clients the same way i do when discussing other aftercare products or ingredients. If they have no known allergies to said ingredient in a specific aftercare ointment, lotion, salve, balm, etc. then by all means go for it, especially if they have used it before successfully without incident. Then I instruct them with pretty much the same instructions you’ve mentioned.
Again, please don’t take it as me coming off as condescending or disrespectful, I just wanted to point that out to you in case you might have missed it or simply didn’t know. It is after all my duty as a professional to correct someone when they are providing someone with potentially harmful instructions, as I come across plenty of that in my day to day. I myself stick to all natural balms or salves which I make for my own personal healing of tattoos and I stick to a reputable company when offering natural healing products for my clients.
Steven Warner says
I’ve been a Type 1 diabetic for almost 60 years. I recently got my first tattoo. It covers most of my right arm, detailing my medic alert message for all to see. I also grow my own aloe here at my home. Still a little concerned, I only used pure aloe on half my tattoo. (antibiotic ointment for the 1st 2 days), obviously!
But, lo and behold, the aloe side is now coming along fine, with no problems , as is the other side where I used Gold Bond Ultimate, for diabetic dry skin relief. Can’t tell the difference by eye, but the aloe stopped the itch instantly. If I should ever need to get another tattoo, I’ll probably just stick with the aloe.
Hi to everyone!
I am glad I found this blog (congrats for the content!)
I made a tattoo in the Berlin Tattoo Convention, 3 weeks ago aprox. and it got infected, really bad infected, thanks to heaven I went to the dermatologist very fast and I had to start an antibiotics treatment for 10 days, now that I finished it (one week ago) I used Bepanthen for some days but I feel it was too greasy and made the tattoo a bit pale. For around 4 days I used Coconut oil as I didnt want to put more chemicals in my damaged skin. From today on I have started with an Aloe Vera (98.3%) gel and I am a bit scared whether this is gonna help me complete the healing process and de-scar the tattoo or not. Any suggestions? I asked my doctor, ofc, but he was not so clear about how to proceed after finishing the antibiotics treatment. Can anyone with experience in infected tattoos share their knowledge, please?
Thanks in advance!!!