4 Picks for the Best Lotion for New Tattoos

Thinking of getting a new tattoo? Although dry healing and wrap healing have their proponents, most professionals agree that using a moisturizer on a new tattoo is the best course of action. But how do you choose the best lotion for a new tattoo?

There are numerous products on the market claiming to be the best tattoo lotion and targeting the newly inked, but not all are created equal. The three main types of moisturizing options are lotions, balms, and salves.

If you’re getting a new tattoo soon, keep reading to learn about our picks for the best lotion for new tattoos and to find the one that’s right for you.

A new tattoo with redness around it. The best lotion for new tattoos will address redness, itching, dryness, and other issues.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall:
After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer & Aftercare Lotion

Drugstore Choice:
Aquaphor Healing Ointment

Best Overall

After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer & Aftercare Lotion

After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer & Aftercare Lotion, Vegan Tattoo Aftercare Cream Enriched with Grape Seed Oil, Tattoo Balm, Tattoo Kit Essentials - 3 Fluid Ounce Tube (2-Pack)

Users of all stripes call After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer and Aftercare Lotion the hands-down best lotion for a new tattoo. This lotion uses a patented formula enhanced with grape seed oil to improve skin dryness and elasticity.

You may have seen this product on the long-running television reality show Ink Master, where tattoo artists compete to win the title of Ink Master. Think of it like the Great British Bakeoff, but more Dave Navarro than Paul Hollywood (Like, by a lot). Contestants on the show exclusively use and recommend After Inked as the best lotion for a new tattoo.

This aftercare lotion is non-petroleum-based, paraben and fragrance-free, and contains no animal-derived ingredients (aka vegan-friendly). It’s dermatologist-tested and non-allergenic and doesn’t leave you feeling greasy.

Importantly, After Ink won’t stick to your clothes, which gives you the added benefit of being able to cover that new ink for extra protection in those first few days of healing.

Some users find After Inked to be a bit too heavy, but that seems to be the exception and not the norm, and maybe a result of using too much at a time (a little goes a long way).

The biggest con to this otherwise top-notch product is that it runs a bit more expensive than some other good options.

How to Use

Use to protect your new ink and brighten your old! After your new tattoo heals, use After Inked to keep the colors vibrant.

Pro-tip: Keep After Inked in the refrigerator for a soothing effect on your irritated skin.


  • Non-petroleum-based, paraben and fragrance-free
  • Vegan-friendly
  • Nonallergenic
  • Won’t stick to clothes


  • Some users find it to be too heavy
  • Expensive

Best Drugstore Pick

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

Aquaphor Healing Ointment - Variety Pack, Moisturizing Skin Protectant For Dry Cracked Hands, Heels and Elbows - 14 oz. jar + 1.75 oz. tube

Aquaphor is the OG of tattoo aftercare. It’s been touted as the best lotion for a new tattoo for decades, and for good reason: it’s easy to find, relatively inexpensive, and super effective at protecting irritated skin.

Aquaphor is technically an ointment, so it’s a little thicker than your typical lotion and stays in place a bit longer. It’s made with panthenol, which is an alcohol derivative of vitamin B5–once it gets absorbed into the skin, it turns into straight vitamin B5.

Panthenol is lightweight and water-soluble and a superstar when it comes to calming irritated skin.

For those of you who want to avoid petrolatum, Aquaphor probably isn’t right for you.

How to Use

Apply a small amount (like After Inked, a little goes a long way) beyond the edges of your new body art. It may feel heavy at first, but that feeling will lighten up once the ointment absorbs into your skin. You can also use Aquaphor ointment on cracked hands and feet and on other skin irritations, like small scrapes.


  • Widely available
  • Ointment stays in place better than lotion
  • Calms irritated skin


  • Contains petrolatum

Ora’s Amazing Herbal Tattoo Salve

Ora's Amazing Herbal Tattoo Aftercare, Tattoo Salve, Tattoo Ointment, Tattoo Care, Tattoo Balm, Tattoo Lotion, No Aloe Dye Paraben, Tattoo Cream, Tattoo Moisturizer, Made in USA, Organic Ingredients

Ora’s Amazing Herbal was born of necessity and has since grown into a flourishing line of skincare products suited for sensitive skin. Developed by the mother of a toddler with eczema, Ora put her degrees in biology and nutrition to work to create a salve to soothe her child’s irritated skin.

From that first seed of invention, Ora’s Amazing Herbal has added myriad products to its repertoire, including an organic tattoo salve that’s free from petroleum, parabens, lanolin, gluten and grains, corn, and synthetics.

One thing that makes Ora’s unique is how the company processes its products. They infuse Italian grapeseed) oil with a blend of organic herbs–all of which are clearly spelled out on the website and the product.

Making Ora’s a close runner-up for best lotion for a new tattoo is its ability to calm the itch, that’s par for the course with healing skin. Users rave about the product’s soothing properties.

In addition to being made in the USA, Ora’s Amazing Herbal is women-owned!

The mild herbal scent of this salve may mean it’s not the best tattoo lotion for you. If possible, see if your tattoo artist has any on hand that you can smell before you buy, just in case.

How to Use

Warm the salve between clean fingers and massage into your skin. To brighten older work, apply just after bathing or showering!


  • Made with grapeseed oil and organic herbs
  • Calms itchy skin
  • Supports women-owned business in the USA


  • Herbal scent may not appeal to all users

Mad Rabbit Tattoo Soothing Gel

Mad Rabbit Repair Tattoo Aftercare Soothing Gel and Moisturizer for New Tattoos - Soothing Tattoo Care with Natural Ingredients - Prevents Skin Irritation and Damage - Fragrance-Free

This gel’s light weight and cooling, soothing properties make it a contender for the best lotion for a new tattoo (even though it’s technically a gel, but let’s not split hairs on this one).

The main ingredients in this product that combine for a super healing, super-soothing effect are ones you’ve likely heard of before (except for maybe bisabolol):

  • vitamin C (brightens and promotes collagen production),
  • argan oil (moisturizes and protects),
  • bisabolol (derived from chamomile extract and included for its soothing, antimicrobial, and antibiotic benefits), and
  • glycerin (locks in moisture).

Not every product works the same for every person, and this soothing gel is no exception. In some cases, users found it to sting and weren’t happy with the gel’s overall stickiness.


  • Lightweight gel
  • Cooling & soothing


  • Stings some users
  • Can be sticky

Lotion vs. Balm vs. Salve

So, what’s the difference between these three kinds of products?

Lotions are made with a much higher water content than a salve or balm, making them thinner and lighter. Lotions are absorbed faster than their thicker counterparts, too.

Balms, on the other hand, are made to have a tough time absorbing into the skin and are, therefore, great at keeping out environmental contaminants. They are oil-based and contain no water. Most are made of thick, heavy ingredients, including beeswax.

A salve is somewhere in between a lotion and a balm. They are thick and often contain beeswax, like balms, but typically have a higher carrier oil content, making them a bit softer and easier to apply.

For the purposes of exploring what might be the best tattoo lotion for you, we’ll lump all these variations under the umbrella term, lotion.

Tattoo Lotion Buyer’s Guide

There are a number of factors to consider when selecting the best tattoo lotion for you, including your skin type, lotion ingredients, and how (including how often) you want to use it.

Skin type

Whichever way you lean (lotion, salve, or balm), consider your skin type before selecting an after-care lotion. Don’t forget to take into account where on your body you’ll be getting inked, as skin type can vary across a person’s body.


The main ingredients to look for in a good tattoo lotion are a good carrier oil (grapeseed is excellent) and whatever binding agent you prefer (beeswax, for example).

If petroleum products are concerning to you, make sure to look for tattoo lotions that clearly say they don’t contain any.

Ease of Use

Practically speaking, lotions, being lighter and with their high water content/easy absorbability, are better for warm, humid climates and for those with normal to oily skin. Lotions also tend to be safer than salves or balms when it comes to staining or sticking to clothes.

Salves and balms often need to be warmed slightly before you apply them, which can be an extra–albeit tiny–added step to your aftercare. On the plus side, they offer more and longer-lasting protection than other tattoo lotions.

The Bottom Line on the Best Lotion for New Tattoos

You’ve likely just spent a lot of time and money on your new body art, so don’t overlook the aftercare! All of the above tattoo lotions are a good investment, though After Inked seems to be the best lotion for a new tattoo.

The best lotion for a new tattoo is often also the best product to keep your art looking vibrant and fresh. A little goes a long way with all of these products I’ve shared, so you’re sure to have enough left over after your masterpiece has healed to keep it looking good as new.

Get more tattoo product recommendations from the other Tattoo Products blog posts on our website.

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