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Why Do Tattoos Itch And How To Stop An Itchy Tattoo

Tattoo itching is the number one pet-peeve for many, many people who go through the tattoo healing process. It can last up to a couple of weeks and is made even more insanely irritating due to the fact that an itchy tattoo should not be scratched under any circumstance while it's healing!

Forewarning: Reading this article may make you feel itchy!

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HIDDENAD

What Does It Mean When Your Tattoo Itches? Is it normal?

During the healing process, itching is completely normal and happens to almost everybody to some extent. Some people only get very mild itching once in a while whereas others get extremely intense itching that won’t go away for long periods of time (If you're one of these people, we'll discuss ways to help relieve tattoo itching below).

See our tattoo healing tips to make sure your tattoo heals as quickly as possible.

Maybe Not So Normal

If you have itchy red bumps and lumps on/around your tattoo, this can sometimes be a sign of an infection and you should get the problem checked out by your doctor as soon as possible.

If you have an old tattoo itching or feeling irritated, and this is uncommon for your specific tattoo, this could be down to a few reasons, but is mostly due to the area becoming dry. Try to moisturize the area more often and see if there's an improvement. If you’re concerned or if there's no improvement after a few days, see a doctor or dermatologist.​

Why Do Tattoos Itch - What Is Causing My Itchy Tattoo?

Straight after getting your brand new tattoo from a studio, your tattooed skin is essentially going to be an open wound. After the first 6-7 days, your tattoo is going to have completely scabbed over and will begin to shed its scabs and dead skin – this is normally when the itching starts. The itching can be caused by several different factors – the most common of which can be found below:

  • Tickly Peeling Skin - This is the most likely reason for your horrid itch. As the skin peels it will partially come away from the already very sensitive skin, rubbing and tickling the skin as the loose parts move around.
  • Regrowth of Shaven Hairs - Every area of skin that is likely to be inked in a session will be shaved by the artist before the tattooing starts. This is to prevent the tattoo needles from getting caught in any hair that may be growing over the area.  

    Shaving also stops the potential for hair to be pushed down into the skin by the needle - this is bad as localized infections can occur at the root of ingrown hairs and they can push out ink as they try to rise to the surface, resulting in patch healing.
Hairy Tattoo
  • Allergic Reaction to the InkSkin reactions to tattoo ink are actually quite common, but most are relatively minor and subside after several days and don’t require any medical attention. These reactions can irritate the skin enough to cause them to itch, the itching can be mild to quite severe.

    Red is the most common ink color to cause reactions – this is due to the types of metals used in the ink which are not normally included in other colors.
  • Skin Conditions – Having an area of skin tattooed can bring on certain skin conditions that you didn’t even know you had – this is because the tattooed skin will become much more sensitive compared to its usual state, and this can expose any previously hidden conditions.

    These conditions can range from mild dry skin to eczema and psoriasis. If you're concerned about any new symptoms that you were previously unaware of, it’s advisable to see either a doctor or dermatologist.

  • Body Chemistry - All of these processes can have an affect on various organs throughout your body – and remember, your skin is an organ also. Although these potential aftereffects such as itchiness during the healing process can be annoying, they are often short-lived as your body chemistry slowly gets back to normal.

Can I Scratch My New Tattoo If It Itches?

Itchy Tattoo

Basically… NO! No you can't.

One of the worst things that you can do to your new tattoo is to scratch it. What will happen is when you scratch your tattoo, any scabs or skin that has begun to heal over the damaged area can potentially be ripped off.

Not only this, but the dirt trapped under your fingernails can be transferred into the open wound, significantly increasing the risk of infection.

An infection starting within your tattoo can cause a whole host of nasty problems depending on the type of bacteria that has been able to enter through your wound, so this risk alone should be enough for you to resist the urge of scratching until the healing is over. Read more about tattoo infections in our guide.

What happens when you get a tattoo is that after the ink has been injected into the lower layers of your skin, some of the ink will become trapped in the middle and upper layers before it properly sets – while the ink is in these areas, it is much more prone to being pulled out by rubbing/picking at scabs, and also itching.

If you scratch your tattoo and happen to pull a scab off in the process, ink can potentially be lost, leaving your tattoo looking patchy in that specific area.

That is not the only issue though – pulling a scab off prematurely through itching can cause a pit to form in your skin, which will take much longer to heal compared to the rest of your skin, and can even lead to permanent scarring.

Warning

You may have the strongest will in the world while you're awake and conscious to tell yourself not to itch your tattoo – but when you’re asleep you do not have control of this. Unfortunately, there is not much that you can do while snoring away in bed if you happen to get an itch and you subconsciously start to scratch it.

Try to keep your fingernails are short as possible - some people have even mentioned wearing gloves to bed. It may seem silly and it may look stupid to your partner, but if it means that you have a beautiful scar-free tattoo for the rest of you life, it may be worth thinking about if you’re worried.

How To Stop A Tattoo From Itching

An itchy tattoo, like any other type of skin itch, can be relieved using a variety of different methods, all of which are much less harmless than scratching.

I understand that an extremely irritating itch can drive anyone insane. It doesn’t matter where you are and what you’re doing – therefore hopefully the below tips and tricks can bring you at least some relief to help you get past the most annoying part of the tattoo healing process.

Remember, the itching may not go away completely, as after all, it’s the price you pay for getting a tattoo.

  • Apply a moisturizing lotion to your tattoo – The main reason why most people’s tattoos start to itch is because they’ve let their skin get too dry, meaning the the loose skin will stiffen up and start to tickle the sensitive tattooed area.

    Apply a thin layer of moisturizer whenever your tattoo starts to look/feel dry and this should keep the itching to a minimum. Don’t apply too much as your tattoo still needs to breathe in order to heal – dab any excess off with a paper towel.

My Favourite Aftercare Lotion

The best lotion I've ever used to prevent and stop itching as soon as it starts is a (vegan) tattoo aftercare product called Hustle Butter. This stuff works wonders during the tattoo healing process and not only stops itching but really hydrates your skin.

Hustle Butter

Many others also claim that when using it from the outset, it appears to speed up healing and highly reduces the chance of any heavy scabbing.

Read more about Hustle Butter here. Just have a look at some of the customer reviews and you'll see why it's so popular.

Here is a selection of my other favorite tattoo lotions and ointments that are currently on the market.


  • Gently pat/tap/slap your tattoo instead of scratching it - This will ensure that no skin or scabs or dragged off the service, and should hopefully dull the itch slightly. Remember to wash your hands first still to minimize the risk of getting an infection from bacteria on your hands.

  • Take a Shower – Taking a short warm shower may be enough to change the short-term chemistry around your tattoo to stop it itching for a little while. Once out of the shower, pat your tattoo with a paper towel (your bath-towel will be swarming with bacteria) until it’s completely dry and then apply a thin layer of moisturizing lotion.
Shower to relieve itching
  • Carefully Rub - Place a thick (clean) cloth over your tattoo and gently graze over it with your fingers. The tick cloth should prevent your fingernails from doing any damage but the pressure should be enough to relieve the itch somewhat.

  • Try and Distract Yourself – This works for some, but not for others. It’s worth giving it a go though. Try to get your mind off of the itching by doing anything involving to get your brain to switch away from the thoughts of itching and scratching. This can be anything from going for walks, playing video games or phoning  a friend. Some people even suggest that chewing bubblegum helps them get distracted enough from the itchiness.
  • Cool the Tattooed Area – Anything cold on the area should soothe the itching sensation. The gentlest way to do this would be to place a damp (clean) cloth/towel over the area for a few minutes.

    If you would like to try something more extreme, try an icepack instead – just remember to place some sort of material between the ice and the skin otherwise you could suffer a burn from the ice, which would not be good on the very sensitive healing area.

Summary

And there you have it! I hope these tips have been useful. Please let me know in the comments which tricks have worked on your itchy tattoo and which haven’t been so successful.

Please remember that the itching is only at its worst for around 7-10 days, so as long as you can refrain from scratching until this time is over, you should be a proud owner of a stunning clear tattoo for the rest of your life.

Do you have any other tricks or tips to help relieve an itching tattoo? If you do, then we’d live to hear them! Please write your suggestions down in the comments section below for everyone to read. Please share our article!

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