A tattoo is the kind of thing you put a lot of thought into. The significance. The design. The location. By that logic, you also put a lot of thought into what happens after you’ve been inked, right?
This is hard to convey since these are just words, but I was yelling at you just then. Screaming. Sorry it had to go down that way, but finding and using the best tattoo aftercare products is important. Not only do the right balms, lotions, numbing creams, sunscreens, and soaps help the recovery process, they can also help preserve the color and detail of your ink.
There are countless niche-specific products out there, and we’re going to check out some of the best ones, but you might be surprised by how many tattoo aftercare products you might already have on your bathroom vanity.
The best tattoo aftercare products heal your fresh tat quickly without irritating the skin or causing damage to the art itself. When it comes to all-around effectiveness at an approachable price point, Aquaphor is the one to beat.
Speaking of good prices, my top budget pick is Badger Tattoo Balm—a certified organic product that not only works but has arguably created some of the finest badger-related package art the world has ever known.
Aquaphor Healing Skin Ointment Advanced Therapy at Amazon
Badger Tattoo Balm at Amazon
Billy Jealousy Tattoo Lotion at Amazon
Hustle Butter Deluxe at Amazon
Eucerin Advanced Repair Body Lotion at Amazon
Tattoo Goo Aftercare Kit at Amazon
Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Baby Soap, Unscented at Amazon
After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer Cream at Amazon
Mad Rabbit Defend Tattoo Sunscreen at Amazon
Woo Double Hydration Tattoo Care Duo at Discover Woo
1. BEST OVERALL TATTOO AFTERCARE PRODUCT: AQUAPHOR HEALING SKIN OINTMENT ADVANCED THERAPY
Yep, Aquaphor. No trendy branding. No niche-specific uses. Just trusty, been-around-forever Aquaphor—one of the most recommended aftercare products by tattoo artists. Its first ingredient is petrolatum, a topical mixture that holds in moisture and has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
Another quality that makes Aquaphor the best tattoo aftercare product is that it’s scentless. Scented products can cause premature fading and general irritation, which, yes, would be a bummer. It’s ideal for the first few days post-ink when the skin is most sensitive. One nitpicky drawback: it tends to transfer to anything it touches. If possible, wear clothes you don’t mind getting all Aquaphor-y.
Ingredients: Petrolatum, Mineral Oil, Ceresin, Lanolin Alcohol, Panthenol, Glycerin, Bisabolol | Cruelty-Free: No | Skin Type: All
2. BEST BUDGET TATTOO AFTERCARE PRODUCT: BADGER TATTOO BALM
If you’re looking for a fragrance-free, all-natural, highly praised balm on the cheap, Badger Tattoo Balm is as good a place to start as any. Its USDA Certified Organic formula is gentle on your fresh design and can also help bring out its brightness.
And even if you don’t use it all on your tattoos, it makes a solid everyday balm for any other problem areas you might have. And most importantly, the package art is a badger sailing a ship in a Steve Zissou hat surrounded by octopuses. The healing properties were a close second, though.
Ingredients: Organic Sunflower Oil, Organic Fair-trade Coconut Oil, Other Organic Ingredients | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Skin Type: All
3. BEST LUXURY TATTOO AFTERCARE PRODUCT: BILLY JEALOUSY TATTOO LOTION
For the purposes of this category, I’m going to define “luxury” very loosely. That’s to say, Billy Jealousy’s Tattoo Lotion errs on the pricey side. Because what is luxury if not an outstanding product that’s probably-maybe-definitely a bit overpriced?
This lotion is a good fit if you’re looking for a product that delivers on moisturizing your skin and keeping your tattoo’s colors bright while not leaving a sticky residue behind. Something to note is that it’s lightly scented with lavender and rosemary. And while it’s true that you should generally avoid scented products on fresh ink, Billy Jealousy’s scents are derived from essential oils as opposed to synthetic fragrances.
Ingredients: Green Tea Leaf Extract, Rosemary & Grapeseed Oils, Shea Butter, Other Ingredients | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Skin Type: All
4. BEST TATTOO AFTERCARE PRODUCT ON AMAZON: HUSTLE BUTTER DELUXE
Hustle Butter has long been a staple of both tattoo artists and their clients. Its vegan formula reduces irritation and is said to help maintain color and even revive it in older tattoos. And not to bury the lede, it’s got a 4.8 average rating out of over 25,000 reviews. In case you missed it, that was a whopping 25,000+.
One reviewer wrote, “I normally don’t ever leave reviews but this product blew me out of the water. It made the day after so much more bearable, and made sure the tattoo and surrounding skin wasn’t dry.” Rinse and repeat about 24,999 more times, and you get the gist of people’s opinions of this stuff.
Ingredients: Shea, Mango, Aloe Butter, Coconut Sunflower, Other Vegan Ingredients | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Skin Type: All
5. BEST STAPLE TATTOO AFTERCARE PRODUCT: EUCERIN ADVANCED REPAIR BODY LOTION
Sometimes the best tattoo aftercare products are the ones that are already right in front of you on your bathroom sink. If you’ve had your tattoo for a few weeks and happen to have a bottle of Eucerin Advanced Repair Body Lotion lying around, scoop it up, apply liberally, and thank me later.
A key feature that helps make this one of the best products for tattoo aftercare is the presence of ceramides in the formula. They’re lipids that help strengthen your skin while protecting it from the elements. This particular formula is also unscented, which you know by now is semi-crucial for a successful healing process. And since you’re working with a traditional body lotion, it’s perfect for everyday use long after the healing process.
Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Urea, Other Ingredients | Cruelty-Free: No | Skin Type: All
6. BEST TATTOO AFTERCARE KIT: TATTOO GOO AFTERCARE KIT
Not interested in piecemealing your tattoo aftercare routine? Time to kit-y up, cowboy. (What have I done? Kit-y up? I apologize, but under no circumstances should you accept.)
Where was I? Right. The Aftercare Kit from Tattoo Goo. It’s a nice solution if you want more of a one-stop-shop suite of products to help your newborn tattoo recover. In the kit are an antimicrobial soap, tattoo care lotion, and tattoo balm. Everything you need to preserve your art and your skin. The products play nice with sensitive skin, contain natural ingredients, and can be used on new and existing tattoos.
Ingredients: Olive Oil, Cyclopentasiloxane, Glycerine, Other Ingredients | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Skin Type: All
7. BEST TATTOO AFTERCARE SOAP: DR. BRONNER’S PURE-CASTILE LIQUID BABY SOAP, UNSCENTED
Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Baby Soap is among the most gentle of its formulas. Having “baby” in the name was a good first clue. But it’s one of the best tattoo aftercare products for a handful of other reasons, mainly its versatility and the fact that it’s super tattoo-friendly.
The unscented soap is all-natural and made with over 90% organic ingredients. And you’re working with a concentrated formula, meaning a little will go a long way. Put a bottle on each of your sinks and just go about your day as a person who not only has some killer new ink but also makes great soap-related decisions.
Ingredients: Water, Organic Coconut Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Organic Olive Oil, Other Organic Ingredients | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Skin Type: All
8. BEST TATTOO AFTERCARE LOTION: AFTER INKED TATTOO MOISTURIZER CREAM
After Inked has an excellent reputation among tattoo artists and the general tattoo community. It’s been featured on the tattoo reality show Ink Master and has been in business for over 15 years. Which is nice and all, but what’s in it for you?
Well, moisturized skin mostly. But not just any moisturized skin. We’re talking skin that’s been kissed by grapeseed oil and other all-natural, petroleum-free ingredients. Which is only overly dramatic for talking about tattoo lotions if you make it overly dramatic. And like a handful of the other best tattoo aftercare products, After Inked will do its job well after your tattoos heal, but also on non-inked areas of your skin.
Ingredients: Water, Grape Seed Oil, Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Other Ingredients | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Skin Type: All
9. BEST TATTOO AFTERCARE SUNSCREEN: MAD RABBIT DEFEND TATTOO SUNSCREEN
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) recommends that anyone with a tattoo apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher before sun exposure. The NLM also suggests reapplying every two hours when exposed to the sun. And a bunch of other stuff. Basically, just wear sunscreen.
Correction, wear this sunscreen: Mad Rabbit’s Defend Tattoo Sunscreen. It does everything any self-respecting sunscreen should do—employ zinc oxide to block harmful rays and the like. But the newly tatted will especially appreciate its anti-inflammatory ingredients and skin barrier-supporting fatty acids. Who doesn’t love a good fatty acid?
Ingredients: Zinc Oxide, Water, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Other Ingredients | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Skin Type: All
10. BEST NEW AND TRENDING TATTOO AFTERCARE PRODUCT: WOO DOUBLE HYDRATION TATTOO CARE DUO
Drake. Justin Bieber. Bella Hadid. Miley Cyrus. Cara Delevingne. What do all these celebrities have in common? They all have faces. Oh, but also, they’re just a handful of the entertainers who’ve been tattooed by one of LA’s most sought-after tattoo artists, Dr. Woo.
If you don’t necessarily feel like putting yourself on a yearslong waitlist to get inside the guy’s studio, happy day. Because he recently launched the next best thing—his own line of tattoo aftercare products aptly named Woo. The Double Hydration Tattoo Care Duo features a body moisturizer and an aftercare moisturizer. The former is for existing ink, and the latter is for fresh tattoos.
Ingredients: Water, Methylsilanol Mannuronate, Hyaluronic Acid, Other Ingredients | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Skin Type: All
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN THE BEST TATTOO AFTERCARE PRODUCTS
Paying close attention to the ingredients in the best tattoo aftercare products can mean the difference between a vibrant, healthy tattoo and one that prematurely fades and causes skin irritation. For the first few days, it’s especially important to avoid 100% petroleum products that can trap moisture and scented products that can cause dryness and general irritation.
Tattoo lotions are going to work differently than tattoo balms. Tattoo sunscreens are going to work differently than tattoo soaps. You get it. Obvious? Maybe, but if you want your tattoo to be the best it can be, make sure you’re targeting specific needs with specific products. If you’re not sure where to start, a kit like the one Tattoo Goo makes is a good place to start.
Some tattoo aftercare products have a singular function: to help your tattoo safely heal. Other products, like Dr. Bronner’s liquid baby soap and Mad Rabbit’s sunscreen, extend their usefulness beyond just helping the freshly tatted. Think about your overall grooming routine before deciding which products work best for you.
Aftercare is just as important as choosing a design and where your tattoo will go. The best tattoo aftercare products preserve the color of your ink while safely and effectively helping your skin bounce back. Aquaphor is my top overall pick because what it lacks in bells and whistles, it more than makes up for with its skin-friendly healing properties.