When you think of a tattoo for what it really is—aside from bodily art and personal expression—you're looking at hundreds (if not thousands) of teeny-tiny punctures to the skin. Of course, our miraculous bodies work as quickly as possible to mend damaged tissue. But you still need to take special care—and that means using soap with a gentle yet effective formula.
Byrdie Researched & Approved
Our best overall pick is La Roche Posay Lipikar Wash AP+, a dermatologist-recommended formula that heals, soothes, and helps prevent bacterial infections. For a more affordable option, consider Vanicream Gentle Body Wash, a great drugstore option that is also dermatologist-approved and gentle on skin.
"Tattoos are at high risk for infection, especially within the first five to seven days, as the skin is still healing and may have openings that can allow bacteria in," says dermatologist Tiffany L. Clay, MD. As part of your tattoo TLC, she recommends washing with hydrating formulas containing glycerin and niacinamide (vitamin B3).
We rounded up some of the best soaps for tattoos below.
Best Overall: La Roche-Posay Lipikar Wash AP+ Foaming Moisturizing Wash
Healing and Soothing
Dr. Clay recommends Lipikar Wash, calling it a "very gentle soap that's great for cleansing skin with tattoos." The formula blends glycerin and niacinamide, her go-to hydrators for aftercare. Like all products from La Roche Posay, it also contains mineral-rich thermal spring water, which has been shown to have healing, soothing, and antibacterial properties.
As icing on the cake, this body wash locks in moisture with shea butter. It has a nice foaming effect that really feels like it's cleaning without stripping your skin. We also love that you can use it on your face or body. And the generously sized pump bottle should last you a while.
Key Ingredients: Thermal spring water, glycerin, niacinamide, shea butter | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Drugstore: Vanicream Gentle Wash
Gentle yet effective
Not the most moisturizing
Vanicream makes a great budget option, and it's got Dr. Clay's stamp of approval. As the name suggests, this body wash is super gentle but still totally effective.
It contains soap's favorite ingredient, glycerin, plus vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), which has shown to have a healing effect. And while it's not the most moisturizing formula, it promises not to dry out your skin.
Key Ingredients: Glycerin, vitamin B5 | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Sensitive Skin: Bushbalm Unscented Nourishing Body Wash
Dr. Clay also likes Bushbalm's Nourishing Body Wash. Made with sensitive skin in mind, the fragrance-free formula contains glycerin, aloe vera, and vitamin E to cleanse without irritation. Then it calls on jojoba oil to nourish and replenish lost moisture.
Best for Healing: Hustle Butter Hustle Bubbles Deluxe Revolutionary Refined Rinse
If you're in the aftercare stage, reach for Hustle Bubbles. The hero of this all-over foaming cleanser is benzalkonium chloride, a harsh-sounding but actually gentle ingredient that helps prevent bacterial infections. It also contains calming aloe, anti-inflammatory witch hazel, and arnica, which may help minimize the chance of scarring.
Key Ingredients: Benzalkonium chloride, aloe vera, arnica, witch hazel | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Cleansing Bar: VI Tattoo Soap Sea Buckthorn Berry Tattoo Bar Soap
High price per bar
This cleansing bar leans on natural ingredients to wash, moisturize, and protect even the most sensitive skin. Rich in reparative sea buckthorn, plus coconut and olive oil, the nourishing, anti-inflammatory formula is ideal for aftercare. It also promises to keep old tattoos vibrant and prevent discoloration.
Key Ingredients: Sea buckthorn berry, coconut oil, shea butter | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Old Tattoos: Mad Rabbit Refresh Body Wash
Fragrance could be irritating
Not recommended for new tattoos
For older ink, Mad Rabbit is a fab pick. While it's not recommended for aftercare, Refresh Body Wash will help existing tattoos look their best on all skin tones by gently cleansing and replenishing lost moisture.
The formula flaunts a comforting coconut-vanilla aroma that's not too overpowering. Just bear in mind fragrances can sometimes irritate sensitive or damaged skin.
Key Ingredients: Glycerin, plant collagen, green tea, hyaluronic acid | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Unscented: Fur All Body Wash
Replenishes skin barrier
High price per ounce
If fragrances aren't your forte, go with Fur. The brand's All Body Wash is a super-gentle oil-based formula that starts as a liquid and transforms into a velvety lather.
We like that you can use this no-nonsense cleanser from head to toe, including on your pits and bits. Helping to hydrate and protect while replenishing the skin's barrier, it's perfect for tattoos.
Key Ingredients: Fractionated coconut oil, sweet almond oil, vitamin E | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
The best option for washing tattoos is La Roche Posay Lipikar Wash AP+, a dermatologist-recommended formula that heals, soothes, and helps prevent bacterial infections. That said, Vanicream Gentle Body Wash is a great budget option (also dermatologist-approved), and you can find it at almost any drugstore.
Meet the Expert
Tiffany L. Clay, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatologist based in Atlanta.
What to Look for When Buying Soap for Tattoos
Some of the best tattoo-friendly body washes also contain healing and anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as thermal spring water, vitamin B5, vitamin E, sea buckthorn, aloe vera, plant oils, and arnica."
Old vs. New Tattoos
Some soaps are intended to help heal new tattoos and prevent infection. These usually contain the reparative, anti-inflammatory ingredients mentioned above and may mention "aftercare" in the product description. However, other formulas are meant to be used only with older tattoos that have already healed.
Unscented formulas are usually best for tattoo aftercare, as added fragrance can irritate damaged skin. Having said that, scented soaps used for older tattoos are usually fine if your skin isn't particularly sensitive.
Why use soap for tattoos?
Regular cleansing is important during the tattoo aftercare process. The goal is essentially to keep the area clean while preventing infection. Regular soap and mild body washes are ideal, as they're usually gentle and non-irritating.
How often should you wash a new tattoo?
"I recommend at least twice a day," says Dr. Clay, adding that bacteria-laden loofahs and washcloths should be avoided. "Use your hand to gently wash the tattoo, then pat the skin dry and apply the ointment your tattoo artist recommends."
Do you need antibacterial soap for a tattoo?
According to Dr. Clay, tattoo soap doesn't necessarily need to contain antibacterial ingredients. "Sometimes, using an antibiotic treatment on freshly wounded skin can cause sensitivity," she says. Washing regularly with a mild cleanser and warm water should be enough to keep infections at bay.
Why Trust Byrdie
Theresa Holland is a freelance commerce writer and product reviewer specializing in skin care, personal hygiene, and wellness. She interviewed a board-certified dermatologist for this story, who provided product recommendations and insight into tattoo aftercare, then researched the best formulas and cross-referenced ingredients in peer-reviewed journals. Theresa has been contributing to Byrdie since 2020. You can find more of her work on Travel + Leisure, The Spruce, and People.
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