Aftercare is essential to help your new tattoo heal quickly and look good for years to come. Since fresh ink is basically an open wound, the best lotion for a new tattoo is gentle, unscented, and dye-free to provide a healthy dose of moisture without irritating compromised skin.
Ointments are thicker and richer than lotions, so they’re recommended for the first few days after a tattoo when skin needs the most protection and soothing. During this time, it’s best to use the whatever type of ointment your tattoo artist suggests. However, if used over longer periods of time, petroleum-based salves and ointments can drain color and block air from reaching the “wound,” slowing the healing.
This is where lightweight lotions come in, since they provide the moisture your skin needs to repair itself without smothering your new art in heavy ingredients. Keep in mind, a spray-on formula goes on more lightly than a regular lotion and can be exceptionally useful for hard-to-reach tattoos. There’s also a versatile balm on this list that is good for use on day one of your tattoo and well beyond. No matter what form your moisturizer takes, make sure it's designed with sensitive skin in mind. Look for soothing ingredients like natural plant oils (like coconut oil and grapeseed oil) and ultra-hydrating glycerin, which can prevent a new tattoo from drying out.
These six lotions are all vetted by tattoo lovers on Amazon for both old ink and new. And don't forget: Once your ink has fully healed (which takes around two to four weeks), you'll want to start applying sunscreen to keep your tattoo looking bright.
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1. The tried and true one
Lubriderm is formulated with glycerin and vitamin B5 for lightweight hydration and the promotion of healthy skin. The fragrance-free formula is non-greasy and absorbs quickly, so you won’t mind having to reapply it throughout the day. And it comes in a large 24-ounce size so you'll be stocked for awhile.
One Amazon shopper commented, "I bought this bottle for tattoo care and it works like a dream. It doesn't take much to moisturize my skin with this stuff. The best part is that it doesn't stink. No scent means no scent."
The one caveat: It does contain parabens, so if that's an ingredient you choose to avoid in your skincare, you'll want to check out the other options below.
2. The one for purists
For the purists, extra virgin coconut oil comes highly recommended for tattoos — and, since you’re using it on already sensitive skin, it’s worth getting the good stuff. This Viva Naturals coconut oil is USDA-certified organic, non-GMO, sustainably harvested, and made with only one ingredient: 100% extra virgin coconut oil. "I'm even using to heal a new color tattoo that was rejecting, it's awesome," one reviewer reported. "Perfect texture, great packaging, & no additives."
Since coconut oil a number of random uses — including but not limited to paleo cooking and removing stuck-on mystery goo from surfaces — you'll probably find yourself turning to it surprisingly often.
3. The extra-thick one
Free of synthetic fragrances and dyes and loaded with deeply moisturizing emollient ingredients, this soothing lotion is a top choice for nourishing new tattoos. It contains five rich plant oils (including avocado and jojoba oil) mixed with shea butter, plus soothing aloe, chamomile, and cucumber.
"I love how thick this lotion is but it's not greasy and it stays on the skin but it just feels smooth," one reviewer wrote. The vegetarian formula is hypoallergenic, Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free, and paraben-free.
4. The versatile balm
Hustle Butter Deluxe has over 3,000 5-star ratings on Amazon from fans who love its moisturizing yet non-greasy formula that's easy to apply. It can be used before and after your tattoo appointment to protect, heal, and nourish your skin, and several reviewers swore it revived the look of their old ink too. Shea butter, mango butter, and aloe butters provide the heavy-duty hydration your skin needs without clogging pores, while natural extracts soothe stressed skin.
"Hustle Butter. Holy. Crap," one fan wrote. "It looks incredible. It keeps my arm moisturized without a greasy film or transfer onto my clothes." The formula is vegan-friendly and doesn’t contain any petroleum, phthalates, or parabens.
5. The spray-on one
This unscented spray-on ointment is a great option for back tattoos that offers similar benefits to Aquaphor's original formula, plus a lighter feel. The spray allows you to hit every inch of your body for even coverage with its cocktail of petrolatum and glycerin. One shopper swore by this for tattoos, writing, "Nice not to have touch my sore spots other than washing, just a quick cooling spray that's very long lasting, and I never once got dry spots."
Note that most shoppers who used this on their tattoos were pleased with the results, though a handful did experience mild stinging and preferred using the original Aquaphor formula for tattoos.
6. The travel-size one
This 3-ounce fragrance-free tattoo lotion comes in a convenient squeeze tube that's carry-on friendly. The patented tattoo-friendly blend features grapeseed oil and shea butter plus glycerin and synthetic beeswax to lock in moisture. Its dermatologist-tested formula is PETA-certified cruelty-free and also free of gluten, parabens, and petroleum.
"It is not at all greasy, absorbs into the skin and leaves the tattoo hydrated for hours. HOURS! My tattoos look richer and brighter than ever, and my new tattoo healed with hardly an itch," one reviewer noted.
Also essential: a sunscreen stick that will keep your tattoo looking bright
This gentle mineral sunscreen stick glides on easily, providing broad-spectrum SPF 50 for up to 80 minutes. The fragrance-free, dye-free, paraben-free formula is hypoallergenic and combines potent zinc oxide for sun protection with oat essence for nourishment. "This sunscreen blends the coverage benefits of a mineral sunscreen with a more lightweight sheer coverage," a reviewer commented. Plus, the handy stick is both water- and sweat-resistant.
Just remember: Sunscreen shouldn't be used on tattoos until they are fully healed.