If you’ve just got a new tattoo, you probably want to take good care of it to make your ink last.
Searching for advice on how to take care of a tattoo, online or from well-meaning friends, will typically net you plenty of suggestions — some of them conflicting.
In your research, you might come across plenty of recommendations touting the benefits of cocoa butter for tattoos. Of course, if your tattoo artists didn’t say anything about using cocoa butter, you might wonder if it’s actually safe to try.
Following any instructions your tattoo artist gives you is important to help your skin heal properly and preserve your fresh ink.
That said, when the time comes to moisturize, cocoa butter may be a good option.
Read on to learn more about the benefits of cocoa butter for tattoo aftercare, along with suggestions for when to use it.
“Yes, cocoa butter is completely safe to use on a tattoo. I have personally used cocoa butter to heal my own tattoos. I’ve used cocoa butter as a lubricant during the tattoo process and recommended it for healing to my clientele that are sensitive to petroleum-based products,” says David Meek, tattoo artist and owner of Art and Sol Tattoo Gallery in Tucson, Arizona.
Meek goes on to note that many artists prefer cocoa butter over traditional petroleum-based products like Vaseline or vitamin A + D ointment.
That said, Meek stresses that clients should always consult their tattoo artist about individualized aftercare.
You might have come across some advice that warns against applying cocoa butter to a tattoo too early in the healing process. But no published evidence suggests applying cocoa butter to a healing tattoo can damage it.
On the subject of risks, you might have found a few mentions of the salt and cocoa butter tattoo removal myth that’s made the rounds online.
This is, in fact, just a myth.
When you get a tattoo, the needle penetrates the surface of your skin to deposit ink 1 to 4 millimeters into the dermis layer. Salt is abrasive, so if you rub it into your skin hard enough, you may damage the tattoo (not to mention your skin). But salt won’t remove the tattoo. It only opens you up — literally — to the possibility of infection and scarring.
Some evidence suggests that cocoa butter may have anti-inflammatory and protective properties for the skin, but experts have yet to find any concrete proof of these benefits.
That said, cocoa butter is rich in antioxidants, so applying it to your skin can create a protective hydrating barrier that helps keep it from drying out. This can help soothe recently tattooed skin that feels tight and itchy.
Keeping your skin adequately moisturized also helps prevent irritation and dryness that could make you more likely to scratch and pick at your tattoo, which can lead to peeling.
Moisturized skin also helps the colors in your tattoo appear more vibrant.
While cocoa butter is typically safe to use, it may not work well for everyone.
There are no confirmed cases of allergic reactions to the cocoa plant that cocoa butter comes from. All the same, you could have a sensitivity to cocoa butter itself or other ingredients in cocoa butter skin products. This sensitivity could result in a rash or itching.
If you have sensitive skin, allergies, or just want to exercise extra caution, do a patch test before using cocoa butter on your tattoo.
To do a patch test:
- Apply a small amount on non-tattooed skin, like the inside of your forearm or the back of your neck.
- Leave this patch of skin alone for 24 hours.
- No reaction? Go ahead and use it on your tattoo.
Meek recommends applying cocoa butter, or any other aftercare ointment, between 3 and 5 times a daily.
For example, you might apply your aftercare ointment or cream:
- once in the morning
- once at night
- a few times throughout the day
Keep in mind that cocoa butter is very thick, greasy, and rich in fatty acids. In other words, a little goes a long way. Aim to apply it sparingly when moisturizing, as you might a thick lotion or body cream — not like you might frost a cake.
If you’re going to use cocoa butter for your tattoo, you’re better off sticking to just one product, according to Meek.
“Avoiding multiple aftercare products simultaneously will make it easier to identify any issues during the healing process that may arise,” says Meek.
Basically, if you notice a rash or other irritation while using two different aftercare products, you might have a harder time determining which product caused the reaction.
If you’re only using one product, you can stop using that product right away and try another option.
When choosing a cocoa butter product for your tattoo, know that not all products are the same.
Cocoa butter creams and lotions often contain other ingredients, so you’ll always want to read the label before purchasing to find out exactly what you’re putting on your skin.
It’s always best to avoid products that contain fragrance, dye, or harsh ingredients like alcohol. All of these can dry out and irritate your skin.
Aim to purchase pure, organic cocoa butter if possible.
Remember, too, that moisturizing your tattoo is just one part of caring for your ink.
Proper aftercare is an essential step in preventing infection and scarring. That’s why you’ll always want to follow the aftercare instructions provided by your tattoo artist and keep your healing tattoo clean and free of bacteria.
Pay attention to signs of infection and check in with a healthcare professional if you notice:
Cocoa butter can make a great moisturizer during the tattoo aftercare process. Unless you have a skin condition or sensitivity, you should be able to apply it to your tattoo as it heals.
Just be sure to follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions. If you have any questions about using cocoa butter, they can offer more guidance and information.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.