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.”
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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.
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.
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 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
“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
“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