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Tattoos deserve to be shown off, but before you can flash your new ink around, you have to diligently care for your tat to ensure proper healing. One of the most important steps in the aftercare process is choosing a lotion that will keep your fresh design moisturized, free of infection, and without irritation. Because a tattoo is technically a wound, tattoo lotions are incredibly important to not only keeping your ink looking good but to aiding in the healing process as well.
Finding your perfect lotion isn’t as easy as it sounds, however, and it's not as easy as asking for help; everyone has their own favorite products. “I think what lotion you use depends a lot on climate and skin type. Also how much you apply is important too,” says Olive, the tattoo artist behind Oregon-based Damn Zippy. “I prefer not to rep a certain brand because everyone is different and I want my clients to use what works for them, which might not necessarily be what works for me.”
Though it can be hard to choose from the array of lotions available, go in knowing what you want (vegan? water-based? budget or splurge?) and what will work best for your skin and new tattoo. “I generally recommend that the person uses whatever they find most comfortable,” says hand-poke artist Harper of London’s Pocaharper. “After all, they have to wear it on their skin every day.”
Read on for the best tattoo lotions available now.
Best Overall: Aquaphor Healing Ointment
One of the most widely used tattoo aftercare treatments, and you’ll find a lot of artists quick to recommend the old stand-by. What makes Aquaphor so great is that it absorbs the skin’s natural moisture, which keeps the tattoo fresh and promotes healing. A semi-permeable layer is formed from the lotion, which allows moisture to be kept in and everything else to be kept out.
Best Budget: Vaseline Petroleum Jelly
Vaseline may be the king of moisturizing chapped lips, but it can also help keep your tattoo looking fresh. Harper recommends Vaseline, as it feels “light and comfortable on the skin.” The petroleum jelly’s formula will penetrate to the deepest layer of your skin. It’s “also very cheap, accessible, and last a while too, which is great if you’ve just spent a lot of money on a tattoo and need to get aftercare ASAP,” says Harper.
Vaseline comes in a variety of scents and colors. For the most-effective healing, opt for the original, which is free of dyes and fragrances.
Best Drugstore: Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion With Broad Spectrum SPF 15
Aveeno may be a name you are used to hearing, but there’s a reason for that: It works. All of Aveeno’s products feature colloidal oatmeal that promotes moisturization, smooths skin, and creates a protective barrier on top of your skin. This lotion is paraben and scent-free, and its affordable price tag means you can get a lot to last you long after your tattoo has healed — all the way until your next one!
Best Vegan: Hustle Butter Deluxe Luxury Tattoo Care & Maintenance Cream
Another option that Harper suggests is Hustle Butter, a vegan alternative to typical tattoo lotion. “It is all-natural and great for the skin, although not as accessible or cheap as the other two options,” says Harper. The product smells amazing and comes in a variety of sizes for everything from the small line art to the heavy blackwork. Hustle Butter moisturizes and seals the ink to keep it looking new and feeling soft even after it’s healed.
Best Gentle: Skinfix Inked+ Tattoo Aftercare Balm
Skinfix, a clinically active skincare brand endorsed by dermatologists, has come out with their own solution for tattoo aftercare. The formula features a slight (non-irritating) smell and promises to calm itching, leave no heavy residue, and will help to keep your tattoo from scabbing. Users say Skinfix also feels quite gentle, despite offering maximum protection for your tat!
Best Water-Based: H2Ocean Aquatat Moisturizer
H2Ocean Aquatat is a water-based and petroleum-free lotion that creates a protective skin barrier that is perfect for all skin types, including sensitive. It’s fragrance-free and anti-inflammatory, and reviews say it helps accelerate your ink’s healing period. Aquatat won’t stick to your skin, but it will leave your tat looking almost as pretty as new.
Best Color-Enhancing: Tattoo Goo Balm
Having been on the market for 10 years, Tattoo Goo lotion is another well-known aftercare product recommended by many artists. Rich in Panthenol (Vitamin B5) keeps your ink moisturized, prevent scabbing, and speed up healing—without clogging up your pores. Tattoo Goo also helps make colors more vivid and is dermatologist tested for your assurance.
Best Natural: After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer and Aftercare Lotion
After Inked is enriched with grape seed oil to create an extremely moisturizing effect for your new tats. It’s a daily skin product that won’t stick to your clothes and that will naturally help your ink—both new and old—look healthier and better than ever. If you’re looking for a natural aftercare product, After Inked is non-petroleum based, paraben-free, fragrance-free, vegan, cruelty-free, and gluten-free, so you can be certain it fits your needs and still works wonders on your tattoos.
Best Oil: Nutiva Virgin Coconut Oil
If you want to be certain your lotion choice is completely all-natural, consider coconut oil. Although it has a seemingly infinite number of uses, it’s also the perfect product for tattoo aftercare due to its reputation for treating wounds and other skin irritants. If you decide to go with coconut oil, make sure you use a clean utensil (or wear gloves) when applying to avoid exposing your ink to any potentially harmful bacteria.
Best Splurge: Billy Jealousy Tattoo Lotion
Although Billy Jealousy’s Tattoo Lotion is a bit on the pricier side, it’s packed with elements like shea butter, sunflower seed oil, jojoba oil, green tea leaf extract, and more. One thing to note is that this lotion does feature lavender and rosemary oils for fragrance, and most artists will tell you to stay away from lotions with fragrances. However, Billy Jealousy’s fragrance comes from its essential oils, so it gets an okay from me! This lotion will keep your tattoos looking fresh and clean.