Essential Guide to Tattoo Aftercare Cream – Pros, Cons and Best Practices

Tattoo aftercare is a crucial part of the tattooing process, significantly influencing how your end product is going to look. Adhering to proper aftercare instructions ensures that your tattoo heals well and maintains its vibrancy and detail over time. One of the key components of aftercare is the use of tattoo aftercare cream. Today we’re gonna delve into how and when to use tattoo aftercare cream and explore the positives and negatives associated with it.

How To Use Tattoo Aftercare Cream

Initial Application

Once your tattoo is finished, the artist will typically clean the tattoo and leave it for 5-10 minutes to let any excess blood and plasma come to the surface, before cleaning again. After this, your artist will then cover it with a plastic wrap or Second Skin Bandage, to protect the fresh wound from any debris and bacteria.

If plastic wrap has been used, you’d usually leave this on for a few hours, as directed by your artist. Once the bandage has been removed, gently wash the area with clean bottled water or saline solution – making sure to avoid any scented soaps and oils as the chemicals can cause skin irritation on an open wound. Once cleaned, pat the area dry with a clean paper towel or simply let it air dry.

Tattoo aftercare cream
If your artist has used Second Skin (a plastic wrap with adhesive to ensure it sticks to the skin) to protect the tattoo, you’d usually leave this on for around 5 days whilst the tattoo heals underneath the second skin. After you have slowly removed the second skin, the same process applies by washing the tattoo with clean bottled water or saline solution, and patting dry with a clean paper towel or letting it air dry – day 5 onwards is when you’d be following the aftercare process with tattoo cream.

Which Cream To Use

If your artist has used plastic wrap to cover your tattoo, you’d usually start using the tattoo cream about 48 hours after the tattoo (if you’ve used second skin then this advice is relatable from day 5 onward). A lot of people still stand by using Bepanthen or nappy rash cream for their tattoos – whilst these products are aimed at reducing regular skin irritation, they have not been developed for tattooed skin, so we would always advise using an aftercare cream that is specifically for tattooed skin.

Applying the Cream

Once the 48 hours have passed, or the 5 days if using a second skin, the time has come to start with the cream. You want to be applying a thin layer of tattoo aftercare cream to your tattoo. The cream should be applied sparingly to avoid suffocating the skin, which can lead to prolonged healing times or infections. Be sure to use clean hands when gently spreading the cream over the tattooed area.

Applying the Cream

Frequency of Application

In the initial days following your tattoo, apply the aftercare cream 2-3 times a day or as recommended by your tattoo artist. It’s important to keep the tattoo moisturised but not overly saturated. Typically, you will need to continue this routine for about 2-4 weeks or until your tattoo has fully healed – which depends on the size of your tattoo (the bigger the tattoo, the more trauma your skin has had to deal with, therefore longer healing times). 

During The Healing Process

Continue using the cream throughout the entirety of the healing process, as mentioned above, your healing time can vary depending on the size and location of your tattoo. The goal is to maintain a balance where the skin is moisturised enough to prevent cracking and scabbing, but not so moist that it becomes overly soft and susceptible to damage. It’s also important to mention that everybody’s skin is different. As an example – If you’re prone to having dry skin then maybe you need to be applying a thin layer of cream more regularly. 

If You’re Experiencing Dryness or Itchiness

Firstly – don’t freak out! It’s extremely common for tattoos to feel dry and itchy during the healing process. Applying aftercare cream can alleviate these symptoms and promote comfort. Be sure to resist scratching your tattoo – as much as it can be extremely tempting! By scratching your tattoo you’re exposing yourself to the risk of whatever lies underneath your fingernails – you dirty animal.

Positives of Using Tattoo Aftercare Cream

Promotes Healing

Tattoo aftercare creams are formulated to support the skin’s natural healing process. They contain ingredients that specifically help to reduce inflammation, prevent infection, and promote faster healing.

Promotes Healing

Prevents Infection

The antibacterial properties of many aftercare creams protect the tattoo from potential infections, which can cause serious complications and damage to the appearance of the tattoo – and nobody wants that, do they?

Maintains Colour Vibrancy

Keeping the tattoo moisturised helps to preserve the ink’s colour and clarity. Dry skin can lead to scabbing and flaking, which holds the risk of some of the ink falling out, and resulting in a less vibrant tattoo.

Reduces Discomfort

Aftercare creams can soothe the skin, reducing the pain, itching and any discomfort that often accompanies the healing process. Common ingredients like Aloe Vera and Chamomile provide a cooling, calming effect.

Negatives of Using Tattoo Aftercare Cream

Allergic Reactions

As we know – everybody is different. It’s important to be aware of any possible allergies you may have before starting to use external creams and ointments in general – let alone for tattoo aftercare. If you’re allergic to any of the ingredients you’d end up with more redness, swelling and irritation, so make sure to check up on yourself before going at it with the cream.

Over Moisturising

Applying too much cream can create an overly moist environment, which may lead to clogged pores, extended healing times, or a nice little infection too. It’s crucial to apply the cream in thin, even layers.

Ingredient Sensitivities

Important to note – Not all aftercare creams are created equal. Some creams may contain ingredients that are not suitable for sensitive skin, or that might cause adverse reactions. It’s important to choose a product specifically designed for tattoo aftercare.

Tattoo aftercare cream


High-quality tattoo aftercare creams can be pretty pricey. While it’s important not to skimp on aftercare (this is your wellbeing we’re talking about, after all…) the cost can add up – especially if you’ve had a big piece done. 

A lot of studios may provide a discounted rate for existing clients, or have a deal in place to obtain the cream for a cheaper cost. Here at The Hangout, we have our own little deal to ensure you’re leaving our studio with some high quality aftercare cream – be sure to drop by our studio and have a chat about it if you’re in town!

Choosing the Right Tattoo Aftercare Cream for you

When selecting an aftercare cream, be sure to look for products that are free from fragrances, dyes and unnecessary chemicals. Opt for creams that contain natural, soothing ingredients like shea butter, cocoa butter, vitamin E, and aloe vera. Whilst you’re in the tattoo shop, it could be beneficial to discuss with your tattoo artists about aftercare cream recommendations, as they’ll have already experimented with different brands and will have a more valuable recommendation for you.

Summing Up

Tattoo aftercare cream is an essential tool in ensuring your new tattoo heals fantastically and looks prim and proper. By understanding how and when to use it, as well as being aware of the pro’s and con’s, you can navigate the aftercare process more effectively.

If it’s not been drilled into you already, everybody’s skin is different, and what works for you may be the opposite of what somebody else needs. Be sure to monitor your tattoo and adjust your aftercare routine accordingly.

With the right care, your piece will continue to look sick and solid for many years to come!