Tattoo Care for New and Existing Tattoos

Person with tattoo sleeve holding Dr. Bronner's Unscented Magic Balm - tattoo care

Three fun facts about tattoos: 

  1. In the U.S., more women than men have tattoos. 
  1. Black is the easiest tattooing color to remove. 
  1. Thomas Edison’s invention of the electric pen, while a flop as a pen, inspired the modern tattoo machine.  

I always like to start my articles with some sort of personal anecdote, but I was stumped here since I do not have a tattoo. So I turned to my colleague Jessica Harvey, Dr. Bronner’s Sales Operations Manager. Jessica is one of those people who keeps everyone and everything running smoothly. She shared with me her tattoo journey: 

Jessica’s Story & Tattoo Care Tips

I got my first tattoo on my 18th birthday—I jokingly say it was to spite my mom for being in Paris on my birthday, but I had been keen on getting a tattoo as soon as I was legally allowed to. It’s odd to say, but I feel more at home in my skin with artwork adorning it. My mom thought it’d be a one-and-done phase, but here I am at 36 with a handful of pieces and still saving for more.     

When I got my second tattoo in my early 20s, I went for a big, colorful hip piece. This was back in 2008, long before I was a “natural consumer.” I’m fairly certain that the after-care instructions were pretty similar to what they are now—wash with a fragrance-free soap and apply a fragrance-free/alcohol-free moisturizer. Not knowing otherwise, I used a conventional soap brand and lotion. The healing process is already itchy and uncomfortable, especially on a location like your hip where clothing is making contact; however, I also recall my skin being so dry and scabby. While that’s common, I found out much later in life is there IS a better product and natural products yield a more pleasant healing experience! 

Fast forward to 2019/2020 when I got my most recent tattoos. I have two special pieces on my forearms, a super visible location. Both are fine-line, single-needle work that required smooth healing to really see the artistry. Luckily, I was way more hip to greenwashing and worked for Dr. Bronner’s. I washed my fresh tattoos with our Unscented Pure-Castile Liquid Soap and moisturized with the Unscented Organic Magic Balm. The difference in the healing experience was noticeable.  The scabbing was minimal, and I didn’t feel dry or itchy which means I didn’t feel the urge to rub or pick at the scabs. They both healed with beautifully crisp lines. I still use the balm whenever I’m feeling dry or if I just want my tattoos to look a bit less dull—works like a charm!

Thanks for sharing, Jess!

Person with floral tattoo on arm holding Dr. Bronner's Unscented Magic Balm - tattoo care
Jess’s later tattoos, aided by Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Organic Magic Balm and Pure-Castile Soap, healed beautifully and remain crisp and clear through the years.

Care for New Tattoos

Protecting and Moisturizing New Tattoos

Fresh tattoos need immediate and constant protection until they are fully healed. The skin is very tender with thousands of perforations that without proper protection could become infected.  

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends against petroleum-based products on tattoos because they cause ink fade, even though these products are the most common balms on the conventional market. Instead, use Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Organic Magic Balm, which contains seven simple ingredients to nourish skin: five plant oils (avocado, jojoba, coconut, olive, and hemp seed), beeswax, and Tocopherol (vitamin E). There is no fragrance, no alcohol, and no dyes to irritate the healing skin. 

This balm works as an occlusive and an emollient, which are concepts in the world of moisturizing to mean they form a protective layer and replace lost lipids, respectively. This is exactly what recently tattooed skin needs. Another option a few weeks into the healing process when a lighter option will suffice is pure Dr. Bronner’s Virgin Coconut Oil. One ingredient that’s light, mild, and gentle.

Cleansing New Tattoos

Keep new tattoos clean while they heal with a simple soap that is free of fragrance and dyes and leaves no residues to irritate the sensitive skin. Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Pure-Castile Soap is ideal for this, with its gentle blend of saponified organic plant oils and double the amount in ratio of anti-inflammatory olive oil. With no essential oils, this soap is beautifully mild and clean-rinsing.

Long Term Care for Tattoos

The best way to maintain the clarity and vibrancy of tattoos through the years is with steady, healthy skin care. Consistency is much more effective than occasional treatments that try to revive faded ink. As with all skin care, the most important routines begin with lifestyle. Eating whole foods, drinking plenty of water, getting adequate sleep, exercising, and relaxing are the keys to vibrant, resilient skin. This will also particularly benefit tattoos.

Exfoliating Tattoos

The ink of tattoos lives in the second layer of our skin, or the dermis, which lies beneath the epidermis, which is the top layer of clear dead skin. When the epidermis gets scaly or ashy, it dims or blurs the appearance of the tattoo beneath. Exfoliate this dead skin with a simple sugar scrub. The simplest scrub is to combine the Liquid Pure-Castile Soap or the Coconut Oil with sugar.

Soap Scrub 

  • ¼ c. (60 mL) Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap
  • 1 ¼ c. (250 grams) organic granulated sugar 

Coconut Oil Scrub 

  • 2/3 c. (125 grams) granulated sugar 
  • ¼ c. (60 mL) Dr. Bronner’s Virgin Organic Coconut Oil (liquified) 

Massage the scrub on skin and rinse with warm water. Pat skin dry. Moisturize after exfoliating. 

For more scrub recipes, check out my articles about GIY Coconut Sugar Scrubs and GIY Castile Soap Scrubs

Moisturizing Tattoos

To keep tattooed skin soft and vibrant, continue using the Unscented Magic Balm, or on fully healed skin, consider the Arnica-Menthol Magic Balm, which is super refreshing and rejuvenating. Lighter options are Dr. Bronner’s Organic Lotions or again, pure Coconut Oil. 

Protecting Tattoos

Wear sunscreen. Tattooed skin is just as susceptible, and sometimes moreso, to sunburns. It is essential to wear sunscreen every day on skin that is exposed to sunlight. Also, certain inks fade when exposed to UV light, so avoid tanning beds. 

Skin abnormalities indicating the formation of cancer can occur even in tattooed skin, but can be harder to see. Be sure to examine your skin regularly for any changes and consult a dermatologist if you notice anything.  

Although I’d love to see pictures of your tattoos, I’ve found that pictures aren’t postable in the comment thread. Instead, share your tattoo stories: what inspired yours, how have you cared for yours, any dos and don’ts!  Thanks for sharing!

And thank you to my neighbor Kevin for letting me capture his arm ink in the top image above!

Further Reading

This use and many more are in my book, Soap & Soul: A Practical Guide to Minding Your Home, Your Body, and Your Spirit with Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, available now in hardback on or at your favorite bookseller, and as an eBook and audiobook (read by me!) from wherever you download or listen.  

Download Now!

Organic Magic Balms Cheat Sheet

Organic Magic Balms – To know them is to love them!


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kerith says:

I just got two new tattoos and have been using Dr Bronner’s to clean them instead of commercial unscented soap. So glad to come across this article knowing that I am doing the right thing!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kerith- Excellent! Thanks for sharing!

Karina says:

Omg I didn’t know I love my tattoos and I do use dr Bronners products but never to heal my tattoos THANKS for the advise

About Lisa Bronner

My grandfather was Dr. Bronner, my family makes soap, and I share ways to use it plus tips on greener living.

Learn about my book, Soap & Soul!

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Organic Magic Balms Cheat Sheet

Organic Magic Balms – To know them is to love them!