Tattoo aftercare products are aplenty. But is Vaseline one of them? Or would you be better off using another product? Read on to find out as we answer the all-important question “Can you put Vaseline on new tattoos?”
But first, what is Vaseline?
Vaseline is an ointment that probably sits in most household medicine cabinets. In fact, you probably even have a jar or two at home right now. It’s extremely useful – you can use it on chapped lips, minor scrapes and burns, makeup removal, diaper rash, polishing leather, preventing swimmer’s ears, and so much more.
Because of all that it can do, Vaseline is also known as a ‘wonder jelly.’ Now, if you didn’t already have it at home, you’d probably think this is an expensive product. Thankfully, it’s not. It’s surprisingly affordable, so it comes as no surprise that this jelly has been a household staple since the mid-19th century!
What do people say about Vaseline on tattoos?
It’s a mixed bag, actually. Some people say they’ve used Vaseline on their tattoos and ran into zero issues. Others say to stay away from Vaseline as it gave them a terrible tattoo infection!
Here’s a screenshot of a conversation on Quora:
You’ll find similar conversations like this on tattoo forums, blog comments, and other places on the web.
Now, when it comes to tattoo artists, some of them recommend the use of Vaseline even on new tattoos. But for the most part, I’ve found that many more tattooists say otherwise and advise their clients to use Vaseline alternatives instead.
So, is Vaseline (or pure petroleum jelly) good for tattoos?
Vaseline is great for skin healing and moisturising extremely dry skin, but when it comes to fresh tattoos, not so much. Here’s why Vaseline on tattoos isn’t such a good idea:
- It won’t allow the skin to breathe
Vaseline is 100% pure petroleum jelly. It’s naturally thick and non-porous, meaning even the thinnest layer will block out oxygen from getting to the skin. Now, oxygen plays an important role in wound healing. If you cut off access to oxygen, then that can only spell doom for your brand-new tattoo.
- It can lead to infections
Since petroleum jelly is highly occlusive, it traps whatever is below it. This means that if you didn’t clean the area properly prior to application, then germs and bacteria may be trapped below the ointment. If left long enough on the skin, the trapped pathogens will wreak havoc and cause a tattoo infection.
- It can draw out the ink from skin
Some people say putting Vaseline on a fresh tattoo can pull ink out of the skin. This is because the ink hasn’t settled yet in the dermis. Thus, it’s possible that some of the ink will be drawn out when washing off the ointment. Obviously, this is something you never want to happen. It’s better not to risk it, so just stay away from Vaseline, especially on unhealed tattoos.
When is it safe to use Vaseline on new tattoos?
Actually, not everything’s bad about Vaseline. The lack of porousness will come in handy to protect the skin, too. Below are some scenarios where Vaseline on tattoos is useful:
- Right after the tattoo is done
Often, this happens at the tattooist’s where the environment is sterile enough (it better be, otherwise, get out of there!).
So, right after the tattooist finishes your tattoo, he’ll be wrapping it up in cling film before sending you on your way home. It looks like this:
However, in some cases, your tattooist may add an extra layer of protection by applying a thin layer of Vaseline, before wrapping the tattoo in cling film. It’s now going to look like this:
However, this is a short-term protection method. After a couple of hours, remove the cling film and wash the Vaseline off with lukewarm water and non-fragranced soap.
- At the shower
It’s okay to get your brand-new tattoo wet. After all, you do need to wash it a few times a day to clean off the gunk (blood plasma and ink) that would have accumulated on your skin. But what you shouldn’t do is soak the tattoo in water.
Actually, a quick shower is all that’s recommended during the first couple of days whilst the tattoo’s still weeping. But if you’re feeling extra dirty and you need to soak for a bit, then Vaseline is your best option.
Apply a thick layer on the tattoo and the surrounding areas to ensure no water goes in. But try not to stay too long, alright? If the water’s warm it can wash off the ointment and your tattoo will be exposed to bacteria in the water!
Once you finish your bath, you need to go wash off the Vaseline. No need to let it stay on your skin longer than necessary.
- You’ve got extremely dry skin
Vaseline is an extremely powerful moisturiser. It forms a barrier and locks down the moisture in the skin, thereby preventing it from drying out. If you’ve got dry skin, you can put Vaseline around the tattooed area (but not on the tattoo itself) right after you get out of the shower.
Note, however, that this may not be an ideal solution if your tattoo is hidden under your clothes. This is because pure petroleum jelly is greasy, heavy, and can stick to your clothing.
- Your tattoo is fully healed
Most new tattoos heal within 3-4 weeks. By then, Vaseline should be okay to put on your tattoo. As mentioned in the previous point, it’s a great moisturiser, so it’s okay for long-term tattoo care. Just keep in mind, however, that it can cause an acne breakout, so it’s best to use sparingly.
Related article: Coconut Oil on Tattoos: 10 Reasons It’s Great For Your Skin
What if your tattooist suggests the use of Vaseline?
Well, that would be unfortunate. However, the sad truth is that there’s no standard tattoo aftercare process. One tattooist may recommend the use of a particular product, whilst others may advise you to stay away from it. I know you’re supposed to listen to what your tattooists say – they (supposedly) know best, after all – but they’re not perfect either.
Vaseline may have been a popular option years ago, but the times have changed. More and more people are coming out saying they had issues with Vaseline on their tattoos. The general consensus amongst the tattoo community is to steer clear of Vaseline – at least until the tattoo is fully healed.
Best Vaseline alternatives for tattoo aftercare
There are quite a few alternatives you can use instead of Vaseline. Here are some of the top ones:
- Aquaphor Healing Ointment (41% petroleum jelly)
Aquaphor is best known as nappy cream used on baby bottoms. It protects the skin from outside elements, but unlike Vaseline, it allows the skin to breathe. This is because it’s not 100% pure petroleum jelly like Vaseline.
Another reason why it works great on tattoos is because it has panthenol and glycerine which helps nourish and heal your skin. Thanks to its lower petrolatum content, it’s also not as greasy as Vaseline or A+D ointment.
- A+D Healing Ointment (53.4% petroleum jelly)
A+D ointment is more occlusive than Aquaphor thanks to its higher petroleum jelly content. But since it’s not pure petroleum jelly, it will still let oxygen in whilst at the same time protecting the skin underneath. This ointment is formulated with lanolin and cod liver oil, which gives it vitamins A and D.
- Hustle Butter (0% petroleum jelly)
If you’re allergic to petroleum-based products, then you’re in luck because Hustle Butter is one of the best natural tattoo aftercare products out there. Instead of petroleum jelly, it’s made from 4 kinds of butter: mango butter, coconut butter, papaya butter, and shea butter. You can use this cream prior to getting a tattoo, during the tattooing process, during the healing process, and even after it’s all healed up.
Once your tattoo stops weeping (around days 2-4), you’ll have a lot more options for tattoo aftercare. By this point, it’s important to hydrate and moisturise your skin. This helps to minimise the scabbing and the itching, too.
Check this in-depth article on the best products for your tattoo: 12 Best Tattoo Aftercare Products (For Each Stage of the Healing Process)
Vaseline is a great product with tons of practical uses in daily life. However, there are far better – and safer – options you can put on a brand-new tattoo. If you want to avoid the possibility of getting infected, then steer clear of pure petroleum jelly.
If you’ve been using Vaseline on your tattoo and you think it’s not healing as fast as it should, then switch over to a different product. Also, if there’s even a slight chance it’s infected, speak to your GP for proper medical advice.