New Tattoo Care 101: The Best Tattoo Lotions

New Tattoo Care 101: The Best Tattoo Lotions I Mirra Skincare

Tattoo is a medium of art that has been around for centuries and while the methods and materials have evolved over time the fact remains that tattoos are essentially wounds. If you have or plan on getting a new tattoo to adorn your skin, new tattoo care is something you really shouldn't overlook. Improper care can lead to not only a faded or cracked tattoo, but irritation, infection and scarring as well. Oddly, in the US, only seven states require the provision of tattoo aftercare instructions with content that has been approved by their state health departments. Even with this provision, artists individually decide what information they share. Here is a day-by-day guide of what to expect and the steps for new tattoo care:


1. Day 1

2. Day 2 and 3

3. Days 4 to 6

4. Days 6 to 14

5. Days 15 to 30

6. Lotion Recommendations

7. Final Thoughts

Key Points

  • Moisturizing is arguably the most important part for new tattoo care
  • The lotion you use on your new tattoo should be fragrance free and alcohol free 
  • Be patient, the full healing process for new tattoos is about 3 to 4 months

Day 1

You'll be wearing a bandage or plastic wrap over your tattoo when you go home from the tattoo shop. You should ask your artist about how long you should wait before removing. The type and size of your tattoo may influence these recommendations. But you should be good to go after a few hours. You'll probably see some fluid flowing from the tattoo after the covering is removed. This process is perfectly natural, the fluid is a mixture of blood, plasma (clear part of blood), and excess ink. You should expect your skin will be red, irritated, and warm to the touch. 

After removing the bandage, you'll want to wash your new tattoo with warm water and a fragrance free soap. Typically, an artist will cover a tattoo with a thin layer of petroleum jelly or similar moisturizing barrier; by gently washing with soap and your fingers, you can remove it, leaving you with a clean surface. Now apply a fragrance-free and alcohol-free lotion, leave off the bandage and let the healing process begin. 

Day 2 and 3

Your tattoo will seem duller and cloudier at this point. As your skin heals, this happens. Scabs will begin to appear. You may also see some ink going down the drain when you wash. Again, this process is normal and is simply a result of excess ink escaping through your skin. 

During this time you should reapply a fragrance-free and alcohol-free lotion on your tattoo once, twice or more times per day depending on your skin type and climate. The key is to constantly keep the area moisturized. 

Days 4 to 6

The redness should start to recede. Over the tattoo, you'll probably see some minor scabbing.

The scabs won't be as thick as scabs from typical cuts, but they will be elevated. Picking at the scabs might result in scars, so DO NOT do it. Continue to gently and regularly wash your tattoo and apply a moisturizer that is fragrance-free and alcohol-free to avoid the skin drying out.

Day 6 to 14

The scabs will have hardened and started to break away. AGAIN, picking at them or attempting to rip them off is not a good idea. You should allow them to fall off naturally or risk scarring. If you notice that your tattoo is still red and puffy, you should return to your tattoo artist or seek medical advice. 

At this stage, your skin may be quite itchy. To ease the itch, apply your fragrance-free, alcohol-free moisturizer more frequently.

Days 15 to 30

Most of the large flakes should have disappeared at this point, and the scabs should be dissolving. You may still notice some dead skin, but that should fade over time. Now the outer layers of the skin should be fully healed, however the lowest layers may take 3 to 4 months to heal fully. The tattoo should be as brilliant and vibrant as the artist intended by the end of the third month. 

It's possible that the tattooed area may look dry and dull. Continue moisturizing until the skin seems to be hydrated once more.

Lotion Recommendations

1. Aquaphor's Healing Ointment: This “old” standby for new tattoo care, is one of the most extensively used tattoo aftercare treatments, and many artists are happy to suggest it. The occlusive qualities of the petrolatum-based solution produce a semi-permeable barrier on top of the skin that keeps moisture in while keeping everything else out. It keeps your tattoo fresh and encourages healing by retaining the skin's natural moisture.

2. Coconut oil: Coconut oil is gentle enough to utilize at any point throughout the tattooing procedure. It may be used for new tattoo care, existing tattoos, and even tattoos that are being removed or retouched. It is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and safe for sensitive skin. 

3. Aveeno Baby Daily Moisturizing Lotion: Just because this product has “baby” in the label does not mean it isn't great for you. People with sensitive skin are probably well aware that often formulas designed for babies are far more gentle than other options. In this particular formula, the combination of natural colloidal oats and rich emollients makes it an ideal choice for new tattoo care. Colloidal oatmeal has anti-inflammatory properties, according to research published in J Drugs Dermatol. 2015;14(1):43-48. It not only relieves dryness and scaling, but it also reduces the severity of irritation. 

*What each of these moisturizers have in common is that they are fragrance and alcohol free. No matter which moisturizer or lotion you go with, these two characteristics are crucial. 

Final Thoughts

In addition to keeping the area moisturized, you should also keep it out of direct sunlight and avoid soaking the skin for at least 2 weeks (no baths or swimming). Keeping your tattoo looking its best is probably a priority considering that it's going to be there for a while, good luck!

Written by Kiana St. Onge


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  1. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-basics/tattoos/caring-for-tattooed-skin
  2. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/taking-care-of-your-tattoo
  3. https://www.aquaphorus.com/healing-ointment/

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