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As a person who has been getting tattoos for over nine years now, I have learned to work with the skin type that I have, which happens to be VERY sensitive. More often than not, after getting a tattoo, I experience difficult healing, something that was once daunting is now regimen for my at home after-tattoo care.
If you have been tattooed before you may know the process of getting tattooed-leaving wrapped, using A&D for the first three days, followed by unscented lotion for the remainder. This is all accompanied by swelling, maybe leaking (plasma), peeling/itching, and silver skin. If you're like me, you go through some extra swelling and scabbing.
A&D ointment and I don't get along, even with the thinnest of layers it irritates my skin, and has even caused breakouts in areas surrounding my tattoos (which is so totally awesome and I always want to happen, right?). It always feels sticky and is generally unpleasant. My alternative is coconut oil; it's natural and super breathable, hydrating enough, and creates the perfect barrier from the environment, and it holds anti-inflammatory properties to baby the area. It also absorbs at a better rate than ointment, which always feels like a residue.
Dial, or antibacterial soap, is another product I needed to find an alternative for. Any time I would wash my tattoos they would feel tight and uncomfortable, and if I was going through a rough patch of scabbing it would only make things worse. Recently I fell in love with African Black Soap, infused with jojoba oil and shea butter; this miracle soap is anti-bacterial anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal. It does the trick to cleanse the skin and hydrate it enough to not feel completely stripped.
My aftercare regimen is altered just enough to cater to my skin's needs. I use coconut oil for the first week or so until I feel it's ready for lotion, usually indicated by the first signs of peeling. If I go through swelling that is noticeable enough for me to take action, I will take two Advil/Ibuprofen as hesitant as I am to take anti-inflammatories (I will wait for a headache to morph into a life altering migraine before I take medicine). It really helps calm down some fat swelling. Washing the area with African Black Soap twice daily, morning and night. If I had a long session and am leaking plasma enough to warrant washing I will water treat the area so the skin can breathe, just running warm water over it and rubbing very lightly with clean hands to remove any "build up" that may agitate the area or cause the skin to suffocate. Through peeling I use lotion (I still use tried and true Lubriderm although I would like to find a more natural replacement) throughout the day to keep the tattoo hydrated and avoid any cracking or pulling, and then still during the "silver skin" phase and then just keeping up with my normal moisturizing routine.
It has taken me a very long time to find what works for me to assist in my tattoo journey. Everybody is different and it takes some trial and error, but once you find the right care routine it gets easier and less stressful. Eventually you will just know what your skin is about to do instead of wondering if your new tattoo is going to fall off or explode or WebMD-ing things like gang green and wacky fungal infections. Keep trying to take care of yourself and your tattoos the best you can. Happy healing!