When Should I Start Moisturizing My Tattoo?

Written by: Claudia

Tattoo aftercare can be complex and confusing. Knowing when you can start applying certain products to your new tattoo can be stressful. Moisturization is an essential part of tattoo aftercare, but this step includes some dos and don’ts.

Whether you’re new to tattoos or simply need a refresher, in our article, we dive into all you need to know about moisturizing a new tattoo.

When And How Often Should You Moisturize Your Tattoo?

We recommend moisturizing your new tattoo two to four times a day, starting from the third day after getting your tattoo. When you wash your tattoo, your skin could experience hydration loss; applying a moisturizer ensures your tattoo stays hydrated during its crucial healing stages.

We always recommend a morning and evening wash and moisturization of your tattoos. After sleeping, your body experiences dehydration. In addition, your sheets could have bacteria or dust mites. In the evening, you prepare and protect your tattoo for the night through a final wash and moisturization.

Precautions to Bear in Mind When Moisturizing Your Tattoo

With a new tattoo, you can’t just slap on any old moisturizer at any old time. There are some important factors to be aware of prior to coating your ink.

Don’t Moisturize Too Soon

While you may be tempted to come home from the tattoo shop, remove your bandage, wash your tattoo, and slap on some lotion just like your artist did, you absolutely should not do so.

Our tattoos go through a process called weeping, where excess ink, plasma, and blood are pushed out of the skin to optimize the healing process. This weeping stage can last around three days. During these first few days, you should not be putting any lotion on your tattoo. It needs time to breathe and weep in order to heal effectively.

Moisturization should only start around the three day mark, when you find that you are washing your tattoo and nothing washes out with it.

Be Careful What You Use

Time and time again we see tattoo websites not taking the time to caution people on what exactly they’re putting on their skin. What you want to use during the moisturization stage are products that are non-comedogenic (meaning they won’t block your pores), fragrance free, and don’t contain harmful ingredients.

We are super picky about what goes on our ink, and so we put together carefully researched lists of what we think is best for yours, too. Have a look at our reviews of the best creams and best lotions for tattoos.

We also recommend conducting a patch test prior to using any product on a new tattoo. Skin reactions to new products could distort your ink, or worse, cause an infection.

Don’t Oversaturate

No matter how dry your tattoo may look, you should never oversaturate your skin with too much lotion. Whatever you put on should be absorbed quickly; if you see a layer of white on your skin, you should dab some of the moisturizer off. Your tattoo still needs to breathe beneath the cream.

How to Identify Dry Skin

When you find that you are washing your tattoo and no remnants such as goo (plasma), ink, or blood wash away with it, your tattoo is likely starting to dry. You can also test to see whether it is ready to be moisturized by pulling gently on the skin around the tattoo; if it feels tight or as if it will crack, it’s ready to be moisturized.

There are also some tell-tale signs of dry skin such as peeling, scabbing, and cracking tattoos.

A tattoo before and after moisturizing.

Don’t Pick at Scabs

No matter how tempting it may be, there is a reason why we were always told not to pick our scabs as children. Picking at scabs can introduce bacteria or infection into our new tattoo. It also disrupts the healing process and could distort the art you spent so much money on.

You should also avoid tight clothing that may rub up against the tattoo during its scabbing stage, causing the peeling skin to rip off prematurely. You should be extra cautious during this stage, and if you start to feel itchy, that’s where lotion comes in handy.

Learn more about tattoo scabbing

Things to Avoid

Water is not synonymous with hydration, and there are a few things that should be avoided during the first two to three weeks of healing a new tattoo.

You shouldn’t put your tattoos in direct sunlight, should not submerge them in water (such as pools, baths, or hot tubs), and you should avoid excessive exercise and sweating. These can all damage your tattoo, extend your healing time significantly, or introduce your tattoo to bacteria during an extremely vulnerable time.

How To Moisturize Your Tattoo

when should i start moisturizing my tattoo

If you’re looking to advance the healing time of your tattoo with limited scabbing and irritation, follow our helpful tips.

  1. Unwrap Your Tattoo
    After your tattoo artist cleans, lotions, and wraps your tattoo, you have to wait for about four to six hours before you remove your wrapping. Once your wrapping is removed, we do not recommend re-wrapping your tattoo.
  2. Wash Your Tattoo
    This is the most important step of tattoo aftercare and requires the best antibacterial soap for your wound. We made a list of our favorites and recommend that you check it out. When washing your tattoo in the first three days, it’s important that you are rubbing it gently but thoroughly enough that any excess remnants are removed. You should wash it twice a day with lukewarm water and soap.
  3. Dry the Skin
    When drying your tattoo, use a new towel to avoid the transfer of bacteria or a paper towel that will not leave paper particles upon contact. Always pat your new tattoo dry and do not rub.
  4. Apply the Lotion
    After the third day, you can begin the moisturization step. Follow the same wash and dry procedure, and apply a thin layer of lotion. Make sure that the lotion is fully absorbed so the tattoo is able to breathe, and so you don’t clog your pores.
    You can use lotion or cream, depending on your preference, and it can be used two to four times a day. Remember to always wash your tattoo prior to applying a layer of moisturizer.

Keep in mind that scabbing and peeling are a natural process of tattoo healing, and even with lotion you may experience this. In addition, following week two or three, you may notice a milky layer over your tattoo, or that it might not be as bright as when you first got it; this is called the milk scab and it’s also completely normal. Continue to wash and lotion as usual, and you’ll see a faster healing time.

Our Final Thoughts

Even if you don’t feel dry, your new tattoo is begging for a little extra hydration after day three. Making lotions or cream a part of your aftercare routine is essential to not only maintaining the look and feel of your art, but also for advancing the healing time of your tattoo. Moisturizing your new tattoo adds a layer of protection to your ink while simultaneously combating the intense dehydration that can happen to a wound.

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