You are what you eat – this is a sentence that truly makes sense once you start paying attention to the way food affects your mind and body. However, even with this awareness, people generally tend to disregard the way food affects their tattoo and its healing process. Some don’t even think about the connection, which can probably be the reason why people experience prolonged tattoo healing, inflammations, and other side effects of improper nutrition.
However, if you’re reading this, you’ve done the first step; this is a sign you want to be informed about proper nutrition during the tattoo aftercare. And, you’re also at the right place; in the following paragraphs, we’ll talk about how food affects your tattoo, and which foods and ingredients you should completely avoid until your tattoo is healed. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!
How Food Affects Your Tattoo: Everything You Need To Know
Alongside air and water, food is one of the most essential things we need for survival. However, certain foods can either help us, provide proper nutrition and keep us healthy, while other food groups tend to do the very opposite. Even when we are sick, some foods provide comfort and soothe the pain, while others prolong the agony and make us feel even worse. The same applies to the case of tattoo aftermath.
It is important we finally understand that new, fresh tattoos act like open wounds (not as a wound as we would imagine, but still a wound), and that is how the body treats them. As such, the body transfers all the energy towards the ‘wounded area’ to help it heal as fast as possible. The longer the healing process, the higher the chance of infection, and your body knows that.
So, by eating certain foods, you can either help your body do the job quickly and efficiently or make this job even harder by not providing additional energy and nutrients. But, this is a pretty simplistic explanation; let’s see how exactly food affects your tattoo!
1. Proper Nutrition Can Promote Faster Tattoo Healing
A new tattoo has a specific window in which it should stop oozing and bleeding, start drying and closing and eventually continue and complete its healing process. This all happens in the crucial period of the first few weeks. The closing of the tattoo should happen in the first few days. So, time is of the essence here; if the tattoo stays open for too long, and the skin doesn’t start healing, there is a significant increase in the possibility of an infection.
However, if you follow the aftercare properly, and you don’t turn out to be allergic to ink, everything should go smoothly. But, one important factor in all of this is proper nutrition.
Food that is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, and proteins can promote a faster healing process and prevent the occurrence of infections. These ingredients, alongside other vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, will boost your immune system and provide the body with all the energy and resources to fix the damaged skin and ensure the healing goes smoothly.
2. Unhealthy Foods Can Prolong Tattoo Healing
As we mentioned, if you follow the proper tattoo aftercare and you eat proper, healthy foods, your tattoo will seal and heal in no time. However, an unhealthy diet can have the quite opposite effect; greasy, processed, high-in-sugar foods can prolong the healing process and even promote the development of inflammation and infection.
Dairy and sugar, in particular, are known to prolong the recovery time and promote inflammation, so they should be especially avoided during the tattoo healing process.
Now, the reason such foods prolong the tattoo healing time is the following;
Because unhealthy foods are high in fat, the body requires a lot of energy to just process and digest the fat. That energy is then directed from the healing towards digesting, so the tattoo or the damaged skin doesn’t get full support during the process.
3. Unhealthy Foods Can Promote Allergic Reactions
There are probably some foods or ingredients you’re allergic to; if not, then you can skip this paragraph. Now, for those who are allergic, or simply have a low tolerance to some foods, it is essential to avoid eating something that might trigger an allergic reaction.
In case you are lactose-intolerant, and you, for example, have a coffee with milk while your fresh tattoo is healing, you can expect a full-blown allergic reaction. We’re talking blisters, rash, hives, tattoo raising, skin swelling, etc. The inked area simply reacts to even the mildest of food allergies and intolerance, so you need to be extra careful with this.
In case such an allergic reaction occurs, you can expect the tattoo to get messed up, in terms of the design and the ink. It can even take a longer time to heal, which could also lead to an infection. If this does happen, the best thing you can do is visit a doctor and ask for a professional opinion.
So, Which Foods Should I Avoid After Getting a Tattoo?
Here are the foods you should completely avoid during the tattoo healing process. That is generally a period of 2 weeks to a month, sometimes even longer if your particular tattoo is naturally taking longer to heal.
- Red and Processed Meat ( bacon, ham, pepperoni, sausage, salami, deli meats, meat jerkies, hot dogs, etc.) – red and processed meat are known to promote inflammation. That is because both are high in saturated fat, which goes hand-in-hand with other health problems, like cancer or heart disease.
- Sugary Foods and Drinks (cakes, milk chocolate, stuffed biscuits, candies, cereal bars, ice cream, sweetened coffee, drinks like Coca Cola and Pepsi, salad dressings, energy drinks, etc.) – sugary foods and drinks are probably the worst enemies for the health of the body. Added sugar causes inflammation, promotes fat storage, and prevents the body from healing properly. That is something you should consume while you’re dealing with a healing tattoo, or consume at all.
- Trans-Fat Foods (frozen pizza, baked goods, fried foods, including french fries, doughnuts, fried chicken, margarine, non-dairy coffee creamer, hamburgers, fried noodles, etc.) – trans-fat foods are foods high in hydrogen and fat, which are added to improve texture, shelf life, and taste. Uch foods cause inflammation in the body and can lead to increased bad cholesterol levels.
- Oil and Oil-Based Products (sunflower oil, peanut oil, canola oil, mayonnaise, etc.) – oil and oil-based products contain omega-6 fatty acids, which are sometimes important for the body but can cause consistent inflammation and make the body have a pro-inflammatory response upon consumption. Instead of omega-6s, one should consume omega-3s (found in salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed).
- Refined Carbs (bread, sugary cereals, pasta, white rice, french fries, crackers, and cookies, etc.) – refined carbs don’t contribute to nutrition and generally contain added sugars. They promote inflammatory reactions in the body and prolong the healing process of any kind.
- Alcoholic Beverages – alcohol should be avoided before and after getting a tattoo. It can dilute the blood and promote excessive bleeding during and after the tattooing process. Because of the excess blood, the tattoo will have a hard time drying and sealing, which can cause an inflammatory reaction and infection.
What Is The Solution? – Foods You Can and Should Eat After Tattooing
Considering all the foods we just mention you shouldn’t eat, it may seem like there’s nothing else to eat, right? Well, the aforementioned foods are the staple of an unhealthy diet. Even without a new tattoo, no one should have such nutrition; it leads to heart disease, stroke, obesity, and other health conditions which can eventually end in death.
However, if you’re struggling to find proper alternatives to the aforementioned foods, here are some of our recommendations. These are the foods you should eat while your tattoo is healing, and continue eating for the sake of your health in the long run;
- Leafy Green Vegetables (spinach, kale, arugula, etc.) – leafy greens are filled with vitamin C, folate, magnesium, and provitamin A. All of these components are essential for the immune system and when dealing with a healing tattoo, your body definitely needs a boost for immune function.
- Fish (salmon) – instead of omega-6s, we need to consume omega-3s to reduce inflammation in the body, like in the case of a healing tattoo. Salmon is the best choice because it is not only an excellent source of omega-3s but also selenium, which is a mineral that fights inflammation and promotes immune response in cases of injury and damage to the body.
- Fruits (berries) – during a healing period, one should eat loads of different fruits. However, we need to point out how important it is to eat berries. They are rich in vitamin C, which promotes the body’s anti-inflammatory, immune-supporting response, as well as wound-healing and
- Sweet Potatoes – carbs are not the enemy; we just need to find healthy, unrefined carbs to replace the refined ones. Sweet potatoes are the perfect example of healthy carbs. Because they’re rich in vitamin C, carotenoids, and manganese, which promote wound healing and body recovery.
- Nuts and Seeds (almonds, walnuts, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans, etc.) – filled with vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium, nuts and seeds can help your tattoo heal in no time. They fuel the body and help it create energy to heal wounds, inflammations and generally help it recover.
- White Meat (chicken, turkey) – unlike red meat, poultry contains amino acids, glutamine, and arginine, all of which help the body recover and heal, whether from stress, injury, or illness.
So, to promote faster tattoo healing it is essential you eat foods rich in vitamins, anti-oxidants anti-inflammatory compounds (omega-3s for example). Make sure to avoid the foods we mentioned before since they’ll just make the whole healing process a lot harder for you and your body. Instead, focus on staying hydrated and consuming foods high in nutritional value and fiber.
It may seem unnecessary to pay so much attention to your diet during the whole healing process, but it is really important your body is fueled properly. For more diet and nutrition information, make sure to talk to your doctor or a nutritionist.