A tattoo is more than just a piece of artwork — it’s a piece of you. However you eventually feel about your tattoo when you’re old and gray (hopefully great), odds are you really love it when you first get it. Which also happens to be the time when your tattoo is most vulnerable.
We spoke with Alfredo Ortiz of Brooklyn Grooming to get the lowdown on seven natural tattoo aftercare tips. Ortiz has several pieces of his own, and his company recently developed an effective natural tattoo balm. All tattoos are different. So when in doubt, defer to your tattoo artist’s explicit instructions.
Practice Tattoo Beforecare
You might not think that a tattoo needs much care beforehand, because, well, it’s just a patch of skin. However, you must make sure you and your skin are absolutely ready to receive the tattoo.
Find a Hygienic Parlor
Engage in a thorough vetting process when choosing a place to get your tattoo. “Think about it: You’re going to a place where they’re basically going to grate your skin,” says Ortiz. “You have to make sure the place is hygienic and clean so you don’t get an infection.”
Think Like a Vampire
A lot of people like to get their tattoos just before summer starts, then show off their new ink during the warm season. Unfortunately for these folks, tattoos do not “weather” sunlight very well. Instead of showing off your new tattoo, you should try to keep your ink covered as best you can when you go outside. Don’t worry, that tattoo will be on your skin forever — there’ll be plenty of summers to show it off.
Keep Your Tattoo Clean
Though you can’t go swimming, it’s fine to take quick showers. As it turns out, showering with a tattoo isn’t that big of a deal. “Just try to keep your tattoo away from the actual the water flow,” says Ortiz. “Don’t rub it, obviously, and don’t scrub it.” Be sure to use a gentle application of mild soap to keep your tattoo clean.
Wear Loose Clothing
Your skin becomes very sensitive in the days after getting your ink. For this reason, you shouldn’t wear tight clothing around your tattoo. “I’ve seen people get lower back tattoos on Venice Beach, then just put on their normal pants and walk away,” says Ortiz. “It’s like sandpaper on the skin. So you don’t want anything tight, and nothing that rubs against the fresh ink of the tattoo.”
Consider Dry Healing
A tattoo is more than just a doodle on the surface of your skin. It’s a wound etched into your body forever. There are a couple schools of thought when it comes to healing a tattoo: wet healing, which involves the application of all “wet” medicines and ointments; and dry healing, which involves a more hands-off, natural approach. Ortiz is a proponent of the latter method.
“With dry healing, you don’t use anything at first — just water and you just let it dry. After about three days, when the first layer starts scabbing, that’s when you start applying the balm.” You must resist the urge to pick the scab, and let it come off naturally.”
After about three weeks, your tattoo should be more-or-less completely healed. For the remainder of your life, you can use the Brooklyn Grooming tattoo balm whenever you need a little extra moisture.
“I use it all the time,” says Ortiz. “It’s a personal preference. Sometimes my tattoos get a little dry and it’s like using a moisturizer. It’s really up to you — any time you feel like you need an extra boost, go ahead and use it. Our tattoo balm has unrefined sesame oil, hempseed oil, shea butter — all of which will help your tattoo heal naturally.”
You can buy Brooklyn Grooming’s Tattoo Balm on their website for $22 for a 2 oz. tin
More of Our Favorite Balms
Butchers tattoo balm is another natural elixir perfect for giving your skin exactly what it needs without any nasty chemicals.
Fisticuffs tattoo balm is pretty much aromatherapy in a tin. Lavender, eucalyptus, and frankincense round out this all-natural scent experience.
Motherlove tattoo salve is handcrafted in Colorado and harnesses the healing powers of herbs to soothe irritated skin and set ink fully.
Escents’ skin repair kit includes cooling aloe vera gel, itch-relieving peppermint oil, cleansing tea tree oil, and a special muscle relief lotion to relax the inked area and promote overall health.
Redemption tattoo care is a petroleum-based system of salves and creams that lubricates damaged skin. The all-natural lotions are fragrance free, hypoallergenic and totally USDA-certified.
Susie Q Skin’s aftercare set features an array of balms crafted from therapeutic essential oils, which work together to reduce scarring, itching and scabbing.
Hustle Butter is an amazing vegan solution tattoo aficionados can use before, during and after the inking process. It combines shea, mango, and aloe butters together with a bevy of essential oils for an invigorating sensation.
Article originally published July 7, 2015. Last updated January 8, 2018 by Cody Gohl.