Ask any tattoo artist and they’ll tell you this: Getting a tattoo is the easy part, but taking care of it is where the real work begins. Once the needle lifts off your skin, the ink settles, and that numbing tingle fades, it’s time to take your new baby home and, well, baby it.
A lot like piercings, your tattoo requires its own aftercare routine. But if you’re a total amateur at tattoos — or you’ve just been winging it — you need to know exactly what products to buy to help it heal. Normally, if you’ve done your due diligence and found a trusted artist, they’ll give you a list of instructions to make sure all that hard work and money don’t go to waste. It’s not complicated, it just requires things like fragrance-free cleansers (this is important), gentle lotions, and thick salves necessary for fresh ink to avoid fading and infection.
No clue where to start? We asked three of our favorite New York-based tattoo artists — Sasha Woland from Alchemy Noire, Jack Poohvis from Fleur Noire Tattoo, and Mira Mariah (a.k.a. @girlknewyork) — for the aftercare products they always recommend to clients post-tattoo. Click ahead for their picks.
Tegaderm Tegaderm Transparent Film Dressing ”4 x 4 ,” 4 Pack, $7.62, available at Jet
Since Woland is a Tegaderm fan, that means most of her clients don’t have to do much until they remove the translucent bandage. After you gently — keyword being gently — pull it off, she recommends using a fragrance-free soap on the tattoo. Her go-to: This cleanser from Target — which also so happens to be a great option for cleaning piercings, too.
Dr. Bronner’s Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Baby-Mild Pure Castile Soap, $15.99, available at Target
If your tattoo artist didn’t use something like a Tegaderm patch, Poohvis advises gently removing the bandage after a minimum of two hours. (Pro tip: Peel it off under a gentle stream of warm water, which helps it to ease off.) Once it’s removed, he says to use an unscented soap to gently wash the tattoo with clean hands. Rinse, then delicately pat down with a clean towel and allow the tattoo to air-dry for at least five to 10 minutes. Cetaphil is also a great option and available at most drugstores.
Cetaphil Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar, $6.94, available at Walmart
Most artists will agree that once the tattoo is completely dried, it’s time to moisturize. Again, stick to formulas that are fragrance-free because they are less likely to cause irritation. Woland’s favorite is this one that’s specifically formulated with organic ingredients and safe for sensitive skin.
SheaMoisture SheaMoisture Fragrance-Free Sensitive Skin Body Lotion, $9.39, available at Walmart
Both Poohivs and Mariah agree that Aquaphor is the way to go if you’re looking for a balm instead of milky lotion. Poohives advises applying it four to six times a day for up to two weeks.
Aquaphor Healing Ointment, $10.69, available at Target
Redemption Redemption™ 6 oz Bag of 3, $42, available at Tattoo Stuff
Another artist go-to includes this recommendation from Mariah: Hustle Butter. She tells us that it’s great for the first few days. Woland adds that, no matter how much product you use, it’s important to remember to treat your ink with care (never scratch, scrub, or pick!) and keep it clean.
Hustle Butter Hustle Butter Luxe, $24.99, available at Hustle Butter
Luckily, not every aftercare product is something you have to feel pressured to go out and buy. Take a peek through your medicine cabinet and you probably own a few of the drugstore options we mentioned or suitable alternatives, like this travel-friendly balm from Glossier, which Mariah recommends. A small tube like this is perfect for keeping at work to moisturize your ink during the day.
Glossier Balm Dotcom, $12, available at Glossier
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