Whether your tattoo took multiple sessions from a renowned tattoo artist or it was a stick n’ poke courtesy of an old friend, all new tats have something in common: they have to be carefully tended to, and that starts with using the best soaps for tattoos.
“What most people don’t realize is that a tattoo is effectively an open wound and must be kept very clean,” says celebrity tattoo artist Dr. Woo. “However, there are so many soaps with different chemicals and ingredients that can be abrasive, irritate the skin or even lead to infection. To minimize the chance of an adverse reaction, it’s vital the soap being used is as clean and simple as possible, using the best quality ingredients.”
That’s why Woo just launched WOO Gentle Cleansing Soap. “You want the perfect balance of letting the skin heal without letting it get too dry because it can break and lift the ink,” he explains. “That’s why our gentle soap was created. It can help remove impurities and possible bacteria in the most gentle of ways. Each ingredient was hand-selected to do specifically this. Until now, nobody had really focused on creating a bar of soap with this mind.”
What Should You Look for in the Best Soaps for Tattoos?
Woo recommends always understanding the ingredients, especially if you have sensitive skin. You’re probably better off steering clear of your typical hand and body soap, since most are filled with fragrances and ingredients that can cause more harm than good.
“A lot of people have different allergies and sensitivities to their skin that they might not even know about, so to avoid triggering these, the soap needs to be as pure as possible, with as few ingredients as possible, no additives and 100% fragrance-free,” Woo says. “You should skip the heavy topical steroid creams. You should also avoid heavy ointments that don’t let the skin breathe because they can seal in harmful bacteria. For the first couple of weeks, staying out of the sun and salt water is also important.”
How To Wash Tattoos Safely
The best way to wash your tattoo is with warm water, preferably in the shower with soap and then gently pat dry. “Do not tug or pull on the skin with your towel as it can have a negative impact on the healing process,” Woo says. “For the first two weeks, I’d recommend using a fragrance-free moisturizing balm, something that complements the cleansing from the soap.” Lightly moisturize it twice a day, preferably right after your shower and once in the middle of the day and then again before going to bed. You also shouldn’t submerge your tattoo in water and avoid direct sunlight to the tattooed area for up to 14 days.
WOO Gentle Cleansing Soap is the first product in Woo’s lifestyle venture, PROJECTWOO, and his namesake skincare line, WOO. He’ll be launching additional products in the fall, which are focused on everyday skincare needs for those with or without tattoos.
“Internally, we say the line is ‘tattoo-friendly but not mandatory,’” he says. The line took two years to develop, but as the collection was slated to launch, Woo changed course when he saw families across the country struggling due to COVID-19.
“Launching at this exact moment didn’t feel right,” says Woo. “In making the decision to pause our brand release, we shifted our focus to finding productive ways to help. One of the most important means of prevention is washing your hands. Originally our clean, fragrance-free bar of soap was designed to keep skin clean and healthy after a tattoo session and beyond, and we recognized that its cleansing and moisturizing properties perfectly address the essential need for handwashing. Our goal is to repurpose our inventory in support of this handwashing initiative, in which we’ll provide 100% of the profits to Baby2Baby, an amazing organization working tirelessly to ensure working families across America have what’s needed during these trying times.”
To keep your tattoo fresh, clean and healthy, suds up with one of the best soaps for tattoos below.
1. Tattoo Goo Deep Cleansing Soap for Tattoos & Piercings
BEST FOR SENSITIVE SKIN
It’s a thin line, but this cleanser aces that balancing act by killing bacteria without drying out your skin. Fragrance-free, it’s pH-balanced to prevent irritation. The antimicrobial formula will leave your skin squeaky clean and your tattoo looking bright.
2. H2Ocean Blue Green Foam Soap
BEST FOR DRY SKIN
One of the most popular tattoo soaps out there, this foaming option is made to cleanse and moisturize your ink. Hydration comes courtesy of aloe vera, which also has cooling effects. The vegan, water-based line is extra gentle and free of anything that could irritate your skin, including fragrance and parabens.
3. WOO Gentle Cleansing Soap
Specifically designed to keep your skin healthy and clean after a tattoo, the formula is super gentle and made for daily washing. “Less is more,” says Woo. “Less ingredients equals better care and health for your tattoo and doesn’t overwork the new sensitive skin.”
4. WOO After/Care Moisturizer
In addition to the WOO Gentle Cleansing Soap, we also recommend the WOO After/Care Moisturizer, specifically formulated for freshly inked skin. If your skin is still feeling tender, raw or dry after getting tattooed, then you’ll want to pick up a tube of this calming moisturizer. This product is packed with soothing ingredients such as shea butter, Vitamin E and chamomile to help your skin heal. Not only is this safe for use on freshly tattooed skin, but it’s also fragrance-free.
5. Billy Jealousy Tattoo Wash
BEST FOR OLD TATTOOS
After a few years, your tattoo probably doesn’t look as bright as the day you got it. Bring it back to life by using this cleanser, which has exfoliants like glycolic acid and fruit extracts to lift and wash away dead skin cells that can cause it to look dull. It also contains cucumber extract and hydrolyzed oat protein to boost your tat’s color and make it look vibrant once more. However, new tattoos shouldn’t be washed with this cleanser, since its exfoliating formula is too tough on skin that’s still healing.
6. Dial Gold Antibacterial Deodorant Bar Soap
Don’t let the price fool you — this drugstore staple is truly the gold standard. The household mainstay has impressive antibacterial powers, killing germs but not moisture levels. It’s even gentle enough for fresh ink.
7. Cosco Tincture Tattoo Green Soap
A go-to for tattoo artists, this soap is especially great for fresh ink since it’s formulated to wash away dried blood and proteins from the skin. In fact, it’s so effective at cleansing that it can be used to prep the skin and clean tattoo equipment before they’re sterilized. It’s free of chemicals that are harsh on skin and instead relies on lavender, pure vegetable oils and glycerin as its main ingredients.
8. Vanicream Free and Clear Liquid Cleanser
Though this cleanser wasn’t made for caring for tattoos, it was designed for super sensitive skin, making it a sure bet for your ink. Soap- and oil-free, the cleanser was made specifically to avoid common chemical irritants found many liquid cleansers, which will help you avoid infection. Free of formaldehyde, lanolin, artificial fragrances and parabens, it’s recommended by dermatologists and gentle enough to be used daily.
9. Neutrogena Transparent Soap Bar
Neutrogena has always been synonymous with being safe for sensitive skin and beloved by the experts. Clean and gentle, this hypo-allergenic bar is free of harsh detergents, dyes and hardeners, so it won’t fade your ink. It also doesn’t contain any fragrance, which is a common trigger for sensitive skin. Made with glycerin to hydrate, it rinses clean and won’t leave anything behind.
10. Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap
Help your ink heal and stay healthy by sudsing up with this gentle soap from Dr. Bronner’s. It’s designed for babies so you know it’s gentle on skin and contains 90% organic ingredients. It’s fully biodegradable and made with all-natural ingredients that aren’t damaging to the environment. It contains no synthetic preservatives, foaming agents or other nasty stuff, and is made of plant-based stuff you can definitely pronounce. One thing to note is that it is quite concentrated, so you’ll want to dilute it before using it.
11. One Tattoo World Blue Soap
Not only does this cleanse tattoos, it also soothes them. A staple for tattoo artists, it gently cleanses the skin. The super concentrated soap has to be diluted with water, so this bottle will last you quite a while.
12. Essential Values Tincture Green Soap
Designed for tattoo artists, this bottle does it all: it helps heal ink, cleans and moisturizes. Made from natural and hypoallergenic ingredients, it’s free of all the harsh no-no’s but still fights bacteria, disinfects and soothes irritation. Developed in an FDA-certified facility, it’s tested and made in the USA.
13. Ink Soap
Speed up the healing process by washing with this tattoo soap. It’s made to keep skin hydrated and reduce bleeding, swelling and redness. Ethical and sustainable, the formula optimizes healing while keeping your ink bright and intact.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tattoo Soaps
A tattoo is essentially an open wound, and it's super important to keep it clean to avoid infection. Using soaps recommended by your tattoo artist and/or ones designed for tattoos is also crucial, as many soaps contain harsh ingredients that can cause irritation.
Dr. Woo recommends lightly cleansing your tattoo at least once a day and moisturizing a few times a day — once in the morning, once after a shower and once right before bedtime. He also advises against fully submerging your tattoo in water or exposing it to direct sunlight for the first 14 days.
There are many tattoo soaps out there with slightly different ingredient lists, so it's all about finding something that works for you and your skin. Make sure you read the list of ingredients carefully and avoid anything you're allergic to, and make sure it's something gentle that's light on fragrance or doesn't have any at all.