Black and white watercolor tattoo wolf design

Modern Tattoo Aftercare: A Guide to Best Practices

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Tattoo aftercare has come a long way, and today, there’s a plethora of products tailored to suit diverse needs. However, this often leaves clients overwhelmed: Which lotion should they choose, and how often should they apply it?

Traditional Tattoo Aftercare: A Brief Overview

Traditionally, tattoo artists have provided a basic set of guidelines for aftercare:

  1. Avoid picking scabs.
  2. Clean with antibacterial soap.
  3. Moisturize with recommended products, like Aquaphor (though Aquaphor isn’t universally recommended).
  4. Refrain from swimming.

While these are general guidelines for wound healing, they may not be all-encompassing for every individual, given the diversity of skin types and lifestyles.

Hand tattoo being administered

Choosing the Right Lotion

The best lotion for your tattoo is probably the one you’re already using. Your skin becomes accustomed to certain products over time. If you’ve been loyal to a particular brand or type, your skin has adapted to it. Here are some guidelines based on various factors:

  • If you use scented products regularly, opt for any off-the-shelf product that appeals to you.
  • If you’re sensitive to fragrances, go for fragrance-free options.
  • For those with dry skin, a cream might offer more hydration than a lotion.

However, always remember: you know your skin better than anyone else. Make sure to choose a product that feels right for you.

How Much Lotion is Appropriate?

This is a complex area. Generally, don’t rely solely on advice from friends, family, or even your tattoo artist, unless they have dermatological expertise. Factors that influence lotion application include:

  1. Skin Type, Complexion, and Tone: Everyone’s skin is unique. It’s puzzling why many tattoo parlors offer a one-size-fits-all aftercare routine. Different lifestyles, cultures, and even geographical areas can influence how one should care for their skin and, by extension, their tattoo.
  2. Lifestyle: Your daily activities can influence tattoo healing. For example, a stone mason should think twice before getting a hand tattoo at the start of a hectic week.
  3. General Health: If you’re generally healthy, your body’s healing processes operate optimally. However, chronic illnesses, temporary health fluctuations, or even hormonal cycles can influence tattoo healing.

Flower of life tattoo design on inner bicep
Application Frequency

Your skin health and daily habits dictate how often you should moisturize:

  • Those with a regular skincare routine should stick to moisturizing 1-2 times daily using their preferred product.
  • If you aren’t into skincare but live in moderate climates, twice daily with any lotion is advised.
  • For those in extreme climates or with very dry skin, consider 1-2 daily lotion-type applications, accompanied by a nightly oil-based moisturizer.
  • Always moisturize the entire tattooed area, not just the tattoo. If you need to check for dryness, touch an area a few inches away from the tattoo to reduce the risk of introducing bacteria.
  • Over-moisturizing can prolong healing and risk infections, so moderation is key.


Tattoo aftercare is personal. While guidelines and advice abound, understanding your skin and its needs is crucial. Trust your judgment, and when in doubt, consult professionals who specialize in dermatology.