Tattoos are a traditional and effective way to express yourself, your desires, and your achievements. Millions of people around the world have tattoos, and the vast majority turn out great.
But for your skin to fully recover and to make your tattoo really shine, you need to invest in a quality tattoo lotion.
The best lotion for tattoos should not only be fragrance-free, but should be made from quality ingredients, absent of colorants, highly breathable to prevent an infection, and perhaps most importantly, moisturize your skin for a quicker (and non-peeling) aftercare healing process.
Provided in this article are expert reviews of several tattoo lotions, a list of the key ingredients and factors to consider, tips to keeping your tattoo looking brilliant and new, answers to common questions, and a comparison between tattoo lotion and other products.
Let’s get started:
The 7 Best Tattoo Lotions & Creams
1. Best Overall: After Inked Tattoo Lotion
Enriched with Grape Seed Oil, the After Inked Moisturizer and Aftercare Lotion comes in a handy 3 oz. tube that ensures your new ink stays protected and moist anywhere you go. It is not derived from petroleum, does not contain parabens or fragrances, and is vegan and cruelty-free.
Applying After Inked is easy, as it goes on smooth and dries clear. Perfect for those days you have to spend in the sun, the After Inked moisturizer is one of the best lotions for new tattoos.
- No oily residue
- Natural ingredients
- Environmentally responsible
- Only available in small packages
What You Need To Know
2. Best Tattoo Butter: Hustle Butter Deluxe
Hustle Butter Deluxe is a thicker product recommended and used for both before and aftercare of tattoos. Hustle Butter is 100% natural and vegan to provide you with a great alternative to petroleum-based tattoo products. It’s also often used during the tattoo process to keep the skin supple and moist. Shea and aloe butter prevent scabs and protect tattooed areas.
You’ll feel the difference when your skin is fresh and clean. It’s also fragrance-free, meaning you can wear it anywhere. Available in small and large sizes for home or travel use, the Hustle Butter Deluxe tattoo butter will keep your brand new ink glistening.
- Available in two sizes
- Infused with essential oils and minerals
- Not oily – easy to use
- Butter is thicker
What You Need To Know
3. Best Tattoo Salve: Ora’s Tattoo Salve
Salve has a soothing ring to it – you just feel better knowing you’re using a salve as your tattoo aftercare product. Ora’s Tattoo salve is no different. Infused with organic herbs and chemical-free, Ora’s is designed to combat itching and scabbing naturally, without petroleum.
It specifically reduces inflammation and infection by providing a thin later of protection, keeping tattoos and skin supple and soothed. It goes on a bit thicker and greasier than lotions but dries very clean. At the lower end of our price spectrum, one jar will be able to cover your relatively small tattoo as it heals.
- Prevents color leaching and itch
- Not expensive
- Would need more than one tub for larger tattoos
- Salve can be oily to start
What You Need To Know
Completely fragrance-free and made with skin health in mind, Aquaphor Healing Ointment is dermatologist recommended for a variety of different skin ailments, including new tattoos. A rare exception to the rule against ointment for tattoos, using Aquaphor for tattoos is a gentle and economical choice.
If you’re environmentally conscious or are concerned about what you’re putting on your skin, his product may not be for you. It contains mineral oil as well as some other preservatives and chemicals. Its main ingredient is also a substance derived from petroleum. Still, if you don’t mind, the product will work wonders for your new tattoo. It goes on a little thicker and oilier than some other options but provides great protection.
- Dermatologist recommended
- Cheapest option
- Thicker for protection
- Contains petroleum and other artificial ingredients
What You Need To Know
Lubriderm was specifically developed by a dermatologist to address some of the many skin issues they saw in their practices. The Advanced Therapy Lotion is clinically shown to moisturize for up to 24 hours after application and is the most recommended brand by tattoo artists.
It’s fragrance-free, non-greasy, and uses Vitamin B5 to help speed up the healing process. It does contain glycerin, which some men may avoid, but is extremely effective at delivering moisture. The emphasis on the non-greasy residue makes the Lubriderm a great option, especially at such a low price.
- Low price for bulk
- Effective on both tattoos and other parts of your skin
- No SPF
What You Need To Know
Viking Revolution Tattoo Balm is specifically designed to speed up the healing process. It’s chemical-free, vegan, and smells fantastic. It’s called a balm but goes on clean and clear with no greasy residue. The balm also comes with a 100% money-back guarantee.
Relying on a mixture of all natural ingredients including grape seed oil, shea butter, coconut oil, and vitamin E oil – it will be effective at keeping tattoos, both old and new, fresh and protected. A regular here on Tools of Men, Viking Revolution makes a full line of men’s grooming products – such as their award winning beard shampoo.
- Awesome design with lots of other products
- Goes on clean
- Small package requiring replacement more frequently
What You Need To Know
7. Tattoo Goo
Boasting its natural ingredients such as olive oil, beeswax, and vitamin E, Tattoo Goo is recommended not only for tattoos, but also for skin that’s been abused by the conditions of extreme sports.
The formula is made with herbs, vitamins, and oils, which allow skin to breathe while healing and soothing tattoos. It does have a smell, but most considered it light and pleasant. One Tattoo Goo review likened the scent to the green soap used in many tattoo shops. This thick “goo” can be used both as a tattoo healer and an aftercare product. It generally comes in a small 3/4 ounce tin, but it’s inexpensive and you don’t need to use much when applying.
- Natural ingredients
- Pleasant smell
- Comes in a very small tin
What You Need To Know
Before Buying: 7 Considerations when purchasing a tattoo lotion or cream
Anytime you have an open wound, you want to ensure that you choose a lotion that avoids colorants. For one thing, colorants can alter the color of the tattoo itself. More importantly, however, they can cause irritation. The best tattoo aftercare cream is one that enhances and adds vibrancy to your tattoo and that goes on clear. It should be complementary to your ink. A note: read the labels – white lotions are fine as long as they don’t have a colorant to make them such.
Colorants are often based on chemicals, derived from oil that can actually hinder your body and its healing properties.
Your skin is a living breathing part of your body that needs vitamins and moisture to stay healthy. The perfect moisturizer is one that is vitamin-rich, prevents dry and ashy looking skin, and quickens the healing process. The moisturizer should allow the skin to breathe, leaving your tattoo area feeling fresh and clean.
This is incredibly important for the first few days of healing. In fact, for the first few weeks, it’s recommended that you apply a moisturizer daily. Natural oils are perfect here and carrier oils are particularly good at adding to and retaining skin’s moisture. Aloe Barbedensis Leaf Extract – more commonly known simply as aloe vera – provides a soothing barrier to the tattooed area. Jojoba performs a similar, protective barrier. It is essential that any moisturizer needs to protect the skin to prevent the formation of a scab and stave off peeling.
Fragrance is a personal choice for a man. Those who have sensitive skin will prefer a fragrance-free option and a number of tattoo parlors recommend going fragrance-free as well. Note: unscented lotions may actually contain a chemical fragrance to neutralize smells – it is best to avoid this ingredient as fragrance has been known to be highly irritable for many (source).
A complicated term for a simple process, non-comedogenic lotions mean that they are specifically designed to moisturize without clogging pores (source). These properties are critically important for keeping a tattoo and the skin around it supple.
Non-clogging lotions will leave your tattoo with bright color while still nourishing your skin.
Moisturizing lotion for tattoos come in all shapes and sizes. It’s recommended that you have a larger option for home and work use and then a smaller bottle to take with you. Consider a travel size option – it will allow you to keep your tattoo bright and skin feeling healthy. If you are traveling via air, ensure any lotion you select is TSA compliant – under the recommend 3.4fl oz if you plan on using only taking your carry-on luggage.
6. Lotions, Creams, Ointments, & Butters
Tattoo lotions come in many different forms – lotions, creams, ointments, and butters. Here’s the differences of each:
Lotions / Creams
Lotions and creams are generally what you’re familiar with already when you think of moisturizing. They offer a creamy, smooth consistency that goes on light. These are best because they allow tattoos to breathe. They come in a variety of consistencies and types, are often all-natural, including things like olive oil, coconut oil, or mineral oil.
An ointment is often thicker and “medicinal.” Many ointments are also infused with mineral oil, coconut oil, or even olive oil. Here, think of a Vaseline-type product. Most of these products should be avoided because they tend to retain germs and dirt. In a worst-case scenario, they can cause infection and prevent healing. In the best-case scenario, putting vaseline on tattoos will prolong the healing time because they prevent the tattoo from breathing.
Butters are often thick like ointments but tend to be made from organic ingredients. If you go with butter, it’s critical that you apply only a thin coat – this will allow the skin to get oxygen and prevent infections.
Those containing shea or coconut butter are highly desirable. Be mindful of any allergens or irritations. Before you apply butter on the inked area of your skin, consider testing it out for a day in another area. Tattooed skin is sensitive, and using a butter daily on broken skin can leave the skin feeling better. Butters are recommended for moisturizing, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Whatever you choose, be sure you apply it to a clean surface, using mild soap and water to wash away any dirt or sweat. Using a lighter option will keep your clothing from sticking and selecting a lotion without fragrance will keep your clothing fresh. Finally, avoid the sun – regardless of the product, the sun can damage new tattoos, making the skin dry and elongating healing time.
There are several things in this world that you should not skimp out on, and aftercare for your tattoo is one of those things.
You want a cream that is designed to keep away dry skin, provide a layer of protection and helps hydrate the area.
Tattoo lotions also impact the healing process and, potentially, your overall health. Many cheaper lotions will use a formula that contains synthetic or harmful ingredients. You should expect to pay about $20 for a quality tattoo lotion.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) about tattoo lotions
Q: Can I use any type of lotion on my tattoo?
No – you should use a moisturizer, lotion, ointment or balm that is specifically formulated for use on a tattoo (i.e., no colorants, hypoallergenic, goes on light, etc.) Tattoos are open wounds, and the less “junk” you put on, the better. Aftercare for a tattoo can be a grueling process. Search for a cream, lotion, ointment or butter that has a formula specifically made for tattoo aftercare.
Q: Is it ok if my tattoo lotion has beeswax?
Yes – just make sure it goes on super thin. Know that a beeswax-based lotion may leave a residue. Beeswax is non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog pores. Still, it may not allow your skin to breath as much as other options. Many tattoo aftercare products that contain beeswax tend to be thicker. As an alternative, you can use a shea butter or coconut oil based tattoo aftercare lotion for moisturizing.
Q: What happens if you don’t moisturize a tattoo?
Taking care of your tattoo is important. Common problems men face when not caring for their tattoo includes the following:
- The skin can become dry and cracked
- Your ink can fade
- Invites infection
- The area will be very itchy
- It will take many days longer to heal
- Scratching can damage the tattoo
- Scratching can promote infection
None of those sound fun…
Q: When can I start putting lotion on my tattoo?
Tattoo artists recommend that you apply a moisturizing lotion as soon as a couple of hours after, or the next morning. Most will use some type of moisturizer during the tattoo process. Ask your tattoo artist or check the sheet he/she should have given you for aftercare. You can never use enough tattoo healing cream.
Tattoo lotion vs. ointment vs. body lotion
Tattoo lotion is generally thinner and non-greasy. It tends to go on clean and have organic ingredients. A quality tattoo lotion will also be fragrance-free. You can get a lotion that is also vegan. Tattoo lotions and creams will help you heal, add moisture, and keep your ink vibrant.
Ointments are thicker and tend to restrict the skin breathing a bit. Still, they focus on hydration and offer richer protection. They are often petroleum-based, which isn’t the best option if you’re focused on environmental responsibility or organic living. Still, ointments contain vitamins and minerals, including Vitamins A and D, to promote skin healing. While they can work well to seal moisture into your skin, if not used properly, ointments can cause infection because they trap material on the skin. It can clog pores in some instances.
Body lotion is different than tattoo-specific lotion. It’s designed to be used anywhere as a moisturizing agent and is a good option for longer-term tattoo care. It can include organic ingredients and could also use scents. It will provide some relief from the inflammation associated with tattoos. Brands like Aveeno make some amazing moisturizers that can soothe your tattoo. Be mindful, however, of extraneous colors and scents. Tattoo aftercare is prolonged by when you don’t take the time to search for appropriate lotions.
How we selected the best tattoo lotions
Tattoo aftercare is critical. The best tattoo lotion may vary based on your lifestyle and skin type. It can also vary greatly on how you feel about lotions and ointments. If you prefer something a bit thinner, a lotion might be right for you.
Your tattoo artist should be able to help you make your choice or even provide lotion. We always recommends that you do your research and look for lotions that protect your skin, provide soothing elements to your body. Any formula you use should be moisturizing to keep dry skin at bay and ensure your tattoo won’t fade. Consider products with Shea butter and coconut oil in their formula – applying these natural oils can be the best option for providing a protective layer over your tattoo and have properties that reduce healing times, sometimes by days.
When in doubt, contact a dermatologist — they’ll ensure you’re using something that soothes your skin and keeps your tattoo looking amazing.