When To Starting Moisturizing A New Tattoo

  • Written By Dan Hunter on October 12, 2019
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

You should start moisturizing your tattoo as soon as it starts to dry — not before. This can generally take about 1–3 days after you got your tattoo. Be sure to wash and dry your tattoo with antibacterial soap and choose the appropriate moisturizer as well.

If you’re new to tattoos, we recommend that you educate yourself on the complete healing process. We go into detail on the precautions you need to take, how to get the job done, and how often to moisturize. If you’re a tattoo-head, it might be worth your while to get a refresher, as well.

Precautions to Bear in Mind When Moisturizing

Don’t Moisturize Too Soon

As guided by your artist, you should take the bandage off and wash it with antibacterial soap. Don’t apply anything to it, though. The first time you should moisturize your tattoo is right after it starts to dry out; no sooner.

How to Identify Dry Skin

A good way to determine if your tattoo is dry is to gently pull at your skin until it’s taut. Pay attention to that sensation — it should feel tight like it’s on the verge of cracking slightly.

Don’t Pick at Scabs

As soon as you get home, you’ll be tender and flaky — like a fish. You’ll also start to scab. Whatever you do, don’t pick at those scabs!

Picking at a scab will prolong your healing time. When you pick at a scab, you’re pretty much damaging the new skin that’s being prepared underneath. Also, don’t wear tight clothes — your tattoo needs to breathe.

Things to Avoid

Stay clear of sunlight, baths, hot tubs, and pools — basically, anywhere your tattoo is exposed to water. Prolonged exposure to water will draw ink out of your tattoo and damage it. You’re also more likely to get an infection from the bacteria in public water.

How To Moisturize

1. Unwrap Your Tattoo

In the first few hours after getting tattooed, your skin will be leaking blood plasma and ink. This is because your body’s trying to heal the damaged skin.

2. Wash Your Tattoo

  1. Soap and water: Wash your tattooed skin with lukewarm water and mild soap.
  2. Rub: Gently rub your tattoo and get rid of any excess ink or leaking blood.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to be washing your tattoo too often until it’s healed. Too much washing will get rid of helpful bacteria that heal your skin.

3. Dry the Skin

Pat the skin dry with a clean paper towel or regular towel. Don’t rub, since you could damage the skin and could get fibers stuck in the tattoo.

4. Apply the Lotion

Make sure your moisturizing lotion is unscented and color-free.

Apply a thin layer of lotion but don’t over-moisturize, because this will clog your pores and promote bacteria growth.

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

Despite the added moisture, your tattoo will still flake and peel — this is completely normal. After your skin peels, you’ll have white, flaky edges. We suggest that you resist peeling those bits off.

How Often Should You Moisturize?

Moisturize your tattoo two to three times a day. Moisturizing after each wash and cleanse is critical. This is because washing with soap and water strips the body of its natural oils and any moisturizer you applied.

Most artists suggest washing your tattoo in the morning. We agree with this because, during sleep, your body dehydrates. When you wake up with a fresh tattoo, it’s always going to be uncomfortable.

When you get to the middle of your workday, you can slide into the bathroom at work and moisturize there. The afternoon is generally when your tattoo will feel the driest. 

Using the same moisturization ritual before bed works great. This will help with the morning dryness problem we mentioned earlier. Rolling around in bed with a dry tattoo isn’t the best feeling — and if it cracks, you could be in for a nasty infection.


We recommend that you wash and moisturize your tattoo more frequently if it’s on a body part that’s more exposed to bacteria — hands, feet, and wrists, as examples. No matter what you do, though, please don’t skip the moisturizing part of your routine. Although you shouldn’t over-moisturize, don’t skip it just because your skin doesn’t feel dry.

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