The Right Way To Moisturize A New Tattoo (And What Happens If You Skip The Crucial Step)

Stars such as Justin Bieber, Post Malone, and Ariana Grande are known for having tattoos covering their bodies — with new ones being added all the time. Fans scrutinize the meanings of specific celebrity tattoos, such as the bell on Dax Shepard's hand or the stars all over Avril Lavigne's body. After you see such colorful artwork popping up in your social media feeds daily, you may feel inspired to adorn yourself with similarly spectacular ink. It's important to remember, though, that a tattoo is a serious medical procedure that requires proper care afterward.


Whether you're contemplating an abstract tattoo, a spiritual tattoo, or an entirely different design (such as one of these styles that will hold up to the test of time), there are a few things you need to know about how to care for your new tattoo. After all, you want your ink to still look vibrant for one month, year, decade, and beyond. The key is to moisturize — but moisturize properly.

Choose the right moisturizer, and apply it often

When beginning the aftercare process for your new tattoo, wait the number of hours recommended by your tattoo artist — the amount of time varies depending on the size and the location of your fresh ink, as well as the type of bandage covering it. Remove the bandage, then wash and dry (with a towel) your tattoo, taking extra care not to scrub or scratch. According to Inked, the next step is to put on aftercare ointment. For the first two days, small amounts of this ointment should be all you use to moisturize.


After 48 hours, you can start to moisturize the area using lotion, but not just any lotion. Choose one that is free of fragrance, alcohol, and dye so as not to irritate or dry out your freshly inked skin. Also avoid products that are completely petroleum-based, which can cause fading. An unscented hypoallergenic lotion is best. With clean hands, apply the lotion regularly, using gentle motions. Remember that a new tattoo is, in essence, an open wound that must be treated carefully and given the chance to heal.

What can happen if you skip moisturizing

Scabs are a normal part of the healing process, but if newly tattooed skin dries out, these scabs can start to feel uncomfortably itchy. Freshly inked skin that isn't moisturized often enough can also begin to flake. Picking at the scabs or flakes can cause the ink to come off along with the bits of skin, ultimately damaging your bright new tattoo. When an itchy tattoo gets scratched too vigorously, it might require a costly and time-consuming touchup at the tattoo parlor — or even become infected and necessitate medical care.


Since the sun is known to dry out the skin and fade even the most vivid tattoos over time, you might feel tempted to apply a lotion containing sunscreen to your fresh ink. Resist this impulse. Healthline notes that the chemicals and minerals in sunscreen can hurt a new tattoo, so fresh ink should be protected with baggy fitting clothing rather than SPF. Wait until your tattoo heals completely before covering it with sunscreen whenever you go outside.