Holistic Tattoo Care
So, you sadistically booked a time for your body to take a rigorous beating from a bunch of needles. Maybe for you it's a right of passage, a momento from a significant period of time, a blood-letting ceremony, or you simply found an amazing artist whose work you want to look at and relish in everyday. No matter what, it's an event that should be taken seriously and with respect to the artwork and to your body.
When I first starting getting tattooed, I struggled to find information on natural healing methods. Each artist gave me different information and most google searches ended with a bunch of chemical laden creams and little to no information on the how to heal from the inside.
A tattoo is minor surgery and should be regarded as such. A session leaves you with psychedelic lacerations gushing pigmented blood and rainbow plasma.
Within this plasma is lymphatic fluid. This means that --shocker-- your immune system is directly involved in the repair and vibrancy of your tattoo. If your immune system isn't functioning at its optimal strength your body won't be able to maintain or regrow the necessary tissues.
These are my tried and true secrets on how to hack your immunity and build your internal super-strength to naturally maintain your new tattoo. I've followed this method for the majority of my tattoos and those of my mister, who is far more inked than I am.
Before you get tattooed:
- Bottomline, your tattoo is going to recover quicker and more brilliantly if you yourself are in good health. If your diet is shit, you're out of shape, and you tend to always get sick, there's a good chance that you're going to struggle with your healing process.
- You need to eat a diet rich in nutrients that support your immune system, purifies your blood, is anti-inflammatory, and promotes tissue repair. Eat your greens, healthy fats and stay away from excess booze and sugar. Don't go on a bender the week before you get a tattoo and expect it to look great in the long run.
- Exercise is a crucial step to prepping yourself for a tattoo. Your lymphatic system does not have its own pump and needs to be worked by your body through movement.
My must-have nutrients for tattoo care:
Grass-fed collagen gelatin. Collagen makes up 70% of the proteins that are in your skin. It's a must for regenerating tissue. It's also beneficial for keeping the skin supple, elastic, and moisturized from the inside out (I use this one).
Medicinal Mushrooms. Boost that immunity! Mushrooms like reishi and chaga keep your immune system strong, healthy, and are also anti-inflammatory.
Omega 3 fatty acids. Anti-inflammatory and loved by your skin. Go eat some cold-water fish and supplement with cod-liver oil for the best source EPA and DHA.
Elk/Deer Antler Velvet. Amazing for regrowth and regeneration. It's full of natural growth factors that are involved in every cellular function in the body, including immune responses. (buy here).
Chlorophyll. GREENS. Get 'em all. They help flush your body of toxins and provide you with a ton of nutrients that you need to keep your immune system in prime form and reduce inflammation. I like to add an extra liquid chlorophyll supplement to a jug of spring water and chug it back first thing in the morning or add a scoop of spirulina to my elixirs.
Immediate post-tattoo steps:
- Leave your dressings on for at least 14 hours. Remember, you just had minor surgery. If this was done in a hospital, you'd likely be kept in a relatively sterile environment for the first few hours of the healing process to prevent infection. Who knows what pollutants or bacteria you may encounter in your environment. This is especially critical through the first night. Leave the bandages on while you sleep. You're going to roll around on your new tattoo and who knows how clean your sheets really are.
- Chill out for the next 24 hours. Your body was just put under a lot of physical stress, your adrenaline and stress hormones will be heightened and your adrenals completely taxed. Give your body time to get back in balance. Eat a big and nutritious meal full of raw vegetables, healthy fats, and clean protein. Go for a grass-fed steak or drink some bone broth.
- Don't sweat excessively or exercise too intensely for the first five days. Working out can stretch the skin and contribute to unwanted scabbing. Excessive sweating can open the pores and possibly push some ink out of the skin. Also, sweat is full of toxins, which is something you would hopefully like to keep away from your new tattoo.
- Avoid saturating the tattoo with water until it's completely healed. Same principle as sweating, but also you don't want the scabs to get saturated in water and fall of prematurely. I don't soak my tattoo in water for at least a week.
- Cold water therapy/crynotherapy. Once you are ready to take your dressings off, give your tattoo a gentle wash with warm water, a clean cloth and natural, unscented castille soap (like this one). Here's the most important step: rinse your tattoo with ice cold water. For years, athletes have been using cold water therapy to promote tissue repair and reduce swelling. Here's a quote from Fast Company:
"[...] cold water immersion works by redirecting blood flow "from the peripheral to deep blood vessels, thereby limiting inflammation and swelling and improving venous return (the amount of blood returning to the heart)."
Also, bacteria tends to thrive in hot water pipes.
- Natural After Care Balm: The top ingredients I look for in tattoo balms are hemp, calendula, or coconut oils, and natural beeswax. Apply a natural balm or oil 2 times a day for the first 2 weeks.
- Calendula oil is amazing for reducing redness, swelling, and irritations.
- Coconut oil is antimicrobial and anti-bacterial.
- Hemp is anti-inflammatory, easily absorbed in the skin, and full of omega-3s the skin loves.
- Beeswax is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and great at minimizing itching.
Lately I've been using the organic and locally made and sourced Old Crow tattoo balm by Lowen's Natural Skincare (available here).