In recent years, I’ve become a bit addicted to tattoos. I consistently add to my collection, which means there is a lot of healing going on at any given time. Ask anyone who tattoos or who has tattoos what their healing regimen is and there are bound to be just as many answers as people. Some people swear by certain creams, salves or oils while others opt to dry heal, never putting anything on top of their ink.
Others, such as myself, have taken a trial-and-error approach borne out of equal parts laziness and curiosity. A recent visit to my tattooist found me getting the largest piece yet, which then led me to take precautionary measures. I knew I’d be under the needle for longer than I ever had been before, so I made sure to eat some edibles ahead of time.
Right as things were starting to get spicy (my tattoo artist Connie had started drilling on my wrist bone), I could feel the edible kick in. I was giggly and distracted and glad for some relief. But my mind also started wandering. Did I bring that new combination THC/CBD salve in my bag? The one I brought back from Alaska?
Why, yes, I did.
The Baked Alaska salve—which is not available in California though there are many similar products available in California stores—has 100 milligrams each of THC and CBD in addition to cocoa butter, shea butter, emu oil, bee’s wax and coconut oil. I was told it’s ideal for cancer patients for pain management. There are also other purported effects, like the possibility that THC helps to heal skin lesions.
I decided that if it’s good enough for that, it’s likely ideal for healing the skin trauma that occurs during the tattooing process. I have been using it and, so far, my piece has healed beautifully. Dixie Elixirs, which is available in California, makes a 50 milligram each THC/CBD salve called Synergy Relief that will do the trick.
Rob Benavides, master tattoo artist, cannabis activist and owner of Flying Panther Tattoo & Gallery in Golden Hill, agrees with my assessment. He started using Hustle Butter’s CBD Luxe salve, which is marketed as being specifically formulated for tattoos. It’s non-comedogenic, fragrance-free and contains a number of moisturizing ingredients such as shea butter, aloe, sunflower seed oil, green tea leaf extract and CBD isolate.
“One of the key things is getting a product that’s potent because there are a lot of products out there that have, like, 10-milligrams of CBD in it and that does nothing,” Benavides says. “You need to know where you’re getting it from and in what dose.”
He goes on to say that he thinks using CBD and THC products for healing tattoos works because “we have cannabinoid receptors all over our bodies—so localized application is really effective.”
“CBD has anti-inflammatory properties and THC works well for pain. Those are two key things for healing any kind of skin trauma,” he says, adding, “but it needs to have a high concentration of THC and/or CBD.”
But is it worth the extra price tag, beyond, say, Aquaphor or cocoa butter lotion?
Benavides thinks that, without more rigorous scientific studies that address issues of cell regeneration and turnover, then it really just comes down to personality type.
“You can use a bar of soap on your hair or you can use a fancy conditioner,” Benavides explains. “I love it, I think it works, but I’m a pampered man.”