Olive oil: it tastes great, it seems like a natural product, and it’s been referred to as the “nectar of the gods” by ancient Romans, so surely it must be safe to use on that brand new tattoo, right?
Well, maybe not so much.
There are a few factors to consider before you go slathering on that EVOO to your new tattoo, and we’ve got you covered.
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A lipid is an organic compound that includes fats and oils, and olive oil certainly falls into this category. While products like olive oil have been used for centuries for it’s antibacterial and anti-aging properties, these products are recommended for unbroken skin.
Lipids on unbroken skin create a protective barrier that acts as a shield to impurities and dirt, while also retaining moisture in the epidermis. In addition, they can rapidly promote wound closure and scar healing.
This may sound like a good thing for your new tattoo, but you don’t want your “wound” to close; you simply want the upper layers of your skin to heal over the new pigment. You don’t want to risk the olive oil drawing out the ink as it works to close your wound.
The main issue with using a food product on your new tattoo is that food products can be a breeding ground for bacteria. The largest concern regarding olive oil, in particular, is that the olive oil regulation has gone downhill in the past ten to fifteen years.
Tom Mueller, author of Extra Virginity - The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, wrote in his book about poor manufacturing and processing, lies on labels that advertise “first press” or “pure”, and, worst of all, additives like solvents, mixed inexpensive oils, and natural flavors and fragrances being added to olive oils in order to create larger and cheaper batches. Any additional additive to natural lipids - especially water and solvents - is how bacteria is enabled to grow in a product.
With so many classifications of olive oil, and since the industry regulations cannot 100 percent guarantee that you are truly getting Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO - the purest form), it’s better not to risk it on your fresh tattoo. Processed or refined olive oils put you at risk of infection.
One large issue with olive oil as a moisturizer during the healing process is that olive oil is not easily absorbed by your skin. This would result in you having to reapply the olive oil numerous times during the day.
If your olive oil is processed with other additive oils, you may also risk the oil sitting on the skin and not allowing your tattoo to breathe during the most crucial moment of it’s healing.
As with all food products, you also risk the chance of having an allergic reaction to the olive oil on your skin - especially on skin that is opened. Even if you are able to eat olives or olive oils with no issue, you could still be prone to a contact reaction on your new tattoo. An allergic reaction puts your tattoo at risk for being morphed, damaged, or infected.
Olive oil certainly has its benefits, and that can’t be denied. Potential benefits for your skin are:
You can most certainly use this product on your healed tattoo safely, as the vitamin content alone helps maintain the health of your skin. It’s important to note that you may find the greasy feeling of olive oil to be irritating, and you certainly should not apply olive oil prior to going out in the sun. You are not a rotisserie chicken - let’s not get cooked!
Before you decide to reach into your pantry for that bottle of extra virgin olive oil, you may want to consult with your tattoo artist first. We don’t think it’s the best option for your brand new tattoo, and we want to ensure that you’re keeping to safe aftercare practices so that your tattoo stays perfect for an entire lifetime.