Best tattoo aftercare creams, oils and balms

·5-min read

So you’ve just got a new tattoo – but what next? With so much varied advice available, it’s often hard to know what to put on your newly-inked skin and which steps to take.

If you’re new to tattooing, chances are you’re unfamiliar with how best to care for your artistic addition. It’s tempting to get caught up in the noise of different sources on the internet and from hearsay, and to even overload your ink with products. However, it’s best to stick to a ‘less is more’ approach, says Rose Harley, tattooist at Vagabond Tattoo Studio in Hackney.

Immediately after having your tattoo done, Rose advises to “keep it wrapped in cling film until the next morning, that way the tattoo is protected from dirt and it doesn’t stick to your sheets in the night.” This will also stop it from drying out.

“In the morning, take the cling film off and wash the tattoo with warm [unscented] soapy water in the shower. Pat it dry with a clean towel then start applying a cream.”

In terms of which creams to go for, Rose says that starting with Bepanthen for around four days is best. Then, you can switch to an oil or butter formula after that. But how often should you moisturise the area? “Cream the tattoo a couple of times a day for two weeks whenever it feels dry,” notes the tattooist.

We have selected the very best tattoo aftercare products to opt for, whatever your budget. Just be sure to stick to gentle and unscented formulas wherever possible. In addition, there are some things you should stay away from after having a tattoo.

What to avoid in the following two weeks:

  • Swimming pools, sunbeds, jacuzzis, saunas or steam rooms.

  • Fake tanning.

  • Long soaking in the bath – stick to quick showers.

  • Scratching or picking.

  • Exposure to the sun.

Take a look below to choose your perfect tattoo aftercare product.

Bepanthen Nappy Care Ointment

Recommended by Rose herself, Bepanthen is a great starting point for new tattoos, particularly in the very first few days after you’ve had your ink done. It’s gentle enough for a baby’s bum, therefore you can trust it won’t bother any type of tattoo, no matter how large it is or where you’ve had it done. With a soothing and breathable formula, and packed full of Vitamin B5 (which aids skin’s natural recovery), this is a no-brainer buy.

Buy now £2.50, Superdrug

Avène Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream

Avène is known for its super kind, gentle formulas in skincare, so it’s a safe go-to for new ink as well. It features anti-bacterial agents, which makes the healing process safer and quicker; in fact, the combination of copper sulphate and zinc sulphate reduces the risk of bacterial proliferation. It’s also rich in Avène’s special Thermal Spring Water, which promises to leave skin feeling soft and supple.

Buy now £32.34, lookfantastic

La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 SPF50

Another ‘high street’ brand that is known for its kind-to-skin formulations, La Roche Posay can be trusted when it comes to taking care of a new tat. One of the biggest draws of this balm (aside from the super gentle formula and soothing texture), is the fact is has an SPF 50. Just like beauty insiders recommend wearing SPF on your face every day (regardless of the weather), it’s vital you treat your tattoo and the skin around it with the same treatment.

Buy now £8.00, lookfantastic

Weleda Skin Food

Weleda’s Skin Food is legendary in the beauty industry, and fans use it for everything from priming skin for makeup as a glowy base, to treating severely dry limbs. Weleda’s wonder cream is a must for dry, flaky areas all over the body – and tattoos are no exception. It contains calendula and chamomile, and is completely natural, making it a great choice for eco-conscious buyers.

Buy now £8.25, Holland & Barrett

CeraVe Moisturising Cream

CeraVe is known for selling products that contain essential ceramides to maintain a healthy skin barrier. For this reason, it’s a solid go-to brand for tattooed skin, and this cream is as rich and velvety as you can get. The formula features hyaluronic acid in addition to the ceramides, which boosts hydration with ease. You’ll fall for this product so hard, you may just slather it all over your body!

Buy now £16.00, lookfantastic

Previse SOS Skincare Healing Salve

A higher-end buy, but one that is definitely worth spending some extra cash on, Previse’s salve is ideal if you prefer thicker formulas. The product is strictly essential oil-free and uses marine and botanical ingredients instead, meaning less chance of irritation. It is vegan, plant-based and natural, as well as being super handy for on-the-go moisture. And while it may seem expensive, a little will go a really long way, meaning you can continue to use this after any future tattoos as well as for now.

Buy now £37.00, Previse

Woody’s Beard & Tattoo Oil

While salves, balms, and creams can feel lovely, they may not be your preference. Enter: Woody’s Beard & Tattoo Oil, which boasts a lovely lightweight formula, and has nourishing ingredients such as Moringa and Macadamia Oils on its ingredients list. This one is another that’s brilliant for fading tattoos, and don’t be fooled by the name; both men and women can of course apply this.

Buy now £4.79, Amazon

Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Original Solid Formula

Sometimes it’s best to stick to something familiar, and Palmer’s Cocoa Butter is about as comforting as it gets. The thick, buttery texture dissolves into skin like a dream, and you only need a very small amount to moisturise a tattoo, meaning in theory it’s even more affordable than its excellent price point. It smells amazing, feels amazing, and is a cult classic for a reason, even for tattoos.

Buy now £3.65, Superdrug

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