My New Tattoo Is Itchy—Can I Scratch It?

Updated on March 29, 2015
Woman’s “sleeve” tattoo of lady’s head with butterflies
Woman’s “sleeve” tattoo of lady’s head with butterflies | Source

Can I Scratch My Itchy New Tattoo?

No. You can't.

Scratching a new tattoo before it has completely healed can cause major damage to your tattoo.

In a new tattoo, ink can become trapped within the epidermis or top layer of skin. As it heals, some of this ink will slowly leach back into the skin and your tattoo. If you scratch your tattoo, you could remove the top layer of skin or scabs prematurely, which might cause patchy areas on your new tattoo where ink has been lost. It may appear as a white mark that might fade over two to three years (but who wants that?).

Also, when you scratch your freshly inked tattoo, you're dragging dirt and germs across your new wound. This type of contact between bacteria and open wound can develop into an infection, which can seriously damage your tattoo and cause health problems.

Why Is My Tattoo So Freaking Itchy?

Unfortunately, itchy skin is just one of the stages of the healing process. Dead skin cells are sloughing off your skin as new ones are appearing, and the discomfort is just a side effect.

Even though it itches like hell, know that you're not alone.

Scratching your tattoo causes damage.
Scratching your tattoo causes damage. | Source

What Damage Can Scratching Do to a Tattoo?

When a healing tattoo is scratched, your nails prematurely scrape the top layer of skin or a scab off. When either skin or a scab in particular, is removed instead of accidentally crumbling and falling off, ink can sometimes come out of your tattoo as well. A hazy, light patch will appear in the tattoo where the scab was before it was scratched off.

Infection in a tattoo is the other serious consequence of scratching a tattoo. Your finger nails play host to a wide variety of germs and micro organisms, no matter how clean the look. When a person drags their finger nails across a piece of skin, it collects other tiny pieces of skin and any bacteria that is on the skin as well. This gets pulled across tiny openings in you healing tattoo, potentially causing an infection.

An infection in a tattoo can cause enormous amounts of damage to the tattoo and in extreme cases, people have been known to loose a limb. See your doctor immediately if you suspect your tattoo has an infection.


AfterShock Tattoo Aftercare Value Box

AfterShock Tattoo Aftercare Box Set


For a complete tattoo aftercare system, I recommend AfterShock Value Box that has all the products you need for the entire tattoo process. It has an antibacterial tattoo wash, tattoo healing creams, and daily lotions for moisture and the continuing care of your tattoo.

This premium kit also has an exfoliating gel designed to rejuvenate and brighten an old tattoo.


What to Do About that Itch

An intensely itchy tattoo can drive any sane person absolutely nuts. Whether you're standing in line at the checkout or sitting at home in a comfy chair, the itch can strike at any moment and you may find your fingers unconsciously reaching for and scratching your new tattoo.

Damage to tattoos by mindless scratching can occur in a split second. There's no going back once your sharp fingernails makes contact with the delicate, healing tattoo skin.

Don't expect sympathy either for your mental state and itchy crazies. You of course did this to yourself by getting an awesome piece of body art.

It can be rough out there, but there's no need to freak out. Mild to intense itching is all part of the healing process that your newly inked tattoo is passing through. In fact, if you weren't experiencing some level of itching, then you would need to double check that your tattoo is in fact healing correctly.

Aside from scratching, here are some other ways to make that itch go away:

  • Pat your tattoo or gently slap it with an open palm. Gentle is a key word here.
  • Place a thick material over the tattoo and gently graze the top of your fingers over the material. This is kind of like tickling the skin without going full scratch.
  • Apply approved tattoo aftercare cream. Don't go overboard however, since applying too much can create an environment conducive to infection.
  • Take a short warm shower. Again don't overdo it and soak your tattoo. This can also hamper healing.
  • Distract yourself from the itch. Go for a walk, eat something, or find someone to chat with.
  • Lay a cool, damp cloth over the itchy area for a short amount of time. The coolness of the washcloth should take the angry, itchy, burning feeling away. To make it super cold, put it in the freezer for a few minutes first.
  • Hold a flat palm over the tattoo without moving it until the itch goes away.

If you have a trick to stop yourself scratching your itchy tattoo? We'd love to hear about it. Please write your tips in the comments section at the very bottom of this page for everyone to read.

Arm tattoo on male
Arm tattoo on male | Source

Why Can't My Tattoo Get Wet?

Your tattoo is an open wound and standing water (e.g. bathwater) is not bacteria-free. Imagine the grime from your feet floating up to your new tattoo wound and penetrating the fragile outer layer. It's not a pretty picture, and neither is an infection.

That said, extremely short periods under water should not damage your healing tattoo. If it is soaked in water for a fair amount of time, you'll need to let it dry as much as possible. Potentially, some scabs may begin to prematurely lift if they get too wet. This can and most likely will result in some loss of ink.

But the best way to prevent tattoo damage and infection is to just stay out of the water!

Do you have a tattoo that is driving you absolutely batty with itchiness?

See results

How To Keep Scabs from Forming on Your New Tattoo

Scabs are simply a natural part of the healing process along with the dry, opaque, flaky skin of your healing tattoo (the skin that's driving you crazy). That said, too many scabs can be a problem.

What Causes Scabbing

In the one to two hours immediately after your tattoo session, your wound oozed both ink and plasma (a component of blood that appears as a clear, golden-colored fluid.)

This fluid also contains some of the ink that was deposited below your skin by the artist when they were doing your tattoo design. When plasma mixes with the air, it hardens. Scabs are the result of your plasma, ink, and the air combining together on the outside of your freshly inked tattoo.

You can keep scabs from forming on your new tattoo by thoroughly and regularly washing your tattoo. Washing your new tattoo with a tattoo-industry-endorsed, anti-bacterial wash within one to two hours should gently wash away all plasma fluid. This will keep away the scabs, but you'll need to replace your body's healing fluids with approved tattoo aftercare lotions.

Tattooed women in history, Betty Broadbent
Tattooed women in history, Betty Broadbent | Source

Itch Distraction: Funny Video

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        Angie 

        2 months ago

        I use a blow dryer on the cool setting to stop the itch

      • profile image

        2 months ago

        Put ice on it

      • profile image

        Britney 

        5 months ago

        I just look at how pretty it is and try not to tell myself to ruin it

      • profile image

        Heather 

        5 months ago

        Aquaphor is the lotion recommended by my artist, it works great at relieving the itch!

      • profile image

        Kat 

        5 months ago

        I’ve had some success with washing and applying ointment regularly as well as wrapping it in a clean wrap or bandage and applying pressure as it gets itchy keeping it wrapped at night helps to keep it safe

      • profile image

        Kestrel 

        5 months ago

        I’ve been dealing with it by scratching the same spot my tattoo is on but on the other side of my body

      • profile image

        Latassia 

        7 months ago

        I just slightly rub my tattoo softly when it itches.

      • profile image

        Jayhawks 

        7 months ago

        This isn't my first tattoo but tap on my new tattoo and it won't stop itching what else where is there to do

      • profile image

        Randy 

        13 months ago

        I have found that blowing on my tattoos has helped with itching

      • profile image

        Lala 

        15 months ago

        I just got a tattoo last week. The only thing helps me is this thick, clear wrap thing he put over it. I just gently scratch on top of it. it's too hard to scratch through it tho. Other times, I just fan the arm that the tattoo is on.

      • profile image

        Roro 

        16 months ago

        I pat the area where the itch is or i shake the body part, distracts me for a bit.

      • profile image

        Nikita 

        20 months ago

        I have now got 6 tattoos and the 1 i just got has to be the worse one its so itchy

      • profile image

        Days 

        21 months ago

        My tattoo itches so bad I've scratched my other arm and it helps. I also scratched around if but not on it. might just be me but its worth a try!

      • profile image

        Mike 

        2 years ago

        I find that when a tattoo is crazy itchy, it has to do with it drying out. I usually apply a non-fragrance moisturizer 3-5 times a day (especially during the dry winter months) to keep it from being too itchy.

      • profile image

        Emily 

        2 years ago

        Be active and try not thinking about your tattoo

      • profile image

        cc 

        2 years ago

        Slightly dab kitchen toll on the tattoo :)

      • profile image

        Sathiya 

        2 years ago

        I got a my new Anchor tattoo on left hand fore arm on Last week, But still the tattoo is Like healing n outline of the skin is still shrink. Just i want to know when i can see my tattoo final stage.

      • profile image

        Glen fleetham 

        2 years ago

        I used a tiny make up brush and slightly tickled my tattoo but not to much as scared I will damage it

      • profile image

        Mirian 

        3 years ago

        Before getting a tattoo make sure you choose the right time and its not around the time you take vacation or any kind of trip.. Itching is insane..

      • Organised Kaos profile imageAUTHOR

        Anne 

        3 years ago from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS)

        Tattoos can have the mot intense itch. What is your trick to not scratch!

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, tatring.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://tatring.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)