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The 9 Best Tattoo Lotions to Heal and Protect Your Latest Ink, According to Experts

Keep your tats looking fresh with these tried-and-true treatments.

tatoo cream on male bicep tattoo
Mariia Speakman

It's 2021 and tattoos are no longer taboo. If you still have someone in your life telling you that you can't get a job with a tattoo, tell them they're wrong. (Unless you want to work at a Disney theme park because those rules are very real.) For the most part, adding a tattoo to your body is as common as adding a new pair of kicks to your sneaker collection. They're increasing in popularity even more now with many tattoo shops starting to reopen after temporary closures due to COVID-19.

Maybe you were recently inspired by the epic hand tattoos in the Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker relationship announcement, maybe you've been cooped up in your house for a year brainstorming your latest adornment, or maybe you're like this girl who opted for an unfortunate quote tattoo given the current situation. Whatever the case may be, designing a tattoo is exciting, but you also need to be fully prepared for tattoo aftercare and all that comes with it.

Properly caring for and selecting the right tattoo lotion or cream is key in ensuring the longevity of your body art. We chatted with Bang Bang's Bryan Gutierrez, one of the most highly sought-after tattoo artists in New York City, and Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Associate Professor of Dermatology and Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, to get their take on the best way to take care of fresh tattoos. Read on to learn more from these tattoo and skin experts on best practices, and also their recommendations on the best tattoo lotions and aftercare creams.

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Dial Anti-bacterial Soap
$7.00
$5.19 (26% off)

First thing's first, before you go applying tattoo lotions or creams, it's also important to keep it clean. "I usually tell people to treat it like they would a cut or a wound," Gutierrez explained. "Wash it with a gentle anti-bacterial soap and let it air dry or use a clean paper towel. Avoid using your bath towel, as it's most likely dirty and could harbor bacteria. Avoid scratching or touching. Let it breathe and wear loose clothing, if possible."

Dr. Zeichner agrees. "It's important to keep the skin clean and hydrated after getting a new tattoo," he said. "Avoid harsh scrubs or exfoliating products. You want to cleanse the skin without compromising the integrity of the skin barrier."

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Aquaphor Healing Ointment Advanced Therapy
$37.39

Aquaphor is a classic for a multitude of skin ailments, especially in the winter time. It's also great for protecting your freshly inked skin immediately following your tattoo session.

Gutierrez recommends Aquaphor for the first two days following your tattoo, and then a basic moisturizer for two weeks after that. Many people opt for Vaseline, but he recommends Aquaphor instead and advises against Vaseline for this phase of the aftercare routine.

3 of 10
Garden of Life Coconut Oil
$17.19
$14.69 (15% off)

"Coconut oil is natural and has great healing properties. It's naturally antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and safe on sensitive skin," Gutierrez explained. "And coconuts are just dope." 

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Lubriderm Daily Moisture Lotion with Vitamin B5
$7.28

Both Gutierrez and Dr. Zeichner sing the praises of lotions with vitamin B5 for tattoo care. Gutierrez is partial to Lubriderm lotions, like this one that contain no fragrances.

5 of 10
Dove DermaSeries Dry Skin Relief
$46.72

Dr. Zeichner's favorite tattoo lotion is this one from Dove. "It is important to keep the skin hydrated and to protect it from the environment to allow the tattoo to settle and keep colors vibrant." he said. "Dove DermaSeries Dry Skin Relief Body Lotion is fragrance-free and protects the skin with stearic acid, panthenol and niacinamide."

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Tattoo Goo Renew Enhancing Lotion SPF 30
toner
$10.99

Both of our experts agree that sun is the enemy of healthy skin. "Avoid direct sun exposure for long periods, in general," Gutierrez said. "It damages everything."

Using a tattoo lotion with sun protection like this will help if you do need to go outside during your healing process.

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Curél Itch Defense Calming Body Lotion
$9.99
$7.99 (20% off)

Curel's Itch Defense Lotion is another solid choice, thanks to its tattoo-friendly ingredients like ceramides, pro-vitamin B5, and shea butter.

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Billy Jealousy Tattoo Lotion
toner
$45.00

On a mission to keep your tattoo vibrant? This luxurious lotion from Billy Jealousy will do the trick. 

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Stories & Ink Tattoo Care Aftercare & Repair Lotion
$18.99

This tattoo aftercare cream from Stories & Ink contains Panthenol and other ingredients to reduce inflammation and redness, while soothing and hydrating the skin.

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Black Rose Tattoo Care
$13.99

This tattoo aftercare ointment offers premium protection to help promote faster healing and skin regeneration. It also helps to relieve itching and preserve the intensity of tattoo colors.

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