I got my first tattoo when I was 18, and since then, I've gotten six more, each with their own personal significance. Though each one has a different meaning, the aftercare process has remained the same. Whether you're getting a big piece from a renowned shop or a stick n' poke from your friend, your tattoo needs to be properly cleaned and cared for if you want it to remain vibrant and healthy. That's why, with the help of one of my favorite tattooers, Joseph Bryce, I've put together this list of the best soaps to clean your tattoos — plus, some key tattoo aftercare tips.
Something to keep in mind when it comes to caring for tattoos is that "Everyone is different," according to Bryce. "The soap is just to keep it clean. Tattoos are technically wounds," he explains. Bryce says that in order to keep your tattoo free of infection, you should be washing it twice a day and keeping it clean and dry in between washes (meaning as free as possible from sweat and oils).
When it comes to tattoo aftercare, Bryce also recommends "just listening to your body ... if you have a brand that works well with you, just look for their unscented, antibacterial product." And he doesn't just mean soap that's specifically made for the face and body. Sometimes, the best tattoo aftercare cleansers are hand soaps that you'd generally find in any bathroom!
Additionally, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, it's important to keep your new tattoo well-protected from the sun using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 or more. Also, don't forget to regularly moisture your fresh ink with one of the best tattoo aftercare lotions.
Read on to find out more cleaning and caring for new tattoos.
1. The All-Around Best Tattoo Soap
Across the board, "Dial Gold is the classic go-to," says Bryce. Every single piercer or tattooer I've ever met has recommended this bathroom staple as the all-around best tattoo cleanser. It's inexpensive, easy to buy in bulk, and ultimately, one of the most effective soaps on the market for making sure your tattoo stays clean and free of infection. This 52-ounce juggernaut makes sure that no matter how big your tat is, you will absolutely never run out of soap. Something to keep in mind for folks with more sensitive skin is that while this soap is pretty much the holy grail of tattoo cleansers, it's also not 100 percent fragrance-free. If you're prone to irritation from scented products, it might be best to steer clear of this fan-favorite and opt for something completely unscented, like the option below.
"Dial is the standard for keeping bacteria and germs at bay. I use it every day and it does not dry out my skin," one Amazon reviewer commented. Another wrote, "This hand soap has all the right qualities: not excessively scented, rinses clean, no lotion feel, and economical to use."
2. The Best Tattoo Soap For Sensitive Skin
For anything other than Dial, Bryce recommends opting for something fragrance-free — and this Neutrogena bar soap really fits the bill. It's amazing for sensitive skin because it's free of nearly all potential irritants like fragrances, dyes, detergents, and hardeners. The formula is hypoallergenic and made with the popular humectant glycerin, which means it'll help your newly-tattooed skin retain moisture. Your brand new work of art won't just look hydrated in between washes, but it'll actually feel comfortable and clean throughout the healing process. I recommend this Amazon pack because it's far cheaper to buy bar soap in bulk than to pick up a single from your local drugstore, so you won't just be saving your new tattoo, but your time and money, too!
"There’s no residue, no buildup and I seem to have fewer body breakouts," commented one reviewer. "They are surprisingly hard to find — outside of Amazon," noted another.
3. The Best Tattoo Soap For Dry Skin
If you're someone who's really into body modification, you've likely heard of H2Ocean. They're the number-one brand on the market for tattoo aftercare and make an incredible range of water-based products, all of which are vegan and gentle for the healing of delicate wounds and punctures. Their Blue/Green foam soap is free of any potential irritants — parabens, fragrance, etc. — but the best part is that it's loaded with aloe vera, which is intensely moisturizing, making it particularly good for dry skin types. In addition to keeping your new tat disinfected, it'll keep it healthy and hydrated, plus help prevent new scabs from forming.
One tattoo artist on Amazon commented, "This is, by far, the finest tattoo soap on the planet. Yes, it is more expensive than Dial or pother soaps ... but what is a perfectly healed tattoo in a fraction of the time worth to you? Thats what keeps me coming back. It's all I will ever trust my tattoos to and you should, too."
4. The Best All-Natural Tattoo Soap
Dr. Bronner's products are vegan, all-natural, and cruelty-free, and their formulas help me with everything from BO to hormonal acne, so why should tattoos be any exception? Following Bryce's advice to opt for the unscented, I picked Dr. Bronner's baby soap — the most gentle of all their formulas — as the best all-natural tattoo soap pick. Coconut, hemp, jojoba, and olive oils make sure that even though this soap is super effective, it won't dry out your new tattoo. And, because the formula is so concentrated, you only need to dilute a few drops with water to get the rich lather you need to fully clean your skin.
"I use castille soap as a concentrated base for nearly everything: body and face cleanser, kitchen and bath cleaner, dish soap, dishwasher detergent. It always delivers! I've tried cheaper brands but the difference is obvious," one reviewer notes about the many uses you can get out of this big bottle. Another customer commented, "The only soap I can use. I have super sensitive skin and even other scent free sensitive skin soaps make me break out in hives and itch."
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Experts: Joseph Bryce, Brooklyn-based tattoo artist.
Studies referenced: Rostron, A., Cox-Davenport, R., & Shepherd, R. (2015, July). Aftercare Should Not be an Afterthought: Current Tattoo Aftercare Methods. Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/jdnaonline/Fulltext/2015/07000/Aftercare_Should_Not_be_an_Afterthought__Current.2.aspx.
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