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CBD Oil for Tattoos: Pain, Nerves, and Aftercare

Anxious about getting your first tattoo? Concerned about the healing process? Worried about the ink fading over time? Whatever your tattoo worries are, CBD oil could help.

Because CBD oil has also been shown to reduce inflammation and swelling while promoting cell reparation, CBD topicals (e.g. balms, lotions, ointments) have found their way into tattoo studios all over the country. But is it all just a passing phase? Or is there evidence to suggest using CBD could really improve the tattoo healing process?

Based on the available research, it appears that CBD balms, oils, ointments, and creams have a real place in the tattoo industry. If you are considering using CBD to care for a fresh tattoo, here’s what you need to know.

CBD Oil vs. Tattoo Creams: Which Is Better?

CBD oil topicals, like cannabidiol (CBD) ointments and creams can now be added to the long list of products used for tattoo aftercare. (Ask ten tattoo artists what the best cream is for aftercare and you’ll probably get ten different answers.)

When it comes to caring for a new tattoo, you’ll want to find products that are protective, moisturizing, and breathable, which will allow the colors to come through correctly and linework to thoroughly and safely heal.

Whether you’re inked from head to toe or are considering getting your very first tattoo, choosing the right items for pre- and post-tattoo care can be a challenge because there are so many options out there.

To make your selection easier, here’s a table breaking down some of the benefits CBD may offer as compared to ingredients commonly found in tattoo care creams.

Ingredient Properties CBD
Coconut Oil Can block pores and increasing risk of infection Non-comedogenic; meaning it will keep pores free from clogging
Petroleum (i.e. paraffin wax; mineral oil) Provides a skin barrier but is often clogs pores and increases infection risk Non-comedogenic so it does not block pores
Antiseptic Cream Reduces infection risk but may contribute to a marbled effect on the tattoo ink Naturally reduces infection risk and CBD topicals do not create a marbled effect
Lanolin Moisturizing but can smudge the tattoo ink; can also create an allergic response CBD topicals are moisturizing and generally well-tolerated

At the end of the day, you may end up choosing a tattoo aftercare product that combines CBD with any of the above ingredients, as they do all provide some benefits, too. Consult with your tattoo artist on what they’d suggest and test out different CBD-infused tattoo ointments, creams, and balms to find out which is best for your needs.

How CBD Oil Can Help While Getting a Tattoo

There are two ways that CBD oil can be beneficial to you while you’re getting tattooed: physically, by reducing pain and mentally, by alleviating stress.

Using CBD Oil for Pain Relief

Tattoos hurt—there’s no denying it. Thankfully, CBD oil can help relieve some of the pain you experience while getting a tattoo. Glycine receptors are one of the inhibitory receptors CBD impacts. Located in the central nervous system, these receptors play a major role in your perception of pain. Research has found that cannabinoids like CBD increase the effects of glycine receptors, thereby reducing the experience of pain.

After conferring with your tattoo artist, you can apply the CBD balm directly to the tattoo area pre-inking. If applying the CBD to your skin isn’t the best option, you can also take it in the form of CBD oil drops, an edible, or a vape. Regardless of how you take the CBD, it’s pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory qualities could make it an ideal addition to any tattoo session.

Using CBD Oil for Pre-Tattoo Nerves

If you’re nervous about getting a tattoo, you’re not alone. It’s perfectly normal (and sane) to have pre-tattoo worries—after all, it’s permanent! However, overactive nerves can make it difficult to get through the session and could impact the final result. Not only do jittery, jumping clients make it difficult to tattoo smoothly, but they’re also more likely to experience pain more acutely.  Fortunately, CBD oil may be able to bring you some calm and peace of mind.

Research into the use of CBD oil on common stress was carried out by the University of São Paulo in 2011. The study looked at the use of cannabidiol on people who were experiencing anxiety related to public speaking. It was found that CBD “significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort”, particularly in groups of people with a diagnosed anxiety disorder.

While public speaking and getting a tattoo are not the same thing, it’s reasonable to believe CBD oil would have the same calming effects before you sit down to have your tattoo done. For your reference, there are several other studies pointing to CBD oil’s use as an effective anti-anxiety agent (without the side effects of common anti-anxiety prescription drugs).

If you plan on using CBD oil to ease pain and reduce stress during a tattoo, it’s important to remember that it can take 20 minutes to an hour for the CBD to take effect, depending on the method used and concentration. Plan ahead and experiment with different CBD delivery methods beforehand so you know when and how to take your CBD prior to getting a tattoo.

CBD Oil for Tattoo Aftercare

Tattoo aftercare plays a significant role in how your tattoo looks and heals. Colorful and creative as they may be, tattoos are essentially open wounds and need to be kept clean, free from irritants, and allowed to heal in a natural but timely way.

With cannabidiol’s natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, it is a near-perfect go-to for tattoo aftercare.

The swelling and redness that come with a fresh tattoo are caused by the body’s natural immune response. This response is triggered in order to fight infection and to defend areas that are under attack. CBD has been shown to regulate this response through its impacts on the endocannabinoid system. CBD affects the CB2 cannabinoid receptor and inflammation-causing proteins called cytokines in such a way that prevents and decreases inflammation in the human body.

In fact, CBD is increasingly being used in skin care products because of its anti-inflammatory properties, which help to reduce redness, itchiness, and swelling of the skin. CBD is also rich in essential fatty acids, which have been shown to protect the skin’s oil barrier, reduce moisture loss, and aid in the retention of moisture within the skin cells. The better you protect your skin after getting a tattoo, the quicker and better the healing process will be.

As an analgesic, CBD topicals can also help soothe pain in the affected tattoo area. Topicals like CBD balms, lotions, or ointments only enter the top layers of skin and won’t get absorbed into the bloodstream, meaning the CBD remains localized and concentrated in the area to which it is applied for long-lasting pain relief. Regular application to the affected area may even provide the same pain relief as commonly prescribed, pain-killing pharmaceuticals.

CBD Oil for Healed Tattoos

Looking after your tattoo over the long term ensures that the color stays rich and even.  Because CBD oil is naturally moisturizing and contains skin-nourishing vitamins E and A, it can keep your tattoo looking vibrant for years to come.

CBD oil contains Vitamin E, an essential nutrient for the protection of cell membranes. As cell membranes cannot hold moisture when damaged—for example, after a tattoo—CBD is particularly well suited for the relief of dry skin, ultimately preventing itching that could permanently damage the piece. Vitamin E is also widely used in the tattoo and medical worlds for its anti-scarring properties. Including it in your tattoo aftercare by way of CBD oil will help ensure your piece heals and continues to look as expected.

Finally, CBD oil contains Vitamin A, a group of beneficial compounds that includes retinol, retinal, and beta-carotene. Alongside skin-conditioning properties, Vitamin A has been shown to protect the skin from UV damage, one of the main causes for discoloration and fading of tattoos.

Before, during or after a tattoo, CBD-enriched balms, creams, or ointments should be on the must-have list for anyone with ink.

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