When it comes time to get a new tattoo, the right aftercare is as equally as important finding a reputable tattoo artist.
A fresh tattoo is most vulnerable within the first few days: You are basically trying to heal wounded skin while also preventing ink distortion. This requires moisture while also allowing the tattoo to get air.
You might have an arsenal of products for wounds lying around in your medicine cabinet, including Neosporin. While appropriate for minor cuts and burns, Neosporin is not a good choice for a new tattoo because it can interfere with the natural healing process.
Read on to learn what makes this common first aid product a poor choice for fresh body ink, and what you should use instead.
Neosporin is an antibiotic ointment primarily used to help prevent infections in minor wounds. Both brand name and generic versions contain three antibiotic ingredients to help fight bacteria and prevent infections in minor wounds. These include bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin.
As with other first aid products like Vaseline, Neosporin acts as a barrier against the skin, thereby trapping moisture and preventing air exposure. Such effects can be helpful for extremely dry and irritated skin, but not for fresh tattoos.
When you apply Neosporin to a new tattoo, your skin won’t be exposed to any air. This can inadvertently prevent your skin from healing. Your skin needs oxygen after being tattooed to heal properly, so using strong barriers like Neosporin could hinder this process.
In theory, Neosporin could help prevent a new tattoo from becoming infected. However, the risks of using this antibiotic ointment outweigh any benefits — especially when there are alternative products that work much better on fresh tattoos.
Here are some of the side effects to consider:
Red bumps and rashes
It’s possible to have an allergic reaction to Neosporin, which can result in hives and red rashes. This sort of reaction can not only increase discomfort and itchiness during the tattoo healing process, but it may also distort the actual ink.
Your risk for this side effect may be greater if you have a history of allergies or sensitive skin.
Increased risk of infection
While this seems counterintuitive, applying Neosporin may increase your risk for getting an infection if you have used a lot of antibiotics in the past. In such cases, your body could
Loss of color and scarring
Because Neosporin can interfere with the natural skin healing process, the use of these types of ointments could result in loss of color once your tattoo completely heals. Even worse, you may end up with scars.
Neosporin is the most common brand-name triple antibiotic ointment. However, it has the same key ingredients as generic versions. You shouldn’t use any type of triple antibiotic ointments on a new tattoo, regardless of whether it’s a brand-name or generic version. They all have the same effect.
As a rule of thumb, you should never use Neosporin on a fresh tattoo. The only exception may be if you are treating a minor wound in an older tattoo.
In order for your tattoo to look its best after healing, it’s crucial to follow proper aftercare instructions. The first few days are the most critical, and you will likely need to wear bandages for at least a few hours after your appointment.
Your tattoo artist will also recommend washing your wound with plain soap and water. You will want to avoid submerging your skin in water. At this point, you don’t need to wear bandages because you’ll want to let the skin breathe.
While Neosporin isn’t a good option, your tattoo artist will still likely recommend another type of healing ointment. One of the most popular products is A+D, a type of ointment that has a contains both petrolatum and lanolin. This is best used during the first day or so after getting your tattoo.
After a few days, you’ll likely use a fragrance-free moisturizing lotion, such as Eucerin or Lubriderm. You’ll want to avoid any products with preservatives or fragrances, as these can affect the healing process and possibly cause side effects.
As your tattoo continues to heal, you will notice scabbing. This is completely normal. Let the scabs fall off naturally — scratching or picking at them can cause scarring or color distortions.
If something doesn’t look right with your tattoo, first reach out to the artist. They’ll be able to offer specific product recommendations and guide you through the process of dealing with any complications, such as an infection.
See a doctor in the case of more significant side effects, such as swelling, fever, and chills. These can be signs of a more serious infection.
In all, it can take up to a few months for your tattoo to completely heal. After it heals, your skin should not be red or have any more scabs.
Aquaphor is a brand-name of another skin ointment that contains lanolin, mineral oil, and other skin soothing ingredients. What sets Aquaphor apart from Neosporin and petroleum jelly for tattoos is that you actually can use it for fresh ink.
Typically used for extremely dry and cracked skin, Aquaphor acts as a skin protectant, anti-inflammatory, and moisturizer. This may help your tattoo heal faster while also allowing the skin to breathe.
When using Aquaphor on a new tattoo, you should consider applying it only for the first few days. You should then switch to a lotion-based moisturizer such as Eucerin, or one recommended by your tattoo artist.
Neosporin isn’t the best choice for new tattoos. While you are healing a new skin wound, Neosporin is designed for minor cuts, burns, and scrapes only — not tattoos. Triple antibiotic ointments don’t offer the moisture needed for tattoos to heal, nor do they allow the skin to breathe.
Talk to your tattoo artist about aftercare, including all product recommendations. Your risk for complications is higher if you don’t follow their instructions carefully.