Best Tattoo Aftercare Products for Healing and Protection

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Article updated: April 26, 2023

Tattoos are time consuming, expensive, and painful.

It takes a special person to sit nearly motionless for hours while little high-speed needles painfully stab the skin. And then at the end of it all — pay for the privilege.

I’d be lying if I told you that I never questioned my own sanity during some particularly painful tattoo sessions. Strictly speaking — I don’t think a fully sane individual would willfully subject themself to hours of pain and discomfort all for the sake of a little bit of artwork.

The truth is, tattoos aren’t for the average person. They are for individuals who aren’t afraid to sacrifice their bodies in order to express themselves or to convey their beliefs through permanent body art.

Women in red dress with a sleeve tattoo

And although tattoos are time consuming, expensive, and often times really fucking painful — sometimes the ends justify the means.

With that being said, it’s important to remember this: for all the pain, suffering, and discomfort that’s caused by getting a tattoo, things can quickly turn ugly if the tattoo is not properly cared for.

What most people fail to realize is that a brand new tattoo is essentially an open wound. And just like any open wound on the body, a new tattoo is at risk for bacteria and infection.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen an infected tattoo before (I’ll leave the Googling to you), but I will tell you this: it’s pretty fucking ugly.

An infected tattoo is not only painful and uncomfortable, but it also prolongs the healing process and can even cause a loss of ink in some situations.

The good news is that caring for a new tattoo and avoiding infection isn’t exactly rocket science. The key is to simply keep the area clean and well protected. It’s also a good idea to use a tattoo safe moisturizing cream, ointment, or lotion to help nourish and rehydrate the skin.

A tattooed hand holding a microphone

Years ago when I got my fist tattoo I had absolutely no idea which products I should use to help keep it safe and clean. While I did eventually find an aftercare routine that worked well for my skin, I did however experience a few unfortunate pitfalls along the way — i.e., shitty products.

Since then my tattoo collection has grown quite significantly and I’ve been fortunate enough to test out countless aftercare products that are available on the market.

As you would expect — not all tattoo aftercare products are created equal. Some work really well at keeping the skin clean, hydrated, and well protected, while others actually contain synthetic chemicals and ingredients that really shouldn’t be applied to the broken skin of a new tattoo.

So in order to help you find what you’re looking for — and help you avoid some pitfalls along the way — I made this list of best tattoo aftercare products that help heal and protect. Enjoy.

The List:

Best Tattoo Aftercare Products Reviewed

Billy Jealousy – Marked IV Life Aftercare Kit

Top pick award for best tattoo aftercare product
Billy Jealousy Marked IV Life Tattoo Care Kit boxed set

If you’re looking for the best tattoo aftercare product, you really can’t go wrong with this aftercare kit from Billy Jealousy. It contains pretty much all of the essentials required to properly care for a new tattoo, including: tattoo wash, tattoo lotion, and a healing tattoo salve. The purpose of the kit is to keep new tattoos clean, hydrated, and well protected — all while taking the guesswork out of buying these 3 products separately. Another thing that’s great about this aftercare kit is that all 3 of the products are formulated with a ton of all-natural ingredients that promote healing, and even improve the brightness and vibrancy of older tattoos.

Here’s what I like about Billy Jealousy Marked IV Life Kit:

• Tattoo wash

Every new tattoo needs to be kept clean. This is the single most important part of any tattoo aftercare routine. That’s why Billy Jealousy includes a tattoo wash in their Marked IV Life Aftercare Kit. This tattoo wash not only gently cleanses away dirt, grime, germs, and bacteria, but it’s also highly moisturizing and even helps relieve annoying tattoo itch. Here’s a quick look at some of it’s key ingredients:

Glycerin, cucumber extract, rosemary oil, papaya extract, hydrolyzed wheat protein, pineapple extract, hydrolyzed oat protein, quinoa.

• Tattoo salve

Aside from keeping a new tattoo clean, you’re also going to want to keep it hydrated and well protected. The salve that’s included in the Marked IV Life Aftercare Kit is designed to safely moisturize and hydrate new tattoos, soothe pain and irritation, fight infection, promote healing, and it’s also highly effective at preventing tattoo itching and cracking. It also has a light, fresh rosemary fragrance that smells great, and is suitable for both men and women in my opinion. Here’s some of it’s key ingredients:

Soybean oil, castor oil, beeswax, olive oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, sunflower oil, jojoba oil, wheat germ oil, rosemary oil, lavender oil.

• Tattoo Lotion

Also included in the kit is a highly moisturizing daily lotion that is designed to nourish and hydrate the skin while improving tattoo color and definition. It’s completely safe to use on new or old tattoos, and serves as an excellent daily moisturizer that will help keep your ink looking fresh and vibrant in the long run. Here’s a look at some of it’s key ingredients:

Aloe, glycerin, olive oil, sunflower oil, green tea, comfrey, rosemary, shea butter, grapeseed oil, seabuckthorn.

Hustle Butter Deluxe – Tattoo Ointment

Jar of Hustle Butter Deluxe tattoo ointment

Ask 10 tattooed individuals what their favorite aftercare ointment is and I bet most of them will say Hustle Butter. This extremely popular tattoo ointment isn’t only intended for aftercare though, it’s actually designed to be used before, during, and after the tattoo process to help keep the skin soft and supple, reduce redness and irritation, and to promote healing. It’s formulated using only safe, all-natural ingredients (vegan, organic, cruelty free), and is simply one of the best tattoo aftercare products on the market today. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Here’s what I like about Hustle Butter Deluxe:

• All-natural ingredients

What’s not to like about all-natural ingredients? The fact is, a healing tattoo is an open wound — and if you’re anything like me, you prefer to avoid putting harsh chemicals and synthetic ingredients on broken skin. The thing I like most about Hustle Butter Deluxe is that it’s formulated using only safe, all-natural ingredients that are designed to moisturize the skin and reduce pain, redness, irritation, and discomfort. Hustle Butter is also highly effective at relieving tattoo itch, and it also helps speed up the healing process. Here’s what’s inside Hustle Butter Deluxe:

Shea butter, mango butter, aloe, coconut oil, sunflower oil, rice bran oil, rosemary oil, green tea, vitamin E, mint oil, papaya & coconut essence (all-natural scent).

• Easy to apply and non-greasy

A healing tattoo is often quite sore, tender, and swollen. That’s why nobody likes using an aftercare ointment that is difficult to spread onto the skin. One of the great things about Hustle Butter Deluxe is that it has a silky smooth texture and consistency that makes application quick, easy, and best of all — pain free. The ointment is also very lightweight and non-greasy — as long as you don’t overdue it on the application. Try to remember that less is more with Hustle Butter. A little bit goes a long way.

Nat-A-Tat2 – Tattoo Care Kit

Nat-A-Tat2 Tattoo Care Kit boxed set

Another great aftercare kit that I recommend is the Nat-A-Tat2 Tattoo Care Kit. If you aren’t familiar with Nat-A-Tat2, they specialize in all-natural and organic tattoo aftercare products that are designed to safely heal tattoos without the use of synthetic chemicals or ingredients. Their Tattoo Care Kit contains everything necessary to safely cleanse, moisturize, protect, and promote healing in a new tattoo. Inside the box you will find a tattoo cleanser, tattoo balm, and a tattoo lotion. They also include a stick of their all-natural lip balm inside the box which is kind of cool.

What I like about Nat-A-Tat2 Aftercare Kit:

• Tattoo Foam Cleanser

During the healing process it’s important to wash your new tattoo multiple times per day to help prevent infection. The problem is a new tattoo can be very tender and sore to the touch. This is only made worse by having to massage soap onto the area in order to build a lather. One of the things I really like about Nat-A-Tat2 soap is that it comes out of the bottle as a lightweight foam. This makes cleansing a tattoo much quicker, easier, and a lot less painful since you don’t need to apply pressure and friction to build a lather. Another thing that’s great about this Tattoo Cleanser is that it’s made with all natural ingredients that are safe and gentle on the skin. Here’s what’s inside:

Organic sunflower oil, organic coconut oil, organic vegetable glycerin, rosemary extract.

• Tattoo Lotion

The first step in the Nat-A-Tat2 Care Kit is to wash the tattoo. The second step is to apply the all-natural Tattoo Lotion that is designed to moisturize the skin, reduce inflammation, and promote healing. The lotion applies very smoothly and easily, it’s non-greasy, and it dries very quickly. It’s also formulated with a ton of all-natural ingredients that are beneficial for the skin and a healing tattoo. Here’s some of it’s key ingredients:

Jojoba oil, avocado oil, shea butter, sucrose cocoate, glycerin, aloe vera, carnauba wax, lavender oil, matricaria flower extract, citrus reticulata fruit extract.

• Tattoo Balm

Nat-A-Tat2 Balm is the final step in this aftercare kit and is intended to be applied to tattoos after they are fully healed. The purpose of this balm is to moisturize and hydrate the skin, and to boost the vibrancy of new or old tattoos and help make their colors pop. It also adds definition and depth to black and gray tattoos. One of the things that sets this balm apart from other balms is that it’s a solid stick. This makes application quick, easy, and mess free. Another thing I like is that it doesn’t leave any greasy residue behind when it dries. Key ingredients include:

Sunflower oil, carnauba wax, coconut oil, shea butter, vitamin E, castor oil, rosemary extract, cocoa butter, lecithin.

Recovery – Derm Shield Tattoo Bandage

Box of Recovery Derm Shield Tattoo Bandage

If you’re the type of person that doesn’t like to mess around with healing ointments and having to wash a new tattoo every few hours, you might want to check out these Derm Shield Tattoo Bandages from Recovery. They are designed to be applied to a new (clean) tattoo and can be worn for up to 3 days while your new tattoo is kept safe, protected, and begins to heal. They are constructed out of 3 layers of clear composite film that is both breathable and waterproof. So while germs and bacteria are denied entry, oxygen is able to penetrate to help promote healing.

What I like about Recovery Derm Shield:

• They make the first few days much easier

The first few days after getting a new tattoo can be the worst. Not only is the skin very red, tender, and swollen, but it’s usually still leaking blood and plasma. The thing that I really like about Recovery Derm Shield bandages is that you can simply stick em and forget em. They keep the tattoo very well protected from germs and bacteria, and they also eliminate uncomfortable rubbing and abrasions from clothes, towels, and bedding.

• Easy on/easy off

Another thing that makes these bandages so great is that they actually stay where you put them. And even though they are constructed with 3 layers of film, they are still very thin and move freely with the body — kind of like a second skin. This allows them to be used on awkward parts of the body like knees and elbows. And when it’s time to remove the bandage they come off very easily without causing pain or damage to the skin.

Sorry Mom – Tattoo Aftercare Kit

Sorry Mom Tattoo Aftercare Kit boxed set

Heal and protect your new tattoo and keep it looking fresh for years with this Sorry Mom Tattoo Aftercare Kit. Tattoos aren’t cheap. And when it comes to taking care of them I like to think of aftercare products as tattoo insurance that helps protect our investments. Sorry Mom’s Aftercare Kit contains tattoo lotion and tattoo balm that is intended to heal and protect while keeping tattoos looking bright and vibrant in the long run. Sorry Mom’s products are also formulated with a bunch of skin beneficial ingredients that nourish and hydrate the skin, and even help speed up the healing process.

What I like about Sorry Mom Tattoo Aftercare Kit:

• Tattoo Balm

Keeping a new tattoo moisturized is one of the most important things you can do to promote healing. I really like the Tattoo Balm that’s included in this aftercare kit because it’s not only very moisturizing, but it also soothes irritation and inflammation, eliminates itch, stops skin cracking, and noticeably speeds up healing. It’s also full of vitamin E and antibacterial additives that protect the skin and fight off germs that could lead to infection.

• Tattoo Lotion

Just because a tattoo is healed doesn’t mean it should be neglected. Taking care of your tattoo even after it’s healed is crucial to it’s long term appearance and color. Included in this aftercare kit is Sorry Mom’s Tattoo Lotion that is designed for healed tattoos in order to keep them looking fresh, vibrant, and bold. The lotion applies smoothly and evenly, dries quickly, and doens’t leave any greasy residue behind.

Ora’s Amazing Herbal – Tattoo Salve

Jar of Ora's Amazing Herbal Tattoo Salve

Heal your new tattoo the all-natural way with Ora’s Amazing Herbal Tattoo Salve. This tattoo salve is formulated using all-natural and organic herbs that are chosen for their ability to soothe the skin, moisturize, hydrate, and promote healing. Opposed to harsh chemicals and synthetic ingredients that are found in most other aftercare products, Ora’s Tattoo Salve only contains herbs that are safe and gentle on the skin, and are extremely effective at treating a wide range of skin conditions, including: cuts, burns, scrapes, dry skin, and skin irritation. Ora’s Tattoo Salve is definitely worth a try if safe, all-natural, and organic ingredients are important to you.

Here’s what I like about Ora’s Amazing Herbal Tattoo Salve:

• All-natural ingredients

When dealing with a new tattoo, it’s important to choose an aftercare ointment that won’t irritate the skin or hinder the natural healing process. While many tattoo aftercare ointments on the market contain synthetic chemicals and ingredients, Ora’s Herbal Tattoo Salve is different. It’s formulated with a ton of all-natural herbs and ingredients that soothe the skin, moisturize, and promote healing. Here’s what’s inside:

Grapeseed oil, calendula, comfrey, plantain, St. John’s wort, Rosemary oil, thuja, burdock root, thyme, coconut oil, beeswax, vitamin E, tea tree oil.

• Helps speed up healing

Tattoos take time, patience, and care to heal properly. While a new tattoo should appear fully healed within 4 weeks, the non-visible layers of skin under the tattoo will take much longer (up to 4 months). One of the great things about Ora’s Tattoo Salve is that it noticeably improves the speed in which new tattoos heal when used daily. That’s because it contains a bunch of ingredients that are known to promote healing, including: grapeseed oil, comfrey, calendula, beeswax, coconut oil, and comfrey.

H2Ocean – Blue Green Antibacterial Soap

Bottle of H2Ocean Blue Green Foam Soap

By now we all know that keeping a new tattoo clean is the most important part of the aftercare process. That’s why I included H2Ocean Blue Green Foam Soap on this list of best tattoo aftercare products. H2Ocean was founded in 2001 and was one of the first companies to introduce all-natural tattoo aftercare products to the marketplace. Their Blue Green Foam soap is designed to safely cleanse the skin of germs and bacteria while all-natural ingredients moisturize the skin and promote healing. H2Ocean is formulated using all-natural sea salt, aloe vera, and minerals, and is simply one of the best antibacterial soaps for tattoos available.

Here’s what I like about H2Ocean Blue Green Foam Soap:

• Moisturizes the skin

A healing tattoo can be very dry, cracked, and irritated. And since most soaps have the tendency to strip the skin on moisture, they do nothing but make the problem worse. H2Ocean Foam Soap however is formulated with skin moisturizing ingredients that hydrate the skin and greatly reduce dryness, flaking, cracking, irritation, and discomfort.

• Helps relieve itch

One of the things I hate most about a healing tattoo is the unbearable itch. While tattoo itch is a normal part of the healing process — it still fucking sucks. One of the things that I like most about H2Ocean Blue Green Foam Soap is that it contains natural sea salt that is highly effective at soothing skin itch — making the healing process much more bearable.

Tattoo Goo – Tattoo Aftercare Kit

Tattoo Goo Aftercare Kit boxed set

Tattoo Goo Balm is one of the most commonly used tattoo aftercare products on the market. It was first introduced in the 90’s and quickly became one of the biggest names in the tattoo industry. Nowadays Tattoo Goo is just as popular as ever, but they’ve now expanded their line of products to complement their original tattoo balm. Included in this Aftercare Kit are 4 of their most popular products, including: Tattoo Goo Soap, Tattoo Goo Balm, Tattoo Goo Lotion, and Tattoo Goo Renew Lotion with SPF 30. It’s basically everything a healing tattoo needs, plus a few items that can be used even after the healing is done.

What I like about Tattoo Goo Aftercare Kit:

• Tattoo Soap

The first step in this aftercare kit is to thoroughly cleanse your new tattoo with the included soap. Unlike most soaps that have a tendency to strip the skin of moisture, Tattoo Goo Soap is full of moisture-rich olive oil that nourishes and leaves the skin feeling noticeably smooth, soft, and hydrated. This soap is also antimicrobial and antibacterial which means it’s designed to eliminate bacteria and microorganisms that can lead to infection. Overall I think it’s a solid tattoo soap and a great addition to this aftercare kit.

• Tattoo Goo Balm

Tattoo Goo Balm is quite possibly the most well known tattoo aftercare product on the market. I personally don’t know a single person who hasn’t used it, or is at least very familiar with it. It’s popularity stems from the fact that it’s basically been around forever, it’s very inexpensive, and it works really well. It’s intended to be applied to a healing tattoo to help moisturize, hydrate, and even promote healing. It’s also full of safe, all-natural ingredients that are beneficial for the skin, including:

Olive oil, cocoa butter, wheat germ oil, lavender oil, sunflower oil, rosemary extract.

• Tattoo Lotion

Also included in this kit is Tattoo Goo Lotion which can be used in combination with the balm or on it’s own. I personally like to switch from the balm to the lotion after the first week of the healing process because the lotion contains panthenol (vitamin B5) which basically kicks the shit out of tattoo itch. I highly recommend it during the scabbing (itchy) phase of the healing process. Aside from it’s ability to destroy tattoo itch, this lotion is also highly moisturizing, it’s full of vitamins, and it also promotes healing. Here’s some if it’s key ingredients:

Olive oil, glycerine, vitamin A, panthenol, soybean oil, vitamin E.

• Tattoo Renew Lotion with SPF 30

The final product in this kit is Tattoo Goo Renew Lotion and it’s intended for the long term health and appearance of your new ink. It’s also great for older tattoos if you have them. It’s designed to boost the brightness of tattoos by providing deep down hydration that helps the color appear deeper and richer. Another huge benefit of this lotion is that it contains SPF 30 which helps protect tattoos from damaging UV rays that can lead to ink fading over time.

CannaSmack – Ink Guard Sunscreen SPF 30

Stick of CannaSmack Ink Guard

When it comes to tattoo aftercare products you definitely don’t want to forget to use a really good SPF sunscreen to protect your ink. One of my personal favorite tattoo sunscreens is CannaSmack Ink Guard. CannaSmack not only provides a ton of protection from UV rays that can cause your precious tattoo(s) to fade, but it’s also incredibly convenient and easy to use. Similar in look and function to a big stick of lip balm, CannaSmack Ink Guard is a solid sunscreen that’s applied to the skin the same way you would apply a stick of deodorant. This not only makes application quick, easy, and precise — it’s also completely mess-free.

Here’s what I like about CannaSmack Ink Guard:

• It contains skin beneficial ingredients

While most sunscreens on the market are good at protecting the skin from UV rays — that’s about all they are good at. CannaSmack Ink Guard is a little different. It contains powerful SPF 30 to block out 97% of UV rays, but it’s also formulated with a bunch of benefical ingredients that moisturize the skin and improve the look of tattoos. Here’s what’s inside:

Hemp seed oil, beeswax, coconut oil, sunflower oil, aloe vera.

• Safe for new and old tattoos

Protecting tattoos from the sun is super important if you want to avoid fading and discoloration. Using a high quality sunscreen on your new ink will protect it from fading, and will help keep it looking bright and vibrant in the long run. The problem is that most sunscreens aren’t safe to use on a healing tattoo because they are full of synthetic chemicals and ingredients. CannaSmack is different. It’s completely free of parabens, sulfates, fragrances, and harsh chemicals that can irritate a new tattoo and cause a negative skin reaction.

• Non-greasy

One of the things I hate about sunscreen is that most of them have a tendency to leave the skin feeling very greasy and oily after application. CannaSmack Ink Guard doesn’t present that problem. Once CannaSmack is applied — it dries very quickly, and best of all it doesn’t leave any unpleasant residue behind on the skin. It’s definitely a huge upgrade over traditional liquid sunscreens in my opinion.

INK-EEZE – Purple Glide Ointment

Jar of INK-EEZE Purple Glide tattoo ointment

When it comes to tattoo healing and aftercare, INK-EEZE has built itself a solid reputation within the tattoo community. Not only are their products incredibly well reviewed by customers, but they are also endorsed by many well known tattoo artists. INK-EEZE Purple Glide is designed to be used during and after the tattoo process to help moisturize, protect, and promote healing. And just like all of INK-EEZE’s products, Purple Glide Is formulated using a ton of all-natural ingredients that soothe the skin and reduce redness, irritation, and discomfort. It’s definitely an aftercare ointment worth checking out.

What I like about INK-EEZE Purple Glide:

• Skin beneficial ingredients

One of the things that I’ve always liked about INK-EEZE products is that they are formulated with a ton of all-natural ingredients and plant extracts that are very beneficial for a healing tattoo. Here’s a closer look at what’s inside Purple Glide:

  • Beeswax – Forms a protective barrier over a new tattoo to help keep germs and bacteria out. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties that help promote wound healing.
  • Safflower oil – Helps moisturize and hydrate the skin, and is known to reduce pain, irritation, and discomfort.
  • Lavender oil – An anti-inflammatory that soothes the skin and reduces redness, swelling, and inflammation. It also helps moisturize the skin and relieve itch — great for a healing tattoo.
  • Tamanu oil – Contains moisturizing properties that help smooth and soften the skin. It’s also used to reduce pain, itch, redness, and skin irritation.

• Silky smooth consistency

The first few days after getting a new tattoo can be pretty uncomfortable. The skin is often red, swollen, and painful to the touch. If you’re anything like me, the last thing you want to do is apply an aftercare ointment that is thick or heavy and doesn’t spread easily. Thankfully Purple Glide is none of those things. Just like it’s name suggests, Purple Glide spreads very smoothly and easily over the skin and doesn’t feel overly thick, heavy, or sticky. It’s ease of application greatly reduces the friction and discomfort caused by applying ointment to a sore tattoo.

Thanks for checking out my list of best tattoo aftercare products for healing and protection. If you found this article helpful, check out my list of best tattoo numbing creams, gels, and sprays. As always, if you have any comments or questions feel free to drop me a line in the comment section below.