These 8 (Mostly Vegan) Natural Tattoo Aftercare Products Will Make You Forget About Aquaphor

Getting a tattoo is a super exciting time.

I remember when I first started getting tattoos. The artists simply gave me little packs of A&D ointment and told me to follow up with Aquaphor. No mention was made of natural tattoo aftercare.

By the time I started getting tattoos, I already knew that products such as these contained toxic ingredients. However, for the record, Aquaphor and its maker Eucerin do not test on animals, which is surprising but apparently true.

What I did find when searching for alternative products is that there’s definitely a market for natural tattoo aftercare products that cater to both vegan and non-vegan audiences. You have options besides using nasty, petroleum-based, animal-tested products to heal your beautiful new ink!

First—What’s Wrong with Aquaphor?

Let’s talk for a second about why you might want to avoid ingredients in brands that some tattoo artists recommend and instead go for natural tattoo aftercare products.

The main active ingredient in Aquaphor is Petrolatum. In case you didn’t know, Petrolatum is just another word for petroleum jelly, so don’t be fooled. Why should you be concerned?

Petrolatum contains possible carcinogens which can lead to cancer development, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Needless to say, this likely isn’t the best product to put on your open wound, especially when there are other natural tattoo aftercare products available.

In addition, some tattoo artists argue that using petroleum-based products can inhibit healing of the tattoo and even testify that they believe tattoos heal faster when using natural tattoo aftercare products.

8 Natural Tattoo Aftercare Products

Let’s forget about those other crappy products and talk about some authentic, natural balms that you can use so your new tattoo heals beautifully!

All the natural tattoo aftercare products listed here do not test on animals and do not contain synthetic ingredients or fragrance, which can be very toxic to our wellbeing.

1. Ohana Organics Tattoo Butter (Vegan)

So I’ve personally used this natural tattoo aftercare product for my last two tattoos and have really enjoyed (you can see my last two pieces on Instagram here and here).

This tattoo butter is vegan and uses very simple ingredients including shea butter and olive oil.

If you’ve never used shea butter before, it does have a greasy feel to it and so that’s my only problem with this product. I definitely have to be careful with what I touch when I have this on.

Ohana Organics offers half an ounce of their tattoo butter in an adorable tin for $4.99 with larger sizes available. Shop here.

2. Wild Rose Herbs Ink Spray (Vegan)

I’m actually really excited to try Wild Rose Herbs’ natural tattoo aftercare products. I just bought some of their stuff for my sister-in-law for Christmas and they seem to be high-quality products. (Update to this post: I have tried the non-vegan ink balm and so far love it!)

What I love about this ink spray is that it uses peppermint to help with the sometimes severe itching that happens while a tattoo is healing. It also has some other really cool ingredients including witch hazel and German chamomile.

This spray is also vegan!

Wild Rose Herbs sells 1 ounce of their ink spray for $9.95. Shop here.

3. Wild Rose Herbs Tattoo Balm (Both Vegan and Non-Vegan Formulas)

So Wild Rose Herbs carries both vegan and non-vegan formulas for their natural tattoo aftercare balm with the difference being the inclusion of beeswax in the non-vegan formula.

These tattoo balms also use peppermint to help with itch and lavender which tends to be gentle and soothing for healing skin.

Wild Rose Herbs sells both their vegan and non-vegan tattoo balm formulas starting at $10.49 for .85 ounces with larger sizes available. Shop here for vegan and here for the beeswax formula.

4. Brooklyn Grooming Tattoo Balm (Not Vegan)

Ok so I have again not tried Brooklyn Grooming’s natural tattoo aftercare balm; however, it contains pure organic ingredients and is not tested on animals.

With ingredients such as hemp seed oil, shea butter, and vitamin E, it’s hard to go wrong with this tattoo balm. Remember that this formula isn’t vegan friendly due to the fact that it contains beeswax.

Brooklyn Grooming sells their tattoo balm in 2-ounce sizes for $22. Shop here.

5. EiR NYC Tattoo Balm (Vegan)

If you’re looking for a vegan version of Brooklyn Grooming’s tattoo balm, check out EiR NYC’s tattoo balm. I haven’t tried this one but I love the simple, organic ingredients in this natural tattoo aftercare product, including dried rose petals and rosemary!

This balm also includes coconut oil and shea butter and is sold in half-an-ounce containers for $10. Shop here.

6. After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer (Vegan)

So I actually have tried this tattoo moisturizer from After Inked. It’s vegan, which is great, but I’m not too crazy about the formula.

The ingredients aren’t super pure (it contains preservatives), but one big pro to this natural tattoo aftercare product is that it’s not greasy, so it acts as more of a lotion than a balm.

It’s weird though because this is precisely what I didn’t like about it; it didn’t really feel like it was “protecting” my tattoo. However, if you’re looking for a non-greasy tattoo aftercare lotion, this could be your pick!

After Inked sells their tattoo moisturizer in 3-ounce sizes for $20. Shop here.

7. Ora’s Amazing Herbal Tattoo Salve (Not Vegan)

I have not tried this natural tattoo aftercare product but it’s another great pick. It contains a lot of fun herbs including calendula (I LOVE calendula for healing skin and also dry skin among its other benefits), comfrey, thyme, and St. John’s Wort.

Ora’s Amazing Herbal Tattoo Salve contains beeswax so it’s not vegan. You can find sizes starting at 1 ounce for $11.88 here.

8. Susie Q Skin Ink Salve (Not Vegan)

This one made the list even though one of their ingredients is “natural fig fragrance”. I would absolutely question the company about this ingredient before buying to find out if it is actually natural and not synthetic. (The site does say their products don’t contain any synthetic fragrances but I would double check just to be sure.)

I’m putting this natural tattoo aftercare product on here because their other ingredients are pure and they contain other products that could be good as well including tattoo wash. They also have this cool page on their website speaking out against animal testing.

Ingredients in Susie Q Skin’s Ink Salve include hemp seed oil, lemongrass, rose, arnica, and turmeric. You can find 1-ounce sizes and up starting at $19.95 here.

What Are You Waiting for?

When it comes to natural tattoo aftercare products, you absolutely have the power to choose products that aren’t toxic to your body and don’t suffocate your skin.

Your tattoo was something you dreamed of, it’s now a part of you forever, and you want it to heal perfectly. Isn’t your new ink worth investing in some aftercare balms that are good for you as well as the planet?

What do you use to heal your tattoos? I’d love to hear if you know of any more natural products (or home ingredients) that you feel make the cut for superior tattoo aftercare!

Also–if you’ve got fresh ink–check out my post about the five stages of grief and your new tattoo!

The 5 Stages of Grief and Your New Tattoo

So I just got my first “real” tattoo.

All of my other 8 tattoos have been script/roman numerals. I’m a writer, ok? I really like words. (There seems to be some type of stigma associated with getting font tattooed on your body in tattoo culture.)

One of my other tattoos.

Anyway! So for my 9th tattoo, I finally got some real art done by an artist based out of Virginia. It was my first big piece of work and I’m a little surprised by how I coped with it.

The tattoo this article is about (one of my biggest pieces!).

Getting a tattoo is a weird process—after the fact, I might add. It’s saying goodbye to the skin on that part of your body forever. You’ll never see it again. You now have to see—insert whatever it is you got tattooed on your body—every day.

What I went through was a little like the five stages of grief with my new tattoo.

Denial: It’s Not Really There!

If you’ve gotten a tattoo before, you have experienced this.

Immediately after you get your tattoo, you love it. You show everyone. It’s fresh. It looks amazing!

You wake up the next morning and you’re like, “WHAT. IS. THAT.”

It’s not that you didn’t remember that you got it done. It’s just that… well, it’s a part of you now. Like really a part of you. For the first couple hours after I got my tattoo, I was like, “Whoa. What is that thing?” By the next morning, I remembered that it was there.

But while it was healing, it didn’t seem like it was a part of my body. It almost looked like a shiny new sticker that I could just peel right off. Despite the fact that while I was washing it and could feel the lines inked into my skin, I thought, “It’s not really there! Nothing’s different!”

Anger: Why Did I Get That?

Not everyone has welcome reactions to your new ink.

Mom: “IT’S HUGE! How much did that cost? What?? Why?!!!”

Bestie: “DUDE IT’S FUCKING AMAZING YOU’RE AMAZING I LOVE IT AHHH!!!!!!!!!”

Partner: “Wow it looks sexy, you’re sexy, I love you.” *kiss*

Grandma: *insert slapping motion here* (Yes, she literally slapped my tattoo three days after I got it. I have not yet forgiven her.)

Regardless of people’s reactions (or on account of people’s reactions, whatever), you start to feel mad. Why did I get that? You think. You also see your credit card statement of how much it cost and, let’s face it, wake up the next morning feeling like shit because that part of your body is swollen and sore and red and you can’t wear clothes that cover it and you feel like you just hate everything.

Bargaining: If Only I Could Change This…

I saw a great YouTube video (it’s no longer live; sorry I had to remove the link!) about tattoo regret and it really resonated with me, not necessarily because I have any tattoos I regret per se, but because the person made a great point about questioning your new ink.

You will always wonder:

  • What if I got it smaller/bigger?
  • What if I got it in color/black and grey?
  • What if I went to a different artist/shop?
  • What if I just had them change this little part of it?
  • What if I had gotten something different?
  • What if I didn’t get anything at all???

You bargain. You wonder what could have been changed. You think about changing it in the future. I usually think about these things as I process each new tattoo. I consider its imperfections and how the piece is different from what I imagined, as well as variations between the actual ink and the stencil I saw.

Because nothing is ever perfect no matter how much we want it to be. My tattoos, like me, aren’t perfect. But, like me, they are still beautiful.

Depression: I’ll Never Have Naked Skin Again

At some point, you start to feel depressed that you have this tattoo. You spent a bunch of money, spent hours in pain, and are now spending weeks taking care of it, resentfully avoiding the bathtub and wondering when you’ll ever feel normal again.

Me getting my tattoo done. That’s my leg ahhh.

I was freezing during this appointment! Next time remember to bring a sweater or a blanket, girl.

And then you realize that you’ll never BE normal again. Because you have this tattoo and you don’t know how to handle it. You know you’ll never see the skin on the other side of that tattoo again. How do you cope?

Coping is different for everyone who experiences tattoo grief (or tattoo dysphoria, as I’ve come to call it). Some people grow to love and accept their tattoo. For others, learning to live with their tattoo is a daily practice that is difficult. Living with an altered appearance can be immensely challenging for some of us with new ink.

Acceptance: I Actually Like It!

Finally, once your tattoo heals a little more and it stops looking like a giant sticker, once the people in your life have stopped commenting on it and you can stop sleeping in weird positions to avoid rubbing it, you might begin to accept and love your tattoo.

It can take a while. For some people, it may only be a week or two. For others, it may be a few months or even years. And some people never really get to the acceptance stage where they feel like they can integrate this tattoo into their lives in a healthy way.

So if you really hate your new tattoo, it has a major flaw you just can’t get over, or you are having trouble coping with it even after it’s been a while, you might not ever get to the acceptance stage.

This was not my experience, but many people have had this experience where they cannot adjust to the tattoo. What are your options if this happens?

  • Consider a cover-up. You can consult a tattoo artist who is experienced with cover-ups and consider cover-up options. I would consider consulting with multiple artists and multiple cover-up options and wait at least six months before going forward with a cover-up or altering the tattoo (trust me, you don’t want to end up with something you hate even more, even if you can’t stand your current tattoo!).
  • Have it removed. Laser removal is also an option, but it is expensive and painful. It also takes a really long time—a minimum of one year and potentially several years (I know from personal experience!). It’s also important to note that lasering may not remove the tattoo completely, depending on the color of your tattoo. Black ink is the easiest to remove and can be fully removed. However, lighter colors like pink, red, blue, and orange are more difficult and may only fade. You may need to have the tattoo “lightened” with a few laser sessions and then covered up.
  • Ask for support. Consider working with a therapist, coach, or another professional to help you process your feelings and experience around your tattoo and how you might consider moving forward with the tattoo as part of your life (or explore how a removal/cover-up would help). I work with people who experience tattoo regret/tattoo dysphoria through my coaching website and offer a free initial session if you want to chat.

A Note on the 5 Stages

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed the 5 stages of grief. However, Elisabeth later said she regretted making these stages, because they have been grossly misinterpreted by the general public.

For the vast majority of people, the 5 stages are NOT a linear timeline that they go through and then are done with. This is true whether you are dealing with tattoo grief (which some people call tattoo dysphoria, which can be similar to body dysmorphia) or have experienced a loss.

It’s important to understand that you may go through these stages, then go through them again. Or you may not go through all of them, only some. Or you may go through one, skip to one, and then go back to another. You may take a long time to be in each stage, and keep going through them throughout your life.

I know that sounds a little daunting, but the point is that your journey is your own, and honoring your journey does not mean subscribing to a “timeline” where you go through the stages and are done. It means honoring your unique process for integrating this ink into your life, whatever that may look like for you. Each person’s experience is unique!

Do You Love Your Tattoo Yet?

It’s taken me a little while, but I love my new tattoo, and while it’s not perfect, I am ok with that.

I’m grateful to the artist and his patience with my first big piece, I’m grateful to have a beautifully designed tattoo, and I’m grateful it didn’t get infected while it was healing.

I’m also grateful that my rabbits didn’t scratch it, although Fiver did bite my leg ridiculously close to it, adorable little thing. He’s literally never bitten me before and he chooses to bite my leg the day after I get a giant tattoo. I think it’s because the tattoo butter I used had lavender in it? Rabbits love herbs!

Don’t let this evil little thing fool you. I love him, though.

Give your tattoo some time, show it some love, and let your body heal. Your experience is valid, and your feelings are normal!