How to choose the best aftercare products

A tattoo is a major investment, and it’s a personal statement that’ll stick around forever — so take care of it!

It is very important to use a protective ointment that would have no irritating chemicals in it. The goal of using an ointment after a tattoo is to let the scab heal and provide a layer of emollient to allow this healing to occur.

The ointment provides a protective barrier that slows healing just enough. You know that uncomfortable tight feeling that happens when a scab dries out? That can signal that your skin is pulling together as it heals — which is not what you want when you have a lovely design inked on your skin.

If a scab dries up, it heals quickly but not nearly as well as when you use a healing salve and keep the area covered.  Using the right product can make all of the difference, and it allows the healing to be better — faster is not better in this case.”

What kind of ointment do you put on tattoos? 

Choose a product with no perfumes or additives, which can be irritating or exfoliating..

  • Avoid retinols, salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acids, and lanolin, which can be irritating.
  • Don’t use Neosporin or other antibiotic ointments, which could cause an allergic reaction or contact dermatitis.


  • Use a fragrance-free, mild soap.
  • Products for babies tend to be good choices, since they’re usually fragrance-free and gentle.

Petroleum-based ointments

  • These thicker, ultra-hydrating products are best during the first few days.
  • Use a thin layer of these products, so your skin can still breathe and heal.
  • Good old petroleum jelly (aka Vaseline) works well..


  • As your tattoo starts to heal and the scabs fall off, reach for a gentle moisturizer as needed.
  • Baby care lotions and creams work well on tattoos, but always choose fragrance-free varieties!

What to do if you experience…

So you did everything right, but your new tattoo just isn’t healing. When should you talk to your tattoo artist or doctor? Here’s a rundown of three common but unpleasant side effects.

An infection

If you start to feel heat or that the area around the tattoo is pulsating or swollen, you may have an infection.

Other signs:

  • a rash
  • redness
  • bumps

When to be concerned:

  • if the swelling gets worse
  • if the area becomes more painful
  • if it oozes pus or stinky discharge
  • if you have a fever, chills, or sweats

This is a sign that the infection from the tattoo is systemic and needs oral antibiotic treatment. Another sign is a greenish discharge from the treated tattoo and a smell like old sweaty socks.” (That’s the sign of a serious bacterial or fungal infection that needs prompt attention.)

An allergic reaction

Tattoos involve injecting a foreign substance into your skin, and your skin doesn’t always take kindly to the dyes, pigments, and metallic compounds in inks. You may experience a pruritic (itchy) rash, which can be a sign of an allergic reaction to the dye..

Other symptoms of an allergic reaction:

  • rashes or bumps
  • redness or irritation
  • swelling
  • nodules or hard bumps (a sign of more serious reactions)

Some allergic reactions resolve in a few weeks, and other more severe reactions can last for many months. It is important to consult a dermatologist to evaluate the reaction and help treat this condition.

For mild allergic reactions you can “apply cold compresses to bring down the swelling, take an oral antihistamine and apply a topical cortisone cream to reduce the local inflammation.”

Scarring and fading

Scarring and fading can happen if you don’t take good care of your tattoo as it heals. These side effects are why you should be applying sunscreen to tattoos — and why you should keep them moisturized as they heal.

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