Can I vape after getting a tattoo?

Tattoo FAQ

/By

Kieran

So, you’ve given up the old analogue cigarettes and have turned to vapes. Let’s look at how vaping will affect your tattoos. And whether or not you should vape before, during or after getting a new tattoo.

But first, let’s just take a minute to say congratulations!

You’ve flipped big tobacco the bird. You’re on your way to a healthier life. Getting rid of cigarettes is a great first step. Congratulations!

I was a smoker when I started my tattoo journey. And I transitioned to vapes and then eventually, I quit.

I’ve been tattooed as a smoker. Tattooed while vaping. Tattooed while using nicotine mints and nicotine gum. And now most recently, tattooed nicotine free.

Here’s my answers to all those vape related tattoo questions based on research and my own real world experience. 

How will vape affect my tattoo? 

The nicotine in vape juices will effect your tattoos in the same way that nicotine in cigarettes does. Tattoos are wounds. And nicotine adversely impacts wound healing. Nicotine slows down the healing process and will extend the time it takes a tattoo to heal.

Nicotine constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure. Nicotine will restrict and decrease blood flow near the surface of the skin.

Research has found that vapes, like cigarettes, will reduce the oxygen content in your blood. In doing this, nicotine and vapes will slow down the healing process for wounds and tattoos.

They will negatively impact your tattoo healing time. Somebody who vapes will heal slower after a tattoo session than a client who neither smokes nor vapes.[1]

There are an unknown number of other chemicals in vapes. And quite a lot of these other chemicals are found in cigarettes. These chemicals other than nicotine can also have a negative impact on tattoos.

With that said, vapes are better than smoking. They have less chemicals than cigarettes. And they don’t have the carbon monoxide that decreases the oxygen in your blood even further.

If you were to put smoking, vaping and being completely free of inhalants on a hypothetical tattoo healing scale together, smoking would be the equivalent of sucking on an exhaust pipe. Vaping would be like passively inhaling exhaust.

While being completely free of nicotine and inhalants, would be the tattoo healing equivalent of that women in the sound of music dancing on a Swiss hilltop.

sound of music hilltop meme

Can I vape while getting a tattoo? 

Vaping in a tattoo studio is not advisable for three reasons. First, it makes the tattoo studio look unprofessional and unhygienic. Second, it makes the store undesirable for all non-smokers and non-vapers. Third, it makes it difficult for the tattooist to work.

When I’m walking past a tattoo studio I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between smoke and vape without smelling it. If I look into a tattoo studio and I see a cloud, I’d just assume the store is less hygienic.

While most vapes do contain propylene glycol and propylene glycol does have a bactericidal effect, its not safe to assume vapes won’t contaminate the tattoo studio. Just because one element in a vape has a negative effect on bacteria it does not mean that everything in the vape acts the same way.

And bactericidal or not, vape clouds can make the space undesirable for non-smokers and non-vapers. Now that I’m totally free of nicotine I don’t want somebody smoking or vaping around me.

Most non-smokers and non-vapers couldn’t care less about whether or not somebody vapes or smokes until they’re stuck in a confined space breathing secondhand smoke or vape.

It’s common courtesy not to be blowing secondhand smoke or vape in somebody else’s face. Inside a restaurant, store, car or tattoo studio vape clouds will linger and everyone will get stuck breathing it.

The third and likely most important point to make about vaping while getting a tattoo is that you may end up getting a crappy tattoo if you vape while the tattooist is working.

It’s hard for them to work while trying to look through a vape cloud. The thicker the vape cloud the worse you can expect your tattoo to turn out. If your tattooist can’t see what they’re doing, they can’t do a good job.

Can you imaging your tattooist trying to work through your vape cloud?

working through vape

Can I vape after getting a tattoo?

You can vape after getting a tattoo. But vaping in the first 2-3 weeks while your tattoo heals will only be marginally better than smoking. And the same recommendation given to smokers also applies for vaping; don’t vape while your tattoo is healing if you can avoid it.  

man wearing Vagabond shirt vaping

Will vape affect my tattoo once it’s healed?

Nicotine based vapes will have an effect similar to smoking. Just like smoking, vape ages skin faster than a non-smoker.

Vaping decreases blood oxygen levels, restricts blood vessels and decreases blood flow near the surface of the skin. It reduces collagen and skin elasticity. Vaping ages your skin and subsequently your tattoo which is between the dermis and epidermis layers of skin.

Vaping will not age your tattoo as fast as smoking does. But it will have a similar effect over time.[2]

Will smoking affect my tattoo? 

Smoking is terrible for tattoos. Smoking is terrible for both new tattoos in their initial healing period (2-3 weeks) and for healed tattoos. Smoking decreased blood flow and collagen and will increase the healing time of new tattoos and decrease the longevity of healed tattoos. Your tattoo will fade faster and look older than a similarly aged non-smoker.

Quitting is the best policy. But if you can’t quit cold turkey, vaping is the next best option to preserve your tattoo. 

no smoking

Is it better to smoke or vape after a tattoo?

Vaping is better than smoking for both new and aged tattoos. Increasing blood oxygen levels, blood flow and collagen levels will make your tattoo last longer.

If you’re a smoker, switch to vaping. It will save you money and make your tattoos last longer. And the real kicker is, you too will likely last longer if you get rid of the cigarettes.

When I switched from smoking to vaping my sense of smell returned and everything both smelt and tasted better. My long tattoo sessions were easier when I switched to vaping as I didn’t need so many breaks. And my tattooist wasn’t stuck working on somebody who smelt like an old ashtray.

Switching to vaping from smoking, I found my tattoos healed 10-15% faster. Cutting 2-4 days off the average healing time depending on the size of the tattooed area.

As somebody who loves tattoos, switching to vaping from smoking and then eventually quitting entirely was the best thing I’ve done.

If you love tattoos too and want to be healthier you should switch to vapes. Your tattoos and anybody close to you like your tattooist, will thank you. Smokers smell like old ashtrays.

If you’re going to be making clouds, make vape clouds and not smoke clouds. Vape is the better way!

man with tattooed hand holding vaping device making purple clouds
Article Sources

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  1. Jaleel, Z,  Blasberg, E,  Troiano, C, et al.  Association of vaping with decreased vascular endothelial growth factor expression and decreased microvessel density in cutaneous wound healing tissue in rats. Wound Rep Reg.  2021; 29( 6): 1024– 1034. https://doi.org/10.1111/wrr.12945
  2. Andia Mitri, Gloria Lin, Reid A. Waldman, Jane M. Grant-Kels, Effects of tobacco and vaping on the skin, Clinics in Dermatology, Volume 39, Issue 5, 2021, Pages 762-771, ISSN 0738-081X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clindermatol.2021.05.004.