Getting a new tattoo is exciting, but anyone who’s had one will agree that the soreness and itching that comes afterward can be a little unpleasant. Thankfully, the rising popularity of tattooing has led to a flurry of new tattoo aftercare products which make the healing process much more bearable.
Tattoo lotions are designed to do the following:
- Protect against infection – your tattoo is an open wound so should be treated as one.
- Soothe itching – scratching can damage a new tattoo, and well-healed artwork always looks better than ink that hasn’t been cared for.
- Maintain your tattoo – even after the healing process is complete, your ink will look fresh for longer if you look after it properly.
When you’re choosing an ointment for tattoo aftercare, there are a few things to look out for:
Use a thick lotion for at least the first three days to help your tattoo through the first stages of the healing process. Using a heavy ointment will reduce the risk of infection by creating a barrier to protect your tattoo from the elements.
At some between day three and day five, you’ll notice that the skin on your new tattoo will begin to peel (don’t worry, that’s normal). At this point, switch to a lighter lotion that will keep your artwork safe and hydrated as it continues to heal.
What to Avoid
Natural is best when it comes to finding the best lotion for tattoo healing, so avoid fragrances and anything that could irritate your ink, including alcohol or dyes.
Essential oils can be damaging to new tattoos, as can anything petroleum-based, so don’t be tempted to rub Vaseline into your artwork if you don’t have lotion to hand. Likewise, Neosporin and aloe vera aren’t good for new tattoos, so don’t be fooled by their healing properties.
Sunscreen isn’t good for new ink either, so stay out of the sun after you’ve had a new tattoo and keep it covered up whenever you’re out and about.
How to Apply Tattoo Lotion
Apply it in the same way as you would any other lotion. Cover your tattoo in a thin layer and gently rub it in until absorbed. Then, apply another layer when your tattoo is visibly dry or is starting to itch or feel irritated again.
Here are our picks of the best tattoo lotions available right now, as recommended by experts.
Hustle Butter is, in our opinion, the best lotion for tattoo healing.
- Cools, soothes and hydrates new tattoos
- Reported to reduce heavy scabbing and peeling
- 100% vegan and cruelty-free formula
Hustle Butter has a thick, easily-absorbed consistency and is the go-to tattoo healing cream for every stage of the tattooing and healing process. When applied to fresh tattoos, the combination of naturally soothing ingredients calm the area and give relief from itching while protecting against infections.
It’s not just immediate aftercare that this butter is famed for: it’s also popular with tattoo artists for use during the tattooing process as it reduces swelling, bleeding, and redness. It’s also useful for long-term use to keep tattoos fresh and vibrant.
As well as being free from petroleum and parabens, this all-natural formula is vegan and certified cruelty-free.
Aveeno’s Moisturizing Lotion is the best unscented lotion to take you through the second stage of the tattoo healing process.
- Perfect for soothing skin once it begins to peel
- Light enough for daily use with healed tattoos
- Free from mineral oil
Once your skin begins to peel, regular application of this oatmeal formula will soothe dry, irritated skin, and will reduce itchiness while keeping your tattoo hydrated.
It’s also one of the best lotions to use on tattoos after they’ve healed, as it’s light, non-greasy, and inexpensive.
Aveeno’s formula is free of mineral oil, which is thought by some to be harmful. It’s regularly found in similar lotions suitable for tattoo aftercare such as Lubriderm Daily Moisturizer, so this product is a great option if you prefer to avoid it. It’s worth noting that Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion is not vegan or cruelty-free, though.
Original Aftercare Salve from Tattoo Goo is up there with the best lotions for fresh tattoos.
- Soothing, breathable formula protects brand new tattoos
- Free from harmful ingredients
- Available as part of a comprehensive aftercare kit
The team at Tattoo Goo are experts in caring for tattooed skin, and a base of olive oil and beeswax creates a protective yet breathable barrier over your new ink. The addition of cocoa butter and lavender oil soothes irritated skin, reducing redness while providing hydration.
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There are no harmful ingredients that might damage your fresh ink, and the balm is free from petroleum, lanolin and mineral oil. The beeswax means that this salve isn’t vegan, but their lotion is free from animal products and does an equally good job of protecting new tattoos.
Tattoo Goo also sells a complete kit for tattoo aftercare which includes this product and covers you from immediate aftercare all the way through to the daily upkeep of healed ink.
2. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has endless uses, and healing tattoos is definitely one of them.
- Natural, vegan, and cruelty-free
- Packed full of moisturizing properties to keep skin hydrated
- Antiseptic properties protect against infection
This versatile oil keeps the area moisturized and acts as a gentle exfoliator which reduces the unpleasant itching that comes with skin-peeling. Vitamins E and K are great for treating and rejuvenating damaged skin, and the natural antiseptic properties of coconut oil will help prevent infections.
Coconut oil is as natural as it gets which reduces the chance of your skin having a reaction to it, and it is, of course, vegan and cruelty-free. It also has a long shelf life and is pretty cheap, so it’s a great option for long-term tattoo care.
It’s not the best in terms of breathability, so put a limit on how much you use coconut oil in the first few days when your ink needs oxygen the most. Also, for best results make sure that you choose an organic brand such as Viva Naturals that offers pure, cold-pressed and unrefined coconut oil.
For a natural and reliable balm for new tattoos, Herbal Tattoo Salve is a great choice.
- 100% organic recipe packed with healing herbs
- Microbial properties reduce the risk of infection
- Protects and soothes without clogging pores
This family-run business makes their tattoo salve in small batches, and their original infusion of herbs aim to speed up the healing process to ensure that your tattoo looks its absolute best. There’s beeswax in the salve so it’s not vegan, but it’s 100% organic and totally free of artificial ingredients. The salve also contains antimicrobial properties which minimize the risk of infection while your tattoo heals.
You only need a very thin layer to protect your tattoo, and the formula creates a protective barrier without clogging pores or leaching color from your artwork. This balm can be used after the healing process is complete, but you might want to switch to a lighter lotion once the peeling has stopped.
Finding a professional artist and choosing a cool design aren’t the only steps involved in getting an incredible tattoo: aftercare is paramount to long-lasting, great looking ink.
For best results, take extra-good care of your tattoo in the first few days and continue to protect it long after the initial healing process is over. Trust us, it’s worth taking the time to look after your ink: you’ll be rewarded with artwork that looks crisp and fresh for years to come.
What’s your favorite tattoo lotion? Let us know in the comments.