Many tattoo aftercare sheets recommend washing with anti-bacterial soap and treating with A&D or Bacitracin Ointment for 3-5 days, and then following that up with skin lotion. Some will tell you that Bacitracin is a no-no, and just to keep the tattoo clean and use a little lotion. Some old-school artists have even advised against using any ointments or lotions at all, as they "are vehicles for bacteria, which can cause infections and scabbing." Then there are companies out there that make products such as Tattoo Goo and Tattoo Lube that take out all the guessing work and claim their products are designed specifically for aftercare and are superior to any other ointments. There are so many different opinions out there, what is one to do?
Now these different instructions are not just arbitrary guesses by someone that knows little or nothing about tattoos. All of the above links are to professionals with years of experience and who have probably tried several methods of aftercare before coming to a professional conclusion as to what is best. So, why is there such contradiction?
The first thing to consider is local availability. Not all products are available in every country, so you are limited to certain products. And also, people in lands across the world all have varied skin types which will react differently to these available products.
The Evolution of Aftercare
Through the years, as medical technology improves, new products have become available that are better than what was once considered the best method of aftercare. Petroleum jelly was once one of the most largely used products - it was highly available, inexpensive, and seemed to do the job fairly well. What has been found since then, though, is that petroleum based products tend to drain the color from a tattoo and also have no healing agents.
Then, along came the over-the-counter triple anti-biotic ointment, Neosporin. It had a healing agent that was good at fighting infection, and it didn't pull the color out of tattoos like petroleum jelly. After a few years of Neosporin being the #1 product recommended for tattoo aftercare, it soon became apparent that it was falling short of its expectations. Several people were coming up with allergic reactions to the ointment, and were getting tiny red bumps on their tattoos. After these red bumps disappeared, they took the ink along with them and the customer was left with a "spotted" tattoo.
More recently, a new product showed up on the shelves. Bacitracin. Bacitracin showed promising advantages over Neosporin. Fewer people were breaking out with allergic reactions and the coloring results were beautiful. Even to this day, Bacitracin remains one of the most highly recommended products. So, why doesn't everyone recommend it?
Bacitracin, good as it may be, still has its failings. There are still people having reactions to it, even though the numbers are fewer than with Neosporin. One of the main symptoms of a Bacitracin reaction is a "weeping" tattoo - one that leaks a small amount of fluid from the wound even several days into healing. Some people just don't take well to anti-bacterial ointments. If this is the case with you, what else is there? The next page will answer that question.