Tattoo aftercare products are quickly becoming a must-have product for seasoned tattoo collectors and newbies alike. The advent of realism and the increasing complexity and detail in today’s tattoo artwork requires more than the common “just a glob of vaseline and call it a day” rhetoric in the past. You take care of your face with moisturizers and creams to prevent wrinkles and aging, so why aren’t you taking care your tattoos as well? Your skin deserves to be loved, cared for, and treated with respect all over your body, especially if you like to show off your body art. If you want your tattoos to heal properly and stay looking as good as it can for as long as possible, you need to use the correct soaps, salves, and moisturizers.
This is where you need to pay attention to what’s in your tattoo aftercare product. Going “natural” has become the new ideal, as people have begun to realize the benefits of choosing real, existing-in-nature ingredients over synthetic, man-made chemicals. Decades of research has now shown us the harmful, cumulative effects of unnatural chemicals in skin care that are directly linked to hormone issues, increased cancer risk, and fertility problems. Once-touted parabens and phthalates used as preservatives are now banned in many countries for their harmful effects from cosmetic use.
But skin care companies aren’t always honest (gasp!). The terms “natural”, “clean”, and “nontoxic” are often just haphazardly thrown around. It seems to imply that the product is free of synthetic, man-made chemicals. You might ask, “but isn’t it illegal to lie in advertising?” The troublesome answer is no. Dr. Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Cornell in New York, states that “There’s no formal system that regulates ‘natural’ or a legal definition of what this term means […] This gets complicated for consumers, as companies can make a claim that a product is natural even though it contains ingredients that don’t constitute as natural.”
The fact that this is unregulated means you absolutely have to do your homework, otherwise you will become a sponge; you’ll soak up anything you’re told; a vulnerable, naive target that marketing agencies drool over. And often times, that isn’t actually a huge task. It is as simple as reading the back label of ingredients. If something sounds synthetic, chances are it is, or at the very least, results of chemical reactions between natural compounds in a laboratory.
So next time you are freshly inked and looking for the best moisturizer to keep it looking fresh and bright, make sure you keep an eye out for these 5 potentially dangerous ingredients before you buy!
Sorbitan stearate - Sorbitan stearate is a synthetic wax derived from sorbitol, a type of artificial sweetener, and stearic acid. It is an emulsifier to enhance the texture of the product, meaning it is an additive to prevent the oils and water from separating. Sorbitan stearate doesn’t actually benefit you or your skin, it simply is used to thicken and stabilize the formulation to feel creamier and smoother.
Glyceryl Stearate - Glyceryl Stearate, also known as Glycerol monostearate, is a food additive manufactured from animal fats, vegetable oil, soybean oil, and/or palm kernel oil. It is used as a thickening and emulsifying agent, as well as a preservative. It is commonly used as an additive in plastic products, where it works as an anti-static and anti-fogging chemical agent. This chemical is also used in cosmetic products as well to boost or balance pigments and give it a thicker, smoother feeling. Though many companies claim it to assist in hydrating skin and forming a protective barrier, this is misleading. Glyceryl stearate is actually comedogenic — this means that it clogs your pores. So if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, you will want to stay far, far away from this ingredient. Once again, this is another artificial substance used simply to make the product look better and feel smooth, and has minimal, if any, benefit to your tattoo.
Carbomer - Commonly known as Polyacrylic acid, Carbomer is a synthetic polymer that absorbs and retains water causing the molecules to swell many times their original size. This synthetic polymer is used in disposable diapers to absorb fluids, floor cleaners, paint, and as a filtration agent in the oil drilling industry. It is also used in cosmetic moisturizers to thicken the consistency of the formula and prevent separation. Though the OSHA declared poly acrylic acid to be non hazardous in 2012, something just doesn’t seem right about applying industrial-use chemicals to a freshly healing tattoo.
Ethylhexylglycerin - This chemical compound is a relatively new and increasingly used preservative in skin care products as a skin softener and antimicrobial. It is considered a contact allergen and is linked to dermatitis and skin irritation from use. The American Contact Dermatitis Society states that because it is becoming more widespread in usage, it will be closely monitored by the ACDS as more research is still needed on the human use of this chemical.
Sodium hydroxide - This one is mind boggling — many cosmetic companies refer to this simply as an alkaline mineral used to balance the pH of their moisturizers, but that is only a small part of the truth. Sodium hydroxide is a described by the CDC as highly caustic. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health states: “Sodium hydroxide can harm workers who come in contact with it. The level of harm depends upon the amount, duration, and activity. It can burn the eyes, skin, and inner membranes, and cause temporary hair loss.”1 The Tennessee Department of Health warns that “Prolonged or repeated skin contact may cause dermatitis.”2 It is used by manufacturers to make soap, fabrics, dyes, petroleum products, and even explosives. It is often found in other commercial products like chemical drain cleaners and appliance maintenance. So, if you see sodium hydroxide on your moisturizer’s ingredient list, put it back on the shelf and keep shopping.
So there you have it. If you are currently using a moisturizer or balm, take a peak at the ingredients list and see if any of these harsh chemicals are hidden in the fine print. Consider more natural alternatives, in the true sense of the word ‘natural’: plant extracts, seed oils, nut butters, and vitamin oils. Keep this list handy if you want to ensure you take the best possible care of the tattoo you spent your hard earned money on, and treat your tattoo like the piece of artwork it truly is.
We LOVE Tattoo Lovers Care — it is a truly natural brand of organic, vegan aftercare products with no harsh chemicals. Every ingredient is from natural plant extracts, oils and butters with no hidden artificial preservatives. In other words, it's all killer no filler. Check them out at: www.grimstudios.shop/collections/aftercare 1 “Sodium Hydroxide.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 July 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/sodium-hydroxide/default.html.
2 “Sodium Hydroxide.” Sodium Hydroxide, https://www.tn.gov/health/cedep/environmental/environmental-health-topics/eht/sodium-hydroxide.html.
3 Sasseville, Denis MD, FRCPC; Stanciu, Monica MD. Allergic Contact Dermatitis | From Ethylhexylglycerin in Sunscreens. Dermatitis: January/February 2014 - Volume 25 - Issue 1 - p 42-43