Why a Tattoo Ointment Guide?
After getting my first tattoo, I was overwhelmed with the differing opinions everyone had about the most effective aftercare procedure. My tattoo artist said one thing, a friend (with 9 tattoos I might ad) recommended another, and I had no idea what was the best course of action. When I consulted the almighty Google I fared no better, as everyone seemed to recommend different products, and it was hard to know who was saying it because it was true, and who had been paid to say it!
This guide was written in an attempt to prevent others from experiencing the same confusion that I did, and I hope it will help you make informed decisions on tattoo aftercare ointments.
Tattoo Ointment Comparison
Many tattoo artists recommend using Lubriderm after the first day, as it is an excellent moisturizer and will help the skin remain soft. It rubs in easily, and has a relatively thin consistency that allows you to apply it without irritating the skin (some people may experience a stinging sensation at first, but it will subside rapidly). Without any fragrance/scent, Lubriderm has nothing that will irritate your skin and cause damage to the tattoo. Most professionals who recommend Lubriderm advise that you apply it 3-5 times daily, and continue this application for around 3-5 days. After that point it can still be used as a general moisturizer. As with all ointments, an important thing to note is that they must not be applied too often, as the tattooed skin needs time to breathe in order to heal properly. While Lubriderm is not antibacterial, it’s gentle moisturizing properties make it a helpful part of a tattoo aftercare regimen.
This ointment is a bit harder to find than some of the others (such as Aquaphor) as it is not always carried in drugstores, but many tattoo parlours have some on hand and it can be ordered easily off of Amazon. This tattoo care ointment should be applied 3-4 times daily to allow the skin to breathe, but it goes on smoothly and is less greasy than some other options. Unlike more gentle lotions like Lubriderm, some people have experienced negative reactions to Tattoo Goo, ranging from widespread rashes to red dots appearing on the tattoo. These reports are rare, but as always caution should be used (test the product on a small area first to avoid a large reaction). However, there are many that love the product as well, and say that it eliminated itching and flaking, while simultaneously brightening the color of their tattoos.
As the product most frequently featured on this site, and the reason why I started it, Aquaphor is the only product I wholeheartedly recommend. I have not heard of any negative reactions to the product, and I personally know many people who have used it with great results. My only critique of Aquaphor ointment is that it is not antibacterial, and if applied too thickly can prevent your skin from breathing properly. However, if applied ~4 times/day, it will protect your skin and facilitate rapid healing. Aquaphor is quite affordable as well, and readily available at drugstores. The ointment is thick and similar in appearance to Vaseline, but is unscented and will not irritate your sensitive, tattooed skin.
This is another product that has received some mixed reviews, both online and with people I know personally. It seems that if used effectively, Bacitracin can be very helpful in speeding up the healing process, as it is one of the few antibacterial ointments that are recommended for tattoos. The antibiotic properties of this ointment help your tattoo heal by preventing infection, which can cause painful and unsightly damage to your skin. The most important consideration when using Bacitracin is that you must not use too much, or you risk “suffocating” your tattoo. A thin layer must be applied, if the area appears shiny then blot away the excess with gauze or a lint free cloth. If you choose to use Bacitracin, I have heard that the most effective treatment plan is to apply it for up to 5 days, but then switch to a non-medicated, unscented moisturizer such as Lubriderm (but there are many other great options available).
A+D Original Ointment
This is another popular product with tattoo artists, and many locations carry it to give as an aftercare product. Similarly to other thicker ointments, the primary risk with A+D ointment for tattoos is that it has a tendency to clog the pores, so care must be taken to prevent over-application. The ointment contains vitamins A and D to help heal dry and damaged skin, a situation common with new tattoos. Most tattoo artists recommend using this for a few days, then switching to a thinner, unscented lotion (as mentioned above, Lubriderm is a popular product for this). There are two formulations of A+D, the original ointment (pictured above), and a zinc oxide ointment. DO NOT use the zinc oxide form, as many artists say that the zinc will damage the tattoo, primarily by drawing out color (which is never a good thing with tattoos!).