Many of us keep Neosporin or other triple antibiotic ointments in the medicine cabinet to help heal wounds like small scrapes and cuts. So, it’s only logical to wonder if you can put Neosporin on a tattoo. After all, that’s an open wound too.
Of course, different tattoo artists recommend using different products. Some recommend a light layer of Neosporin for a day or two while others recommend against it. So, can you use Neosporin on a tattoo? Or are there better options?
Antibacterial Ointment for Tattoos
The last thing you want is to allow your newly tattooed skin to become infected. And your fresh tattoo is especially vulnerable within the first couple of days after getting it. Antibacterial ointment makes sense. Afterall, Neosporin and similar antibacterial ointments provide medicines, such as neomycin, bacitracin, and polymyxin, to help kill bacteria in and around the wound.
This is why Neosporin is found in most first-aid kits: it can help form a protective layer of antibacterial ingredients over the surface of a wound, including cuts, scraps, and burns. These ointments can also help wounds dry out and scab faster.
When it comes to tattoos, though, Neosporin isn’t the best option—or even a good one. You see, antibacterial ointments like Neosporin are thick and viscous. They create a protective layer so nothing can get through. While this means it protects the wound from bacteria, it also keeps oxygen out. And if the skin isn’t able to breathe, it can delay healing.
In other words, any thick, strong barrier type products—from Vaseline to Neosporin to other antibacterial ointments—can slow the rate of healing for your new tattoo.
Potential Side Effects of Antibacterial Ointments on New Tattoos
Antibacterial ointments typically aren’t even necessary in healthy individuals. What’s most important is ensuring you keep your new tattoo clean, protected, and moisturized.
What’s more, antibacterial ointments can also lead to side effects in some people. Some of the most common side effects include:
- Allergic reactions to the antibiotics, which can cause hives, rashes, itching, and discomfort. These reactions could also slow the healing of your new tattoo and even distort the ink.
- Increased risk of infection if your body builds up a tolerance to antibiotics. Only use antibiotics when needed to help decrease the risk of becoming antibiotic resistant.
- Increased risk of scarring or fading in your tattoo due to a disruption in the healing process.
Can You Put Neosporin on a Tattoo?
You want to avoid using antibiotic ointments on new tattoos, but what if you get a minor cut or scrape on an older, fully healed tattoo? This is the one exception where Neosporin may be effective as this is what it was designed for. You will, however, only want to apply a thin layer and use it for a limited time.
And any time you apply something to the skin, keep an eye out for any signs of allergic reactions, including swelling, redness, hives, itchiness, or rashes. If you do see signs, stop using the product immediately. If issues continue, seek out the advice of a healthcare practitioner.
What Should You Use to Help a New Tattoo Heal?
As part of your full tattoo aftercare, you’ll want to use synthetic fragrance-free products made specifically for new tattoos. This includes quality tattoo bandages like Saniderm, soaps like Saniderm Tattoo Aftercare Foam Soap, and of course, tattoo balms like Sanibalm to moisturize your fresh tattoo without suffocating it and slowing the healing process. Remember to clean the tattoo gently with clean hands and then apply only a light layer of balm or lotion.
Other ingredients to steer clear of to help your tattoo heal include:
- Lanoline, especially if you’re allergic to wool, as it’s an oil that comes from sheep’s wool.
- Unpurified beeswax, which may clog pores.
- Dyes and fragrances, which can interfere with the skin’s healing.
- Petroleum jelly, which can suffocate the skin and slow healing.
- Alcohol, which can dry out the skin.
- Mineral oil, which can be irritating or lead to an allergic reaction.
- Parabens, phthalates, and other petrochemicals, which have long-term negative effects on the skin and environment.
- And fragrances, which can distort the color and irritate the skin.
Ingredients to look for include coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, sea buckthorn seed oil, natural aromas from essential oils like lavender, and other nourishing compounds.
Avoid the use of antibiotic ointments like Neosporin. Instead, care for your new tattoo with products specifically made for a healing tattoo, which can help your tattoo not only heal faster but look great for decades to come.