I remember looking at a friend’s tattoo—something about it had piqued my interest, and it had nothing to do with the ink. I wondered—how do they even moisturise their skin now that they have tattoo/s? You cannot blame me. I’m a writer in beauty, and everything is a muse to me. I resumed my wondering soon after processing how bizarre my thoughts are—is it any different than moisturising un-tattooed skin? And that’s when I decided to connect with Dr Nivedita Dadu, Renowned Dermatologist, Founder & Chairman of Dr Nivedita Dadu’s Dermatology Clinic and Dr Madhuri Agarwal, Founder & Medical Director, Yavana Aesthetics Clinic, to understand whether my questions were valid—because, hey, I know a lot of people who have tattoos, and I think this might just benefit them. Let’s find out.
Dr Nivedita says, “Yes, the moisturising needs of tattooed skin are different from non-tattooed skin. Tattooed skin needs a moisturizer with a greater viscosity to combat the excessive dryness and injury to the skin. Proper moisturising forms a thin membrane to protect the tattoo that helps generate new skin cells, and heals the tattoo. Over-moisturizing leads to clogged pores and breakouts in the skin—over-moisturising or under-moisturising can crack the skin. Avoid this kind of scabbing through proper washing and moisturizing of the tattoo. Apply a thin layer of ointment or lotion to the area to avoid over-moisturising. This should be enough as the tattoo needs to breathe as well. Moisturising the tattoo helps reduce irritation, itching, and scabbing. It can take a long time for a tattoo to heal. But there is no difference in absorption rates between skin that is tattooed and non-tattooed. Once the tattooed skin is fully healed, the skin becomes the same as non-tattooed skin unless the healing of the tattoo causes keloid scarring or unintended scarring. Keeping the skin moisturized makes the tattoos appear brighter. Dry skin on the surface reflects a certain percentage of light and can make tattoos appear lighter or faded. Skin that is properly moisturised, on the other hand, does not reflect light. As long as the skin remains moisturized, the appearance of the tattoo will be greater.”
“Apply moisturiser gently (no rubbing vigorously) on the tattoo after drying it (thoroughly) to prevent reactions, but don’t apply the formula on damp tattooed skin as this can lead to heat rashes or skin irritation. I’d suggest avoiding lotions and creams containing active ingredients like Vitamin C, retinoids, and AHAs as they can irritate the skin, and lead to allergies,” Dr Madhuri suggests.
“Yes, coloured tattoos have to be moisturised differently than black ones. The amount of moisture a fresh tattoo requires depends on whether it contains only black ink or other colours. Coloured tattoos require more moisture and care due to the shading involved, and differences in the ink pigment. Water-based lotions and Vitamin C creams can work well because it keeps the vibrancy of the colour,” Dr Nivedita explains.
Dr Nivedita breaks it down for me, “The ideal moisturiser will be gentle, unscented, and dermatologically tested. Whenever you are planning to buy a moisturizer for your tattooed skin, either choose an ointment or a lotion. Typically, ointments are ideal for the first stages of the healing process. They’re a good source of vitamins and minerals for your body. A lotion, on the other hand, is great for the rest of the healing process. Lotions that are gentle, fragrance-free, and simple are better for tattooed skin. Avoid any lotions with parabens or lanolin as they can be irritants. Stick to all-natural ingredients instead.” Dr Madhuri reiterates that there are certain ingredients you must look out for in your formulas, “You can buy creams and lotions containing coconut oil, beeswax, Vitamin E, colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, cetyl alcohol. Avoid products with fragrance, alcohol, and active ingredients; and avoid applying thick layers of petroleum jelly as it can cause infections.”
It’s important to not over-moisturise your skin in the process. Dr Nivedita suggests moisturising your tattoos twice or thrice a day, “The process of moisturising tattooed skin is personal to each individual. It depends on their skin. One person’s skin can dry out faster than others. That’s why the frequency will vary from person to person. The best way to moisturize a tattoo is by doing it in the morning and in the evening. It is also important to apply lotion or ointment post-showering to protect the tattoo from drying out.” And according to Dr Madhuri, the more hydrated the area is, the lesser the itchiness, and the faster the healing.
Dr Nivedita suggests using emollients with shea or cocoa butter, as these protect and hydrate the skin but are not as greasy as traditional petroleum-based products; and Dr Madhuri recommends healing ointment provided to you by the tattoo expert.
“Taking care of the tattoo is as important as taking care of any other wound on the body. Wash and clean your tattoo regularly—especially in the first few weeks of getting it. Keep the moisturizing regimen strong, and avoid scratching your tattoo. Keep it clean. Wash your skin daily with a gentle and unscented soap. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated—and to keep the skin moisturised. After the tattoo has dried, apply a thin layer of any mild, non-fragrant, colourless moisturiser, and gently re-wrap the tattoo with cling film—ensuring that it is not too tight. Follow this procedure three to four times daily for three days—after which you can simply moisturise the tattoo every couple of hours for at least one month,” suggests Dr Nivedita.
Dr Nivedita continues, “Making sure that it’s protected against harsh chemicals, sunlight, and bacteria is vital to avoid any unnecessary complications with your new ink. Avoid excess weight gain or loss as this can stretch or distort the tattoo. After getting the tattoo, leave it open so that it can heal faster. Do not cover it with your clothes as it can rub against the skin, irritate it and slow the healing process. The first few days after getting tattooed are crucial as the skin reacts and is still healing. When it gets dry it gets irritated and itchy too. But you have to resist touching the tattoo—let alone try and scratch the itch.
Dr Madhuri stresses the importance of not itching or picking scabs off the tattoo, “Wear comfortable (preferably cotton-based) clothes. Avoid exposure to the sun as well as swimming to reduce the chances of developing reaction and skin infections.”
And that’s how you moisturise tattooed skin. Who knew?