Reasons to Use Coconut Oil on Tattoos

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

There are many reasons why you should apply coconut oil to a tattoo, whether it's a new or old one. Recent research indicates that coconut has antibacterial properties that may protect your inked skin from infections. It has also been found to effectively moisturize skin.

Research has further shown that it can improve skin barrier function and promote wound healing. Coconut oil is also an affordable remedy that you can find and purchase easily.

This article explains the benefits of coconut oil for tattoos, how to apply it, and possible side effects to know about.

coconut oil

AshaSathees Photography / Getty Images

Benefits of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil, whether it’s used for general skincare before or after getting a tattoo, has multiple benefits, including:

  • All-natural: Unlike many moisturizers that contain harsh chemicals, pure coconut oil is all-natural, which means it is unlikely to cause skin irritation.
  • Moisturizing: Studies have shown that applying virgin coconut oil as a moisturizer on people with dry skin is effective and safe.
  • Anti-inflammatory: In an eight-week study that included pediatric patients with atopic dermatitis, topical application of virgin coconut oil showed positive benefits in three different categories, including the extent and severity of eczema, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance. The study suggested that virgin coconut oil’s effectiveness was due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Antimicrobial: A small study of 52 adults randomized them to treatment with virgin coconut oil vs. virgin olive oil. It showed that virgin coconut oil was superior to virgin olive oil in reducing Staphylococcus aureus colonization.
  • Wound healing: An in vitro and in vivo study showed that fermented virgin coconut oil has a high wound-healing potency.
  • Affordable: Coconut oil is less expensive than brand-name moisturizers and can be bought in bulk, so you can have it on hand whenever you need it. Plus, you can use it for a variety of needs, ensuring you get your money's worth from it.
  • Cruelty-free: Unlike processed beauty products that are often tested on animals to ensure they're safe and effective, pure coconut oil doesn't need to undergo any testing, so you don't have to worry about animals being harmed.

How to Use Coconut Oil on a Tattoo

If you're caring for a new tattoo, keep the broken skin clean by washing it two or three times a day, and then apply the olive oil after each washing.

When using coconut oil, you want to put on just a thin layer. Putting on too thick a layer will prevent your skin from breathing and could reduce the benefits.

You can continue to use coconut oil on tattoos after they've healed. Some people say that using it regularly improves that luster and brightness of the ink.

Side Effects and Risks

Side effects from coconut oil are rare, but an allergic reaction known as contact dermatitis may occur due to topical exposure to products like cleansers, moisturizers, cosmetics, and shampoos that contain coconut-derived ingredients, such as coconut diethanolamide (also called cocamide DEA or CDEA) and cocamide sulfate. 

The risks of ingesting coconut oil include an upset stomach or anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.

Contact dermatitis symptoms may include a red, streaky, or patchy rash where the substance, in this case the coconut oil, touched the site of the tattoo. The rash may have red, blistering, weeping bumps, and the skin may feel tender. The rash may also ooze, drain, and crust, or become scaly, raw, or thickened. In addition, the skin may burn, itch, and hurt.

These side effects may occur a day or two after applying the coconut oil to the site of the tattoo and may take several days to clear up.

It is best to make sure you have no adverse reaction to a product before applying it on a large area of your skin. You may want to do a patch test before first use. Patch testing is a method used to determine the cause of a skin irritant or reaction.

What to Look For

You can find virgin coconut oil in supermarkets, health food stores, and the cosmetic section of many drugstores. However, you want to look for 100% pure coconut oil.

Skincare products contain other ingredients in addition to coconut oil that can irritate your skin or cause an allergic reaction.

For the best results, choose coconut oil that is labeled as follows:

  • Extra virgin, unrefined, and/or cold pressed
  • No preservatives
  • No added fragrances

Avoid oil that has been "deodorized."

Is Organic Oil Better?

Because there is not a significant concern about pesticides and coconuts are not known to be a genetically modified crop, you don't have to worry about choosing organic or non-GMO varieties.

A Word From Verywell

If this is the first time you are considering a tattoo, ask others who have tattoos what you can expect during the healing process and how to take care of the site. Make sure you go to a reputable tattoo artist who works in a clean and sterile environment; ask them what lotions they recommend for the healing process and if they recommend coconut oil.

To be extra cautious, consult with a dermatologist and ask them if they recommend coconut oil while the site heals and what else you can do to soothe the skin and keep the area clean.  

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Peedikayil FC, Remy V, John S, Chandru TP, Sreenivasan P, Bijapur GA. Comparison of antibacterial efficacy of coconut oil and chlorhexidine on Streptococcus Mutants: an in vivo study. J Int Soc Prev Community Dent. 2016;6(5):447-452. doi:10.4103/2231-0762.192934

  2. Karagounis TK, Gittler JK, Rotemberg V, Morel KD. Use of "natural" oils for moisturization: review of olive, coconut, and sunflower seed oil. Pediatr Dermatol. 2019 Jan;36(1):9-15. doi:10.1111/pde.13621

  3. Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Dec 27;19(1):70. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070

  4. Evangelista MT, Abad-Casintahan F, Lopez-Villafuerte L. The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial. Int J Dermatol. 2014 Jan;53(1):100-8. doi:10.1111/ijd.12339

  5. Verallo-Rowell VM, Dillague KM, Syah-Tjundawan BS. Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis. Dermatitis.

  6. Ibrahim AH, Li H, Al-Rawi SS, Majid ASA, Al-Habib OA, Xia X, Majid AMA, Ji D. Angiogenic and wound healing potency of fermented virgin coconut oil: in vitro and in vivo studies. Am J Transl Res.

  7. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. Coconut allergy.

  8. MedlinePlus. Contact dermatitis.

By Rebeca Schiller
Rebeca Schiller is a health and wellness writer with over a decade of experience covering topics including digestive health, pain management, and holistic nutrition.