If you’re reading this you’re either most likely about to go get your brand new Snoopy tattoo or you’ve got a bunch of tats already and you’re just wondering why has tattoo artists used Vaseline on you over the years?
By now, If you’re that eager newbie fresh to the painfully beautiful world of tattoos, you’re probably sitting there not only trying to perfect your idea for finally getting that first tat inked into your skin, but now you’re probably a little more curious as to why a tattoo artist needs to slather some Vaseline on you before firing up the needle and changing you permanently.
There are many steps before the tattooing begins from making sure needles are clean, the artist is wearing gloves, all the way down to making sure you shaved your hairy arm beforehand. Butt applying some ointment once the deed has been done is a major step in the process. And without it, you could actually be looking at some poor healing, the ink coming out, and a potentially ruined tattoo.
A Background on How Tattoos Work
Before understanding why Vaseline is a go to for a lot of tattoo artists today, it’s beyond important to understand just how exactly tattoos work and what happens during the process of ink to skin. One might be surprised to learn just how many people get tattoos without knowing how that special tat stays there for decades to come.
As much as tattoos have been stereotyped over the years because of biker gangs, and Hollywood villains, the process of tattooing is actually quite scientific. There are two layers of skin involved, the top layer being the epidermis, and the second layer being the dermis.
The needle, after being sterilized by the tattoo artist then goes beyond the epidermis and punctures the dermis, inserting the ink for the remainder of your lifespan. The reason as to why the pigments stay there forever is simple, white blood cells can’t get rid of them because the pigments are too big.
Once the ink is safely in place, the epidermis is much like skin that’s been bruised and scarred, which requires a week or two to heal. This is where Vaseline comes into play.
Why is Vaseline Used?
Once the tattoo is finished, there’s usually a bit of blood and a whole lot of scar tissue, and where there’s damaged flesh, there’s flesh that needs a lot of hydration to heal. Scars are dry and crusty entities but share the same quality as flowers in that you need to water them.
Vaseline has this healing element.
Vaseline is purified with something called petroleum jelly which comes with it a sealing barrier of sorts. So instead of just using water which dries up after a common breeze, Vaseline slathers on the moisture but locks it in, acting almost as a liquid bandage for the tattoo. Once the tattoo has healed, that’s when you switch to using lotion instead of Vaseline, as it keeps the skin moist without the healing effects.
To better understand just why some use Vaseline in the healing process of tattoos, one must think outside the box of just tattooing. If you look at tattoos like a wound or an abrasion which they are, how does one heal something like that? Usually alcohol and maybe some A&D ointment.
But with tattoos you don’t want to treat them exactly like a wound. You want them to heal without damaging the artwork or tearing out the ink. Water is too weak, while alcohol is too strong. Therefore, Vaseline is often the chosen middleman for most tattoo artists. A&D ointment can also be used.
For this reason, Vaseline has been a go-to and first instinct for not only the artists but seasoned tattoo lovers alike. But there are some critics of the widely popular Vaseline product, and below we’ll discuss just why Vaseline may not exactly be the most well rounded application for tattoo healing.
The Bad Effects of Vaseline
With every old wives tale comes two old husband tales to debunk them. Mostly anything that is raved about in a widespread manner, FDA approved, or fawned over by a community will most certainly come with some setbacks. In any case, Vaseline is not safe from this type of scrutiny.
In the modern era of tattooing, there’s a space of people who believe that using Vaseline is in fact an old school method of healing. Like chicken soup serving as a vaccine, proponents of this argument back up their claims by pointing out that Vaseline is good while the tattooing is taking place because using another product may need multiple applications, but Vaseline lasts longer saving both the tattoo artist time and the client money.
But once that tattooing is over, the anti-Vaseline crowd says that it’s time to say thank you and part ways with the product for the remainder of the healing process.
Why? Well, it’s almost hard to believe and completely ironic but because Vaseline is so good at sealing in moisture and creating that barrier between wound and fresh air, Vaseline may actually be preventing oxygen from getting to the tattoo. This barrier of protection created by Vaseline could potentially trap harmful bacteria in the tattoo area, which is the last thing anyone wants after coming home with some fresh ink.
Not only does one possibly run the risk of infection with the tattoo but this could also do something else to make the entire ordeal worthless and that’s potentially fading the tattoo. For the same exact reasons you don’t want to over expose the tattoo to sunlight or pool water because of irritation of the ink, the same rings true for using too much products like Vaseline or A&D because too much of a strong lubricant like these and you create a suffocation effect for your new tattoo, damaging the ink in the process.
This is the main drawback for using Vaseline during the tattoo healing process. Now, tattoo artists use it sparingly during tattooing because once the artwork is done, they simply wipe it away.
The Benefits to Vaseline
Drawbacks aside, there is a clear benefit for Vaseline in the tattooing world. It’s a strong tool for not only the artist but also the one walking out of the shop. There’s a lot of important takeaways here that both parties need to keep in mind when handling the product next to some fresh ink.
For those of you who are thinking of going out into the world and finally getting that Snoopy tat, remember that when you leave the shop, after a few days of applying Vaseline to your new baby, the body can heal itself with proper cleaning and care. After Vaseline has done its job, your job is too keep your thirsty tattoo hydrated with lotion.
For the next two weeks, like a peeling sunburn, you’re to apply lotion daily, and when needed. This will ensure that your tattoo heals properly and with the colors intact.
For artists, remember to be clear in explaining that Vaseline is great when you’re taking needle to skin, but when it comes to the aftercare, tattoo newbies are to apply Vaseline once or twice a day for a day or two max, otherwise you run the risk of some dirty skin, bacteria, and possibly a ruined tattoo.
The benefits to Vaseline is excels the downfalls of it. The key here is the amount of application and the timing of it. So there have it, now you know why tattoo artists use Vaseline when tattooing you and why they recommend it during aftercare. With anything that deals with your health and body it’s always important to follow instructions and understand why something does what.
So when you finally get around to sitting in that chair and feeling the pain that comes right before you lay eyes on your new tattoo, at least when looking forward to applying that Vaseline in the hope that the painful itchiness will subside, you’ll know why you’re applying it