Aquaphor is an ointment that can be applied to fresh tattoos to keep them from drying out, but you’ll eventually want to switch to a lotion or cream.

Aquaphor is a skin care staple for many people who have dry, chapped skin or lips. This ointment gets its moisturizing powers mainly from petrolatum, lanolin, and glycerin.

These ingredients work together to pull water from the air into your skin and hold it there, keeping skin hydrated. It contains other ingredients, too, like bisabolol, which is derived from the chamomile plant and has soothing, anti-inflammatory properties.

Though it’s best known as a moisturizer for dry skin, Aquaphor is also commonly used as a safe and effective part of tattoo aftercare.

If you’re planning to get some new ink, or have just gone under the needle, you may want to learn more about how and why to use Aquaphor when caring for a new tattoo.

Getting a tattoo means subjecting your skin to injury. It’s important you give your tattoo the right treatment and time to heal so it doesn’t scar or become infected or distorted. It will take about 3 or 4 weeks for your tattoo to fully heal.

Moisture is key to ensuring your tattoo heals properly. After getting a tattoo, you want to prevent it from drying out. Dryness will cause excessive scabbing and itchiness, which can damage your new ink.

Tattoo artists often recommend Aquaphor for aftercare because it’s so good at hydrating the skin — and that’s important when you get a new tattoo.

Of course, you can use other unscented moisturizing ointments to care for your tattoo. Look for petrolatum and lanolin in the ingredients list.

However, you’ll want to avoid using straight-up petroleum jelly or Vaseline. That’s because it doesn’t allow enough air to have contact with the skin. This can lead to poor healing and even infection.

Immediately after you get inked, your tattoo artist will apply a bandage or wrap to the tattooed area on your skin. They will likely advise you to keep that bandage or wrap in place for anywhere from several hours to several days.

Once you remove the bandage or wrap, you need to start a cycle of:

  1. gently washing your tattoo with unscented soap and lukewarm water
  2. gently drying your tattoo by patting it with a clean paper towel
  3. applying a thin layer of Aquaphor or another unscented ointment approved to treat tattoos, such as A and D

You’ll repeat the process of washing, drying, and applying Aquaphor two to three times a day for several days after getting inked.

There will come a point during your washing-drying-ointment routine when you’ll have to switch from using ointment to using lotion. This is usually after several days to a week or so after you first received your tattoo.

There’s a difference between ointment and lotion. Ointments like Aquaphor do a more heavy-duty job of moisturizing the skin than do lotions. That’s because ointments have an oil base, while lotions have a water base.

Lotions are more spreadable and breathable than ointments. Aquaphor has the added benefit of anti-inflammatory effects, which can make the tattoo healing process speedier and more comfortable.

After a given number of days of using ointment (your tattoo artist will specify how many), you’ll switch to lotion. This is because you need to keep your tattoo moist for several weeks until it’s completely healed.

During your aftercare routine, instead of adding ointment, apply a thin layer of lotion at least twice a day. However, you might need to apply lotion as much as up to four times a day to keep your healing tattoo hydrated.

Be sure to use unscented lotion. Perfumed lotions typically contain alcohol, which can dry out the skin.

Any tattoo artist will tell you that the more effort you put into taking care of your new tattoo, the better it will look. Here are some other aftercare tips to help ensure your tattoo looks its best:

  • Don’t scrub your tattoo when washing it.
  • Don’t submerge or keep your tattoo wet for a prolonged period of time. While brief showers are fine, this means no swimming, baths, or hot tubs for at least 2 weeks.
  • Don’t pick at any scabs that may form on your healing tattoo. Doing so will disfigure your tattoo.
  • Don’t put your tattoo in direct sunlight or go tanning for 2 to 3 weeks. Instead, make sure you cover it with loose-fitting clothing, but not sunscreen. After your tattoo heals, it’s fine to expose it to sunlight. But note that unprotected sun exposure will fade your tattoo, so once your tattoo is healed, it’s advisable to use sunscreen and other forms of sun protection when you head outside.
  • If your tattoo is especially scabby or itchy, you may want to consider holding a warm compress on your tattoo for a few minutes a day. Fold up two to three paper towels, run them under warm water, squeeze them out, and gently press the compress on your tattoo. Just be sure not to oversoak your tattoo.

Aquaphor is a commonly recommended part of a tattoo aftercare regimen. It has hydrating and anti-inflammatory properties that can speed healing and make the process more comfortable.

If you’re getting some new ink, or have just gotten a tattoo, you may want to consider using Aquaphor.