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The best tattoos are gorgeous works of art created to last a lifetime. The first step to solidifying a tattoo’s longevity is taking care of the fresh ink during healing. And when it comes to tattoo care, products matter.
After getting a tattoo, most artists recommend using Dial soap to wash the tattoo and then advise to seal the open skin with Aquaphor afterward. My main tattoo artist John O’Hara of Black Iris Tattoo in Brooklyn once explained to me that Aquaphor hydrates the skin while also creating a barrier to prevent infection. But it’s important to switch to unscented, gentle lotion once you notice your skin start to heal over, peel or flake.
Lotion helps hydrate your healing skin while letting your skin breathe (unlike Aquaphor) to facilitate the best healing. Though Dial soap and Aquaphor are the standard brand recommendations for the first stage of tattoo healing, many artists don’t provide a preferred brand for unscented lotion to use during the second stage.
As a significantly tattooed person and beauty lover, I am keenly aware that not all unscented lotions are created equal. And I recently found the one that makes my heart flutter and my tattoos heal beautifully.
After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer is the only lotion that has met my extremely lofty standards for post-tattoo care. The lotion is vegan and cruelty-free, containing hydrating natural oils that moisturize the skin without clogging pores. It’s free of fragrances, petroleum, parabens and coconut oils, which are no-gos for tattoo healing. And it’s even on Amazon Prime.
Shop: After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer, $19.99
The formula is enriched with grape seed oil, shea butter and jojoba seed oil, all of which hydrate without irritating healing skin. The lotion also promises to relieve itchy skin with cooling properties. You can even keep the lotion in the refrigerator to add an enhanced cooling effect upon application.
Prior to finding After Inked, I would use any standard drugstore unscented lotion I could get my hands on. But these lotions would only hydrate my healing skin for an hour or so. Any tattoo pro will tell you over-applying product is a major problem, so I’d be left with itching, dryness and discomfort until I could safely apply again hours later. It was unideal to say the least.
After Inked, however, contains natural oils that are dermatologically and clinically tested. The oils help lock in hydration, lengthening the time it takes the product to fully absorb. You want those skin-hydrating oils to stick around, helping your tattoo to stay moist without layers and layers of product. But amazingly, your skin doesn’t feel goopy and oily after application.
“The cream is soothing and deeply moisturizing without being greasy, strongly scented or colored,” one Amazon reviewer writes. “It has a nice Shea butter scent, and a little goes a long way. It doesn’t take a lot of rubbing in. It soaks in well if you just leave it on the skin, which obviously is good for a healing tattoo as you don't want to rub those scabs off.”
“I’ve been getting tattoos for almost 20 years and whenever it was time to switch over to the lotion phase, no matter what I used, it would burn my skin,” another reviewer writes. “This product was so soothing and moisturized my skin so well. I'm African American with dark skin, so moisturizing is a big deal. I got six tattoos over the course of three weeks and used this each time.”
To use After Inked on your healing tattoo, wash the tattoo with mild soap—like Dial— and warm water. After patting it dry with a sterile paper towel, apply the lotion in a thin, complete layer. A little goes a long way, and it’s only recommended to do this about two times a day to keep the tattoo moist. Personally, I apply the lotion when I wake up and before bed, only adding a third application if I shower during the day.
As one reviewer wrote succinctly: “This stuff works miracles. No joke.”