The chances are that your experience with getting your first tattoo was a bit more complicated than you expected.
Most newbies will, albeit wrongfully, assume that all it takes to complete their first tattoo is braving the discomfort of going under the needle. However, they are quickly jolted back to reality by their tattooist. Most tattoo artists will (rightfully) constantly reiterate the crucial importance of getting your tattoo aftercare done right to help minimize discomfort and keep the tattoo infection-free.
We are sorry to break the bad news. The pain does not end at the tattoo parlor. It takes most tattoos an average of 3-6 weeks to heal, and over this period, you also have to deal with some pain, bleeding, and itching as the tattoo scabs and heals.
However, if you handle the tattoo aftercare properly, you can significantly cut down the healing period’s length and how much discomfort you feel through the healing process.
Some major keys to proper tattoo aftercare include keeping the surface clean and infection-free, protecting the region from physical trauma and sun exposure, and using an aftercare ointment, salve, or moisturizer to protect and hydrate that patch of skin.
Note: Aftercare products like moisturizers, salves, and ointments help reduce scabbing (which can distort the artwork), keep the skin hydrated (which ensures the tattoo heals evenly), and protect the wound from infection.
Some formulas also contain vitamins like vitamin E and B5 that can help speed up healing and SPF that protects your newly-tattooed skin from the potentially harmful effects of the sun.
When doing aftercare for small line-only tattoos, the salve you already have in your medicine cabinet should suffice. However, when you want something a little extra, there is an abundance of fleshed-out tattoo aftercare options available on the market.
However, with so many options (everything from lotions to creams, oils, wraps, and salves), choosing the perfect aftercare option for your tattoo can quickly get complicated.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best tattoo-healing potions on the market to help get you to the right formula for you in the shortest time possible.
Our Pick: Bepanthen Nappy Care Ointment
The chances are that your tattoo artist has already recommended this product, so let’s do it a second time. Bepanthen is the go-to recommendation for many tattooists for one reason: it’s a simple, effective formula that always gets the job done.
Most tattooists recommend applying Bepanthen to your new tattoos twice daily.
With Bepanthen, you get a gentle formulation that works to soothe the soreness and enhance your skin’s natural healing properties. This soothing antiseptic cream contains Vitamins like Vitamin B5 that help ease irritation and speeds up recovery.
However, one key reason why Bepanthen Nappy Care Ointment is a top recommended product is the mildness of its formulation that makes it one of the forgiving options on the market for dealing with sensitive skin. Bepanthen’s original intended use case is for dealing with baby diaper rash, and as such, the formula is super-mild and entirely devoid of any fragrances, preservatives, or colors.
Here, you get a mixture of mild oils that are guaranteed to go easy on your sensitive tattooed skin. Plus, if it is light enough for a baby’s bum, you can rest assured that Bepanthen won’t be too harsh on your newly tattooed skin.
Furthermore, Bepanthen Nappy Care Ointment contains a slew of emollients like Lanolin, Paraffinum liquidum, and Prunus amygdalus Dulcis oil. These compounds work to help create a protective barrier on your skin, blocking out potential skin irritants that may cause inflammation and other infection-causing microbes.
Grab a tube of Bepanthen and begin applying it within 24 hours of getting your tattoo for total protection and comprehensive tattoo aftercare.
Plus, this formula’s extreme gentleness means that it is suitable for the most sensitive skin patches, not just tattoos. Hence, even after you finish your tattoo aftercare, you can save the remainder of the lotion for treating sunburns, as a lip balm, for soft nipples during breastfeeding, or for the original intended purpose: fighting baby rash.
- Extremely gentle formula for the most sensitive skin patches
- With vitamin D5 for speedy skin trauma recovery
- With protective emollients to block out irritants
- Devoid of any fragrances, preservatives, or colors
Tattoo Aftercare How-To
After getting your first tattoo, you immediately face a world filled with a barrage of information and noise (many of them conflicting) on the best way to care for the skin during the healing period.
To enable you to escape the overwhelm and implement the best possible aftercare for your tattoo, we present this definite but straightforward guide to tattoo aftercare. Ignore all the competing voices seeking to sell you a load of products and stick to this less-is-more system to keep your new tattoo protected and have it heal in the shortest time possible.
The first stage of tattoo aftercare is to wrap it in cling film. Here, make sure you follow the instructions outlined by your tattooists. Most artists will immediately cover your tattoo with a thin layer of antibiotic ointment and then wrap it up in cling film as soon as they complete the drawing.
Some artists will also recommend that you keep the wrap on at least until the following morning. However, in most cases, you can also take the wrap off after a few hours.
Cling film will help keep the tattoo from drying out, protect the skin from dirt and irritants, and help ensure that the open wound does not stick to your clothes or your sheets as you sleep during the night.
Some smaller, line-only tattoos may not require a cling film wrap. Defer to your tattooist for recommendations here.
Cleaning the Tattoo
Next, it’s time to clean up the tattoo. Once you take the cling film off, gently wash the tattoo’s surface with warm water and unscented soap in the shower to rid it of any extra ink, lint, or dirt.
Some tattoo aftercare kits will ship with mild unscented soaps in the box.
Avoid the use of harsh soap or cleaners, especially those that contain hydrogen peroxide. This chemical can significantly distort or fade tattoo inks, damaging your tattoo.
The final segment of tattoo care is to properly moisturize your tattoo to ensure it stays hydrated and heals in the shortest time possible.
Here, you want to apply a simple fragrance-free moisturizer like Bepanthen Nappy Care Ointment once or twice daily, depending on how quickly the tattoo dries out. The speed with which the tattoo dries out will be determined by your skin type and the tattoo’s placement.
To shorten the required healing time duration, you should protect your tattooed skin from all sources of potential trauma. Some activities to avoid include:
- Picking at or scratching scabs
- Prolonged exposure to liquids like with swimming, baths, steam rooms, saunas, or jacuzzis
- Fake tanning
- Prolonged sun exposure
Other 7 Best Tattoo Aftercare Products We Also Recommend
When it comes to moisturizers for tattoo aftercare, there is a wealth of options on the market that qualify.
Here, you have dedicated moisturizers explicitly designed for use with tattoos, general moisturizers that make excellent tattoo creams, and other creams fashioned for alternative purposes (like combatting baby rash) that also work for tattoo aftercare.
Besides regular moisturizers, you will also find an abundance of other topical formulations such as oils and salves that can also be perfect for tending to your new tattoo as it heals.
Then, there are also unique options that provide a more fleshed out kit, throwing in other elements such as cleaning soaps and cling film into the box.
Hence, in the search for the perfect aftercare solution for your new tattoo, users new to the world of tattooing can quickly get lost comparing hundreds of options for efficacy. The good news is that we have done all the filtering for you to bring you only the best of the best.
Alongside our top pick, Bepanthen Nappy Care Ointment, here is a handpicked selection of the best productions you should consider.
1. La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 SPF50
Some tattoo placements are impossible to hide during your daily activities, and you can’t do without getting some sun on them during the day. For such situations, you need a moisturizer that packs as much protection as you can get, and that is what the Cicaplast Baume B5 from La Roche Posay gives you.
This soothing balm from La Roche Posay has carved a niche for itself as one of the few high-end skin formulations that pairs the heavy solar protection of SPF 50 with a gentle, calming rejuvenating formula that is kind on even the most sensitive patches of skin.
While SPF 50 does not give you the license to roam around in the sun without a care in the world, it does offer considerable protection to delicate tattooed skin. It should be enough to get you through your regular day without any risk of sunburn.
Plus, in addition to the heavy protection it brings, the Baume B5 formula also maxes out on the comfort side of things.
Here, you get a mix of natural hydrating agents like shea butter, glycerin, and panthenol that work to keep your tattoo skin moisturized and help guarantee rapid, even healing.
- With SPF 50 for maximum protection from the sun
- Contains shea butter, glycerin, and panthenol for maximum hydration and rapid healing
- Suitable for all skin types
- Lanolin-free formulation
2. Woo Aftercare Kit
The Woo is a signature brand from world-famous tattoo artist Dr. Woo that aims to be your all-in-one kit for tattoo aftercare.
The all-inclusive package includes a gentle cleansing soap and a post-tattoo moisturizer, both featuring simple formulas packed with natural rejuvenating ingredients and excluding all unnecessary additives, precisely the way a tattoo artist would make them.
The first part of the setup is a water-activated 2oz bar of recovery soap that creates a light foam to remove all surface impurities from your freshly-tattooed skin gently. This all-natural soap features a coconut oil base and an infusion of hydrating glycerin, which adds substantial moisture to the skin during the wash.
The soap bar is also free of all artificial colors, synthetic fragrances, and potentially harmful substances like PEGs and parabens to ensure your sensitive tattooed skin stays irritation-free and as comfortable as possible.
Next, you get an ounce of Woo’s healing moisturizer, packed with skin-loving natural ingredients like shea butter, chamomile, sesame seed oil, vitamin E, and zinc. This intensely hydrating formula creates a protective layer on the delicate skin patch while mitigating irritation and expedite healing.
However, the clincher with the Woo Aftercare Kit is the sleek packaging that houses this product offering. Every part of the package screams attention to detail, with its stylish moisturizer tube, a dainty soap wrap, and a detailed branded (recyclable) black case that is sure to impress. You also get a free Dr. Woo collective in the box, which fans of the artist will appreciate.
- All-inclusive package with a natural soap bar and a gentle hydrating lotion
- No artificial colors, synthetic fragrance, or parabens
- Natural soap formulation with coconut oil and glycerin
- Deep moisturizing lotion with shea butter, vitamin E, chamomile, and sesame seed oil
- Sleek, recyclable packaging
- Free Dr. Woo collectible
3. Avene Cicalfate
Almost everyone who uses the Avene Cicalfate formula instantly becomes a fan and can’t stop recommending the product, and it is not hard to see why. Avene has a reputation in the skincare industry for producing some of the gentlest formulas, and their Cicalfate is one of their mildest mixtures yet.
Avene Cicalfate features a mix of Avène’s unique Thermal Spring Water and a host of other postbiotic (protein-rich) restorative ingredients combined to create a rich, nourishing cream that works to protect your skin from all external elements.
These constituents also do an excellent job of revitalizing sensitive or irritated skin and providing the much-needed hydration for speedy skin restoration and optimal healing.
The mildness of the formula means that it is excellent for treating tattoos and for use with all types of skin, whether on children, adults, or infants. Avene Cicalfate is also proven to work with conditions even more delicate than tattoos, such as healing surgical scars and combatting perioral dermatitis.
Avene Cicalfate also contains a combination of zinc sulfate and copper sulfate, both of which act as antibacterial agents that help create a sterile environment that prevents infections and fosters faster skin healing.
- Extra gentle formula is suitable for all skin types.
- With Postbiotic restorative ingredients
- With antibacterial copper-zinc sulfate complex
- Purported backed by 150 clinical studies
4. Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment
Another tattoo aftercare product often recommended by tattooists is this all-purpose healing ointment from Aquaphor.
Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment is a one-for-all rejuvenating formula that works by creating a protective layer that seals the skin’s natural moisture, preventing moisture loss and dryness, and helping to restore the dermis to its naturally smooth and supple state.
The formula’s moisture-locking properties make it an excellent tool for meeting many skincare needs, including dealing with chapped lips, dry or cracked skin, frayed cuticles, burns, cuts, and chapped heels. Unsurprisingly, the same properties also make Aquaphor’s mixture one of the best options on the market for keeping your new tattoos moisturized and healing evenly.
Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment contains glycerin, a hydration agent that helps stimulate the skin’s natural moisture-producing mechanism. It also packs a Petrolatum base, which forms the semi-permeable skin barrier that locks in the skin’s moisture, yet allows sufficient oxygen flow to keep the skin healthy and foster speedy healing.
The formula also packs a healthy dose of vitamin B5 (panthenol), promoting rapid healing of injured or irritated skin.
- 41% Petrolatum formula to seal in moisture and increase oxygen flow
- With Panthenol and Glycerin for enhanced moisturization and rapid skin healing
- Ideal for all skin types
- No fragrance or preservatives
5. Aveeno Sheer Hydration Daily Moisturizing Lotion
After a week or two of using a dedicated tattoo aftercare lotion, you may want to switch to something a tad bit more moisturizing, and here, Aveeno presents one of the best options on the market with their Sheer Hydration formula.
Aveeno Sheer Hydration Daily Moisturizing Lotion is a regular body moisturizer that brings a formulation rich in glycerin, Caprylyl Glycol, and Citric acid that hydrates the skin for up to 24 hours after a single application.
This formula also contains colloidal oatmeal, a principal active agent that helps to soothe the skin, increase hydration, and lock in moisture.
However, despite the hydration this formula brings, the cream is super lightweight and feels breathable, making it an excellent choice for tattoos, and inflamed or irritated skin.
Nevertheless, Aveeno Sheer Hydration is a regular body lotion, a tad bit harsher than many all-natural formulations explicitly made for tattoo aftercare. Hence, you want to allow your tattoo to heal up for at least a week or two before switching to this mixture.
- With glycerin and colloidal oatmeal for intense 24-hour hydration
- Excellent for sensitive skin
- Suitable for all skin types
- Zero fragrances
6. Vaseline Original Petroleum Jelly
Vaseline always gets the job done. Whether you are dealing with dry skin, chapped lips, cracked skin in the wintertime, or chafed heels, Vaseline is the one all-purpose ointment that many physicians will recommend, and it’s for a good reason.
Vaseline Original Petroleum Jelly is a moisturizing ointment that helps to soothe and protect dry, cracked, inflamed, or irritated skin. The product contains 100% petroleum jelly (petrolatum), which creates a protective layer over the affected area locking in moisture while allowing enough oxygen to speed up the healing process.
The simple formulation you get with Vaseline, ensures that it is excellent for protecting all skin types, including newly tattooed patches. Vaseline Original Petroleum Jelly is also an ideal companion for dealing with a host of conditions such as cuts, burns, itchy psoriasis, and sunburns on even the most sensitive skins.
Plus, since Vaseline is a common feature in most medicine cabinets, the chances are that you already have one. Hence, you may not need to make any extra purchases to provide your new tattoo with the aftercare it needs.
- 100% pure petroleum jelly (Petrolatum)
- Triple-purified to guarantee purity
- Suitable for all skin types, even sensitive and damaged skin
- Handy all-purpose ointment for skin relief from all kinds of skin issues
7. Brooklyn Grooming Old School Tattoo Balm
If you are tired of dealing with greasy and smelly aftercare products heavy with suffocating petroleum extracts, it may be time to go a little bit old school. This Old School Tattoo Balm from Brooklyn Grooming is the answer to all your problems.
After getting a tattoo, your skin is in a super-fragile state, so you want to avoid heavy gels that can clog your pores and seal off your skin’s oxygen supply, which can impede the healing process and cause irritation.
With Brooklyn Grooming Old School Tattoo Balm, you get an all-natural formula, complete with rich, regenerative oils that can help foster healing and calm irritation to put in as much comfort as possible while your tattoo heals.
Here, you get a nourishing mixture of sesame seed oil, hemp seed oil, shea butter, beeswax, and organic vitamin E from non-GMO sources. Plus, the formula is handmade, fully organic, unscented, and vegan-safe as it does not use animal tests.
This unique blend of natural oils creates a lightweight yet deeply nourishing formula that helps reinvigorate your skin and expedite the tattoo’s healing process.
A nice extra touch is that this product ships in an antique-style 2oz metal tin that completes the old school theme and creates a genuinely classy vibe.
- Contains skin-nourishing sesame seed oil, hemp seed oil, shea butter, and beeswax
- With organic vitamin E from non-GMO sources
- Handmade formulation
- Organic and vegan-safe