Picking the right lotion or cream for healing a new tattoo is just as important as choosing the right artist and design. Whether you’ve invested a small fortune on your body art or you’ve got a deeply meaningful tattoo, aftercare is an important step in the process of getting the perfect end result. Hydration is vital for healing tattoos to avoid them drying out and forming a scab that can cause ink to bleed or come away. Clinical research also shows that moistened wounds heal faster, making a good cream or lotion essential.

What to avoid

Picking the perfect lotion or cream for your tattoo can be a minefield. Some artists will sell or recommend certain products, some will tell you what to avoid, and then there’s the wealth of conflicting information on tattoo forums. Unfortunately, it can take a bit of trial and error to find an aftercare regime that works for your skin, but there are some ingredients that are generally accepted as things you should never apply to a healing tattoo. This includes any products that contain petroleum, parabens and lanolin, which will instantly rule out many products.

Should you pick a tattoo-specific cream?

The short answer to this is: yes. Lotions and creams that have been specifically made to help healing tattoos will always be the best option. This is because they usually contain completely natural ingredients, which means they avoid harsh chemicals and artificial scents or colors, and the ingredients will contain nutrients the skin uses for healing.

It’s well known that skin will be very sensitive and itchy during healing, so tattoo creams are formulated to cause as little irritation as possible and can help to relieve itchiness and soreness.

Some will work with inks to help tattoos stay bright and reduce the risk of ink bleeding. Tattoo creams will often come with pump lids to avoid bacteria getting into the product, reducing the risk of infection.

Should standard moisturizing products be avoided?

Using regular moisturizing products won’t necessarily do any harm to your tattoo and you may be able to find something similar to tattoo-specific products in your local supermarket or online. In general, they’re better than using nothing at all on your tattoo. Check that the ingredients are mostly natural and that it has no artificial colors, scents or preservatives as these can cause irritation instead of relieving it.

Pros of coconut oil

Many people are turning more and more to 100% natural products, in particular coconut oil, which has many different uses in your beauty regime. Coconut oil contains no chemicals, artificial ingredients or additives, and is known to be hydrating and an antioxidant, so it can be great for tattoos, especially once they’ve healed and just need a bit of hydration.

Cons of coconut oil

Depending on your skin type and how your body reacts when healing a tattoo, coconut oil can cause irritation and sensitivity. Dermatologists also agree that coconut oil can clog pores and prevent skin from breathing, which is bad news for healing tattoos.

MD and founder of Refresh Dermatology Suneel Chilukuri says that the antioxidant benefits of topical coconut oil are often masked by its ability to clog pores. Extra-virgin coconut oil is even worse because it’s more likely to block pores, and processed coconut oil can also have the same effects.

Coconut oil is one of the thickest natural oils, which makes it difficult for the skin the absorb, letting it sit on the skin and form a barrier. Bacteria and dead skin cells then get trapped, causing excess sebum production and an increased risk of infection.

Choosing the best moisturizing cream or lotion for your healing tattoo can be difficult. Ideally you should always use a tattoo-specific cream in the first 2-3 weeks. Once your tattoo has healed you can use different products on it, such as regular moisturizers and coconut oil.