My New Tattoo Is Itchy—Can I Scratch It?
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.
Why Can't I Scratch My New 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 it, 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 artwork 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.
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 where the scab was before it was scratched off.
Infection is the other serious consequence of scratching. Your fingernails play host to a wide variety of germs and microorganisms, no matter how clean they look. When a person drags their fingernails across a piece of skin, they collect 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 can cause enormous amounts of damage to the tattoo and, in extreme cases, people have been known to lose a limb. See your doctor immediately if you suspect infection.
How to Deal With an Itchy Tattoo
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 and scratching.
Damage to tattoos by mindless scratching can occur in a split second. There's no going back once your sharp fingernails make 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. 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 spot 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.
AfterShock Tattoo Aftercare Box Set
For a complete aftercare system, I recommend that has all the products you need for the entire 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. AfterShock Value Box
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 skin. 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?
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 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 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 by thoroughly and regularly washing your tattoo. Using 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 aftercare lotions.
More Information on Your Healing Tattoo
- Tattoo Aftercare Tips: How Should I Look After My New Tattoo?
Read this article for practical and tested tattoo aftercare instructions. Find out what you need to do, why you need to do it, and how to be most effective.
- I Just Got a New Tattoo—When Can I Go Swimming and Get My Tattoo Wet?
Read this if you've recently gotten your tattoo inked and want to know if and when you can get your tattoo wet.
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.