When Sean Hoy came up with the initial idea for Ink-Eeze, it wasn’t supposed to become one of the biggest brands in tattoo aftercare and maintenance. For that matter, it wasn’t even much of a business plan at all. Hoy just wanted to make sure his most treasured tattoos kept looking cool almost 20 years ago.
“I was teaching wakeboarding in San Diego, and I was starting to get my first sleeve done,” Hoy says. “I was putting sunscreen on all day long, and I started to notice what looked like a blue film over the tattoos. I knew I needed to protect it from the sun, but it was kind of a bummer that the sunscreen made it look odd. I kind of kicked it around in my head and wondered ‘Why isn’t there a tattoo sunscreen?’ and that’s kind of where it all started.”
But that simple idea grew to be a little bigger over time (“These things hurt, Why isn’t there a numbing product like at the doctor’s office?”), eventually becoming significant enough to be the spark Hoy needed to form a company centered around topical ointments like lotions and gels for everyone involved in the tattoo process. As a collector himself with some tattooing friends, Hoy knew there was a need for a higher quality of product, and he also happened to have just the connection he needed to get his foot in the door in a way that so many others couldn’t.
“I had a friend who owned a compound pharmacy,” Hoy says. “He was a high school buddy, and I started telling him about the numbing products and sunscreens I wanted to make. We started making them in his parents’ compound pharmacy lab, but then his parents’ pharmacy got bought out by Rite-Aid. I just kept running with everything and just started developing from there.
With a passion for tattoos and the scientific knowledge he picked up while working on that first batch of lotions in the lab, Hoy quickly became something of an expert in a field that virtually no one was specializing in. Since then, the founder has watched as his personal pet project has grown into one of the industry’s top aftercare companies with the help of his family and friends.
“My brother, his wife, my wife and I all came up with the brand name at the dinner table,” Hoy says. “That’s when Ink-Eeze was born. We wanted a brand that said what it was supposed to do. It was a side project for a long time, but now we just keep building it and building it and putting all of the money we make back into it.”
These days, the Lake Forest-based company has created a broad spectrum of products that will help your tattoo look and feel as good as it can from the moment a tattoo artist begins to lay ink into your skin until long after it’s healed, and they've got iconic tattooers like Franco Vescovi and Carlos Torres signed on as business partners. From the “Green Glide” tattooing ointment and numbing sprays that can be found on the workstations of some of the best artists in the world to daily moisturizers and sunscreens, Ink-Eeze’s whole concept these days is to make sure they have something for just about everybody in the tattoo world.
Back when he was starting out, Hoy was conscious of how so many other non-tattooing businessmen who get involved in the tattoo world looked, and he wanted to avoid the well-deserved stigma that goes along with it. Thankfully, the unlikely entrepreneur already knew and befriended enough tattoo artists just through collecting that he was almost treated as a part of the industry before he ever began his quest for the perfect tattoo sunscreen.
“I was really lucky because I had tattoo artist friends prior to ever making this company,” Hoy says. “I already had support from guys like Rick Walters and Opie Ortiz when I started. I got their blessing on it and they were helping me with videos and promotions. That was the first step was just to get into the industry and become an industry guy.”
Although Hoy may very well be one of the world’s top authorities on the aftercare process and healing a tattoo, he’s also the first to admit that there’s no single right or wrong way to do it. Part of the reason Ink-Eeze has so many different products is because there are so many different ways to successfully heal tattoos, and Hoy’s not looking to tell anyone how to handle their own ink.
“There’s not one magic juju juice that’s out there,” Hoy says. “Some people like to use lotions, some people like ointments, some people like straight aftercares. We pride ourselves on having multiple products for multiple skin types and the multiple ways that people like to heal. We’re not here to tell you to do one or the other, we’re here to provide you with options that are going to be the best possible options.”