The Best Lotions For Tattoo Aftercare, According To Professionals

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by C Mandler
Originally Published: 

Tattoos are wounds. Sure, they're more artistic and sentimental than a scraped knee, but technically, your new ink needs to be treated similarly to the way you'd handle a cut or burn. In order to keep your new body art free of infection, dryness, and irritation, you'll need one of the best lotions for tattoo aftercare.

According to Josh Kohn, tattoo artist and owner of Immortal Ink, which has two locations in New Jersey, you should be moisturizing your new tattoo "for the first two weeks, two to three times a day." Kohn recommends using a richer ointment for the first three days before switching to a "fragrance-free lotion to keep tattoos looking fresh."

When it comes to choosing the right lotion, Kohn stresses the importance of using a fragrance-free formula (this includes lotions that contain natural essential oils). He also says to "refrain from using sunblock while it’s healing."

As for Kohn's other tips for caring for your new tattoo? He says there are three general rules: "Keep it clean, moisturized, and out of the sun. Avoid direct sunlight, submerging it in water, and try not to touch or itch it while it’s healing!"

Ahead, check out Kohn's two essential picks for keeping your new tattoo moisturized and protected, plus more aftercare products to consider.


Pro's Pick: Days Three To Five

Kohn recommends applying Aquaphor on your new tattoo for the first three days. This no-fuss ointment has been used to treat fresh ink for decades, and is most tattoo artists' top recommendation for initial tattoo aftercare. The rich, fragrance-free formula works by forming a protective barrier that encourages moisture retention while still allowing your tattoo to breathe. And since it contains petroleum, it can also help prevent too much water getting through when you shower. In addition to tattoos, it can be used to help heal cuts, burns, and dry, cracked skin. Just be sure not to use so much product that it leaves behind a greasy film; a little bit is all you need.

One fan wrote: “I've used aquaphor for every tattoo I've ever gotten, and I swear by it for getting past the peeling, itchy, dry stage.”


Pro's Pick: For The Following Few Weeks

After applying Aquaphor to your new tattoo for the first three days, Kohn recommends switching to fragrance-free Aveeno. Colloidal oatmeal, the miracle ingredient in all of Aveeno's products, encourages moisture retention and serves as both a skin-soother and protective barrier against potential irritants, which is why this daily moisturizing lotion is so effective at keeping new tattoos healthy and fresh. Apply it two to three times a day for the first two weeks before switching to once-daily use.

One fan wrote: “I use Aveeno to help keeping my hands moisturized and my tattoos on my arms looking their best. I've also used this as a tattoo aftercare product with great results!”


Another Fragrance-Free Lotion To Consider

Another basic fragrance-free lotion you can use is Lubriderm's Daily Moisture Lotion. It contains ingredients like vitamin B5 to expedite healing, as well as glycerin, a common humectant that helps your skin maintain the necessary moisture levels for your new ink to heal. Like the Aveeno lotion, this bottle comes with a ton of product, so you can use it all over your body to keep it moisturized.

One fan wrote: “My go to when I’m healing tattoos. I hate unscented lotions, because they have a weird smell to me, but this one works so well! Especially when healing large pieces. This keeps your skin moisturized for quite awhile without a mess!"


An Option For Clean Beauty-Devotees

Clean beauty lovers and tattoo aficionados alike love Palmer’s Cocoa Butter, which is deeply moisturizing and great for all skin types. It’s rich in Vitamin E, which helps to speed up the healing process, and is made from natural, minimally-processed ingredients. This 7.25-ounce tub goes a long way, especially since it’s a semi-solid product.

Editor’s note: I have several larger, full-color tattoos, and I always use Palmer’s Cocoa Butter for them. They’ve healed so well that many people think my five year-old pieces are fresh! It smells awesome, too. – Carina Finn


Also Great: An Aftercare Bandage

Many tattoo artists swear by Saniderm, a transparent, self-adhesive bandage that gives you the unique opportunity to watch your tattoo while it heals. Saniderm is often applied by your artist at the end of your session, and since it’s waterproof, you can swim and take a shower right away — a huge benefit. It’s hypoallergenic, free from latex, and many users say it shortens the healing time.

One fan wrote: “Huge roll and for the price I am happy to report it. I covered a new tattoo when my skin would be exposed to dirt and dust at work during the healing stages. No problems keeping it where I put it and it came off without any pain.”

This post was originally published on 9/4/2018. It was updated with additional reporting by Adeline Duff.

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