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Tattoos have been used as a form of expression and individuality for thousands of years, dating all the way back to ancient Egypt. While the processes of tattooing have developed considerably, the impact on our skin remains the same in regard to inflammation and swelling.
CBD has followed a not too dissimilar path in this respect. Cannabis has been used for therapeutic purposes for thousands of years. Both cannabis and tattoos eventually built up something of a stigma around them, until widespread opinion started to shift to one of acceptance in the 21st century. CBD is now widely used in topical products, such as CBD balm and CBD moisturiser by tattoo artists around the world.
We are all fully aware now that getting a tattoo can be a very painful experience. Anyone who tells you it does not hurt is more than likely lying! While some may feel anxious about the prospect of getting a tattoo or worried about how their skin will react afterwards, CBD can provide certain answers.
There are five essential ways in which CBD can help the process of getting a tattoo. These include reducing anxiety, pain relief and preventing infection. This article will aim to cover exactly how CBD can benefit those considering getting a tattoo.
A Brief History of Tattoos
A tattoo is a form of body modification characterised by applying indelible, permanent ink in the dermis layer of the skin. There are a number of reasons as to why people decide to get tattoos, ranging from sentimental ones, to symbolic, to cosmetic.
The origins of tattoos can be traced back thousands of years. A number of Egyptian mummies were found to have tattoos on their bodies, all the way back to 3351 BC. There were a variety of reasons as to why people got tattoos, from a record of how many scalps a warrior had taken, to those who wanted to take home a bit of culture from their voyages.
The word tattoo originates from the Polynesian word tattow, which translates as “to strike”. It is widely believed that Captain James Cook was responsible for introducing this word to Western culture at some point during the 18th century, after one of his many voyages to the South Pacific. His archives documenting these travels contained both text and pictures of tattoos that he had encountered.
During this time tattoos remained the preserve of the aristocracy due to the cost of the process. Sailors were also often tattooed on their travels. The affinity to the upper class remained until the early 20th century, when the electric tattoo machine turned the tables and made tattoos accessible for all.
How do Tattoos Work?
Tattoos are made by first piercing the top layer of skin with sharp needles, before ink pigmentation is inserted into the opening. Electric tattoo machines, or tattoo guns as they are also known, are used to guide the needles. Each time the gun penetrates the skin, ink is left behind to leave a permanent marking.
It is almost certain that you will feel some kind of pain during the tattooing process. The extent of this will depend largely on the size and location of the tattoo. There are a few ways in which you can prepare for this process in order to reduce the pain, such as sleeping well and eating a healthy meal before while ensuring that you are hydrated, but this will not eliminate. There are many reasons to believe that CBD could be one of the best solutions to ease the tattoo process.
Unfortunately, once the tattoo has been completed, the pain is still not over! The next two weeks in particular are incredibly important in the healing process. You must heed the advice of your tattoo artist with regards to their aftercare instructions which will protect your skin from infection.
Typically, this includes washing multiple times a day with soap and antibacterial cleanser, while also regularly applying moisturiser to keep the area hydrated. It is also recommended to avoid tight clothing on the tattooed area, as well as avoiding jewellery that could rub against, and irritate, the tattoo.
Are Tattoos Safe?
When done correctly, tattoos are of course safe to get. However, you must ensure that you utilise a licensed, reputable tattoo artist who works in a clean, hygienic environment.
The tattoo parlour itself is paramount to your safety. It is recommended to visit the shop itself and ensure hygiene rules are being followed. This means that the tattoo machine should be sterilised and disinfected between use, request a disposable needle and tip and make sure that the artist is wearing gloves.
These guidelines are important to follow as failure to do so can have serious adverse effects. Due to the fact that there is direct contact between the tattoo process and your blood, there is potential to contract diseases such as hepatitis, chlamydia and syphilis.
What is CBD?
There are over 500 compounds found within the cannabis plant, including over 100 different cannabinoids. While prohibitive legislation on a largely global scale has acted as a roadblock to substantial research, this is slowly beginning to change.
We are now developing a much clearer understanding of these compounds, although there is still some way to go. The two cannabinoids that we know the most about are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and these often cause confusion.
To begin with, THC is the dominant psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant. This means that it is responsible for causing the ‘high’ typically depicted in popular culture – think red eyes and gargantuan bags of crisps.
CBD on the other hand is a non-psychoactive compound, which does not get the user high. While it does not have any cognitive impact on the user, it still retains a wide range of health benefits, as will be detailed later in the article. It is due to the lack of psychoactive impact that it is now widely accepted as a safe health option. This was referenced in the World Health Organization (WHO) report into CBD, which stated “there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
There are three different types of CBD that all users should be aware of. Both the extraction process and effect on the user differentiate these three types. They are as follows:
- Full Spectrum CBD– Full spectrum CBD contains the widest range of compounds, including terpenes, cannabinoids, flavonoids and fatty acids. Full spectrum CBD also contains trace elements of THC. It should be noted that the legal THC limit is 0.2% in the UK – not sufficient enough to intoxicate the user.
- Broad Spectrum CBD – Broad Spectrum CBD is essentially the same as full spectrum CBD, containing the same range of compounds except from THC.
- CBD Isolate – This is the purest form of CBD available and typically comes as a powder. It is removed of all other terpenes, flavonoids and cannabinoids.
How Does CBD Help Manage the Tattoo Process?
It is becoming more and more common to see tattoo parlours stocked with various topical CBD products now – eyes are being opened in a variety of settings. One of the issues that comes with this increased prominence in the mainstream is an influx of unbased claims that CBD is the fix-all solution to everything.
This is why we have put together this guide – to cut through the nonsense and provide you with research-based facts on the therapeutic potential of CBD in relation to tattoos and tattoo aftercare. We have linked to these studies throughout, so feel free to follow these and delve a little deeper!
As stated earlier in the article, tattoos do come with a degree of pain and unfortunately there is no escaping this fact. The extent of this is dependent on the location and size of the tattoo.
Common traditional methods of over-the-counter pain relief, such as ibuprofen, exacerbate the process. When you take ibuprofen, it thins your blood. Not only does this mean that you are going to bleed more, but the artist will have more difficulty following the stencil and the healing process will be impaired.
Instead of ibuprofen, why not try CBD instead next time you get a tattoo? Research suggests that this would be a far more useful approach. There are numerous studies that highlight CBD’s efficiency as an analgesic.
CBD may well help you cope with the pain of a tattoo due to its impact on your glycine receptors. These are found in the central nervous system and dictate how your body processes and responds to pain. One of the most illustrious CBD studies conducted in 2008 (before CBD research was more widespread), highlighted the relationship between CBD and the aforementioned glycine receptors. CBD increases the effectiveness of your glycine receptors, resulting in a reduced perception of pain.
There is no doubt that getting a tattoo can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety, particularly if it is your first. To make matters worse, research suggests that people are likely to be more sensitive to painful stimuli when experiencing stress. This is also compounded when people are suffering from depression or anxiety as well.
Step forward CBD. Numerous studies suggest that CBD can provide a relaxing, soothing sensation when taken. This means that the perception of pain during the tattooing process is likely to be reduced.
Perhaps the most notable of these studies was conducted in 1990 by Guimaraes, Chiaretti, Graeff and Zuardi. In their rodent study, they declared that CBD had “an anxiolytic-like effect” on rats who were stress-induced through the introduction of a complex maze. They stated that the subjects were observed as having lower behavioural and physiological signs of anxiety and stress.
In general, studies on CBD’s impact on anxiety disorders can reasonably be translated into its ability to combat stress. For example, a particular 2011 study looked into the impact that CBD had on people with social anxiety disorder (SAD). After the completion of their double-blind study, they found that participants who were given an oral dose of CBD experienced reduced anxiety compared to the placebo group.
While ingestible CBD products, such as CBD oil or CBD capsules, take up to an hour to take effect, there are alternative solutions. Vaping CBD is the fastest delivery method and typically takes under 5 minutes for the effects to be felt. This may be the best solution prior to your tattoo session.
Better Healing Process
Having covered the process of receiving your tattoo, we will now turn our attention to the aftercare process and how CBD can improve this.
Once your fresh tattoo is complete, the body’s natural healing process will then take hold. This means that the area where you were tattooed will likely become red and swollen. All this shows is that your immune responses are effective! Generally speaking, it takes between 1-4 weeks for the swelling to calm down before the itching takes over for a short while at the end of the healing process.
CBD is well regarded as a powerful anti-inflammatory, and this is probably its most researched property. There are numerous studies that point to the efficacy of CBD in this regard. Despite the fact that the majority of these are animal studies, researchers believe that these findings can be translated into a human setting.
One such study conducted on rats, found that oral CBD treatment (i.e. CBD oil), reduced both sciatic nerve pain and inflammation in rats, induced via an adjuvant intraplantar injection.
A further example of a robust rodent study was conducted in 2016 by Hammel et al, who studied the impact of CBD on inflammation in rats with arthritis. They found that when applying a topical CBD gel, the rats experienced a reduction in both swelling and the perception of pain.
While vaping CBD, or ingesting is likely the optimal approach when receiving your tattoo, there is no doubt that topical CBD products come into their own during the aftercare process. CBD balm is effective in reducing inflammation and itching, while also providing a calming sensation upon application.
Keep it Clean
In order for our bodies to maintain health and vitality, antioxidants are required. There are a number of foods that are powerful antioxidants and help to protect both body cells and our skin against damage. However, CBD also possesses antioxidant properties.
This is highlighted in a distinguished meta review conducted by Atalay et al in 2020. They found that CBD is a powerful antioxidant and also “interrupts free radical chain reactions, capturing free radicals or transforming them into less active forms.”
Not only does this mean that flaking and scabbing should be minimised at the back end of the healing process, but also that CBD will likely protect the vulnerable area from infection.
As a result of the proliferation of CBD within the skincare industry, it has quickly become a favourite moisturiser for many. Almost all tattoo artists will stress the importance of keeping the tattooed area moisturised in both the short and long term.
During the short term, moisturised skin means that sticking, rubbing and peeling damage are minimised. In the long term, the quality of the tattoo is maintained, including the definition of the lines, the vibrancy of the colours and generally protecting against degradation.
CBD is a particularly effective moisturiser and comes highly recommended in the instance of tattoo aftercare. We know that CBD is rich with fatty acids that reinforce the oil barrier of our skin and helps to retain moisture.
Cannacares’ CBD moisturiser is also packed with vitamin E and cacao butter – both of which benefit the tattoo healing process.
Our Guide to Using CBD for Tattoos
Now you have assessed the research on why CBD is effective during the tattoo process, it is time to recap exactly what our recommended routine is. As noted, certain CBD products are more important at certain periods of the process. Let us cover this below:
Before Getting Your Tattoo
It is extremely common to feel anxious about getting a tattoo, particularly if it is your first time. People often describe the pain of their own experiences, but this differs with each individual. As mentioned earlier in the article, it is important to avoid ibuprofen as a pain reliever as this will thin the blood and increase bleeding.
CBD works most effectively when it is used for a sustained period of time. While this can vary between individuals, it is generally accepted that CBD takes around 4 weeks to build up in your system and have maximum effect. Consequently, we recommend starting to take CBD 4 weeks before your tattoo appointment in order to maximise its impact.
Vaping CBD just before the start of your appointment would also be a wise move, as this is the fastest delivery method. This is because it goes directly into your blood stream, rather than passing through the digestive system like CBD capsules would have to.
Once your tattoo is complete, it is now time to start the recovery process. The size, intricacy, colour and location of the tattoo will affect this process.
Once complete, your artist will likely apply some kind of anti-bacterial topical product before covering it with clingfilm. Once the tattoo stops bleeding, it is then time to remove the clingfilm.
Once removed, the area should be washed with lukewarm water.
Short Term Aftercare
It is likely that in the days following your tattooing, there will be some excretion from the wound and the skin will become red and swollen. It is important during this phase to routinely wash the tattoo without soap and keep the area dry and clean.
It is also important to keep a degree of airflow circulating around your tattoo as exposure to the air will accelerate recovery. Maintaining your CBD intake will help with the pain management side.
3 days after your tattoo is done, you should start utilising topical CBD products in order to aid the recovery process.
Cannacare’s vegan-friendly CBD balm is one of the most effective tattoo aftercare products on the UK market. Not only will this act as an anti-inflammatory, it will also reduce your body’s perception of the pain, keep your wound clean and maintain hydration.
Throughout the healing process, the skin will sporadically scab over. When this does occur, it is recommended to apply further CBD balm. After 2 weeks of consistent application and CBD intake, your skin should return to normal on the uppermost layer. The deeper layers however, take longer to heal.
Long Term CBD Tattoo Aftercare
Many people don’t realise that it actually takes approximately three months for your tattoo to fully heal. This should be when the colours are most vibrant and lines most defined, without irritation.
By maintaining use of a CBD balm or CBD moisturiser, this will help to increase the lifespan of your tattoo and avoid any costly retouching work.
Sun cream should also be used when exposed to the sun, as UV damage is the most common reason for tattoo damage.
As you will fully know, tattoos are a permanent marking on our bodies. Thus, if you do decide to proceed then you should take as much care of it as you can in order to maintain the quality. This means taking advantage of the myriad therapeutic benefits of CBD.
Not only will this make the experience for you less painful before, during and after the tattoo, but it will also aid the prevention of infection.
We also recommend talking to your tattoo artist before using CBD for your tattoo.