Getting a tattoo can be a pretty serious investment—both in time and money. And while it’s easy to pop over to your neighborhood tattoo parlor or browse the infinite array of talented artists online beforehand, many folks don’t seem to put as much thought into taking care of their ink afterward. We all have those friends or acquaintances whose tattoos have begun to lose definition and fade, or become pretty darn unreadable. So why not put as much thought towards caring for your new ink and for your skin in the long term? Enter Derm Dude.

Founded by heavily tattooed, Emmy-nominated journalist-turned-entrepreneur and philanthropist Drew Plotkin (a.k.a. The Derm Dude) after 15 years working for high-end skin care companies, Derm Dude offers several lines of personal care products, including a line devoted to tattoo aftercare. With that sort of pedigree behind their founder, it wasn’t hard to say ‘Yes’ when the company reached out about sending over a few of their most popular products, especially on the eve of my 12th tattoo session on my left arm sleeve!

I opted for Derm Dude’s “Tattoo Starter Set,” which features two products aimed at brightening your ink and hydrating your skin—their Instant Brightening Mist and Nuclear Balm. For those that might be wondering, the balm and instant brightening mist are both 100% plant-based and vegan—no animals were harmed in the production of this review! The set also includes their “Invisible SPF Tattoo Brightening Spray,” a 50 SPF spray-on sunscreen, which I am unfortunately not able to use right now given that the temperature outside in Portland, Maine, is a balmy 12 degrees Fahrenheit…

But I do look forward to trying it this summer, and may post a second piece once I get to, along with a review of his recent book, Under My Skin, which the company kindly threw in as well! You can read more about Plotkin’s book, which according to the brand’s website, follows his journey to self-discovery as he travels from New Jersey to Hollywood and eventually around the world, landing gigs spearheading massive brands, brushing shoulders with Hollywood A-Listers, all while navigating life’s ups and downs as he collects experiences and tattoos, right here.

In the meantime, I decided to give the spray and tattoo balm a go. As a guy with a fair amount of tattoos myself, I’m no stranger to taking care of my ink. My typical post-tattoo routine typically involves applying increasing amounts of Aveeno daily moisturizer and lots of slapping to keep from itching. But once the flaking is done, it can be difficult to remember to moisturize and keep what was once new ink looking fresh. I began by trying the Instant Brightening Mist on some of my oldest color ink dating back three to four years. I quickly discovered that when it comes to Derm Dude’s mist, a little goes a long way. I did not find the product to be overly greasy, but it is a bit oily, which makes sense since the main ingredient appears to be grapeseed oil.

Right away, I noticed the bolder colors from my oldest tattoos, which I would typically otherwise remember to moisturize a day or two a week at best. The black tones and colors were more rich and more vibrant. Unfortunately, I did this without taking a before image, sure that it would wear off quickly and allow for a better image. Spoiler alert: it did not. Whatever is in this formula, the bolder colors hung around for days; through showers and gym sessions, my ink, which is on my right forearm and bicep, did not get dry and fade much at all.

I had a similar experience with the Nuclear Balm. The closest product I’ve tried to this is competitor Mad Rabbit’s tattoo balm. But unlike the waxy, frankly unpleasant ‘coconut oil’-feel of Mad Rabbit’s balm, the Derm Dude Nuclear Balm felt light and absorbed into my skin much more readily with no lingering residue, again leaving lasting boldness and brightness to my color tattoos. A little goes a long way with this product too—you can check out a photo of the first tattoo I ever got, a full-color stratovolcano above. In the image, the left half of the tattoo (right side of the photo) has had the Nuclear balm put on, beginning at the star all the way to the far right edge. The left half has not—the difference is visible, but the photo honestly does not do it justice, so I’ve also included some before and after photos provided by Derm Dude.

A day after applying the tattoo balm, the effects were still pretty apparent, and my skin was more hydrated after 24 hours than if I’d simply used the Aveeno. While I’ll admit to being skeptical, the Derm Dude products do the job really well and have definitely got me eying their site for my next restock!


When he's not out in the woods, clomping around in streams, or looking at shiny rocks, you can find our U.S. Managing Editor and contributing photographer Nathan Katsiaficas in the photo pit, covering everything from heavy metal to punk, alternative, indie, and hip-hop.