WHY DO YOU NEED TO APPLY LOTION TO A NEW TATTOO?
Lotion is crucial to help moisturize your new tattoo! Science has proven that allowing your tattooed skin to dry up is a myth.
Many people recommend that you let wounds “dry out.” In a sense, that means you shouldn’t apply lotions or ointments to them. The reason why you need lotions or ointments is that they help minimize skin irritation and promote healthy skin.
When you allow your new tattoo to dry out, it slows down the cellular activity and actually delays the healing process. You’ll see it in the form of scabs forming on itchy skin.
When it comes to tattooed skin, it’s what you can’t see that should worry you. I’m talking about the prime food source for bacteria, aka infections, and other external contaminants.
Applying lotion to the skin allow the healing cells to freely move across the wound to close it. Lotion won’t clog your pores or remove the tattoo.
Top-notch skin care makes your tattoos look brighter, reduces itching, and restores the health of your skin. It’s incredibly easy to do. In order to make things as simple as possible, I have put together a list of the best tattoo lotions. From fragrance- and color-free lotions with natural ingredients, to the richest salve formulas possible, you can’t go wrong with these picks for tattoo healing and soothing of sensitive skin.
WHEN TO APPLY LOTION TO A NEW TATTOO?
Start moisturizing your tattoo once it starts to dry — not before. This can take one to three days. Wash and dry your tattoo with antibacterial soap and choose a moisturizer as well.
If this is your first tattoo, we recommend you to educate yourself on the entire healing process beforehand. This guide describes in detail the precautions you need to take, how to get the job done, and how often to moisturize. If you already have tattoos on your body, it might be worth your while to get a refresher as well.
PRECAUTIONS TO BEAR IN MIND
How long should I wait before removing the bandage?
Removing the bandage, no sooner than three to four hours after (though it can also be left on overnight, especially if you received the tattoo in the evening) is recommended. You may remove the bandage before going to bed if you got tattooed early in the day. At most, the bandage should be removed 24 hours after getting tattooed. Rebandaging is not recommended after the first bandage is removed.
There is a new type of bandage called Saniderm that allows for quick, easy, and clean tattoo healing. The film can last for up to five days, and is safe to wear to bed and in the shower. Not all tattoo shops carry Saniderm, so make sure to ask the shop in advance, or bring your own if you would like to use this method.
Should I expect tattoo peeling? How should I handle peels and scabs?
Well-done tattoos flake or peel much like a sunburn, though scabbing is also common with some low-quality tattoos. Tattoo scabs are usually the same color as the tattoo ink. In high-density color tattoos, it is common to undergo two or three stages of tattoo peeling (and can take longer to heal). It is not advisable to pick or peel the scabs since you might damage the design and have to get it retouched afterwards.
Don’t Moisturize Too Soon
You should remove the bandage and wash it with antibacterial soap, but do not apply anything to it. Moisturize your tattoo only when it starts to dry out; do not moisturize it earlier.
How to Identify Dry Skin
A quick way to check if your tattoo is dry is to gently pull it taut. They should feel tight and on the verge of cracking.
Don’t Pick at Scabs
Your flesh will be tender and flaky when you get home. There will also be a scab. Whatever you do, do not pick at those scabs!
If you pick at a scab, your recovery will take longer. When you pick at a scab, you’re damaging the new skin that’s being prepared underneath the old one. Wear loose clothing — your tattoo needs to breathe.
How can I tell if my tattoo is infected and what should I do if it is?
If you notice your tattoo scabbing or peeling, this is NORMAL and thus not a problem. However, infection is possible, especially if you do not clean your tattoo regularly. The appearance of persistent redness around the perimeter of the tattoo that persists for several days indicates infection (normally, irritation should subside within the first day or so). You can treat a mild infection with an antibiotic ointment, which can be purchased from your local drugstore.
Is there anything I should avoid while my tattoo is healing?
Avoid getting your tattoo soaked for the first week. Swimming in chlorinated pools is especially problematic since the chlorine can bleach the color of your tattoo. During the first week, you should also avoid saunas, jacuzzis, and also anything that leads to excessive sweating. Prolonged sun exposure should also be avoided.
How often should I clean my tattoo? What kind of soap should I use?
After removing the bandage, the tattoo should be thoroughly cleaned (and also cleaned daily from then on). Clean the tattoo multiple times on the first day. Pat it dry (don’t rub it) with a lint-free cloth or paper towel to avoid irritation, and let it air out for 20-30 minutes before moisturizing. We suggest using a gentle, antibacterial liquid soap, like Dial Antibacterial Soap, though you can use any hand or body soap as long as you thoroughly rinse it off. The tattoo should not absorb additional water, so rinsing should be deliberate and efficient to minimize time. You can use antibacterial soap for the first three to five days and then regular soap is fine.
How to Moisturize
1. Unwrap Your Tattoo
Your skin will leak blood plasma and ink for the first few hours after getting tattooed. This is because the damaged skin is trying to heal itself.
2. Wash Your Tattoo
Soap and water: Clean your tattooed skin with lukewarm water and mild soap.
Rub: Gently rub your tattoo to get rid of any excess ink or bleeding.
Keep in mind that you don’t want to be washing your tattoo too often until it’s healed. Too much washing will get rid of the helpful bacteria that heal your skin.
3. Dry the Skin
Pat the skin dry with a clean paper towel or regular towel. Do not rub, as you may damage the skin and get fibers stuck in the tattoo.
4. Apply the Lotion
Make sure your moisturizing lotion is scent-free and colorless.
Don’t over moisturize or your pores will clog and bacteria will grow.
Although your tattoo will still flake and peel, it is perfectly normal. After your skin peels, you may have white, flaky edges. We suggest you refrain from peeling those bits off.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU MOISTURIZE?
Make sure that you moisturize your tattoo twice or thrice a day. Moisturizing after each wash is crucial. The reason for this is that washing the body with soap and water strips its natural oils and moisturizer you applied earlier.
It is advised that artists wash their tattoos in the morning. This is because, during sleep, your body often gets dehydrated. Furthermore, when you wake up with a fresh tattoo, it will still feel painful.
Remember that you still need to moisturize even on a workday. The afternoon is generally when your tattoo gets the driest.
The same moisturizing ritual should also be done before going to bed. This will help with the morning dryness problem we talked about earlier. It’s not the best feeling to roll around in bed with a cracked tattoo.
DEALING WITH ITCHING AND SCABBING
There are a few things you can do to relieve intense itching. Try gently slapping your tattoo. It may sound silly, but it often works. You can also take an antihistamine (like GoodSense All Day Allergy) to provide relief from the itchiness.
The last resort is to apply some hydrocortisone cream – like this 1% cream from Basic Care – to your tattoo. Hydrocortisone should not be used frequently or on a long-term basis. Only use it when the itch is severe.
Tattoo scabs do not necessarily mean your tattoo is bad. Some people’s tattoos will scab no matter how well they are cared for.
In the event that there is tattoo scabbing, keep the scabs moist and don’t pick at them. Within two weeks, your scabs will fall off by themselves. Picking at scabs can affect your tattoo ink and lead to light spots or uneven discoloration. As tempting as it is, don’t pick at it. The more you pick, the more likely they will recur.
BEST LOTION FOR TATTOO AFTERCARE
Beckham (a heavily tattooed man himself) has a beauty line that’s a hidden gem of a brand. The cream was created specifically for hydrating and protecting your tattoos, in addition to providing SPF 50 protection to block out UV rays that fade colored tattoos.
If you’re looking for a moisturizer that’s both gentle and effective, don’t hesitate to try baby lotion. While it may have the baby in the title, that doesn’t mean adults can’t benefit from it.
The real beauty of this Aveeno moisturizer is that it combines natural colloidal oatmeal and rich emollients. If you take a glance at the J Drugs Dermatol. 2015;14(1):43-48 study, you will discover the anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal. In addition, it also reduces itch intensity. The true active ingredient, however, is dimethicone (1.2%).
Once applied, you’ll help moisturize your new tattoo for 24 hours without dealing with any unwanted grease. It’ll never clog your pores and it’s also fragrance-free. And most importantly, it’s hypoallergenic.
The Ultimate Healing Skin Therapy Lotion from Gold Bond is packed with vitamins A, C, and E to help heal dry skin. Just twist the top, give it a pump, and apply once a day.
This lotion contains aloe for naturally cool and soothing relief. Vitamin A helps improve the elasticity of your skin, while vitamin C promotes healthy skin development and collagen production. Vitamin E helps protect your skin and reduces lipid loss as well.
The combination of vitamins plus aloe will work wonders for any new tattoo. Although it’s a bit thicker, it doesn’t leave any sticky residue behind which prevents your skin from sticking to your clothes.
With vitamins E and B5 and skin essential lipids, Lubriderm’s Advanced Therapy Lotion is clinically proven to moisturize the skin for a full 24 hours. As your body heals, you will experience softer, smoother skin, and you will immediately feel more relief.
Although this contains light fragrance, it still performs well, thanks to its excellent hydrating qualities. Additionally, the formula itself leaves your tattoo feeling clean, with no grease or grime left behind.
Rich, yet fragrance-free, this triple-action formula moisturizes, exfoliates, and conditions your freshly inked skin. It’s at the top of the lotion line for a good reason. This product is backed by clinically proven results and dermatologist recommendations. It also contains alpha-hydroxy and extra-enriched moisturizers.
Although the word exfoliation may sound intimidating to your healing skin, it’s all part of the intensive hydration process. The formula is non-greasy and absorbs right into your skin without leaving an oily residue.
The Eucerin Intensive Repair Lotion is great for tattoo healing as it is a 3-in-1 lotion that moisturizes, exfoliates, and conditions dry, flaky skin. It is filled with natural nourishing elements, like alpha hydroxy and extra-enriched moisturizers, that are good for healing skin. But remember that you cannot go out in the sun for some time after applying this lotion as the exfoliation tends to make your skin sensitive.
When Vaseline is mentioned, people usually think of that old jar of petroleum jelly, but they also offer lotion as well. So don’t make the mistake of applying pure jelly when lotion is much more beneficial.
But here’s the real deal when it comes to lotion. Vaseline’s Intensive Care Advanced Repair Lotion has the most powerful formula, with clinical trials showing it can help dry skin heal in five days. It won’t heal a tattoo in five days, but you get the point.
It is a Stratys-3 multi-layered moisturizer; it’s non-greasy as well. In other words, it penetrates the top, core, and bottom layers of your skin. The fact that it is both hypoallergenic and fragrance-free is the real appeal of this cream. It also works for 24 hours and boosts hydration for your skin by boosting moisturizer by 300 percent.
7. EiR NYC Tattoo Balm
The EiR NYC Tattoo Balm is vegan-friendly and contains only five ingredients: shea butter, coconut oil, vitamin E, rose-infused olive oil, and rosemary extract. Each ingredient contributes to calming, hydrating, and nourishing the area so that your tattoo heals to perfection.
Vaseline’s Original Petroleum Jelly ointment has long been used in many people’s medicine cabinets to relieve dry, cracked, or bruised skin. It also works great on fresh tattoos, says Marchbein, who also advises covering the tattoo with a nonstick bandage to prevent bacteria from entering.
Tattoo Goo lotion has been in the market for over ten years and is also a well-known aftercare product recommended by many artists. Panthenol (Vitamin B5) helps keep your ink moisturized, prevents scabbing, and speeds up healing without clogging your pores. Tattoo Goo also keeps colors vivid and has undergone dermatologist testing for your protection.
This may seem unlikely, but snail slime may be able to help post-tattoos recover more efficiently. I first heard about this lotion on an Asian Beauty subreddit, where people were raving about it.
It is also approved by some dermatologists. “High levels of hyaluronic acid help plump and hydrate skin, while antioxidants calm inflammation and promote healthy collagen production,” Zeichner previously told Allure. “By providing a protective barrier and hydrating the skin, snail creams may be useful to help heal the skin after tattoos.”
Skinfix makes a variety of products designed to treat sensitive and compromised skin types, so its Inked Tattoo Balm is no surprise. Skinfix contains 99.5 percent natural ingredients, including shea butter, jojoba, coconut, and sunflower oils. It also contains natural vitamins and antioxidants that soothe the skin and improve healing.
12. WoWOO After/care Kit
Dr. Woo, a world-renowned tattoo artist, devised a simple but effective After/care Kit with skin loving ingredients that helps speed up the healing process after tattooing. This set includes the Gentle Cleansing Soap, which is infused with antioxidant vitamin E, glycerin, olive oil, and shea butter; and the After/ Care Moisturizer, which is infused with zinc and chamomile. These ingredients work together to minimize irritation, while expediting skin healing as well. And the sleek packaging sure isn’t hurting either — just saying.
If you want to ensure that your lotion of choice is all-natural, coconut oil is therefore the best option. Although its uses seem endless, it is the ideal product for tattoo aftercare due to its reputation for treating wounds and protects the skin from irritants. When using coconut oil, make sure you use a clean utensil (or gloves) to avoid exposing your ink to potentially harmful bacteria.
Coconut oil can be used for literally anything: cooking, soothing burns, insects bites, dental health, and hair care. Anjou’s USDA certified-organic coconut oil offers an all-natural solution for those of you who don’t want to put a branded lotion on your new ink. As an ingredients-conscious person with a new tattoo to protect, this coconut oil is the ideal solution to your hydration woes, peeling problems, and other general skin problems. Make sure your hands are clean before touching the jar (or use a clean utensil), in order to prevent any potential bacteria from entering your new tattoo.
Billy Jealousy’s Tattoo Lotion is a bit more expensive, but it’s packed with ingredients like shea butter, sunflower seed oil, jojoba oil, green tea leaf extract, and more. This lotion does contain lavender and rosemary oils for fragrance (though most artists will advise you to stay away from perfumed lotions). The fragrance in Billy Jealousy comes from its essential oils, so it gets an ok from me. This lotion will keep your tattoos looking fresh.
Dove tattoo lotion is Dr. Zeichner’s favorite. “It is important to keep the skin hydrated and to protect it from the environment to allow the tattoo to settle and keep colors vibrant,” he said. “Dove DermaSeries Dry Skin Relief Body Lotion is fragrance-free and protects the skin with stearic acid, panthenol, and niacinamide.”
Curel’s Itch Defense Lotion is another good choice, thanks to its tattoo-friendly ingredients: ceramides, pro-vitamin B5, and shea butter.
This is an aftercare ointment for tattoos which helps promote faster healing and skin regeneration, relieves itching, and maintains tattoo intensity.
TATTOO ARTISTS RECOMMENDED LOTION FOR TATTOO AFTERCARE
Four of the expert tattoo artists recommend applying coconut oil daily to keep your tattoo healthy. “Every morning, I put on a thin layer of organic coconut oil after showering,” says Berlin-based blackwork artist Julim Rosa. Danilo Delfino, who specializes in Brazilian fine-line tattoos, also suggests using coconut oil to preserve tattoos — especially if you live in a dry, cold area — because it is rich in fatty acids that soften skin and keep it moisturized, which is why it is great to apply straight after showering (when the skin is still slightly damp). Also, the tattoo artists at Welcome Home Studio recommend coconut oil, telling us that, for tattoo-aftercare products, their philosophy is “the more natural, the better.”
Since coconut oil is too heavy for your skin, a couple of tattoo artists recommended using lighter-weight argan oil. New York City–based vegan tattooist Em North says it is “the closest you can get to actual human skin oil, and won’t clog your pores like petroleum-based products,” specifically recommending ArtNaturals organic Argan oil. Rit Kit, who specializes in Ukrainian colorwork, also loves using argan oil, agreeing it does the job when it comes to the “keeping tattooed skin hydrated and healthy.”
21. Nivea Creme
If you reside in a humid or hot climate, Delfino says Nivea Creme is “a very inexpensive and effective option that is lightweight on the skin.” He also calls it “the perfect traveling companion,” as it can fit in your pocket. Delfino also shared another tip to keep your tattoos looking fresh: “Drink water! It’s so important to keep your body hydrated from the inside out.”
North, who exclusively uses ethically sourced, vegan products, recommends Viva Natural Organic Shea Butter “for extra dry areas,” since it is loaded with vitamins A and E, as well as essential fatty acids that will keep your skin hydrated.
Besides using an oil or lotion to hydrate tattooed skin, “the best thing you can do is avoid the sun,” says Miriah. “Sunscreen helps, but actually blocking your tattoo from the sun with a scarf or something is the best thing you can do.” If you have tattoos in places that are difficult to shield from the sun using clothing, Kit recommends applying a “water-resistant, mineral-based, and fragrance-free sunscreen” like La Roche-Posay Sunscreen SPF 50. She notes that “this is especially important with color tattoos, because UV exposure accelerates natural fading of color ink and tattoo vibrancy.” Rosa, however, stresses the importance of sun protection of black-ink tattoos. “Even black ink can tint blue or green,” she notes. North agrees, saying “I can’t stress enough, protect your tattoos from the sun, or they will fade. I’ve seen it happen on my own body.”
Rosa recommends using your moisturizer and your sunscreen together to save some time (and money). She likes Aesop’s Protective Body Lotion which contains spearmint leaf extract and SPF 50. The sunscreen is water-resistant and free of synthetic fragrances. However, it does not contain mineral blockers like the sunscreen above, so it’s probably better to use for brief stints in the sun rather than full days of baking.
Regularly exfoliating your skin is also important for the longevity of your tattoo, according to Miriah and North, who say that it will “keep your tattoos bright.” The Alba Botánica exfoliator, North’s favorite, is a revitalizing sea-salt body scrub that exfoliates dry skin with Pacific sea salts, along with nourishing jojoba, macadamia, avocado, and sweet almond oils to provide hydration. The product is also paraben-, sulfate-, and phthalate-free.
We found that Miriah uses Fresh as her go-to exfoliator for tattooed skin and loves it. “I exfoliate daily with it,” she says, adding that she believes it’s best to exfoliate daily, or every other day, if possible. This exfoliating scrub uses brown sugar crystals to exfoliate, and a blend of evening primrose, sweet almond, and jojoba oils to moisturize.
BEST UNSCENTED LOTION FOR TATTOO AFTERCARE
If you prefer a lotion to an oil, Robert Boyle, owner of Nice Tattoo Parlor, suggests using an unscented one like Eucerin Original Healing Lotion, which he says can be used from the time your tattoo begins to heal. Boyle also agreed with our other experts that, outside of sunscreen and lotion, there is really no need to get any other products that promise to “preserve or protect.” According to him, “there are currently quite a few products entering the market that purport to make tattoos last longer, but the science is (for the most part) shaky, and we avoid encouraging our clients to buy them; that doesn’t mean we think they’re bad, we just don’t have any reason to recommend any particular product.”
After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer is made in the USA and features a light weight lotion with a big moisturizing effect. After applying it, you’ll notice that it doesn’t feel too heavy on your new tattoo and seems to soak in immediately. Once applied, you shouldn’t have any problems with it sticking to your clothing later.
It is also dermatologist tested and clinically tested, and features a non-irritating formula. In addition, you’ll love that the After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer is an unscented lotion free of parabens and it isn’t petroleum-based either. If you look at the ingredients table, you’ll see oils like jojoba, grape Seed, and orange in the mix. There’s also beeswax and shea butter included.
Cetaphil’s long-lasting moisturizing lotion will nourish your dry, healing skin with a burst of moisture. This lotion is clinically proven to not only bind water to your skin, but also prevent it from evaporating in the first place!
Extra-strength emollients and humectants work their magic to smoothen and soften skin as they’re applied. Speaking of application, the formula is lightweight and non-greasy. It won’t leave any residue or gunk behind in addition to being completely fragrance- and paraben-free.
Aquaphor Healing Ointment is completely fragrance-free and made with skin health in mind. It is dermatologist recommended for a variety of skin conditions, including new tattoos. Using Aquaphor for tattoos is a gentle and economic alternative.
If you’re environmentally conscious or concerned about what you’re putting on your skin, his product may not be right for you. The product contains mineral oil, as well as other chemicals and preservatives. Its main ingredient is also petroleum-derived. However, if you don’t mind this, the product will work wonders. It goes on thicker and a little greasier than other options.
After applying Aquaphor to your new tattoo for the first three days, Josh Kohn, tattoo artist and owner of Immortal Ink suggests switching to fragrance-free Aveeno. One ingredient of Aveeno’s everyday lotion is colloid oatmeal, a miracle ingredient that helps to moisturize the skin and a great barrier against irritants. This is, therefore, why Aveeno’s daily moisturizing lotion keeps tattoos healthy and fresh. Apply it two to three times a day for the first two weeks before switching to applying once a day.
BEST PETROLEUM-FREE LOTION FOR TATTOO AFTERCARE
Tattoo Goo may seem familiar. It’s a popular choice for both tattoo artists and their clients, and for good reason. It contains fewer ingredients than most other brands. For example, it uses olive oil, beeswax, cocoa butter, and wheat germ as its primary components.
In addition to lavender and sunflower oils, there is also rosemary extract. All in all, it is free of petroleum, lanolin and mineral oil. After it’s applied, just dig into that gooey green goodness and lightly coat your skin. It’s more time-consuming than lotion to apply, but overall, it’s quite soothing.
Furthermore, it does not leave a scent on your clothes either. However, understand the scent is a bit herbal; for some, this is pleasant but not for others Thus, it’s really a matter of taste. As a side effect, you may notice your tattoo colors looking brighter or more natural after applying it. This is normal and is due in part to the reflective ingredients in the formula. Finally, just because your skin looks great when you apply the cream doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way afterward so you better maintain using the moisturizing lotion.
Aquatat is a water-based and petroleum-free lotion that creates a protective skin barrier for all skin types, including sensitive skin. Aquatat is fragrance-free, anti-inflammatory, and helps speed up the healing process. It won’t stick to your skin, and it will make your tattoo look almost as good as new again.
34. Ora Tattoo Salve
It has a relaxing ring to it – it makes you feel better when you use a salve as an aftercare product for a tattoo. Ora’s Tattoo salve is no different. Infused with organic herbs and chemical-free, Ora’s was created to combat itching and scabbing naturally, without the petroleum.
It reduces inflammation and infection by providing a thin layer of protection, keeping tattoos and skin supple. It goes on thicker and greasier than lotions but dries very clean. It’s at the lower end of our price range, one jar will last for several days.
PETROLEUM-FREE TATTOO AFTERCARE SOAP AND LOTION
are specially formulated WITHOUT the use of petroleum. All Susie Q products are worthy of royalty and loaded with ingredients we use on our own skin on a day-to-day basis.
Ink salve by Susie Q is made using only the finest ingredients. Organic, cold-processed coconut oil is the main ingredient. Coconut oil is commonly used in skin care today for many different reasons. It works great as a moisturizer that provides wonderful nourishment for the skin.
Coconut oil is cold-processed, which means that the heat during extraction should not exceed 110 degrees, thus the enzymes are still intact in the final product.
Ink Salve is made with organic castor oil, nature’s response to petroleum. Castor oil is great for the skin, providing great lubrication and feel to the skin. Coconut oil and castor oil are combined to create a texture that glides easily on your skin while still allowing it to breathe and heal naturally. This works great on old and new tattoos.
A FINAL NOTE
You should wash and moisturize your tattoo more frequently if it’s located on a body part that is more vulnerable to bacteria — hands, feet, and wrists, for instance. Regardless of what you do, please don’t skip the moisturizing part of your routine. While you shouldn’t over-moisturize, you shouldn’t skip it just because your skin doesn’t feel dry.
According to a common misconception, lotion burns when applied. In truth, don’t apply it on the first or second day, that’s unwise and it will hurt! Your fresh tattoo is not yet ready for lotion, it needs ointment for the first three days.
Even after applying lotion, you might have the type of skin that is more prone to scabbing. You simply cannot prevent the fact that they will fall over on their own. Do not worry, this actually happens fairly often; just let the process occur naturally. It usually takes two weeks.
As for the after-peeling process, if your skin still feels too tight or tense, switch from lotion to shea tattoo butter, cocoa butter, Vitamin B5 cream or coconut oil. There are many types of tattoo aftercare products that can work wonders on your skin; you just have to research, explore, and ask your local tattoo artist or your dermatologist to recommend you the best lotion for your skin type.
There you have it, the best lotions, moisturizers, and tattoo balms for tattoos! Make sure you take good care of your new tattoo with the right aftercare product for your skin type, and it will be just as bright as the day you got it. It will also give you a sense of pride and happiness for years to come.