The itchy stages of a healing tattoo can be the most frustrating stage for many. It can get so bad that it almost feels more painful than the tattoo process itself.
We know that when someone tells you not to scratch, an itch seems to get even more intolerable, but you are not to scratch a new tattoo, no matter the circumstances or intensity of the itch. It’s for this reason that we have prepared an arsenal of information for how you can safely combat the tattoo itch!
Let us help you beat the itch while saving your ink.
Table of Contents (clickable)
- 1 Is It Normal For a Tattoo To Itch?
- 2 What Causes An Itchy Tattoo?
- 3 How To Treat An Itchy Tattoo
- 4 Can I Scratch My New Tattoo?
- 5 When To Seek Medical Advice
- 6 Our Final Thoughts
Is It Normal For a Tattoo To Itch?
An itchy tattoo is a completely normal part of the healing process. It happens to almost everyone at some point or another, and it can range in intensity based on the size of the piece and the heavy-handedness of the artist who created it.
While an itchy new tattoo is nothing to worry about, there are a few factors related to the itch that may be a cause for concern.
- If there is a red outline around your tattoo or red bumps, you may be having an allergic reaction to the ink or the products used on your new tattoo. This could also be a sign of infection, so have it checked by a tattoo professional.
- Other than the occasional dry skin which causes an itch, old tattoos shouldn’t itch as intensely as a newer, healing tattoo. Moisturize your skin and keep an eye on the area.
- Large, itchy scabs should be a cause for concern. Read our Tattoo Scabbing - Your Complete How To Guide to have a better understanding of the normal scabbing process.
What Causes An Itchy Tattoo?
Like any minor abrasion or wound, your body goes through its healing and repair process with a new tattoo. It needs to repair the skin over the wound, and this is what causes the itchiness.
Healthline writes, “As collagen cells expand and new skin begins to grow on the wound, it results in a scab. When a scab is dry and crusty, it stimulates an itchy sensation.
These messages of itchiness from your brain are ones that you should ignore. Scratching a wounded area or picking at a scab can tear new skin cells that your body is producing to heal the wound. Scratching the itch can reinjure the wound and set back the healing process.”
There are numerous factors that may cause the itching sensation on your new tattoo.
Regrowth of Shaved Hairs: No matter where you get a tattoo, one of the first steps in the process is to shave the region being tattooed so that the hair does not interfere with the tattooing process. If this is a region that has never been shaved before, it will be exceptionally irritating as the hair regrows.
Peeling Skin: Peeling skin is a natural, though unsightly, part of the tattoo healing process. The skin over your tattoo may flake and the rubbing, slight tugging, and half-loose pieces may cause a severe itching sensation.
Scabbing: Tattoo scabbing is another normal part of the healing process, but tattoo scabs should not be too thick or severely cracking. Tattoo scabs are how the new tattoo protects the regrowth of skin cells underneath, and this stage can be very itchy and irritating.
Sensitive Skin: If you have sensitive skin or suffer from atopic dermatitis (a common form of eczema that causes itchy and dry skin), the itchiness of a tattoo may be more severe for you.
Allergic Reaction: In some very rare cases, some people experience allergic reactions to the pigment of the ink used for tattoos. While any color could be to blame, it is said that red pigment causes the highest percentage of reactions in individuals.
Some common allergy symptoms are:
- Red skin
- Bumps that look like pimples
- Crusty skin
- Scaly skin
- Any white liquid that is coming from your tattoo after day four
- Major swelling
Photosensitivity: Tattoos should not be exposed to direct sunlight, and new tattoos are no exception. Everyday Health writes, “Tattoos that are exposed to the sun may result in an allergic reaction, particularly those that contain yellow tattoo ink. Yellow and some red pigments contain cadmium sulfide, which can cause an allergic reaction when exposed to the sun. ”
Skin Infection: If your ink was contaminated, if your tattoo artist doesn’t use proper sterilization methods, or if you touched your tattoo too often and the bacteria under your nails contaminated your tattoo, you may get an infection. An infection will increase the itch factor of a new tattoo.
Some common signs of skin infection are:
- Red bumps
- Severe redness on and around the tattoo
- Any painful bumps
- Any oozing blisters
- Rashes that begin on your tattoo and spread
- Having a fever
- Having the chills
An infected tattoo. (https://www.mymed.com/health-wellness/body-modifications/the-complete-guide-to-tattoos/signs-and-symptoms-of-tattoo-infection-and-what-to-do-about-it)
MRI Scan: Have you had an MRI scan and then noticed your new tattoo was itching? Apparently, this is common and the feeling will dissipate in a little time.
How To Treat An Itchy Tattoo
Once you’ve narrowed down the cause of the itch, it’s time to get into how to relieve that irritation. Though our methods below will certainly combat the annoying intensity, it may not completely eliminate the itch. This is just one of the side effects of getting a new tattoo, and there’s no real way to escape it - sorry!
Apply a Moisturizing Lotion
The easiest and most easily accessible solution to dealing with a new tattoo itch is to combat that dry skin with some hydrating moisturizer. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled two essential guides to help you pick the best option for your irritation:
- Best Tattoo Lotion For You Fresh Ink - Our Top Picks Reviewed
- Best Tattoo Cream - Our Top Choices Reviewed
When applying lotion to your new tattoo, there are a few steps you should follow.
- Always wash your tattoo with an antibacterial soap prior to applying lotion.
- You should only begin to use moisturizers on your tattoo after the weeping stops (generally around day three).
- Apply a very thin layer so that you don’t oversaturate your tattoo; this can lead to soft scabbing which can cause infections.
- Reapply two to four times a day, being sure to moisturize in the morning and before bed.
On older tattoos (tattoos who have had at least a month to heal), you can apply hydrocortisone or ointments that ease the itch, should your dry skin be quite severe. For older tattoos, you can also try taking an oatmeal bath to soothe the itch.
Gently Pat or Tap The Area Instead of Scratching It
The dangerous part about scratching a new tattoo is that you risk ripping off essential healing materials, like peeling skin or scabs, which could introduce bacteria into your tattoo. This is why it is essential that you do not scratch your tattoo with your nails if you really do feel the urge to itch.
Tattoo professionals always recommend patting or tapping the area with an open palm as a way to soothe the itch. Be sure to do this gently so you don’t tear any skin with the movement.
Take a Shower
Taking a shower is a quick solution to distract your skin and change your body chemistry for short-term itch relief. Don’t take a bath with a new tattoo because it should never be submerged within the first few weeks of healing.
Remember that your shower should have cool to lukewarm water, because warm or hot water will dehydrate your skin. Afterwards, pat your tattoo dry with a paper towel or fresh towel and apply a lotion to keep it hydrated and itch-free.
Try and Distract Yourself
Keeping busy is one of the best ways to get your mind off the itch; afterall, an itch is simply a neurological response to your body’s supposed irritation. The more occupied you keep your mind, the less focused it will be on that one spot on your body that is begging to be scratched. We recommend talking to a friend, cooking a meal, knitting, or playing video games.
Cool the Tattooed Area
Using a cool, damp washcloth or a cold compress may help relieve the irritation of a new tattoo. Be sure that any iced items are not placed directly on your skin; wrap it in a paper towel or a towel to be safe. We don’t recommend using this method until at least a week and a half of healing.
Wear Loose Clothing
Tight clothing within the first three weeks of a new tattoo will not only rub up against the wound and cause irritation, but will certainly add to the itchiness. Wear loose-fitting clothing that will not touch the inked region.
Avoid Fragrances or Dyes
Any added perfume or dyes in products can cause an allergic reaction on your new tattoo. Make sure your moisturizers or the laundry products you are using are fragrance-free, so you don’t cause an itchy flare-up.
Can I Scratch My New Tattoo?
Unless you like the sound of extended healing time, possible bacteria contamination, and the likelihood of infection, then, no, you cannot scratch your new tattoo.
We get it - it’s almost impossible to resist an itch that is as intense as a new tattoo itch, but one of the worst things you could do to your tattoo is get your hands on it and scratch. Even if your hands are washed to prevent the transmission of bacteria, you are disturbing the skin regeneration process and this could ruin your art piece. It’s simply not worth the risk.
We also want to stress that you should resist all urges to peel any flaking skin, pull off any scabs, or pick at anything on or around your new tattoo. Everything will come off when it should, as it should. Do not disrupt the process!
Not only does scratching risk infection and ruining your art, but you also may cause permanent scarring through the removal of any valuable scabs on your new tattoo. Simply put: avoid scratching your new tattoo at all costs.
Yes, we understand that sometimes accidents happen and you may scratch in your sleep or scratch without awareness; don’t panic. Continue your aftercare routine and keep an eye for any signs of abnormality, and we recommend covering the area (and keeping your nails short) to prevent any future accidents.
When To Seek Medical Advice
No one knows your skin better than you do, and if something really doesn’t look or feel normal, it’s best to speak to a professional. When you go to speak to a healthcare service member, be sure to bring any products that you are using on your new tattoo so they can check for any adverse reactions you may be having to the ingredients, as well. Don’t put off seeking medical help out of laziness; you don’t want to risk ruining the tattoo, and your health should never be compromised.
Our Final Thoughts
New tattoo itch is normal, so don’t panic! Proper aftercare using products we trust and recommend are one of the ways you can combat this annoying irritation. Remember to keep an eye on the area and if you see anything that causes concern, feel free to talk to a professional who can help you move through the healing process without stress.