Using Tea Tree Oil On Tattoos

  • Written By Dan Hunter on October 12, 2019
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

Once you get a tattoo, the follow-up care for this new piece of artwork should be first and foremost on your mind. Proper aftercare and long-term attention to the tattoo will determine its healing process and quality of your healed tattoo. 

In the days and weeks after your piece is completed, watch for signs of infection and making sure to keep your tattoo moisturized and as clean as possible. You may use lotions and creams recommended by your tattoo artist, but can also consider the use of more natural solutions, like tea tree oil. 

Using tea tree oil on tattoos can:

  • Treat infection
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Be used as an antibacterial wash

What’s an Essential Oil?

Tea tree oil is an essential oil, with the scientific name Melaleuca alternifolia. Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts of almost any part of a plant, including leaves, stems, seeds, fruits, flowers, or roots. 

An essential oil contains a plant’s immune system. Due to this, it makes sense that the properties of a plant immune system also aids your immunity by sharing its anti-inflammatory and antibiotic effects. 

Anti-inflammatory Properties of Teat Tree Oil

Owing to it being an anti-inflammatory, tea tree oil also helps to soothe any irritation, redness, and swelling that occurs at a tattoo site. This can be very helpful, especially in the later stages of the healing process, when scabs begin to form and get itchy. 

Being proactive with tea tree oil application can help lessen the itchiness and, therefore, reduce your need to scratch. As scratching and peeling scabs can lead to fading, patchy, and scarred tattoos, this is a useful urge to preempt by applying the essential oil. 

Antibiotic Properties of Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a natural antibiotic. Research shows that this essential oil can kill bacteria that may infect tattoos, like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus

How to Apply Tea Tree Oil

You may be familiar with essential oils for all types of different reasons. Essential oils can be applied directly to the skin, ingested, or inhaled. Tea tree oil, however, shouldn’t be ingested; it can be toxic if swallowed. In the case of wound care, like with your tattoo, essential oils are best applied topically. 

One of the most critical factors in using essential oils correctly is diluting them. Using undiluted essential oils would be too extreme for use. Purchase a high-quality tea tree oil before following the steps below.

To make a diluted topical ointment:

  1. Carrier oil: Choose a carrier for the oil, like vegetable, coconut, almond, apricot kernel, grapeseed, jojoba, or avocado oils
  2. Combine and mix: For every teaspoon of the carrier oil, add 2–3 drops of tea tree oil. Mix the solution well
  3. Test: Apply to a test area of skin to check for any reaction
  4. All clear: If the test area is fine, apply it to your tattoo by gently massaging the solution into the skin. Don’t rub too hard!

You can also make an antibacterial wash out of tea tree oil: 

  1. Sterilize: Boil water to make sure it is sterile
  2. Cool: Allow the water to cool. Don’t use boiled water on your tattoo
  3. Mix: In a cup of water, add two drops of tea tree oil
  4. Cloth: Take a clean cloth and dip it into the solution
  5. Wipe: Gently sweep this cloth over your tattoo

If you don’t have any issues with over-moisturizing, remember to compensate for the drying properties of tea tree oil with a good moisturizer that allows your skin to breathe but will prevent any skin flaking. 

Any scabs that form will naturally fall off from the tattoo, but excessive dry and flaky skin isn’t good for the healing process or the quality of the tattoo in the long-run. Get ahead of this potential complication by pairing your tea tree oil with a light moisturizer.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.​ Click here to buy from Amazon.

Using Tea Tree Oil To Treat Infection

Sometimes, despite proper aftercare, your tattoo may get an infection. If your tattoo is discharging pus, feels warm, is inflamed and red, and/or is swelling after the first 48 hours from the completion of the tattoo, you may have an infection. 

Initial recommendations for tattoo infection is to:

  1. Soap: Wash carefully with unscented soap and water
  2. Cleanse: Apply a topical antibiotic if advised by a medical professional
  3. Professional care: Seek out medical attention if the swelling intensifies or symptoms worsen

If you’re looking to use natural, vegan, chemical-free products, you can choose tea tree oil cream as a topical antibiotic. 

Tattoo Bubbling

Tea tree oil may dry out your skin, however, so be aware of this so you can use it to your advantage. If you had a complication with your tattoo healing, like tattoo bubbling, then tea tree oil’s drying properties may be precisely what’s needed. 

A bubbling tattoo

Bubbling occurs when there’s too much moisture trapped in the tissues that the tattoo was deposited in. This happens as a result of too much moisture and too little breathing of the tattoo. Topically applying tea tree oil or a tea tree oil salve to this affected area may help in clearing up the healing complication. 

Tattoos and Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil can be an effective method of treatment for some of the side effects of a new tattoo, like inflammation and potential infection. Diluting the essential oil before you use it is a necessary part of the process. If you’re using tea tree oil on your new tattoo, remember to also keep the area moisturized at all times.

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