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Whether your tattoo took multiple sessions from a renowned tattoo artist or 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 tattoo soaps.
“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.”
To keep your tattoo fresh, clean and healthy while healing (a process that typically takes about 14 days), suds up with one of 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. If you are typically somebody who has allergies to specific products, remember that the best tattoo soap for somebody else might not be the best for you. All of our skin is different, so it might take a little time to find an option that works ideally for your skin type.
With that said, you can find the best soaps for tattoos below, whether they were done with a tattoo gun or you received an old-fashioned stick and poke tattoo. In addition to consulting Dr. Woo, SPY has talked to multiple tattoo artists and dermatologists about their favorite tattoo soaps to make sure we’ve selected the top options for you. Don’t forget to check out the best tattoo lotions as well to keep your tats looking brighter than ever, as well as the best sunscreen for tattoos to ensure your ink doesn’t get damaged.
1. Dial Gold Antibacterial Bar Soap
Don’t let the price fool you — this drugstore staple is truly the gold standard. “When it comes to taking care of a fresh tattoo, less is more,” says Inked Magazine Executive Editor Devon Preston. “You don’t want to overwhelm your skin with anything too complex or fragrant, the mildest fragrance-free soap will do the trick. Just make sure to get a fresh bar and keep it in a hygienic place to avoid the spread of bacteria.” The household mainstay has impressive antibacterial powers, killing germs but not moisture levels. Most importantly, it’s gentle enough for fresh ink.
Read More: The Best Antibacterial Hand Soaps
2. Tattoo Goo Deep Cleansing Tattoo Soap
The best tattoo soap needs to kill bacteria without overly drying your skin. It’s a thin line, but this cleanser aces that balancing act. Fragrance-free, Tattoo Goo is pH-balanced to prevent irritation and uses a cleanser derived from palm seed extract. The antimicrobial formula will leave your skin squeaky clean and your tattoo looking bright. Plus, this product can also be used for piercings.
3. WOO Gentle Cleansing Tattoo Soap
WOO Gentle Cleansing Soap is the first product in Woo’s lifestyle venture, PROJECTWOO, and his namesake skincare line, WOO. 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. “Fewer ingredients equals better care and health for your tattoo and doesn’t overwork the new sensitive skin.” This gentle soap uses a coconut oil base and is free of parabens, fragrances and dyes.
4. H2Ocean Blue Green Foam Soap
BEST FOR DRY SKIN
This foaming option is one of the most popular tattoo soaps out there 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.
5. 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 the skin, containing 90% organic ingredients. It’s fully biodegradable and made with all-natural ingredients that aren’t damaging to the environment. It has no synthetic preservatives, foaming agents or other nasty stuff and is made of plant-based stuff you can pronounce. One thing to note is that it is pretty concentrated, so you’ll want to dilute it before using it.
6. Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Wash
Aveeno is a stellar body wash for those with tattoos. It’s completely unscented and has moisturizing qualities that are hard to beat when it comes to body washes. Not only does it nourish dry skin to keep it feeling soft and supple, but its unscented formula makes it ideal for those trying to keep their tattoos in check. Each bottle is filled with a gentle, creamy consistency packed with a mixture of oatmeal and rich emollients to keep skin and tats looking A1.
7. Neutrogena Original Fragrance-Free Facial Cleansing Bar
BEST SOAP FOR FACE TATTOOS
The Neutrogena Original Fragrance-Free Facial Cleansing Bar is a top-notch option when seeking out the best tattoo soaps for face tattoos. Don’t be so shocked; face tattoos are becoming more and more popular as time goes on due to pop culture and the likes of celebrities like Post Malone, Wiz Khalifa, Amber Rose and more. The skin on your face is quite different from the rest of your body, so when washing your tattooed face, you need something that won’t negatively affect your tats and skin. Because this cleansing bar is fragrance, detergent, dye and hardener-free, it’s one of the best for face tattoo aftercare.
8. 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 more vibrant. However, new tattoos shouldn’t be washed with this cleanser since its exfoliating formula is too tough on skin that’s still healing.
Read More: Best Sunscreen For Tattoos
What to Look for in the Best Soaps for Tattoos
When choosing tattoo soaps, our philosophy is simple: less is more. As in, the fewer ingredients, the better. The best tattoo soap won’t be chock full of chemicals, additives, dyes and fragrances, which can further irritate your skin while healing.
“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. It would help if you also avoided heavy ointments that don’t let the skin breathe because they can seal in harmful bacteria. For the first couple weeks, staying out of the sun and salt water is also important.”
Woo launched WOO Gentle Cleansing Soap to help create one of the best tattoo soaps of all time. “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. Nobody had focused on creating a bar of soap with this mind.”
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, 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.
You can certainly use an antibacterial soap designed specifically for tattoos, such as Billy Jealousy Tattoo Wash, Tattoo Goo or Woo soap. Still, a general-purpose soap will also get the job done if used properly.
According to the Mayo Clinic, in addition to washing your ink and keeping the area clean, you should follow these tattoo aftercare best practices during the two-week healing process:
- Keep the inked area clean
- Use moisturizer
- Avoid sun exposure
- Don’t go swimming
- Avoid tight clothes that will stick to the tattooed skin
Why Trust SPY When Choosing Tattoo Soaps
SPY’s tattooed team members have tried many tattoo aftercare products, and for this guide, we consulted several experts to ensure we selected the right products. All the tattoo soaps featured here have been personally tested by SPY reviewers or recommended by an expert such as Dr. Woo. In addition to tattoo artists, we’ve also spoken with multiple dermatologists in our search for the best tattoo after-care products.
Updates: This article was last updated on July 29, 2022. At that time, our overall product selection remained the same. After speaking with experts for our guide on stick and poke tattoos, we updated this article with additional information on tattoo after-care. Finally, we added new purchase links for a majority of the products.
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.