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Healing tattoos with Saniderm is becoming mainstream, yet many are still hesitant to try tattoo bandages. For nearly a decade, tattoo artists and clients around the globe have been using Saniderm to heal tattoos, and for good reason. Saniderm eliminates many of the struggles that go along with tattoo healing and provides an effortless, mess-free, clean, and simple tattoo healing experience.
Still, we receive a handful of messages and questions each day from users on the process of using Saniderm. Some common questions include, “I think I’m having an allergic reaction to Saniderm. What should I do?” and “Can I use Saniderm if I have sensitive skin?” Which is why in this article, we’re going to address potential reactions a person may face while using Saniderm, how to prevent allergic reactions from occurring, and how to care for the skin once a reaction has occurred.
Saniderm is a polyurethane adhesive medical bandage, specifically formulated to care for tattoos. Saniderm’s design makes it permeable to oxygen while keeping potential contaminants out. By using Saniderm, you can eliminate the tedious aftercare processes that are involved with traditional tattoo healing, as Saniderm can be left on for several days at a time. Saniderm works by protecting the new tattoo, which is an open wound, and promotes skin cell regeneration and regrowth. Tattoos healed with Saniderm experience far less peeling and scabbing than those healed without it. And, since Saniderm keeps your tattoo protected from contaminants, the risk of infection significantly decreases. Ultimately, Saniderm encourages faster healing and results in more vibrant, crisp tattoos.
For the purpose of this article, it’s important to make a distinction between an allergy or a cross-reaction to Saniderm. Allergies are an immune response from the body to a substance. Common allergies include pollen, mold, latex, food and drugs, dust mites, pet dander, and adhesives (which potentially includes the adhesive used on Saniderm bandages). Allergies are usually lifelong or occur for extended durations of time.
On the other hand, a reaction to Saniderm can be caused by crossing two substances, creating unexpected (and generally unwanted) results. When the substances or chemicals disagree with one another, a reaction presents itself typically through irritation of the skin. Reactions can manifest very differently and last from just a few minutes up to a few days.
If you (or your client, if you’re a tattoo artist) know or suspect that there is an adhesive or latex allergy present, it’s strongly recommended that you perform a patch test for allergies to Saniderm prior to full application.
To perform a patch test, use a small test strip on a clean, preferably hairless area (shave, first!) of the skin (the underside of a forearm is typically a good spot for this). Leave the test strip on the skin for 15 to 20 minutes. A good time to do this is while the artist is drawing or preparing to tattoo. If any irritation and redness occur within this timeframe, discontinue use and wash the area with a mild cleanser. This indicates an adhesive allergy or sensitivity and suggests the client is not a good candidate for Saniderm. Skin reactions to Saniderm should clear up within a couple days. If no irritation occurs, you can assume that it’s safe to use Saniderm to heal the new tattoo.
Keep in mind that different skin types will respond differently to Saniderm. If the skin type is naturally dry or sensitive, the bandage may adhere better than it would to oily skin types. Because of this, it may be more difficult and uncomfortable to remove Saniderm from sensitive skin. Staying well hydrated throughout the tattoo healing process will help with this, as well as promoting faster tattoo healing!
Cross-reactions to Saniderm are rare but they happen from time to time. Thankfully, we’ve been able to identify a few specific substances that trigger reactions. Using these substances in conjunction with Saniderm may result in unpleasant symptoms. These symptoms include, but are not limited, to: discomfort, itchiness, redness, swelling, irritation, and inflamed skin. Additionally, certain substances (particularly high alcohol content astringents) when left on the skin can cause the Saniderm bandage to adhere “too well." This can make it painful to remove the bandage and leave behind sticky adhesive residue on the skin. To prevent cross-reactions, avoid using the following substances before applying Saniderm:
Double-check the ingredient labels in the products you’re using to see if they contain any of the problematic substances we listed above. If so, do not use them in conjunction with Saniderm.
Before Saniderm application, the skin should be shaved thoroughly and cleaned. You should shave at least a couple of inches outside of the designated tattoo area in each direction. To avoid discomfort, you will want all edges of the Saniderm bandage to adhere to clean, smooth skin. As far as cleaning the skin goes, Witch Hazel, Softsoap, and Dr. Bronner’s are all safe alternatives to use to clean the tattoo before application. Whichever method you use to clean the tattoo, allow enough time for the skin to air dry before applying Saniderm.
Once the first bandage has been applied, you will need to remove it after 24 hours. We recommend leaving it on for at least 8 hours but no longer than 24. Your Saniderm bandage may fill up with fluid - but don't worry. It is your tattoo weeping plasma, which plays a vital role in tattoo healing. Leave Saniderm on unless the fluid is leaking out of the bandage. This indicates the adhesive has loosened and exposes your healing tattoo to potential contaminants. When removing the bandage, before taking the “just rip it off” route, check out this video with instructions on proper Saniderm removal.
Occasionally, even if the patch test was successful, the skin can become irritated by prolonged use of adhesive. Studies suggest that approximately 50% of people have sensitivities to adhesives with prolonged use, though it is usually very mild.
It is normal to experience mild discomfort and swelling during this phase of tattoo healing. However, if you’ve removed your bandage, washed the tattoo, and feel the adhesive was irritating the skin too much, discontinue use. Otherwise, we recommend applying a second bandage. This bandage can be left on for up to 6 days. However, if the second bandage fills fluid, you should remove that one after 24 hours and use a third bandage. The third bandage can be left on for up to 5 days. Using Saniderm (or any adhesive) for more than 7 consecutive days will likely result in irritation of the skin. If you suspect a break in the seal of your bandage or that the adhesive has loosened, remove it sooner.
If swelling, discomfort, or redness occurs on the skin outside of the tattoo (but under the bandage) you may be having an allergic reaction or adhesive sensitivity. When the symptoms are moderate to severe, remove the bandage and clean the area with a mild soap immediately. If any stubborn adhesive residue is left on the skin, gently loosen the adhesive with coconut, olive, or baby oil (it will also come off on its own after a couple of days). To soothe redness, itchiness, and discomfort, use Sanibalm on your tattoo and any irritated skin. Don’t have Sanibalm? Opt for another gentle, non-petroleum based moisturizer. If symptoms persist, consult a doctor.
Be sure to check out our newest article, “When is the best time of year to get tattooed?”, which includes information about seasonal allergies.