Could cannabis improve tattoo aftercare?

Cannabis tattoo aftercare: Image of gloved hands using a tattoo needle on a persons arm.

Tattoos are art collections that you carry with you for a lifetime. Taking care of a fresh tattoo is essential in keeping the piece in good shape. An artist will instruct clients in tattoo aftercare, cleansing, and staying out of UV light helps avoid infection and scarring. A crucial component of this aftercare regimen is the moisturizer applied to scabbing, healing new ink.

One study surveyed 32 tattoo artists on their post-tattoo moisturizer recommendations; unscented lotion and petroleum-based ointment were the top responses. Some companies, like Tattoo Goo, offer products formulated specifically for tattoo aftercare, but artists surveyed mentioned mainstream brands like Aquaphor as their top recommended product.

Topical cannabis brands are entering the tattoo aftercare market with products designed to moisturize fresh ink and keep mature tattoos crisp. However, some research suggests that cannabinoids in tattoo aftercare may do more than hydrate.

Why keep tattoos moisturized?

Every ink dot in a tattoo requires a needle puncture to the skin, which means a fresh tattoo is an amalgam of many wounds. After laying down a new piece of art, the skin reacts like it has an open wound, and moisturizer aids in the recovery process.

Not moisturizing a tattoo can lead to cracking. When the skin cracks and ink bleeds, it could leave a blemish on the piece. New tattoos can itch as they dry out, but scratching them raises the risk of infection and can blemish the final look. Many tattoo artists recommend moisturizing two to three times daily to reduce the itch and remove the need to scratch, but what do cannabinoids add to the process?

Can cannabis help tattoos heal?

There are endocannabinoid receptors in the skin, and though more research is needed, preliminary studies show cannabinoids could promote wound healing.

In a 2018 anecdotal study of three patients who chose to use topical cannabis products, all three patients reported faster wound healing. This study also concludes that more research is needed, but CBD and cannabinoid topicals could promote wound healing.

Many companies that make topical CBD products offer lotions, creams, or balms specifically for tattoos–and some are temporary tattoos that also serve as a transdermal topical product. Checking whether a cannabis topical is appropriate for a fresh piece is wise before applying it.

Cannabis tattoo aftercare products

Tattoos require a non-scented, no-frills moisturizer to avoid irritation and infection, but some include natural essential oils that aid healing. Luxury tattoo aftercare brand Fortify has CBD products for prepping the skin to get a tattoo, cleansing skin immediately after getting a tattoo, and moisturizing a freshie.

The product formulation for the aftercare ointment includes antiviral and anti-fungal essential oils like tea tree and rosemary alongside vitamin E and CBD. The Fortify site does not mention where they source CBD, which would be ideal to know before applying the product to an open wound.

Foundry Nation also makes a Tattoo Stick, but rather than promote faster healing, the Stick is for already healed tattoos. This formulation uses natural moisturizing ingredients like grapeseed and sunflower oils alongside oils meant to reduce inflammation. The other ingredients, like calendula, cedarwood, lavender, Vitamin E, and CBD oil, also target swelling and inflammation.

Foundry Nation claims that in targeting inflammation and skin health, the tattoo stick makes healed and older pieces look crisp and fresh. After a win for “Most Innovative CBD Product” in the third annual Legacy Cup, we’re apt to believe them.

Moisturizing a fresh tattoo can preserve the art and inhibit itching, and cannabis topicals may promote faster healing. Though more research is needed, it can’t hurt to bring the topic up with an artist next time you go under the needle and see what they think.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.