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The Ultimate Tattoo Care and Tattoo Aftercare Guide

The Ultimate Tattoo Care and Tattoo Aftercare Guide

Welcome to the world of 101-Tattoos! We focus on providing you quality content to enhance your health and the lifetime of your tattoo. When it comes to tattoos, providing utmost care at the start of your tattoo’s life yields the best results. Proper tattoo care keeps your tattoo vivid for decades—even watercolor tattoos—and helps your skin out, too! When you arrive at your elder years, your skin will look 20 years younger, thanks to all the care you put into it.

 

The Ultimate Tattoo Care and Tattoo Aftercare Products

Product NameProduct TypeWhere to get it
H2ocean Nothing Tattoo Glide and Soothing BalmNumbing Cream
HUSH anesthetic - Tattoo Numbing GelNumbing Cream
Vasocaine Numbing SprayNumbing Spray
Tattoo Goo Deep Cleansing SoapSoap
H2Ocean Blue Green Foam SoapSoap
Tattoo Goo Aftercare KitComplete Aftercare Kits
H2Ocean Ultimate Tattoo Care KitComplete Aftercare Kits
Hustle Butter DeluxeLotion
Aquaphor Baby Healing OintmentLotion
H2Ocean SPF 45 Sea Life SunscreenTattoo Sunscreen
Coppertone Tattoo Guard Continuous Spray SPF 50Tattoo Sunscreen
Australian Gold JWOWW Natural Black BronzerTattoo Bronzer

 

Today, in our ultimate tattoo care and tattoo aftercare guide, let’s talk about the best tattoo aftercare available to you. Aftercare for tattoos starts before you even wear the tattoo! We prepare you for the inking process, talk about tattoo pain, provide you information about tattoo healing stages, and generally guide you through tattoo aftercare theory. We even mention what products work best for different types of people. Want something hypoallergenic? Soft on the skin? Unscented? Yeah, we cover all of that.

Ultimately, though, we focus on what you need to do for your tattoo in order to lead a healthy life. Improper tattoo care leads to infection, blotchy tattoos, faded tattoos, and more. Tattoo lovers need to learn how to keep an eye out during the healing stages of their tattoo, learn how to clean and care for it, and learn how to upkeep the tattoo once the healing process finishes. As long as you follow our step-by-step directions on this page, you will master tattoo aftercare!

In a hurry? Don’t have time for the full article? No worry I got you covered, here are my most favorite tattoo care products for all stages of the healing and care prozess:

My Favorite Tattoo Care Products

HUSH anesthetic – Tattoo Numbing Gel

Made specifically for use during the tattoo process, Hush anesthetic saves you a ton of pain. This topical anesthetic also works great for tattoo removal, piercing, and waxing. Hush Anesthetic penetrates your skin and temporarily numbs your nerves. It lasts for up to four hours—enough to get through at least a medium-sized tattoo. It contains no products that affect your tattoo ink—such as alcohol or petroleum. Hush just focuses on ingredients needed for pain relief and gets the job done. To apply, rub a small layer of the tattoo pain cream over the affected area. Wait a few minutes for certain compounds to break down before the tattoo process begins.

 

Hustle Butter Deluxe

One of my favorite tattoo products, Hustle Butter Deluxe provides a lot of care for a single lotion. Use it before your tattoo to work as a moisturizer and a glide. The tattoo lotion keeps your skin nice and smooth, without affecting the stencils your artist made. During the tattoo healing process, apply it to reduce scabs and relieve that crazy itching sensation. After your tattoo heals, continue using it as an amazing moisturizer. No other tattoo lotions, soaps, or ointments provide such versatile care. As a cherry on top, it only uses vegan ingredients, and no animal testing went into the making of this product.

 

 

Coppertone Tattoo Guard Continuous Spray SPF 50

From the top sunscreen brand (and I say that with certainty—anyone who hasn’t used this at some point in their lives has never gone to the beach) comes Coppertone Tattoo Guard. At 50 SPF, it offers incredible protection for the better part of your day. Because of its hypoallergenic and photostable ingredients, it offers protection for all skin types. With a tattoo-specific formula, it provides a clear layer of sunscreen that doesn’t damage your tattoo or cover it in a milky white layer. All this, in a convenient spray form! I highly recommend it for people from all walks of life.

 

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Preparing for Your Tattoo

As we mentioned before, preparing for your tattoo starts before you even wear it. In order to give you a tattoo, artists need to pierce your skin to its lowest layer with needles. Over the relatively large space of a tattoo, that means you wear an open wound for several weeks after the process. Thankfully, we know how to prepare for that.

In the three days before your artist tattoos you, focus on your hygiene. Wear a new set of freshly cleaned clothes every day. Wash the area of your tattoo with Dial Antibacterial Soap. Infection hurts your tattoo the most out of all worst-case scenarios. Washing the area ensures that no bacteria inhabits the area, reducing the chances of a tattoo infection. On top of that, pick up the habit of washing your hands frequently. This helps you later on, when you actually wear your tattoo.

Along with keeping clean, use shaving cream and a razor to shave the area for your tattoo. Tattoo artists need to shave the area to prevent hair from interfering with the ink. By shaving the area yourself, you save them time and trouble. Plus, it lets you use the products that work best for you, and prevents razor burn.

Since tattoos last forever, it makes sense to prepare for them ahead of time. A lifetime investment takes more than fifteen minutes of prep time. Along with all of your hygiene changes, focus your mind on your design. Do you like it? Do you love it? Can you see yourself wearing it for the rest of your life? Would you rather have it in color, or black and white, or anything other than what you plan on inking? Monetary problems should not stand in the way of your tattoo. If you find yourself ‘settling’ on your design, artist, or aftercare products, then wait until a more opportune time.

 

Tattoo Pain

Artists and tattoo aficionados compare tattoo pain to the sting of a rubber band or a continuous burn. Different areas of your body respond with different amounts of pain, so part of your tattoo care process means identifying what sort of pain to expect and whether you can personally handle it. Most people simply bite the bullet and deal with the pain, but that doesn’t have to include you. Whether you see tattoo pain as a hindrance or part of the process, use these quick tips to familiarize yourself with tattoo pain.

First of all, parts of your body with tons of nerve endings and little muscle experience the most pain. If bone rests close to the skin, then the pain intensifies. Parts of your body with a large amount of nerve endings include your nipples, your face, your genitals, and the area just below your ribs. Other soft locations include your armpits, the crook of your elbow, and behind your knees. Usually, artists insist on inking a first tattoo elsewhere.

On the other hand, some parts of your body barely register pain during the tattoo process. Your butt, calves, thighs, arms, and shoulders provide enough cushioning between the needle and your nerves to prevent a high amount of pain. Along with that, a small triangle of space below your neck and between your shoulders barely registers any pain. These spots work great for first tattoos and large tattoos, especially tattoo sleeves.

When you pick a location for your tattoo, think about the pain you put yourself through. Artists sometimes liken the pain to a rite of passage, but in this modern age, alternatives exist. If you appreciate the art of tattoos, but fear the pain associated, then tattoo numbing pain helps you out. Read on to learn the ins-and-outs of lidocaine cream, before you end up needing it! Preventing pain goes a long way towards your care.

Tattoo Pain Chart

 

Lidocaine Cream

Tattoo numbing cream serves to dull the nerves around the tattoo area. Stores sell lidocaine cream over-the-counter, which means you can easily purchase some of your own at the local store or through Amazon. Artists sometimes carry their own lidocaine cream, so inquire about that before purchasing your own. On the other hand, some artists staunchly abstain from using numbing creams at all. In those cases, try to talk the artist into letting you use a small amount, or simply find another artist. If you want to manage your pain, go over these pros and cons of tattoo numbing cream ahead of time. Reasons exist to forego lidocaine cream, and I want to cover that, as well.

 

Lidocaine vs. Benzocaine

Lidocaine and benzocaine both belong to a group called topical anesthetics. These tattoo numbing creams both target the nerves and dull the senses. However, they exhibit different properties that affect which one works best for you. In the case of lidocaine, it provides a fast-acting anesthetic that completely dulls the area. You feel the pressure of the needle, but nothing more. It provides more pain relief than benzocaine and lasts longer, too. The cream penetrates deep into the skin and even provides pain relief after your initial tattoo session.

So, why consider benzocaine, when lidocaine clearly works better? Unfortunately, the body absorbs lidocaine a little too easily when applied in massive amounts. For large back tattoos or arm sleeves, benzocaine provides fewer side effects, at the cost of small twinges of pain. Benzocaine cream also works fast, but the body does not readily absorb it. This means the numbing properties of benzocaine last a short time. However, concerning your health, benzocaine provides the best results with the fewest side effects.

Artists sometimes opt for benzocaine over lidocaine for another important reason. Topical anesthetic helps numb your skin, but it also affects the fingers of your tattoo artist! Now you see why some artists neglect to use numbing creams at all. An unsteady hand leads to problems a little bigger than some pain! Benzocaine cream penetrates the gloves of your tattoo artist at a slower rate, allowing them a little more breathing room and flexibility. If your artist hates lidocaine numbing creams, consider talking to them about benzocaine creams.

Tattoo Care and Tattoo Aftercare - Tattoo Session

 

Best Numbing Creams for Tattoos

After working with artists for years, I identified the best numbing creams for tattoos. A numbing cream for tattoo work must take into account the patient’s needs as well as the artist’s needs. In other words, numbing tattoo cream needs to dull the pain, but also keep away from artist’s hands while they work with your skin. On top of that, the price of numbing tattoo cream determines whether it rests among the best numbing cream for tattooing. An expensive tattoo numbing gel works great, but if it costs too much, no one can afford it or use it.

The following creams work great, in my experience, and keep the cost of your tattoo care affordable. While you browse through the best numbing cream for tattoos, carefully weigh the pros and cons of each. In example, as an artist, you want to pay attention to how quickly it works. A fast-acting numbing cream penetrates gloves quickly. Hush Tattoo Numbing Gel or Dr. Numb both work well to combat this. As someone sensitive to pain, though, you want a fast-acting numbing cream. Tattoo care takes every aspect of your health—including your well-being—into account. Skin numbing cream for tattoo work saves you a lot of hassle down the road.

 

H2ocean Nothing Tattoo Glide and Soothing Balm W/lidocaine, 200g

Made specifically for tattoo application, H2Ocean Nothing balm contains 4% lidocaine and does more than sooth your pain. Tattoo artists use this all the time, thanks to its cleaning properties and the smooth glide that the balm gives your skin. Artists need ample leverage when they tattoo you, and a glide provides that for them. They can easily create meticulous and precise details while keeping a steady hand. On top of that, it contains no petroleum. Despite its cool sensation and optimal consistency, petroleum cream risks damaging your tattoo. It creates a seal that keeps harmful bacteria in and prevents your wound from breathing properly. H2Ocean uses petroleum alternatives to prevent this.

 

HUSH anesthetic – Tattoo Numbing Gel (60 grams) 2oz.

Named for its ability to make people hush, Hush anesthetic lasts about four hours after application. On top of that, it works for several other types of pain relief, including piercing, waxing, hair removal, and permanent makeup. This makes it ideal for shops that specialize in body modification, rather than just tattoos. Plus, for very long tattoo sessions, artists safely reapply another layer of the anesthetic.

 

Like H2Ocean Nothing, this product contains no petroleum, which allows your skin to breathe and heal. The bottle lasts for four or five large tattoos, making it very economical. For best results, use a piece of saran wrap on top of the cream after you apply it. Only remove the saran wrap when your artist wants to tattoo that particular area.

For more information on the best aftercare numbing creams, check out our detailed look at the subject.

 

Numbing Spray for Tattoo Aftercare

If you entered the tattoo world a long time ago, then you already know about tattoo creams. If you want something that applies faster, consider looking into tattoo numbing spray. Anesthetic spray works exactly the same as numbing gel, targeting your nerves and temporarily putting them to sleep. Numbing spray differs in its accessibility. During large or long tattoo sessions, you need to limit the amount of numbing products used on the tattoo. When a client needs more gel, you can’t just stop and lather it on. It could affect the design of the tattoo, so all gel application needs to happen ahead of time.

On the other hand, you can easily pause during the tattoo process in order to spray a little extra anesthetic on. Artists carry lidocaine spray more often than lidocaine cream because of this efficiency. By applying a small amount to begin with, and re-applying as needed, fewer side effects occur and everyone goes home happy. The numbing spray wears off faster than its numbing cream counterpart, so after your artist finishes the tattoo, you start to feel the sting. Thankfully, the pain after a tattoo feels more like an annoyance compared to during the tattoo. The itching during the healing stage will bother you more.

 

Vasocaine Numbing Spray Painless Anesthetic Numb, 4 Ounce

Of all the tattoo numbing spray products out there, we only recommend Vasocaine. To apply the spray, open the skin ahead of time. This means you either apply the spray during the tattoo process or use a derma roller to open the skin ahead of time. Once your artist starts the tattoo process, apply as often as needed by spraying. This easy application works fine enough on its own, but you can also combine it with a cream before the tattoo process. In the end, you feel nothing but a little pressure! Plus, it helps your artist feel their fingers if you apply the numbing cream in smaller stages.

 

We go into much further detail on our Best Tattoo Numbing page, if you need more information!

 

Tattoo Healing Stages

So, how long does it take for a tattoo to heal? The exact time varies depending on your personal health, the size of the tattoo, and how you care for your tattoo. As you already know, tattoo care provides the best route for tattoo healing. Expect a fast recovery when you apply the best aftercare available. On average, tattoos heal over the course of six weeks. Larger tattoos take longer, of course, and the entire aftercare process extends after the initial healing stages. Expect to dedicate a good amount of time to tattoo aftercare for the next two months.

With that said, this ultimate tattoo aftercare guide walks you through the different stages of tattoo healing. From the first few days—where pus, blood, and plasma abound—to the final weeks, when your tattoo finishes flaking, expect help from this very guide. We tell you how to care for your new tattoo and what to look out for. Rashes? Bruising? Swelling? Fading? Scabs driving you crazy? We know the answers to everything. While we’re not doctors, we have years of tattoo experience under our belt to help you through this trying time.

 

Tattoo Aftercare Theory

Your artist usually provides you with a printout of how to take care of a new tattoo, but summarizing all of that in a single page leaves much to be desired. In the tattoo aftercare theory we discuss today, we go over how to care for a new tattoo in each specific circumstance. This new tattoo care package tells you how to clean, wrap, treat, and sleep with your new tattoo during the healing phase.

When your artist finishes inking, they quickly clean your tattoo and wrap it up in plastic or saran wrap. From here, you can expect to do a few things after. Tattoo care starts with learning when to clean your tattoo, and how. The wrap remains on your tattoo for up to 24 hours, although we don’t recommend sleeping with it on unless you inked it at night.

 

Tattoo Care and Tattoo Aftercare Guide - Tattoo Wrap

 

The tattoo works like an open wound, and your body pulls all the stops to ensure it heals properly. Caring for a new tattoo helps this process along, but you need to learn the signals that your healing body gives you. First, when you remove the wrap, expect to find a plethora of pus, blood, plasma, gunk, and bruises underneath. If the wrap sticks to your skin, use some lukewarm water to help remove it.

Then, wash your tattoo with a soap specifically made for tattoo aftercare. Tattoo ink fades when it comes into contact with certain common antibacterial soaps. Soaps with alcohol, petroleum, or epinephrine all set back the healing of your tattoo, and sometimes even damage the design! The following section provides a complete analysis of aftercare kits, but if you just want tattoo soap, then check these ones out.

Once you finish washing your tattoo, pat it dry with a tattoo. Never rub the design, as that can open your healing wound and make a scar over your brand new tattoo! Taking care of a tattoo involves a lot of sacrifice. Specifically, your sheets and clothes. Sleeping with a new tattoo ultimately stains your sheets with plasma, ink, blood, gunk, and general nasty stuff. Wear your old clothes and do your best to keep your tattoo away from clothing in the first place. Ensure you wash everything daily—both to keep yourself clean and to keep your tattoo from coming in contact with dirty sheets.

 

Complete Aftercare Kits

So, what to put on a new tattoo? Companies flood the market with so-called aftercare kits, but with years of experience on our side, we know exactly which ones work. These kits all provide lotions to wash your tattoo, moisturize your skin, protect your ink from fading, and prevent antibacterial infection. To top it off, both of these kits include specific directions on how to use their products, going through the step-by-step process of tattoo healing. They also provide you with the basic products for the continued care of your tattoo, although you can purchase those individually when you need them.

 

Tattoo Goo Aftercare Kit Includes Soap, New formula, Tattoo Goo, Lotion, Color Guard

This cute little set might look like off-brand stuff, but Tattoo Goo actually reigns supreme in the world of tattoo aftercare. Maybe they need a better designer or something, who knows. The soaps and lotions themselves do some amazing work on healing tattoos. On top of that, this kit also preps you for the perpetual care of your tattoo with its color guard stick. The cleansing soap helps your tattoo heal, the lotion helps moisturize your tattoo, and the salve helps you keep your wits about you when you enter the peeling stage. Just be careful when you squeeze the bottle—sometimes too much lotion comes out.

 

H2Ocean Ultimate Tattoo Care Kit, 6.2 Ounce

This set contains no petroleum products and uses a three step healing process for your tattoo. First, you use their foam soap to keep your tattoo clean during its initial healing stage. Second, you use the moisturizing foam while your tattoo scabs flake off. Once the itching stops, you move on to the moisturizing cream, and aftercare just becomes easier from there. The card included tells you what to do, although this article goes into way more depth. This kit works way better than A&D ointment for tattoos.

 

Sometimes artists stock both Tattoo Goo and H2Ocean products, but I recommend picking the aftercare kit that best suits your needs for home use. Old school artists might insist you use products like Vaseline or Dial antibacterial soap, but avoid these products like the plague. They contain high amounts of petroleum and—in the case of Dial—alcohol. Alcohol damages your ink, while petroleum creates a seal and prevents your wound from healing properly. Rather than going out of your body, it travels through your body, resulting in waterlogged tattoo designs.

Of course, a few more kits out there work well. These represent my favorite ones, though. If you want to see them all—and see if they better suit your needs—then check all the aftercare products out on this page.

 

Tattoo Aftercare Guide

So, what if you want to mix and match? A lot of people prefer lotions over foam soaps, but want to pick up the other pieces in H2Ocean’s aftercare kit. On the other hand, some people prefer foam soap, but want the sun block that comes with the Tattoo Goo stuff! Well, for a little bit extra, you can actually buy them individually. Furthermore, if you already stand by a specific product for part of your care, you can create your own kit with a few additional tattoo soaps.

Just make sure you grab the following stuff:

  • A numbing cream, for people with sensitive skin.
  • Saran wrap for that numbing cream.
  • A specialized tattoo soap, to prevent infection.
  • Specialized tattoo moisturizer, to keep your scabs manageable.
  • A specialized tattoo sunscreen, to protect your tattoo during its last healing stage.

Anyways, instead of getting a kit, take a look at these individual soaps. We talk about tattoo lotion, ointment, and perpetual care necessities later on. For now, focus on what matters most—preventing infection!

 

H2Ocean Blue Green Foam Soap, 1.7 Fluid Ounce

This antibacterial soap uses a foam formula to help you with application. Fresh tattoos feel very sensitive, so rubbing in foam gives you a visual indication of when you finish application. The formula also caters to vegans. H2Ocean included no animal products and only used humane methods to test the product. On top of that, the soap contains no paraben preservatives. Paraben causes irritation with sensitive skin, so if beauty products often leave a rash on you, go ahead and stick with this brand.

The soap itself lasts through small and medium-sized tattoos. If you want a large tattoo, opt for the aftercare kit—they put three times more soap in there. After application, you leave the thin layer on. The body absorbs it and the air evaporates it, so you know exactly when you need another layer. Since the soap stays on your skin, it greatly reduces itchiness associated with a new tattoo.

 

Tattoo Goo Deep Cleansing Soap for Tattoos

To fight off bacteria, this soap aims at its source. Tattoo Goo cleansing soap removes dead skin cells and dirt from your tattoo. Germs and harmful bacteria proliferate in between your dead skin cells and your tattoo, so moisturizing the area keeps it healthy. Tattoo Goo uses a special formula that only targets old skin and dirt for removal, leaving your fresh skin layers unscathed and moisturized.

To apply, you only need a few drops! It spreads easily across large tattoos. This soap represents Tattoo Goo’s best product, with everything they know about tattoo healing showing up in this soap. Use this soap in conjunction with a tattoo lotion to ensure optimal cleaning and moisturization. New products last for three years on the shelf, so you can use it for any other scratches you get in the future. Obviously, it lasts through the important part of the tattoo healing process!

 

Tattoo Aftercare Process

Now that you know which soaps work best, let’s talk about the process of tattoo aftercare. When you arrive home, leave the wrap on your tattoo for several hours. Usually, your artist gives an accurate recommendation, so listen to them! When the time arrives for you to remove it, you’re your hands thoroughly, and expect a lot of mess. The sensation feels like a bad sunburn, so keep some Tylenol or Ibuprofen on hand if you hate the feeling. Don’t replace the bandage.

As you already know, use a good soap on the tattoos. For this first cleaning session, lather your hands up rather than apply the soap directly. Carefully go over your tattoo with your hands—not loofahs or sponges—then pat the tattoo dry with a freshly cleaned towel. Always switch towels in-between cleanings. You can also use paper towels, to save your laundry from stains.

Never replace the bandage. I know I already said that, but it’s absolutely crucial that you never cover up your tattoo again! It will air dry just fine. Wash your tattoo once or twice a day, and no more than that. The more dry time you give your tattoo, the faster it heals. Along with that, excess water seeps beneath your skin and moves the ink around a little. And if you clean too often, that little bit of movement adds up to a lot! For the same reason, stick to our recommended tattoo soaps.

After two days go by, the flaking intensifies, just like a sunburn. Unlike a sunburn, you can’t peel off the skin. Sometimes, the scab still connects to healthy skin beneath it—including the layer of skin where your tattoo ink rests! Pulling off any scabs pulls off ink, too. To keep your tattoo from looking blotchy or patchy, wait for the scabs to fall off naturally. The moisturizing lotions in tattoo aftercare kits—or the lotions I talk about below this—help alleviate the itchiness.

 

Tattoo Aftercare Dos and Don’ts

Of course, knowing how to care for your tattoo only represents part of what you should know. You also need to know what to look out for, health hazards of tattoos, and miscellaneous things that damage your tattoo. In example, never go swimming while it heals! I made a simple checklist of tattoo aftercare dos and don’ts to save you trouble down the line. These apply during the first six weeks of tattoo healing stages.

DO:
  • Visit a doctor if you notice swelling, redness, or puffiness after three days of healing. This could mean that germs infected the tattoo, or even that your body experiences an allergic reaction.
  • Immediately visit a doctor if you see red or black lines trailing away from the tattoo that aren’t part of the design!
  • Elevate your tattoo to reduce swelling. Bruising is normal, but you can reduce bruises with elevation.
  • Air out your tattoo as much as possible.
  • Only use products designed with tattoos in mind.
DON’T:
  • Swim in water, especially pools, lakes, rivers, streams…really, anything with water goes off-limits.
  • Apply products with alcohol. Alcohol breaks down color and creates a washed-out design.
  • Touch your tattoo to dirty sheets, blankets, or clothes. Furthermore, avoid abrasive fabrics like towels, unless dabbing at the tattoo carefully.
  • Use non-tattoo oils or sunblock, unless a company manufactured the oils or sunblock specifically for tattoos.
  • Touch your tattoo with your hands unless you cleaned them.
  • Lean on anything with your tattoo, especially in public places.
  • Go outside on sunny days without protection for your tattoo.
  • Work out until the tattoo fully heals. If you must remain active, avoid straining the muscle around your tattoo.

A lot of this seems like common sense, but some points on this list—especially working out—go forgotten. Working out stretches the area of your tattoo and warps it during crucial healing phases. On top of that, it damages the scab and unhealed skin on top of the tattoo. Your skin needs to completely close up before you think of moving the area around actively!

The Ultimate Tattoo Care and Tattoo Aftercare Guide - Dont workou

 

Tattoo Lotion

Lotions rank among the best tattoo aftercare products because of their high rate of success. They prevent infection and ease the itching during the last weeks of healing. The best lotion for tattoos sprang up relatively recently, due to a demand for high-quality vegan lotions among the tattoo crowd. It drops all unnecessary ingredients, making it an unscented lotion for tattoo healing. But before we talk about the best lotion for new tattoo healing, let’s talk about a few other lotions you run into at the store.

First, many lotions contain artificial scents that run the risk of creating an allergic reaction on your tattoo. Any other time, scents don’t matter much, but a scented lotion on tattoo work creates a huge risk. For that reason, avoid any scented lotions. Along with that, avoid any lotions containing alcohol. Alcohol works wonderfully for killing bacteria…but unfortunately, it also works great for breaking down the color of new tattoo ink. The best lotion for tattoo aftercare skips the alcohol and uses alternative methods to keep infection down.

Second, let’s talk about Eucerin. Easily available at any store with a health section, intensive repair Eucerin lotion seems like a shoe-in for tattoo healing, right? Wrong. Eucerin contains an ingredient called lanolin which causes allergic reactions in a huge amount of people. While Eucerin works fine for other situations, in tattoo work, it doesn’t properly moisturize the skin. You put a layer of it on, and it holds bacteria in, rather than getting absorbed by the body.

Thankfully, the Eucerin brand noticed a demand, and created their own ointment specifically for tattoo care—Aquaphor. Let’s talk about that in a second, though. For now, we want to focus specifically on the best lotion. H2Ocean and Tattoo Goo provide their own healing lotions (or even something like H2Ocean Spray), but their soaps far outweigh the value of their lotions.

So, are you prepared for our final say? The single best tattoo aftercare lotion our clients ever experienced? Well, here we go!

 

Hustle Butter Deluxe

Hustle Butter Deluxe is, hands down, the best lotion for a tattoo on the mend. Frankly, you can use this lotion at any stage of the tattoo healing process. Of course, soaps work best for preventing infection, but this lotion trumps any soaps with its ability to soothe itchy skin. It contains 100% vegan ingredients and its creation involves no form of cruelty. On top of that, it contains no paraben preservatives or petroleum. As you already know, petroleum leads to build up in a tattoo that traps bacteria in and waterlogs your ink, so you don’t want anything with that in it!

Specially formulated to provide moisturization during tattoo aftercare, it also aids tattoo artists during the act of inking. When you forego the numbing cream, artists use something called gliders to grease the skin. With your skin oiled up, artists easily make smooth strokes and finish your tattoo quickly. On top of that, health-wise, it speeds up the healing process even before your artist fills in the ink!

 

Pitched as some sort of ‘luxury’ product, Hustle Butter Deluxe actually costs the same as a regular tattoo lotion. However, all of its effects match its title. Hustle Butter feels like a luxury when you apply it to your flaky skin and feel the itching sensation fade! For correct application, only apply a thin layer on top of your tattoo when the skin feels dry. In the best-case scenario, Hustle Butter Deluxe even prevents scabs from forming in the first place!

So, before you slap on something like Dermasil lotion—which contains high amounts of damaging alcohol—consider our tattoo healing cream recommendation. It could save your tattoo.

 

Tattoo Ointment

The difference between a lotion and an ointment rests in the amount of oil. Only creams with over 80% oil count as ointments. Some people with oily skin avoid ointments like the plague. Too much oil leads to acne or rashes, after all. On the other hand, some people prefer ointments over lotions thanks to the texture and moisturizing properties of oils. Anyone with dry skin appreciates the extra boost to their skin. Sensitive skin also reacts better to ointments.

Ointment for tattoos still needs a special formula to accommodate for the ink. Remember how we talked about Eucerin in the lotion section, and how they created a special lotion to meet demands? They created the best tattoo ointment, although they labeled it as a baby product. Unlike Cerave healing ointment or A&D ointment ingredients, the ingredients of their special ointment uses gentle ingredients that work well on sensitive skin—both for babies and for fresh tattoos!

 

Aquaphor Ointment

With all said and done, let’s take a closer look at the features of Aquaphor healing ointment. As the best ointment for tattoos, Aquaphor uses Panthenol and Glycerin oils to enhance healing. Apply a small amount of ointment on top of your tattoo whenever it feels dry, then spread it around into a thin layer. Aquaphor for tattoos works way better than A&D ointment for tattoos thanks to its type of protection. While other ointments seal things in and provide moisture, Aquaphor tattoo ointment allows the skin to breath while simultaneously holding in moisture.

Aquaphor Pic1

 

Unlike regular Aquaphor lotion—or other Eucerin lotions, for that matter—the baby formula avoids distressing the bottom layers of your skin during your tattoo care. Aquaphor ultimately works best after the initial healing stages of your tattoo. It serves to moisturize and protect your skin while the scabs do their thing.

For a full look at the world of tattoo aftercare products, check out this article.

 

After Your Tattoo Heals

That covers everything you need to know until the tattoo scabs flake off. But, wait! You still need to take careful care of your tattoo. Once your skin ‘heals’ up, you will notice the colors look faded. The tattoo process leaves a scar of skin over your tattoo, and that takes time to clear up. Six weeks of fresh growth—undisturbed by further scratches or scarring—gives your skin time to clear. Once the layer heals entirely, your tattoo’s color looks bold and vibrant! However, you need to take steps to ensure it stays that way.

Aftercare theory holds that permanent tattoos require permanent care. Obviously, avoid using products containing alcohol on the area around your skin. In small doses, it’s fine, but if you hurt yourself around there, treat it as you would a new tattoo. Using alcohol products on a freshly exposed layer of skin—even just a scratch—damage the ink below. When you tend to any scratches around your tattoo, use any leftover tattoo lotion or tattoo soap to help. Instead of applying Neosporin on tattoos, stick with Hustle Butter. Honestly, Hustle Butter works for any kind of scratch.

You need to actively apply sunscreen any time you go outside. As soon as your wound heals over, don’t be afraid to apply some tattoo sunscreen! Just like Aquaphor Ointment and Hustle Butter Deluxe, tattoo sunscreens exist out there for the sole purpose of tattooed skin. Many people forego these sorts of ‘specialized’ products, which works for products ‘made for women’ or something equally frivolous. However, specialized tattoo products make a difference, as you see in every example we listed above.

Out of all the potential ways to damage your tattoo, sunburns rank in at number one. During tattoo removal surgery, surgeons actually use the light in high-energy lasers to break down ink pigments. The sun does the very same thing, albeit in slow-motion. When your ink breaks down to a certain size, white blood cells carry them to other parts of your body. A tattoo with too much sun exposure looks faded and the edges bleed out into the rest of your skin. This happens as early as a year after the original tattoo process, if you ignore your skin’s health and frequent sunny places.

The Ultimate Tattoo Care and Tattoo Aftercare Guide - Tattoo Sunscreen

 

With the help of tattoo sunscreen, your tattoo goes for decades without any degradation. Apply it every day you go outside, even for a just a few minutes. We recommend three different types of sunscreen that work great in day-to-day use. You already read about the first, since it makes up part of the Tattoo Goo aftercare kit. For the other two, we recommend using them like so:

 

H2Ocean SPF 45 Sea Life Sunscreen

If you find yourself in contact with water often, H2Ocean’s Sea Life sunscreen works best for you. It protects you from both UVA and UVB, contains no oil, and resists water. Normal application lasts about four hours, but if you swim, try to apply it once per hour. Start using this sunscreen as soon as your tattoo heals to ensure it works the best. This container appears small (you can fit it in the palm of your hand), but H2Ocean fills up every centimeter of space with sunscreen. By contrast, most other brands leave space for air at the top of the bottles.

 

Clear zinc oxide acts as the active ingredient, ensuring your skin stays healthy and protected at the same time. On top of that, the sunscreen applies in a thin layer that shows off your tattoo to its fullest. Your arm feels silky smooth—rather than greasy—after application. Ultimately, if you spare the time to apply this sunscreen, it works better than any other brand. Sometimes, though, you need to go somewhere in a hurry or apply it way more often than every four hours. That’s where our second recommendation comes in.

 

Coppertone Tattoo Guard Continuous Spray SPF 50

Coppertone Tattoo Guard protects your delicate tattoo colors and line work from the sun. At the same time, its easy application and portability make it perfect for people who work outside. To apply, simply spray it anywhere you expose your skin to the sun. Reapply as needed in just seconds! I always take this with me on any beach trip, just in case I stay out later than expected.

 

This tattoo sunscreen spray really comes in handy when you need to protect a whole back cover, chest piece, two sleeves, and some leg tattoos. Sea Life sunscreen lasts longer on average, but does it matter if you find no time to put it on? Whenever I work outside, I apply H2Ocean in the morning and spray some Coppertone on whenever I feel my skin toasting. When you work outside all the time, you know exactly when that is! On good, cool, cloudy days, I usually wait two or three hours in between to reapply. This stuff lasts forever.

Click here for a full list of the best tattoo sunscreens.

 

Australian Gold JWOWW Natural Black Bronzer with Ink-Drink Complex

Because sunlight works against your tattoo so much, a natural tan clearly damages tattoos. So, what do you do when you want a lovely-looking tan? I recommend JWOWW tattoo tanning lotion over other tanning lotions and sprays, since it contains a few ingredients that actually give your tattoo a boost! Honestly, reading the ingredients of this stuff makes me hungry. You know the product works well for your skin when it contains so many natural compounds. JWOWW tattoo tanning lotion contains vitamins a and e, yogurt, shea butter, pear extract, black currant oil, and more.

 

In order to maximize your tan, take a shower beforehand. Dry off completely and exfoliate your skin. Ensure no dead skin cells block the tanning lotion. Once you do that, apply the lotion in conservative amounts. If you never used tanning lotion before, then apply it in multiple layers. Start with a small amount, and then continue adding a bit more until it seems optimal. Do the same with your face, no matter your level of tanning experience. Pay special attention to lighter areas like your neck, ankles, knees, and elbows. Too little makes these areas look pale, but too much makes them look orange!

For more information about prolonged tattoo care, read this.

 

Tattoo F.A.Q.

Tattoo Questions & Tattoo Answers

To wrap things up, I answer the questions people ask most often about tattoo aftercare. If I didn’t answer your questions in this section or article, go ahead and ask me in the comments! I add questions and answers frequently. And remember—there’s no such thing as a dumb question!

Q: How does tattoo ink affect the body?

A: To this day, scientists still research the effects of tattoo ink on the body. Despite millennia of history, researchers only recently looked into the bases of tattoo inks. And it’s a good thing, too—many compounds in tattoo inks contain harmful substances! So, how do these substances affect your body? Ideally, not at all.

Tattoo ink sticks to your skin permanently because your white blood cells can’t break down the ink into particles small enough to process. Because white blood cells can’t handle it, your body sends in the big guns—macrophages. The macrophages surround the ink cell, but don’t break it down. These cells live for years, keeping your ink in one place for a very long time.

Ink only interacts with your body during the initial tattoo process and any time you damage your tattoo. In other words, take care of your tattoo, and see minimal effects, if any.

Q: Is Vaseline good for tattoo aftercare?

A: Old-school tattoo artists pitch Vaseline Intensive Care lotion as the solution to all your aftercare needs. Once upon a time, Vaseline-on-tattoo-aftercare worked better than the alternative: nothing. In other words, Vaseline for tattoo care is one step better than nothing. Now that companies manufacture soaps and lotions specifically for tattoos at every step of the healing process, rest assured that better healing products exist.

Q: Why is my tattoo faded?

A: If your tattoo scabs fell off recently and your skin looks nice and smooth—but cloudy—then don’t worry. Naturally, the skin forms scar tissue around your new tattoo. This scar tissue creates the cloudy look around your ink. With time, the scar tissue dissipates and your skin shows off a vibrant tattoo underneath. It usually takes twelve weeks for the scar tissue to fade away.

If you wore this tattoo for years, and the ink starts to fade, a number of reasons exist that cause it. First, you skimped out on the sunscreen, or go tanning a lot. Second, you go swimming often. Third, you work out all the time. Fourth, you eat very little Vitamin E or K, which keeps your skin nice and healthy.

Tattoos naturally require touch-ups in the long run. However, proper tattoo care means you go decades without a touch-up.

Q: When is my tattoo completely healed?

A: Honestly, the skin around your tattoo takes over a year to heal up. For all intents and purposes, though, your tattoo closes up after about four days of healing. The scabs fall off at around six weeks, unless your tattoo covers a wide area. Furthermore, your skin clears up at about the two month mark. You can go back to routine activities at the six week mark, or whenever all your scabs fall off and the skin looks smooth.

Q: Who do I contact about health questions for my tattoo?

A: Whenever you need health advice, always seek out a doctor. I am not a doctor; I can’t see you or diagnose you with anything. Your tattoo artists can answer questions just like me, but if anything looks like a hazard to them, they also point you to a doctor. In other words: go to a doctor during medical emergencies. Thank you.

 

The Ultimate Tattoo Care and Tattoo Aftercare Guide

In the end, you control the quality of your tattoo with your aftercare technique. If you leave your tattoo completely alone, you risk an infection or worse. Just Google ‘tattoos gone bad’ if you want to see what happens with poor tattoo care. If your tattoo ends up looking like moldy bread, you have a serious problem. Tattoo aftercare represents long-term care for your body, not just your tattoo! Neglecting a wound brings about serious consequences.

Furthermore, tattoos represent a form of art that you wear on your body. Your artist inks the painting for you, but as the curator of your tattoo, the duty lays with you to display it. Just as a museum curator dusts their paintings off, protects them from sunlight, and ensures the painting remains in top condition, you must treat your tattoo with great care. Thankfully, the ultimate tattoo care and tattoo aftercare guide we provide you with here helps you through every single stage of the process.

If you need more information on the aftercare process, feel free to browse through 101-Tattoos! We exist to provide you with high quality content and an inside look at the world of tattooing. On top of that, we answer any and all questions, so feel free to drop us a line!

May your tattoo always shine,

~Alexandra

 

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