1.) From the medical perspective, is a tattoo considered a major disruption to the life of healthy skin? Are there any situations in which you would advise your patients to not get a tattoo? How does skin react to a foreign body such as ink being introduced in such a permanent way?
As a physician, I always recommend caution and education before undergoing any elective procedure. All procedures have a risk of complications, so before you proceed you should do your research and make sure you are informed. Ask yourself what are the possible complications and whether the person doing the procedure is able to fix those possible complications should they arise? Are the risks of the procedure worth the benefits to you?
Like many industries in the US, tattooing is not well regulated. There is no uniformity to the required training, the ingredients in the ink, or in the pre and post care. Plus, it is a permanent procedure. Every year I see complications from tattoos, and these are primarily allergic reactions to ingredients in the ink, the products people are using on their new tattoo, and deep tissue infections from the needles pushing bacteria into the skin.
2.) Why do you think tattoo artists recommend products that may be harmful to the tattoo healing process? Misinformation?
Lets review the most commonly recommended options:
- Vaseline/petroleum: May fade the tattoo ink but it will not cause an allergic reaction and is cheap so for many this is an ok trade off.
- Aquaphor: A more expensive petroleum product that contains lanolin. Lanolin has been marketed for years as a natural healer for the skin when in fact studies have never been able to support this claim. However, what has been shown is a rapidly increasing rate of allergy to it! Fortunately, the majority of people are NOT allergic to it so for a single individual it could be safe.
- Neosporin, Polysporin, and other over the counter antibiotic ointments: These historically have been used to kill bacteria commonly found on the skin. However, they have been so widely used for 40+ years that most bacteria are resistant to them. Plus, they also contain ingredients that frequently cause allergic reactions.
As such, I see no benefit in using Aquaphor, Neosporin or Polysporin. They all cost more than plain Vaseline, contain petroleum and are more likely to cause a complication than Vaseline.
If you are looking for a petroleum-free, plant-based option that is still hypoallergenic and won’t fade your tattoo, I recommend my product Doctor Rogers RESTORE Healing Balm. I made it because I was so frustrated by the number of allergic reactions I was seeing from the ointments people were using after procedures. It is all we use after surgeries and lasering in my dermatology practice, many of patients use it to heal new tattoos. It is safe for sensitive, raw or damaged skin and will aid in healing.
3.) Are plant-based lotions the best for any topical skin issues or just specifically for caring for tattooed skin?
The short answer is no.
In general, there are two options in skin care:
1) Bland, chemical-laden hypoallergenic products that less commonly cause allergy but have parabens, phthalates etc that accumulate in our bodies and our world such as Cetaphil.
2) Plant-based products that are fun to use, do not accumulate in our bodies or world, but are more likely to be irritating from fragrance, essential oils, or allergy to the plant-based ingredients.
At RESTORE, I am making products that are both plant-based and hypoallergenic. This is no easy feat. You just have to be really selective and do a lot of testing, both for stability and allergy. It is hard to find effective ingredients that are safe for us, safe for our world and feel great to use. The Healing Balm was our hero entry product and since then we’ve brought a face wash, face cream, face lotion and lip balm to market. Soon we will release our body wash and body cream.
4.) From the general medical perspective, is getting a tattoo regarded as a bad idea?
Tattoos, body piercings and plastic surgery all have their pros and cons. You need to do your homework before you decide what is the right choice for you. Unlike plastic surgery, tattoos and piercing can be a spur of the moment decision and that might be ideal for everyone. The most common complication from getting a tattoo is regret and tattoo removal has become a billion dollar industry.
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Meet the author: Board-certified and practicing dermatologist, Dr. Heather D. Rogers, MD, is the founder of Doctor Rogers Skin Care and Modern Dermatology in Seattle, Washington. She studied at Stanford, University of Washington School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. She lectures nationally, is well published, and an active member of the American Academy of Dermatology. Highly respected among the skin care community, Dr. Rogers has been annually named “Top 1% of Most Honored Doctors in the US” by Castle Connolly.