Advice and Aftercare

Why you should never use Bepanthen on your new tattoo

Bepanthen tattoo aftercare

Everything you need to know about Bepanthen and tattoos. This tattoo is by Hannah Calavera

Do you know what you’re putting on your open wounds?

I’ve been meaning to write this article for a long time now. For the last year or so I’ve been hearing from almost every tattooist that I speak to that I should not be using Bepanthen (a nappy rash cream) on new tattoos. But I never fully understood why.

Many of us have been using this thick cream for years on our fresh tattoos, despite it not being designed specifically with tattoo healing in mind – something the brand would whole-heartedly admit.

In 2015, the makers of Bepanthen told Black Cat:

“Bepanthen Ointment is marketed in the UK for care and protection from the causes of nappy rash. Bepanthen Ointment is not indicated for use on recently tattooed skin. We do not have any specific studies on the use of Bepanthen Ointment for tattoos, therefore cannot recommend the use of Bepanthen for the aftercare of a tattoo. We can only recommend that the Bepanthen Ointment is used as per the instructions for care and protection from the causes of nappy rash.”

Bepanthen tattoo aftercare

Tattoo by Emrah de Lausbub

I used to buy Bepanthen by the bucketload (metaphorically-speaking). But now I don’t. Based on my own conversations in the tattoo industry, this particular lotion seems to be no longer highly recommended by many tattoo artists in the UK (and around the world).

Some claim that this shift in attitude has been due to rumoured recent changes in Bepanthen ingredients and an increase in the volumes of lanolin (grease from sheep wool) included. Changes or not, I actually think the discussions are the result of the industry moving forward in today’s modern times. The tattoo industry has an open-minded dedication to always seeking innovation and asking questions about current processes in order to improve them if possible. Artists are beginning to contemplate what’s best for their customers – whether they practice a vegan tattoo set-up or not, the best possible healing of their work on human skin is always their top priority.

I know a lot of Inkluded followers who still use Bepanthen, so I wanted to share some words of advice with you all, so you can feel a little bit more informed on the subject, to make the right decision for you. A huge thank you to all of the artists below for sharing their professional opinions. I spoke to many, many more tattooists (both vegan and non-vegan) in advanced of creating this blog – the statements below are just a very small percentage!

Got something to add? Comment on the article below.

“Bepanthen used to be the industry standard when recommending tattoo aftercare until a change in ingredients started to cause more harm than good. An increase in the ingredient lanolin, which is essentially sheep grease, meant that pores were being blocked, resulting in break-outs. More and more customers began to complain about reacting to the cream, as lanolin is also high on the list of skin related allergies. The thickness of the cream also caused people to over-rub their fresh tattoos, aggravating their skin all the more. Because aftercare is one of the most important parts of the tattooing process, I now recommend and stock AfterInked, which has been dermatologically tested – it’s non-allergenic and non-irritating. It’s also vegan and cruelty free… I know I’d prefer not to smear sheep grease all over my new tattoo!”

Tori Treasure, Tattoo Artist

Bepanthen tattoo aftercare

Tattoo by Tori Treasure

“I have never liked Bepanthen, even before they changed the ‘recipe’ and even more people started to have trouble with it. It’s too thick, the tube isn’t sanitary, it smells really bad and it ruins any fabric it comes into contact with. The real problem is that is contains lanolin – which is derived from the grease from a sheep’s wool. Lanolin is gross, non-vegan and is the main cause of the blocked pores in a healing tattoo you always see! I always recommend plant-based, natural products for healing. The fewer ingredients the better! You can’t really go wrong with cocoa butter or coconut oil. Coconut oil especially is a natural antiseptic too. At my studio we use Dermalize Pro which is a breathable dressing. Although it’s amazing and makes life a lot easier, it’s not 100% necessary if you take care to use the right products for your body.” 

Hannah Calavera, Tattoo Artist

Bepanthen tattoo aftercare

Tattoo by Hannah Calavera

“I have no bad opinion about the product itself, but for me the problem lies in the business ethics that stand behind the brand. Bayer, have just being taken over by Monsanto, and this was a big concern for me, as they’re known for their highly controversial methods when it comes to dealing with seeding material. Because of my own political and economical world view, I just didn’t want to support them. There are many products out there designed specifically with a tattoo ‘wound’ in mind, so why not use them? In Germany, we recommend a product called After Tattoo, but we are always open to trying new stuff too.”

Emrah Lausbub, Tattoo Artist

Bepanthen tattoo aftercare

Tattoo by Emrah de Lausbub

“It’s simple, really. I just tell my clients that it makes better sense to use healing creams that are made for healing tattoos!”

Kat Winifred, Tattoo Artist

Bepanthen tattoo aftercare

Tattoo by Kat Winifred

“My reasons for not using Bepanthen came from discovering that I would suffer quite badly when I used it whenever I got tattooed myself. Even very minimal use would cause discomfort. It would burn and irritate my skin. I discovered that there are various ingredients such as lanolin and a number of emollients that can cause a reaction like that. I was also never keen as it’s not made for putting on open skin. Although it acts as a great barrier, it also doesn’t allow the skin to breath as it has petroleum in it, which stops moisture evaporating from the skin but by default also stops sweat, etc. from leaving. When I properly looked into it, I stopped using it and don’t offer it to customers. I find Hustle Butter to be the best aftercare on the market.”

John Greaney, Tattoo Artist

Bepanthen tattoo aftercare

Tattoo by John Greaney

“I always steer clients away from using Bepanthen. From my own personal experience with the product, I have found it to be more of a hindrance rather than a healer. Anyone who has used it before will know how sticky it is, which can cause fabric, dust and any number of things stick to the tattoo. As a tattoo is effectively an open wound, this isn’t something that I would recommend to anyone. Personally, I’ve always found raw butter products work the best. They are better absorbed into the skin and aid the healing process.”

Dani Belle, Tattoo Artist

Bepanthen tattoo aftercare

Geometric rose tattoo by Dani Belle

For most tattooists that I consulted in the process of writing this article, pure coconut oil was the winner, and I’m in agreement.

I’m also currently using a product called Jengu Tattoo Care which is 100% natural and vegan. Personally, I’m all about natural oils (things I can pronounce!) especially ones that have come from flora rather than fauna.

I prefer to ‘dry heal’ and move to these types of creams post-healing, or at least from day 3 onwards once my new tattoo starts to feel dry.

Tattoo Aftercare

Photography by Kamila Burzymowska (kamilaburzymowska.pl)

Update 19/01/17:

I’ve been overwhelmed with companies (selling aftercare products) posting links to their websites in the comments below this article. Some of these are not appearing as links are automatically categorised as ‘spam’ in our website system. On a side note – this article was NOT sponsored or encouraged by any external brands or companies. If you’re a brand that would like to work with Inkluded please get in touch.


Update 03/02/17:

After sharing this article, I received a staggering amount of positive feedback from the tattoo artist community and a very strong re-assurance that the industry wanted me to share this viewpoint. Inkluded always aims to accurately share advice and never wishes to contradict any of the amazing artists working in this beautiful industry.

Yesterday however, I spoke to a tattooist (who wishes to remain nameless) who does recommend Bepanthen to clients. He feels that the above article was potentially damaging to artists’ reputations and that it is our responsibility as a media source to give a more two-sided viewpoint.

Any potential damage I may have caused is obviously deeply concerning for me as we have such strong brand missions here at Inkluded that wish to achieve the very opposite.

I have subsequently reached out again to our community and I will seek to collate any opinions in favour of this product as a potential aftercare and list them here.

Nevertheless, as a blogger reporting on this issue I have to honestly guide (and not confuse) my followers and let you all know that approximately 95% of the feedback I have received over the last few years has been against this particular cream. An overwhelming volume of tattooists wanted this opinion to be voiced, based on their own documenting of the reactions on their clients’ skin from using this cream. I would not have written the original article, otherwise.

I am also still yet to find anyone who can tell me in detail why Bepanthen specifically is good for healing (the benefits of its ingredients on healing wounds specifically, etc).

However, all of that doesn’t change our core missions. Inkluded is primarily my own personal blog and a representation of my own personal opinion as a tattoo enthusiast embedded in the community… but it is also a place for tattooists to voice their opinions and guidance too. So, I will add any incoming comments in favour of Bepanthen to this webpage below (so far this totals at x3).

If you’ve got more to say on this topic and would like your viewpoint added below, get in touch.

As a final thought, and I do say this time and time again, please do follow your artist’s aftercare advice over anything you may read online or elsewhere. They know what works best for their own work.

“With Bepanthen, lanolin is not actually bad. It is also found to be a miracle cream if you’re a breast-feeding woman and need to sooth sore nipples, for example.

Anyway, I usually find what is more important with aftercare is application! If a client gets on with Bepanthen and has been using it for all their previous tattoos, I offer advice for a very specific application method that utilises a mug of hot water to thin the cream. This makes sure they don’t smother the tattoo too much which blocks the pores.

Keeping the tube clean and not re-touching it when applying is important too. It’s also important to not use old aftercare products that have been sat there opened for 12 months. I advise a brand new pot every time as you can never be too careful.

I think there will always be disagreements in the tattoo community as far as products go but it’s all about personal experience. If someone gets on with a product that’s cool and if they don’t get on with a product that’s cool too.”

Will Gee, Tattoo Artist

Watercolour tattoo by Will Gee

Watercolour tattoo by Will Gee

“I choose to use Bepanthen simply because I’ve always used it and been recommended it. It’s easy to get hold of and isn’t massively expensive. A few of my regular customers buy Hustle Butter which is what I use during tattooing. Bepanthen is great for those that want a tub sat at home ready for them after each session – for those that are only going to come in once for something small, it’s not worth spending the money.

We have started recommending Aquaflex to some clients, alongside Bepanthen. We found that for larger work it really helps the healing process and avoids any scabbing. And like I said, for my regular clients, I recommend Hustle Butter.

To be completely honest, this is the first time I’ve heard about Bepanthen being a concern. I do agree with some of the comments I have read and understand that ingredients are a big part of it. Some people don’t want to use it because of that and it has changed consistency recently. We advise people to put the tub in warm water for a few minutes before applying just to soften it up first.

I don’t think the comments are wrong information… far from it. There are people out there that have been tattooing way longer than myself and I’m always willing to take on board comments and advise. I believe times change and with the recent boost to the tattooing industry there has been more reason to look into and develop better aftercare for our clients… and that’s brilliant.”

Emma Louise Burton, Tattoo Artist

Tattoo by Emma Louise Burton

Tattoo by Emma Louise Burton

“I still recommend Bepanthen to my customers. I also still use it myself on my own tattoos. However, when explaining aftercare to my customers (most of the regulars who are very used to Bepanthen) I notify them of the changes to the recipe, and advise them to use very small amounts. I also tell them what they need to be looking out for – if they experience any irritation, etc. then I have a list of alternative healing solutions. So far I’ve had no problems with myself or any of my customers. Tattoos are coming back to me beautifully healed and vibrant, so I am happy to still recommend it.”

Shirin Scales, Tattoo Artist

Tattoo by Shirin Scales

Tattoo by Shirin Scales

28 replies »

  1. Hey there – thanks for your comments! Nope, I’m not personally a vegan (but do actually have a lot of time for people who are). The motivations behind this article are based on real advice from experienced (vegan and non-vegan) tattooists and a determination that we just want to make sure you guys look after your skin & wounds in the best way possible ✌️️ ✌️️ ✌️️ #happyandhealthytattooing

  2. Let me tell you all a little story about the reason people started using Bepanthen on tattoos. My husband H Stewart who has been a working tattoo artist for over 40 years says it is because he and his tattoo artist mates back in the early 80’s told someone to use it as a joke, knowing it was nappy cream. For some reason people have used it ever since but no it is not appropriate. Basically a tattoo is a graze and should be treated as such. Keep uncovered, clean and dry until scabs start to loosen. Then any type of moisturising cream is fine to stop the itching whilst healing underneath.

    • Keep it dry? Only use cream when it scabs?
      All of my tattoos that have healed the best have never scabbed. Sounds like another old school tattooist that has stuck with bad practises.

      • No scabbing on your tattoos, well what a lucky lad. Everyone has a different skin type which will all react differently to a foreign body i.e. pigment. Bad practice doesn’t come into it. Indeed my husband is probably the only qualified nurse to have worked in the profession and was one of the pioneers who insisted on the sterile equipment that is used within the industry today. Please don’t make derogatory comments about people you don’t know.

    • So you’re saying that your husband and his friends told someone (assumedly one of their customers) to use a substance on his fresh wounds that can cause irritation and which (at the time) has never been tested for such use, thus not knowing if they’re ruining his tattoos for life, or whithout caring WHATEVER the fuck it may result in… for a joke?!
      And that person is (was) an active tattooist?!
      And a NURSE..??
      This is a sad story about a poor character. And sounds like one of the jerkiest jokes ever.

      • Nappy rash cream was never going to cause any lasting damage to anyone or it wouldn’t be available to stick in babies bums. Good grief all so serious and like attacking others on this site. What a shame.

      • Why is it every time people get into a discussion there is always someone who has to stick the boot in no wonder this world is like it is I wish Pete would grow up the lady didn’t have to tell us her story but she chose to to make us wiser to products not to get stupid remarks about something that happened a long time ago.

  3. Unfortunately my girlfriend is vegan and used Bepanthen on her tattoo not realising it had animal product in it. However her tattoo did heal extremely well, in fact her tattooist said that it was one of the best healed tattoos he’d done, despite what the article above says.
    She won’t be using it again however looks like coconut oil is the way to go…

  4. It would have been nice to have also spoken to tattooists that recommend and use bepanthen themselves. In fact rather than referring to ‘thick layers’ and ‘over rubbing’ it would have been nice to hear a fully rounded view of the product and advice for how to apply it easily and with great results – rather than just a round up from all those with negative opinions and experiences, some of which are clearly down to poor application.

    I understand that everyone is a vegan nowadays, and there a many options out there for those who wish to follow that route. But for me if you want to put a cream in then for the best healing results, best value product, and easiest to get (a few pound from boots rather than tens of pounds from over priced suppliers) then bepanthen remains the best option.

    Or do what I now do – nothing. Wash normally, wear loos clothes and let it scan and heal naturally. It’s a lot less hassles and heals as well ultimately.

    I’m not saying anyone’s views are right or wrong. But this was as an attack on a product and company. Can we please have a more rounded view rather than simply an article for people to vent about something they don’t like.

  5. I have personally been using bepanthen on my tattoos for many years after having a bad experience with the healing of a tattoo following poor advice. All my tattoos have healed really well and I now recommend it to my customers.

    A customer of mine bought a current market leading product designed for tattoo aftercare and the tattoo healed so bad it will have to be redone!!

  6. This probably explains that after a few days of using bepanthan on my most recent tattoo it was looking more red than ever! Switched to cocoa butter and it healed really quickly. I’ve never reacted to it before, but I assumed it was me that had changed, rather than the cream 😄. Really informative article, thank you.

  7. I never took people’s word on using bepanthan.
    I use and always will use Hemp Hand Protector from body shop. “Hard working moisturiser. With community fair trade hemp seed oil. For very dry skin”
    Never ever had an issue with it, recommended it to friends too and they love it as much as I do !!

  8. I will be honest every tattoo I’ve ever had I’ve always gone back to bepanthan and always told to use it. I’ve tried different things and none wrk better. The thing is, when you talk about lanolin you do realise it comes from wool. That comes from shaving sheep. It’s an animal product but not one that’s from a death of an animal. It’s also not “sheep grease” but I liked the way that was labelled in order to make people cringe and therefore be disgusted. Clever but be honest man instead of using partial facts to highlight your beliefs and not the entire story yeah? Truth is a tattoo is an open wound, not deep but it needs to heal however a scab is not great for keeping the colour in so you want it to heal but not scab. Use lightly, just enough to cover the end of your finger with a thin layer and enough to feel slightly moisturised on the skin. That’s it.

    • Wool (especially the cheap and thus most used kind) is often collected in a very violent way by people who get paid by the work not by the hour. I’ve seen videos where sheep are thrown around, kicked, beaten, pieces of skin cut off with the wool, sheep dying in this horrible treatment..
      And even if the wool was collected in a sheep-respecting way, it still tends to come from sheep raised for meat. So you are giving your money and support to people who exploit and slaughter the poor things.

      It can be easy to think wool, milk or eggs are not that bad since they are not parts of a dead animal. But if you look into the industry at all you’ll find out there is a lot suffering and death involved. Look it up and think again if it’s activity you want to support with your money.

  9. I’ve always used bepanthen and find it to be the best when it comes to healing , after a late one and realising I’d run out I bought the tin of el gato negro from the tattooist and found it rubbish.Ive also used acriflex cooling gel on recomendation of the artist who advised against bepanthen and made it sound amazing and that was also rubbish.I suppose everyone’s different the quality of my tattoos from using bepanthen is great.

  10. Your ‘research’ is hardly scientific is it… asking your mates on facebook. We all know how egotistical tattooists are anyway and their opinion is always right. So maybe do some actual research and publish this? Get in touch with Bayer Plc. who make Bepanthen and seek advice from them, see if they have conducted any research on the matter with actual dermatologists and not your fellow facebookers. You have a duty, with the amount of coverage you get from your blog, to conduct your research properly. I look forward to seeing a new blog with views from the scientific world. All the best, Bob.

    • Hey Bob, thanks for your message. Sadly, Bayer won’t make any public statements about the cream in relation to a tattoo aftercare as it was not designed / created by them for this method – they don’t “recommend” the cream for tattoos as it’s designed with nappy rash in mind. Unfortunately that means that getting any scientific research on the product being great for tattoos from an ‘official’ body or company is impossible, therefore gaining majority tattoo artist opinion over the last few years (digitally and in person), is our best form of research. Tattooists know the skin & their work best. Thanks for reaching out and for sharing your comments! Inkluded

      • thats really weird… i got my first tattoo 3 weeks ago and i use bepanthen and it actually says right on the tube in the very end of “area of use”… tattoos..
        i ‘ll try to translate and i am sorry if i get it wrong english is ot my native language.

        “use as a moisturizer on dry skin och dry lips, soothing of sunburn, on overworked skin and tattoos.”

        active ingredient beeing dexpanthenol

  11. Looking through all the tattoo aftercare products so far I have sadly noticed that none of them come from medical industry and therefore are not controlled to the standards required for drugs. This means they often include Limolene, Teatree oil, peppermint oil, citrus extracts etc etc. All of those are highly disputed ingredients and also can cause allergic reactions. The truth is that there is always the possibility of reaction since everything in the world is allergenic to someone. BUT in medical industry there are certain guidelines and requirements that minimise the possibility, in the tattoo aftercare industry there are no such things. It is often said how Bepanthen is just nappy rash ointment but actually there are atleast 3 different sorts available with different uses. Personally, since bepanthen has been approved for use within regulations set to over the counter drugs I would any day recommend it to my customers over anything made with out the same regulations.

  12. Ok I read it.
    This is how my brain reads it:
    1. I see this as opinion, basedon experience from the author, different from a fact based document. Which is what blogs and comments are for. OPINIONS.

    2. Biggest issue here is with Lanolin. Lanolin is an animal byproduct. I’m not vegan I don’t care about that. Pigs heart arebest to repair human hearts. I want whats best gor healing. My opinion.

    3. Is Lanolin good or bad? Well…depends who you talk to.

    4. Personally I have heard probably 50+ issues of artists having reactions from coconut oil (that’s just who I’ve heard). Don’t recommend it at all in my practice.

    I’ve never heard of a reaction with grapeseed oil. That’s my choice #1 for aftercare. (Main ingredient in afterinked) and I love the cheap, hygienic pillowpacks I give to my clients. I only have to deal with 1/2 inch to 3 inch areas, not backs or sleeves)

    5. I use bepanthen for eyeliner and lips (stays put better on lips, which require more barrier for eating, etc…) for 4 days. In regards to eyeliners no matter what they use I tell them to watch closely for irritation and discontinue and switch to dry healing if they do. I just find bepanthen very soothing on the lid and corner which can be tender from the stretching. I have them avoid the actual lash line. Nothing is actually formulated for IN the eye, with the exception of petroleum (which is deemed safe and in many opthamolic products) which I feel is more comedogenic than most products so I don’t recommend.

    6. Stings? Um. Doubtful. Its formulated for diaper rash. Its soothing and a barrier. Millions of babies will attest.

  13. is it me or are people missing the point of this topic. its about why we don’t use Bepanthen. A valid topic in my opinion as i have witnessed the large movement away from Bepanthen in the past couple of years. So to me surely the writer is trying to gain and share a wider knowledge of why we don’t use it. I don’t massively see the necessity for the flip side of the argument as the industry as only ever been about bepanthen for such a longtime, its been the standard with many tattoo artists for many years. So its refreshing to read an article/discussion thats about other options. And i am sorry but you can’t attack a company that neither recognises or recommends its product for tattoo aftercare. If this was an attack on how damaging it was on babies without any proper research to back it up then i would agree. The opinions (of which i also contributed) come from experience predominantly from people who work within this industry. Its not from an egotistical stand point nor do i believe i or anyone else on here are a dermatologist, i find what works for myself and my customers. Tattoo aftercare is evolving more and more. A lot of people seem to have a problem with this but its just natural progression. I can remember when all a tattooist would recommend was Preperation H, and how many people do you hear dishing out hemorrhoid cream for aftercare anymore. Things change, and this article has been informative as to why people have made those changes or have never committed to a product that has been shall we say the big boss for a longtime.

  14. Having just had my first tattoo and been told to use Bepanthen I can honestly say I haven’t had any issues with it.
    It is thick but a quick rub between hands spreads it thinner for application purposes.
    My artist advised the product so I trust her judgement.
    Use anything else at your own risk and your artist may not take responsibility for how it turns out if it’s damaged.

  15. I’ve recently had my first tattoo and was told to use cocoa butter, or Bepanthon if I chose to. Bepanthon is very effective on delicate babies bums. Bad nappy rash causes small extremely painful craters in the skin, Bepanthon protects them from urine and poo, and allows them to heal fast. It’s a great product. I’m more than happy to use it with the healing process.

  16. I used to use Bepanthen until they supposedly changed the formula for it, since then I switch to Acriflex (the blue one) and my tattoos have healed perfectly in just four days, with no scabbing or colour loss.
    Basically Acriflex promotes mitosis in damaged skin cells so it actually heals, as you have to treat the tattoo as a wound and not an abrasion. I’m no dermatologist mind you, but it’s basic knowledge to clean wounds with antiseptic soap and thin layer an ointment to heal it.
    I always found Bepanthen drew colour out, scabbed easier and was far too greasy to keep my skin clear in that area.

  17. There is so much misinformation in this article that it beggars belief. First of all you should be using Bepanthen Antiseptic Cream, which is for WOUND CARE NOT Bepanthen Nappy Rash ointment, which is a mostly a preventative aid for nappy rash.

    Bepanthen Antiseptic is both a humectant AND an emollient which means it is both moisturising
    (by bonding with water molecules) and also creates an occlusive barrier layer to prevent moisture loss.
    This barrier is still breatheable unlike emollient only creams/salves. Most importantly, Bepanthen contains antiseptic properties which stop microbial bacteria from dividing and multiplying therefore preventing infection in your tattoo.

    Bepanthen cream is water based and the nappy rash version is oil based (more lanolin in this one!). I do not recommend the nappy rash ointment version.

    If the user is getting blocked pores they are using too damn much. The cream needs to be warmed a little in your hands before applying to spread it thinly. And yes like any product, there will always be people with allergies. But 99% of the time the problem is from people layering the cream on so thick it is still opaque.

    The fancy butters and oils are nice but are emmolients only. They need to be paired with an ingredient like aloe, glycerine or honey for their humectant properties in order to moisturise the skin.

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