Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Best Tattoo Aftercare Product

What did you do on Memorial day? Besides remembering those who have fallen in service to our country, I got my 3rd tattoo. This was my first experience with Indigo Body Art Gallery, and it was so pleasant that I am certain it will not be my last. 

My Tattoo artist, Mark, very VERY adamantly, severely, and repeatedly instructed me to use Aquaphor and only Aquaphor as tattoo aftercare. He said his studio's aftercare recommendations were developed in careful consultation with other body modification professionals, a dermatologist and a few other medical professionals.

Its on my right forearm and I LOVE IT.
Knowing that I didn't have any Aquaphor at home, I went to HyVee immediately after leaving the shop and picked up a small tube. I've been using it per his directions. But last night I was looking at the ingredients list on the Aquaphor tube and noticed a lot of similarities between it and Elizabeth Arden's Eight Hour Cream.

Active: Petrolatum (41%) Other: Mineral Oil, Ceresin, Lanolin Alcohol, Panthenol, Glycerin, Bisabolol

Eight Hour Cream:
Active: Petrolatum (56.8%), Other: Lanolin, Mineral Oil, Fragrance, Salicylic Acid, Propylparaben, Castor Oil, Corn Oil, Tocopherol, BHT, Iron Oxides

Both products claim to protect minor cuts, scrapes, and burns; both help relieve and heal chapped or cracked skin and lips; both help protect skin from drying effects of wind and cold weather; both are found in the beauty area of their respective stores. Given these similarities, I naturally I wondered if tattoo aftercare could be yet another use for the cult-favorite Eight Hour Cream. I did some Googling and this is what I came up with.

Aquaphor and Eight Hour Cream make the same claims because they share 3 key ingredients in their formulas:

Petrolatum is a moisturizer that adds a protective coating to the skin to reduce water loss and soothe irritation. 

Cosmetics-grade mineral oil and petrolatum are considered the safest, most nonirritating moisturizing ingredients ever found. Mineral oil and petrolatum are known to be efficacious in wound healing, and are also among the most effective moisturizing ingredients available.

One of the common concerns regarding the use of mineral oil in cosmetics is its presence on several lists of comedogenic substances. These lists of comedogenic substances were developed many years ago and are frequently quoted in the dermatological literature. To date, there are at least 147 different types of mineral oil, ranging from crude manufacturing grades to highly-refined and purified medical and cosmetic grades. The former is comedogenic; the latter is not. 

Lanolin is a wax secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals. Lanolin used by humans comes from domestic sheep breeds that are raised specifically for their wool. Lanolin possesses a number of important chemical and physical similarities to human stratum corneum lipids- the lipids which help regulate the rate of transepidermal water loss and govern the hydration state of the skin.

There are differences in these products though. Besides the following ingredients, Aquaphor's availability at any drugstore brings its price down to $5-$6 for 1.75oz.

Ceresin is a wax derived from ozokerite, a naturally occurring odoriferous mineral wax. It is often used in cosmetics as an alternative to beeswax. Both are used in cosmetics to keep emulsions from separating into their oil and liquid components, especially in products that require a creamy consistency.

Panthenol is a derivative of Vitamin B that conditions, hydrates, and nourishes the cells that are responsible for repair. 

Glycerin, in combination with other ingredients like petrolatum, is excellent for helping skin heal, reduce associated dermatitis, and restore normal barrier function if used on an ongoing basis. When properly formulated, glycerin shores up the skin’s natural protection by filling in the area known as the intercellular matrix and by attracting just the right amount of water to maintain the skin’s homeostasis. There is also research indicating that the presence of glycerin in the intercellular layer helps other skin lipids do their jobs better. 

Bisabolol is a soothing agent derivative of Chamomile, the same plant used to make soothing teas and bath soaks.

Eight Hour Cream
While relatively inexpensive in comparison to other skin care products available from Elizabeth Arden and other high-end brands, Eight Hour Cream is still 3 times the price of Aquaphor- $21 for 1.7oz. Its differing ingredients are as follows: 

The word "Fragrance" or "parfum" on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants. Some people have a sensitivity to certain ingredients in certain fragrance blends, but since these ingredients are undisclosed, it is difficult to determine whether a fragranced product will cause a reaction to sensitive skin.

Salicylic Acid is used in medicine as a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, and in some cases, a bactericidal and antiseptic. In Cosmetic uses, if the pH of the product is right, it is used as a chemical exfoliant to help treat a myriad of problems, including seborrhoeic dermatitis, acne, psoriasis, calluses, corns, and warts.

Propylparaben occurs as a natural substance found in many plants and some insects, although it is manufactured synthetically for use in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and foods. It is a preservative typically found in many water-based cosmetics, such as creams, lotions, shampoos and bath products.

Castor Oil is a vegetable oil obtained by pressing the seeds of the castor oil plant. It is used in food and cosmetic industries as a mold inhibitor.

Corn Oil is used in cosmetics as a moisturizer, specifically for the treatment of dry hair and skin and to help treat skin conditions like eczema and diaper rash.

Tocopherols are a family of vitamin E compounds naturally found in vegetable oils, nuts, fish and leafy green vegetables. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects and repairs skin.

Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) is a lipophilic organic compound, chemically a derivative of phenol. BHT is used as an antioxidant additive in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Iron Oxides are used in cosmetics as colorants.

How they Compare
Overall Similarities: Besides the 3 main ingredients of petrolatum, mineral oil, and lanolin, both products also have skin-nourishing vitamins and skin soothing ingredients. 

Overall Differences: Price, Availability, and Shelf Life. Eight Hour Cream has some formula stabilizers (Propylparaben and Caster Oil) which allow the product to have a longer shelf life than the preservative-free Aquaphor. 

I think the important difference between the two products is the properties of the barrier they make on the skin.

Petrolatum is a great healing product, as evidenced in its use in Aquaphor, Eight Hour Cream, and other skin care products. But pure petrolatum is occlusive (impermeable). It does not allow water or air to enter or leave. This lack of 'breathability' can cause problems later on in color retention. For this reason I would never recommend using Vaseline or any other pure petrolatum product for tattoo aftercare.

By mixing other ingredients with petrolatum, both Aquaphor and Eight Hour Cream create a semi-occlusive (semi-permeable) barrier with the skin. This barrier allows water to enter, but not leave. This helps reduce fluid loss, allowing skin to stay moist so that it can heal. The barrier is especially effective when addressing burns and other wounds which tend to lose fluid.

Where their barriers differ is in their 'breathability.' Both product's barriers allow oxygen to enter and exit. However Eight Hour Cream's heavier concentration of petrolatum decreases the 'breathability' of its barrier. Further decreasing its 'breathability' are the 2 antioxidants in its formula. While it is widely known that free radicals oxidize the skin causing damage and ageing, the skin still needs some oxygen exposure to heal and be healthy. These antioxidants do not completely eliminate the 'breathability' of its barrier, but they still inhibit oxygen penetration to the fresh tattoo. 

Pros and Cons, Boiled Down
Eight Hour Cream's pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory salicylic acid works better (IMHO) than Aquaphor's bisabolol. 

Eight Hour Cream includes 2 unnecessary (IMHO) ingredients- iron oxides and fragrance. Fragrance (4th on the ingredients list), can irritate sensitive skin and interfere in wound healing. Aquaphor does not have any unnecessary ingredients. 

Aquaphor's barrier is more 'breathable' than Eight Hour Cream's. 

Aquaphor's shelf-life is much shorter due to a lack of preservatives but its lower price point and wider availability cancel the price difference out in my book.

I think both products hold a valuable place in my home. Their functions are so similar that I think a person could use either product for tattoo aftercare, but I agree with my tattoo artist in that Aquaphor is the ideal product for the purpose of tattoo aftercare.