Choosing Your Ointment
Here's a little more information about the kinds of ointment that are commonly used and recommended in the tattoo world. There are many options, there is no one right way. This may help you choose what would work best for you. Everyone has different skin types which will affect how you receive a tattoo, how your skin will react, and how well your tattoo will hold up over the years. An experienced artist will observe what other tattoos you may have to see how your skin holds ink with time. They should also be able to recognize within a short time of starting your tattoo how to proceed in the best way for YOUR skin type. So make sure you trust your artist!
Aquaphor is the #1 most recommended aftercare product by most tattoo artists. From observation, it seems to be the safest and simplest option. There has been very little negative feedback reported from healing a tattoo with this product.
I have seen and heard other artists speak of some trouble healing with A&D ointment, but it is still widely used in shops during a tattoo and often recommended for aftercare use. It’s still a good alternative to Aquaphor if you can’t get it.
If you have small children or will be around small children while your tattoo is healing, I recommend that you use triple antibiotic ointment instead. My clients who are parents have had a high rate of mild infection due to the nature of childcaring. Keep an eye on your tattoo and if you see small red bumps that persist or your tattoo is feeling warm/hot after a few days of getting your tattoo, then contact your artist. Be aware it has bacitracin in it, which some people are allergic to. AVOID NEOSPORIN!
+Ointment vs. Lotion: Ointment is a skin protectant and will protect your open wound from getting infected. Lotion is a moisturizer and won’t protect your skin, however infection is very rare in general. Lotion (like Lubriderm or Aveeno) is another commonly recommended aftercare product by other artists.
+Coconut oil/Shea butter? You CAN use these things with the understanding that too much oily-ness on your tattoo can suffocate it instead of promote healing. There is such a thing as over-moisturizing.
+Alternative ointment from your local co-op/grocery/herbalist? Maybe you have a product in mind that you'd like to try out, you'll never know how well it will work unless you try it. It's your body, use your good judgement! Like I said, infections aren’t common (unless you have little kids), so if you want to try out a different product it’s probably safe. It would be good to trust the source of your alternative ointment and look up who is making the product. Things with fragrances/essential oils tend to cause irritation. Remember that tattoo artists who have been doing it for a while see their tattoos come back healed and get feedback on how their healing went. If you have a product that went well for you, you may want to tell your artist!
+Too busy for careful healing? That's real. I've had folks tell me they did absolutely nothing to their tattoo and it healed fine (basically the dry-out method). Most of these people who have told me this didn't get very large or dense tattoos, though I would imagine it would be pretty uncomfortable not to tend to a larger tattoo.