How Often Should You Put Lotion On A New Tattoo?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on June 6, 2018
    Last Updated: May 17, 2023

During the weeks after getting a new tattoo, the skin becomes very delicate as it tries to regenerate and heal from the trauma caused by the tattooing needles pumping in and out of the area thousands of times a minute.

Most people know that applying a good lotion to the area can help to speed up the healing process by nourishing and hydrating the skin, but many people are unsure about how to properly apply lotion and which lotion to use.

Generally, you should always aim to make sure your tattooed skin is soft and supple to ensure there are no areas becoming exceedingly dry, which can cause the tattoo to crack, and can also cause irritation and itching.

When Should You Apply Lotion To Your New Tattoo?

Applying lotion or other tattoo aftercare products to your tattoo at least 3 times a day should work to keep it well hydrated and in good condition to heal quickly and efficiently.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.​ Click here to buy from Amazon.


As a rule, lotion should first be applied in the morning after waking up, after cleaning your tattoo.

(How to clean a new tattoo below)

As you sleep, your body becomes dehydrated as it loses water through sweat and vapor while breathing. Plus, you aren’t drinking at all during sleep.  Therefore, your tattooed skin will normally start the day by being quite dry and tight, and applying lotion first thing should help to loosen it up and relax the area.


​As the hours pass, your tattoo will gradually begin to dry up again. Therefore, it’s best to apply another layer of lotion to the area.

Before doing this, however, it’s essential that you clean the tattoo first before applying another layer of lotion.

Failing to do this, and by applying newer layers of lotion over an older layer, you are running the risk of suffocating the wound, getting dirt trapped in the area and increasing chances of infection.

Sometimes, especially if you work in a dirty environment, or somewhere where the air is particularly dry, you may wish to apply another round of lotion in the afternoon. Protecting your tattoo during work is also highly recommended in some occupations in order to prevent an infection.

Use common sense here and assess whether the tattoo feels as though it’s drying up, or whether it still feels nice and moist. Applying too much lotion and suffocating the tattoo can be just as bad as not applying any at all.


Always clean your tattoo before going to bed and make sure to apply lotion afterward once the tattoo has dried.

As mentioned, you normally lose quite a lot of moisture during the night, and therefore you want to ensure your tattoo is well hydrated before going to sleep.

Not only this, but hard tap water can also cause the skin to dry out quickly, and therefore moisturizing the area afterward helps to counteract this problem.

When Should I Start Moisturizing My New Tattoo With Lotion?

You will be fine to apply lotion to the area after the first wash. Some tattoo artists recommend that you leave your tattoo for about a day before applying any lotion, however. This is just in case the area is initially extra sensitive.

On the other hand, many artists say that it’s fine to apply lotion or cream as soon as you remove the wrap from your tattoo.

Wrapped Tattoo
A wrapped tattoo

If in doubt, ask your artist for their professional opinion as they know your tattoo better than anybody.

How Often Should I Put Lotion On A Scabbing Tattoo?

When your tattoo begins to scab it can become exceedingly dry. Although you may automatically think that applying more lotion is the best solution, you must be very careful.

Although most tattoos scab over very lightly, some tattoos can contain quite thick, dense scabs (which is generally normal, so don’t worry).

Scabbing Tattoo
Raised, light scabbing over the tattoo

However, these big, thick scabs can also become very absorbent, and by applying too much lotion, especially when the scabs are still wet after cleaning/showering (or from not washing off older lotion), you can cause the scabs to soak up too much moisture, making them become gooey and gloopy.

The main cause of this is the new layer of lotion trapping moisture beneath it, and with nowhere for the moisture to go, it is absorbed by the scabs. This is known as tattoo bubbling, and these sticky scabs then become much more prone to being pulled or ripped off.

tattoo bubbling
A bubbling tattoo

Therefore, you should continue to apply lotion as often as you normally would unless the scabbing becomes very dry and looks like it may begin to start cracking, in which case clean the tattoo and make sure it’s completely dry before applying a small amount of lotion afterward.

You can make sure the area is completely dry by gently patting it with a clean paper towel to get rid of most of the moisture, and then allowing the tattoo to air-dry for another 10 minutes. Avoid using a towel that may transfer dirt and increase your risk of infection.

Without doing this your tattoo may look dry, but there is likely still moisture trapped within the scabs.

How Often Should I Put Lotion On A Peeling Tattoo?

A tattoo that is peeling can become very itchy and very unsightly with all of the loose pieces of skin dangling off from the area.

By applying lotion regularly you can help to soothe the itching, and the moisture from the lotion can help to stick the loose pieces of skin closely to your tattoo to not only improve the appearance, but to also prevent the risk of any loose pieces of skin from being accidentally ripped off.

All tattoos must peel in order for the skin to eventually be able to protect itself, but it’s always best to keep peeling skin to a minimum where possible. You want the skin to peel off when it is healed and ready – not prematurely, as this will increase the risk of pigment dropout and scarring.

A peeling tattoo
This tattoo could definitely do with some added moisturizer

As with a scabbing tattoo, continue applying lotion as often as you normally would, but if the area becomes very dry or itchy, clean the tattoo thoroughly, let it dry and apply an extra layer of lotion.

How Often Should I Put Lotion On My Healed/Older Tattoo?

You may think that once your tattoo has healed it no longer needs lotion applied to it. However, this ideology is completely wrong. Your tattoo will only ever look as good as the skin that it’s on, and therefore you should ensure your skin is always well-hydrated and nourished to keep your tattoo looking as new as possible.

You can accomplish this by ensuring you apply a good, hydrating moisturizing lotion to your tattoo once every day, or every other day. By doing this you help to keep your skin hydrated, supple, and refreshed.

Having healthy, hydrated skin will help your tattoo’s colors to remain deep and vivid for as long as possible.

Correct Application Is Important

Before applying lotion, you should ensure your tattoo is completely clean. This is to make sure that no germs or bacteria get caught between the layer of lotion and your skin, which can increase the risk of infection.

When rubbing lotion into a tattoo, you only need to apply a very small amount. You should only see a slightly shiny layer of lotion over the tattoo once it’s been absorbed.

Lotion on tattoo
This is FAR too much lotion and some should be blotted off with a paper towel

Make sure your skin is completely dry before applying lotion. Adding any lotion over your tattoo while it’s still wet or damp can soak your scabs and cause tattoo bubbling. If these scabs get ripped off they can pull away ink, which can lead to patchy and faded areas within your tattoo.


Don’t just apply lotion for the sake of it. If your tattoo looks/feels dry or shiny then add a small amount of lotion, but if the tattoo still looks/feels soft and supple then it should be fine as it is (although you should still clean your tattoo and re-apply lotion every morning, midday and evening).

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