Using Eczema Cream On Tattoos

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 9, 2020
    Last Updated: March 12, 2022

Getting a new tattoo is exciting, though it’s not always pleasant, especially if you’re dealing with a skin condition such as eczema. Eczema causes dry, itchy and irritated skin that requires special creams and ointments.

Can you use your regular eczema cream on your new tattoo without causing further damage? Find out below.

Is It Safe To Use Eczema Cream On a Tattoo?

Some over-the-counter creams that are recommended to treat eczema should also be suitable for a new tattoo. However, there are a few of rules you should follow before trying your cream out on your new ink.

You should avoid any product that contains added chemicals or fragrances. Using harsh chemicals on newly tattooed skin can exacerbate any issues and make it harder for the skin to heal.

You should also be wary of products that contain petroleum jelly such as E45. Petroleum jelly is a thick ingredient that can clog pores and delay healing.

Finally, be wary of prescription creams, as these are generally stronger than over the counter products. Always check the label and if in doubt, speak a board certified dermatologist who will be able to give a definitive answer.

Common Eczema creams such as Cetaphil are fine to use on a new tattoo, while thicker products like Vaseline, E45 and CeraVe should probably be avoided for the first couple of weeks until the tattoo has finished peeling.

Always buy a tubed/push-application product rather than a tub where possible to prevent double-dipping and the potential transfer of bacteria.

How To Care for a Tattoo When You Have Eczema

Since the upper and middle layers of the skin are damaged when getting a tattoo, it’s essential to properly care for your skin. Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Remove the bandage/wrap: You can usually do this within the first 24 hours, still, your tattoo artist may instruct you otherwise.
  • Cleanse gently: Use a gentle, fragrance-free soap to clean the area and dab your tattoo dry with a paper towel once finished.
  • Apply an ointment: Once the area is completely dry, apply your product of choice to the area to moisturize and nourish the healing skin. Only apply a very fine layer to the tattoo to avoid suffocating the skin.
This is FAR too much lotion and some should be blotted off with a paper towel

Healing Will Take Longer

Non-eczema skin can take between two and three weeks to heal. Eczema-prone skin is more sensitive and will take longer to heal properly. Just how long it will take to heal depends on your skin’s condition and how vigilant you are with the aftercare.

Note, while it can take a few weeks for the upper layer of skin to heal, it can take even longer for the lower layers. Be extra gentle with your tattoo for the first six months of its life.

Treating Flare-Ups

Eczema flare-ups are likely to occur after getting a tattoo since the ink, dye and needle can act as triggers. In saying that, no matter your skin condition, some form of reaction is inevitable, such as redness, soreness, peeling skin and mild irritation.

If you experience an eczema flare-up, there are a few things you can do to help calm it:

  • Use a hydrocortisone cream to relieve itchiness
  • Use a body lotion containing oatmeal
  • Apply cocoa butter
  • Apply a eczema ointment or cream, speak with your doctor beforehand

Can Eczema Ruin a Tattoo?

The short answer to this is no—eczema won’t ruin a tattoo. A tattoo machine deposits the ink and dye deeper into the skin layer known as the dermis. Eczema only affects the outer layer of the skin, known as the epidermis. 

Itching and scratching the epidermis won’t distort your tattoo, however, if scratching is severe, you could break the skin and cause scar tissues. Scars can change the design of your tattoo, especially if it’s a portrait or other intricate designs.

Therefore, you should never scratch your tattoo before it has completely healed. Additionally, scratching can transfer bacteria to the wound, potentially causing infection and long-term damage to the appearance of your ink.

You might notice some subtle fading of the tattoo during healing, but this is completely normal and not related to your eczema.

How Do I Get Rid of Eczema on My Tattoo?

If you’re noticing a flare-up in the tattoo area, start by applying a prescribed ointment or cream recommended by your doctor. 

Here are a few ways to enhance the effects of the cream:

  • Apply a cold compress: A simple way to treat an itchy tattoo is to apply something cold. Cold temperatures have shown to reduce inflammation and swelling, making it an effective way to soothe your skin.
  • Moisturize: Keeping the area hydrated can help to alleviate discomfort and can help to prevent flare-ups. Remember to use a fragrance-free moisturizer and make sure you’re drinking enough water to keep yourself hydrated.
  • Oatmeal bath: A colloidal oatmeal bath can help to relieve irritated, dry, itchy skin. You can buy colloidal oatmeal or you can make your own using regular oatmeal.

Final Words

Getting a tattoo on eczema skin isn’t ideal, still, you can keep your tattoo and skin healthy with proper care and precautions.

Always stick to what your doctor prescribes. If a flare-up occurs, treat it with cold compresses, a fragrance-free moisturizer and an oatmeal bath—avoid excessive itching to prevent scar tissues from forming.

Be mindful of the ingredients with any product before applying. Be extra careful about applying prescription products to your tattoo that aren’t available over the counter. These generally contain stronger ingredients and may be more like to irritate or damage your tattoo.

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