5 Worst Lotions & Products for Tattoos

5 Worst Lotions & Products for Tattoos

Jun 12, 2023 | Bridget Reed

Aftercare can make or break your tattoo. Your new tattoo will look beautiful when your artist wraps you up and sends you home. But the rest of the process is up to you. 

The good news is that it isn’t very difficult to take great care of your new tattoo if you’re using the right products. Improper aftercare can damage your tattoo. Make sure you’re using the right stuff.

It’s Important To Remember That a Tattoo Is a Wound

Tattoos need moisture to heal properly, but some lotions don’t fit to bill. Here’s what you should avoid putting on your new tattoo.

It’s hard to look at a beautiful tattoo and remember that it’s an open wound, but that’s exactly what’s going on. While it may look much prettier than a burn or a scrape, it needs a lot of the same things to heal properly. 

You can use your favorite skincare products on your tattoo after it’s done healing. For the first few weeks, it needs special attention and consideration. If you wouldn’t put something on an open cut or scrape, you shouldn’t put it on a new tattoo.

1. Petroleum Jelly

The use of petroleum-based products is a little controversial in the tattoo community. Many artists swear by petroleum-based skin protectants. There is plenty of evidence that petroleum-based products are well tolerated by most people but may react a little differently on freshly tattooed skin.

Some evidence suggests that using petroleum jelly on a new tattoo can affect how skin retains pigments. Tattoos may look dull or faded before they’re even finished healing. 

Other naysayers of petroleum products for tattoos make the point that petroleum is very sticky. It can trap dirt, hair, bacteria, and other debris that can harm a new tattoo.

If you’re cautious about using them, consult with your artist about the aftercare instructions they provided you with. If they recommend petroleum-based products and you’re a little skeptical, ask if you can swap them out for better alternatives.

2. Scented Lotions

Scented lotions can be fun. Everyone likes to smell good. The aroma of a scented lotion and the act of applying it can be relaxing. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy scented lotions if your skin tolerates them well and you don’t have any open wounds. A new tattoo counts as an open wound.

Products containing fragrances can be extremely irritating to broken or wounded skin, even for people who don’t have sensitive skin or fragrance allergies. The top layer of your skin, where you normally apply lotion, is a layer of dead cells. 

The top layer of a tattoo is vulnerable, new skin working very hard to heal. Scented lotion can sting, burn, and cause contact dermatitis if it comes into contact with an open wound.

3. Exfoliating Washes

You probably have very smooth elbows and heels if you use an exfoliating wash in the shower, like sugar or salt scrub. Exfoliating washes work great to gently buff away dead skin. Just don’t use them anywhere near your tattoo. 

Your healing tattoo is attempting to repair and build a new top layer. Exfoliating products can take that layer away before the skin is finished healing. 

Using exfoliating cleansers on your tattoo can lead to loss of pigment and scarring. It also hurts to use them. Think about it: you’re literally rubbing salt in your wounds. 

4. Products Containing Alcohol

You don’t want your tattoo to get infected, and alcohol kills bacteria. It’s not an off-the-wall thought that applying sanitizing products containing alcohol (like isopropyl alcohol spray or hand sanitizer) to your tattoo can help to prevent infection. Here’s why that’s actually a bad idea.

Alcohol does a great job of killing germs, but it’s also extremely drying to the skin. Wounds heal much more efficiently with moisture, and constantly drying your tattoo out will irritate the skin.

Alcohol may delay the healing process. It’s also very painful to apply alcohol to open wounds. Think about what it feels like to use hand sanitizer when you have a paper cut. Ouch. No thanks. Sticking with gentle antibacterial soap to manage bacteria without stripping away moisture is best. 

5. Watery Lotion

Applying moisturizer to your tattoo serves two purposes. The first one is obviously to moisturize and nourish the skin. The second purpose is a little less obvious but equally as important. 

Moisturizer acts as a barrier between your skin and the outside world. It isn’t as strong a barrier as a bandage or a tattoo healing wrap, but it still gets the job done. 

If the lotion you’re using is very watery, it will absorb quickly. This is great in the sense that it won’t transfer onto your clothes but unfortunate in the sense that it won’t create any sort of barrier. 

Thicker tattoo healing products with balmy textures do a better job of protecting your tattoo. They leave a little bit of residue behind to act as a lightweight shield that protects your skin as it heals. 

We Have a Solution

Tattoos need moisture to heal properly, but some lotions don’t fit to bill. Here’s what you should avoid putting on your new tattoo.

The right tattoo aftercare lotion should be deeply hydrating, gentle, and packed with things that support your skin in healing. Maybe we’re a little biased, but we think we nailed it. 

Our CBD-infused tattoo healing balm uses active botanicals like CBD, aloe, tea leaf extract, and rosemary to soothe and support healing skin. Ingredients like shea butter and mango seed butter deeply hydrate and protect the skin. 

You can continue to use the balm even after your tattoo heals to maintain its appearance. Hydrated tattoos often appear more vibrant than tattoos on dry skin. Pair it with sunscreen for sun protection, and you have a tattoo care dream team!


Caring for tattooed skin | American Academy of Dermatology

Contact Dermatitis: Symptoms, Causes, Types & Treatments | Cleveland Clinic

Soap vs. Hand Sanitizers and 7 Recommendations to Avoid Dry Hands – Consult QD

Protective effects of moisturizers on skin barrier during regular hand washing with soap bars | Indian Journal of Dermatology

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