If you have a tattoo, you might remember your tattoo artist using green soap on your skin before the procedure.

Green soap is an environmentally friendly, oil-based vegetable soap. Professionals use this soap in medical facilities, tattoo parlors, and piercing studios to help sanitize and clean the skin.

The plant-based soap, which has been using in the tattoo industry for many years, also plays nice with most skin types, including sensitive skin, explains Channelle Charest, a tattoo artist based in Fresno, California.

Green soap offers a few key benefits.

It helps reduce your chances of infection after a tattoo, for one.

Infection is one main risk associated with tattoos. A skin infection from a tattoo can cause severe pain, swelling, redness, and raised bumps on the skin. But sanitizing your skin with green soap before a tattoo can reduce the risk of side effects or infection.

Green soap doesn’t just help prevent these complications. Its soothing properties can also aid with healing. What’s more, the natural oils in green soap help soften your skin, preparing it for a procedure.

It doesn’t just work on your skin, either. “Because green soap is noncorrosive, it can also be used to safely soak equipment to loosen dried debris before cleaning and sterilization,” Charest notes.

Other products can also disinfect the skin before, during, and after a tattoo. These would make safer options if you’re allergic to green soap.

Alternatives include:

A number of tattoo parlors use green soap because of its powerful ability to remove germs and bacteria from the skin. If you’re allergic to any of the ingredients in green soap, contact the parlor before your tattoo appointment and ask about alternatives.

Charest recommends mild, nonirritating, and fragrance-free alternatives, like baby soap or unscented antibacterial soaps.

“It’s important to dilute any of these options with water before using them in the tattooing process and also during aftercare,” she adds.

Every artist has a different method for preparing the skin for tattooing, says Charest. But here’s a quick breakdown of what you might expect from the process.

The artist will:

  1. Spray skin with water-diluted green soap. Generally they’ll use a spray bottle because this keeps your tattoo artist from touching your skin with their hands. Less contact reduces the likelihood of infection.
  2. Wipe down skin with a paper towel. They may also use a disposable cloth. This step prepares your skin for shaving.
  3. Shave the area, if required, and wipe it down again. Shaving the area that’s getting tattooed helps prevent ingrown hairs. Your tattoo artist will reapply green soap after completing the shaving process. This helps remove any dirt or stray hairs left behind. It also helps moisturize your skin in preparation for the tattoo.
  4. Use the diluted mix of green soap and water as needed during tattooing process when wiping down the area. “This could be during a color change or simply to cool and clean the skin during long sessions,” says Charest.
  5. Clean and sanitize the skin with the green soap solution at the end of the process. The soap removes any remaining ink or blood left on the skin.
  6. Wrap or cover the newly tattooed skin. This helps protect the tattoo area and keep it clean.

Even though green soap is environmentally friendly and a natural sanitizer, it isn’t right for everyone.

Potential side effects may include:

  • Skin irritation. There’s a risk of irritation if you’re sensitive or allergic to any of the ingredients in green soap. Charest explains that irritation can result from the vegetable oils or other oils added to the mixture.
  • Eye irritation. “Artists also need to take care to keep it out of clients’ eyes when tattooing on or near the face, as green soap can irritate the membranes,” says Charest.
  • Cross-contamination. There’s also the risk of cross-contamination. Hepatitis C and other diseases can be transmitted through tattoo procedures. It’s important that the tip of the green soap spray bottle never comes in contact with your skin.

Green soap used by tattoo artists contains a blend of different ingredients. As an environmentally friendly soap, it has natural components less likely to irritate the skin.

Ingredients can vary slightly depending on the brand. Many types include vegetable oil and glycerin. Glycerin is a natural moisturizer that can treat and prevent various types of skin irritations, including:

Some green soap includes a mixture of coconut and vegetable oil as well as ethyl alcohol or lavender oil.

If you’re allergic to lavender oil, coconut oil, or other types of oil, ask your tattoo artist about the ingredients in their green soap before the procedure.

Even though green soap can help prevent infection, you may experience skin irritation if you’re sensitive to an ingredient in the soap.

Interestingly, while the product is called “green soap,” the soap isn’t actually green. It has a green tint but also yellowish hues from the glycerin and vegetable oil. The product’s name comes from this green tint.

Green soap is a high-grade skin disinfectant.

Typically, you’ll only find it used for medical purposes, by tattoo artists, and by piercing artists. Healthcare professionals might clean their hands with green soap before putting gloves on to perform a medical procedure.

Tattoos artists can purchase green soap from a company that sells medical or tattoo supplies. Green soap is also available online at major retailers like Amazon and Walmart.

Tattoos are a form of self-expression, but if your skin isn’t properly cleaned beforehand, your new tattoo could become infected.

Green soap, a natural product used to help clean and sanitize your skin, can lead to a safer experience and healthy tattoo.