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Safe + Natural Tattoo After-Care

I got a tattoo!

Surprise! If you've known me (in person) for very long, it's actually not much of a surprise that I ended up getting one. I've been talking about it for 10 years. My college roommate and I spent many a night scheming up the perfect tattoo design and placement. She got one last summer, so it was only natural that it was time for me to follow suit.

Why a bee?

My nickname growing up was Leah Bee. There's no origin story there, it just flowed nicely and was picked up by my relatives. My older cousin, Meghan, even gave me a cute little bee backpack for my birthday (I must have been 8 or 9) and I cherished it for years until I felt I had grown too old for it.

I was stung by a bee at Disney World as a very young child. But my mother told me that the bee was just afraid and didn't mean to hurt me. That has stuck with me, and as an adult I appreciate the way she diminished my fear by allowing me to empathize with that little creature instead of learning to hate it.

I vividly remember a moment in elementary school - I must have been 9 or 10 - when the class was sitting cross-legged outside waiting for our teacher to pick us up from the cafeteria. A bee approached us on the hunt for flowers and, seemingly in slow motion, each child jumped up into the air, shrieking and fleeing. But I stayed, leg over leg, calm as Yoda, just observing. I'd learned, thanks to my mother, that bees didn't want to hurt me.

I wonder now if that story, embedded in me, has affected my approach toward inclusive relationships. If even the bee is worthy of being given the benefit of the doubt, how much more grace should we extend to humans?

Anyways, I'm happy that I got it and have been pleasantly surprised with the speed of the recovery process. (And yes, it hurt, but I found breathing through the pain to be very effective.)

This list contains a few affiliate links.


After interviewing Kerrie Pierce on safe cosmetics, I've changed my tune a bit when it comes to "all natural" products. While my sensitive skin thanks me for using mild, naturally derived ingredients in most cases, I'm learning to trust my skin when it tells me it isn't responding to a particular product.

I've eliminated the aggressive skin oils that burn on my skin and thrown out the mascara I was using that contained no preservatives, allowing bacteria to thrive.

Apply Two Times a Day:

Anti-Bacterial Soap

When my tattooist recommended I use an antibacterial soap for the first few days, I decided to listen. Antibacterial hand soaps are generally a bad idea for everyday use because they encourage the bacteria that survives to mutate into super bacteria, but when it comes to cleaning an open wound, it can still be the best choice. After the first week, I transitioned to an unscented bar soap. My friend, Faye, recommends Dr. Bronner's.

Dial Gold Liquid Handsoap (for first few days)
Dr. Bronner's Baby Unscented Bar Soap (contains palm oil)
Tree Hugger Soap Co. Castile Soap (palm oil free!)

Coconut Oil

My tattooist also recommended coconut oil in place of ointment, because it has mild, anti-microbial properties that may aid in healing and absorbs into skin more effectively than a product like Aquaphor. I know I'm way late to the coconut oil party, but now I see why everyone was (is?) obsessed with it. It smells incredible and leaves you with soft skin free from residue. I used store brand unrefined, organic Coconut Oil.

Viva Naturals Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Apply as Needed:

Unscented Lotion

To ease itching and skin discomfort during the day, I brought a bottle of Cetaphil to work. Every few hours, I rub a little bit on the tattoo for quick moisture that doesn't suffocate the skin.

Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion
Tree Hugger Soap Co. Unscented Whipped Body Butter (palm oil free)

Shea Butter

Faye also recommended Shea Brand Whipped Shea Butter for after care (Shea Brand sent me some products for review). Shea Brand uses hand-whipped, sustainably and fairly harvested, organic shea butter with a hint of Vitamin E and essential oils.

I didn't start using this on my tattoo until about a week and a half in because it needs to be thoroughly rubbed into skin and a flaking tattoo can't handle that. But while I was waiting for the tattoo to heal a bit more, I applied it to a rash I'd had for over a month and it started to fade almost immediately. Within a week, it was gone! Shea is a nut-based cream that goes on thick, but dries matte. It's great for cuticles and chapped lips, too. I've been carrying a little tin of it in my purse to ease the dryness caused by cold wind and indoor heaters. I highly recommend it as a multipurpose skin product.

Shea Brand Original (Unscented)
Shea Brand Rose

Shop Shea Brand here.


Are you thinking about getting a tattoo or do you already have one? Feel free to ask questions and make suggestions in the comments. 


Related Reading: 
How Ethical Are Tattoos?

The Moral Wardrobe: A Denim Miracle

Everlane Top and made in USA denim Everlane Top and made in USA denim Everlane Top and made in USA denim Everlane Top and made in USA denim
Ethical Details: Top - Everlane; Jeans - Karen Kane (made in USA, similar); Belt - thrifted; Shoes - Frye (some styles made in USA)

Let me tell you about these jeans.

For the last several years, I've been on a somewhat noncommittal hunt for ethical jeans that actually fit my body type. I have wide hips and a relatively narrow waist and it seems like all the "cool" small, ethical brands make jeans for straighter figures. For that reason, I've tended to fall back on American Eagle jeans despite their less-than-stellar production standards, justifying it by purchasing dark wash, mid-rise styles that I can wear for years.

The only problem is that American Eagle's quality has gone waaay down since the last time I bought jeans there. So I went on a frantic hunt around the mall looking for an alternative. On a whim, I walked through Belk, checking the labels of a half a dozen jeans before I came across these, by Karen Kane. Produced in the USA out of imported fabrics, they're not the pinnacle of sustainability, but at least they check off one my boxes.

This was the only pair left, not my typical size, and listed as $89.00. I tried them on anyway and they fit. I worked up the nerve to throw down nearly $100 at the checkout counter (I can spend a hundred bucks no problem online, but I have trouble facing that price tag in person), but then the clerk said, "Your total comes to $25.00." Suppressing my surprise and childlike glee, I paid up.

Sometimes you reluctantly make the better choice and the Heavens open up and reward you for it.

Grove & Bay Makes Conscious Consumerism Compelling + Accessible

Grove & Bay new online ethical retailerThanks to Grove & Bay for sponsoring this post. 

"The World's Best Shopping Experience for Conscious Consumers"

Chris Welch, the founder of new online ethical retailer, Grove & Bay, is best described as a pragmatic idealist. He wants global change in the manufacturing industry as much as the next conscious consumer, but he knows that simply slapping some fair trade goods up on a website is not enough to create a sea change.

It has everything to do with the foundational questions. 

Instead of asking, "how can I convince people that fast fashion is bad?" Chris asked, "what makes educated, empathetic consumers choose fast fashion over more conscientious retailers?"

Let me unpack that a bit. I think that most of us in the conscious consumer community are preoccupied with that first question. We think that if we just provide enough detail about the state of the fashion industry - about sweatshop labor, factory collapses, deforestation, and widespread pollution - that people will obviously change their shopping habits. We push brand stories, even to the point of selling narratives more than products.

But research shows that our assumptions simply aren't true, and that over-selling the ethical narrative can even push people away. People, by and large, don't change their habits when introduced to troubling data. In fact, they might just dig in their heels and deny what they hear.

But people do respond, very favorably, to an attractive, easy shopping experience. 

That's where Grove & Bay comes in, bringing education, quality, price point, and user experience together for an overall experience that will give fast fashion retailers a run for their money. This isn't your quaint, run-of-the-mill ethical retail website. This is sophisticated, thorough, and, most of all, clear.

Grove and Bay Fair Trade Ethical Retail

How Grove & Bay is Different

Style First, for Women and Men

Grove & Bay understands that a brand story can only go so far. Clothing and accessories must be stylish, wearable, and high quality or they're not truly sustainable. After all, what's the point of "choosing better" if the item is ill fitting, scratchy, or poorly constructed? Grove & Bay aims to limit their selection to styles that people will want to grab again and again, for years to come. Plus, they carry both women's and men's styles on one convenient platform.

Transparency Guide

Grove & Bay researched over 1,200 ethical and eco-branded items to select the best of the best in the industry. Rather than organize collected data using a badge system or secondary menu, each product's ethical designations are available on the individual listing's page for both ease of access and absolute clarity. Love a top but wonder what makes it "ethical"? Scroll down to its Transparency Guide and learn everything you need to know.

Ethical Fashion on a Budget, Grove and Bay

Sizing Tools

Each item at Grove & Bay has been measured individually so you can be sure that the thing you ordered will fit when it arrives at your door. Their cool sizing technology also lets you compare items in the shop to ones you already own so you get a sense of silhouette, not just measurements.

Affordable Prices

Conscious consumers everywhere know that one of the biggest barriers to shopping ethically is price. Grove & Bay is committed to showcasing affordable goods, with all items ranging from $12 to $120.

That's all well and good, but do they carry things people will want to buy? 

Grove & Bay wants to focus on classic-but-not-dated, casual style. Think your GAP or J. Crew shopper. Their introductory product line includes offerings from Amour Vert, Etiko, Alternative Apparel, Passion Lillie, United by Blue, and more, with brand launches every month. They're also the only US-based online retailer offering Thought (formerly Braintree) Clothing, one of my favorites.

In an industry that's been trying, with some futility, to change hearts and minds by focusing almost exclusively on the makers, I'm thrilled to see a company successfully marrying maker stories with consumer interests. Though it can be discouraging to realize that empathy alone won't change the world, the sooner we can collectively make smart choices, the closer we get to authentic, sustainable change.

That is worth celebrating. 

And that's why I'm sure I'll be one of Grove & Bay's first customers. More than a product or a mission, the Grove & Bay model is smart, appealing to both aesthetic and ethical sensibilities, and maybe - hopefully - bridging the divide between hardcore ethical shoppers like me and people who would make better choices if only they had the resources and the time to do it.


Grove & Bay launched yesterday! Be one of their first customers...

Shop Grove & Bay here.

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