Tattoo dry healing is essentially going through the usual aftercare steps of helping a tattoo heal. But instead of using ointments, creams, or lotions that your tattoo artist may recommend, you just let it heal in the open air.

Of course, you should still keep a tattoo clean with soap and water and protect it from tight clothing and sunlight exposure while your tattooed skin is healing.

It may seem like just as many people endorse letting your tattoo dry heal as those who swear by lotions and creams to moisturize the skin during the healing process. Who’s right?

The short answer is both: there are pros and cons to tattoo dry healing and to using moisturizers.

Let’s get into whether there are any side effects to tattoos and how you can incorporate dry healing into your tattoo aftercare routine.

The health benefits of dry healing a tattoo have less to do with letting your tattoo air dry and more to do with what kinds of moisturizers you might use (and how much self control you have).

Some lotions and creams contain artificial ingredients that can actually further irritate your skin or cause allergic reactions that interfere with the healing process, including:

  • alcohol
  • petroleum
  • lanolin
  • mineral oil, such as vitamin A or D
  • parabens
  • phthalates
  • fragrances

Any combination of these ingredients can affect your skin and ink. Some of these ingredients have also been linked to certain cancers with long-term use of products that contain them.

Dry healing eliminates this risk completely. But this risk is avoided if you use natural oils or moisturizers like coconut oil, jojoba oil, or shea butter.

Another concern with dry healing is picking or rubbing the healing area.

Moisturizers can help lubricate the skin and make it less likely that any scraping, picking, or rubbing makes your skin peel and your tattoo heal improperly.

They can also make your skin itch less than with dry healing. If you’re the kind of person who can’t resist scratching anything that itches, you may want to rethink dry healing.

Tattoo dry healing isn’t risky in itself, but there are some risks and side effects that you should be aware of before trying it out:

  • Your skin may itch or burn because of a lack of moisture in the area, so it may feel impossible to ignore the urge to scratch.
  • Larger areas of your skin may get extremely dry, scabbing more deeply and cracking open over large swathes that can affect how your tattoo looks when the healing process is done.
  • Dry skin may tighten up, making it easier for skin to crack and affect how your tattoo looks after it heals.

Wrap healing is done by keeping your tattoo wrapped in plastic while it’s healing. Your skin is usually kept dry during wrap healing, but the plastic can help lock in natural moisture while lymphatic fluid leak outs.

Dry healing and wrap healing are similar in that neither method relies on any moisturizer to keep the skin moist. But dry healing doesn’t use lymphatic fluid, either.

Neither method is really better than the other. It’s up to you and what your tattoo artist recommends.

But try the wrap method if you think you’ll have trouble keeping yourself from scratching or if you’re concerned that your skin will dry out too much during the healing process.

Here are important tattoo aftercare tips that you should follow no matter which method you decide to follow:

Don’t cover up your tattoo again after you take bandages off. Your tattoo artist will bandage your tattoo with surgical wrap, but after you take this bandage off, don’t cover up it again. This can slow down or interfere with the healing process.

Wash your hands with antibacterial soap and water before you touch your tattoo. This can help prevent bacteria from getting on the area while it’s healing.

Cover your tattoo with clothing or sunscreen. Sun and UV rays are bad for your tattoo healing process. Wear long sleeves, long pants, or other clothing made of breathable cotton, and wear natural mineral-based tattoo sunscreen if your tattoo is going to be exposed to the sun.

Splash warm, sterile water on the tattoo and lightly wash it with gentle, natural soap without any fragrance or alcohol at least twice a day to keep it clean.

Don’t pick your scabs. Scratching or messing with scabs can make it take longer for your tattoo to heal, result in pain or scarring, or even cause it to heal in a way that make the tattoo look different than expected.

Don’t immerse your tattoo in water for at least 2 weeks. Don’t swim or take a bath, and try to avoid getting water on your tattoo in the shower.

Tattoo dry healing is an acceptable part of a tattoo aftercare routine as long as you follow all other aftercare instructions closely. Not taking extra care of your tattoo can lead to scabbing or scarring.

And if you’re concerned that dry healing won’t work for you, feel free to use a safe, chemical-free moisturizer to prevent any reactions or interactions with your skin or the tattoo ink.

If you’re really not sure, trust your tattoo artist. They’re the expert, and they’ll have insight into which method may work better for your skin.