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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 for 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!

Not to worry, however. The article below will tell you everything you need to know so that you don't go insane as you travel through the tattoo healing process. 

Forewarning: Reading this article may make you feel very itchy!

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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 irritation once in a while, whereas others get extremely intense sensations that won’t go away for long periods of time. If you're one of these people, we'll discuss ways to help you relieve tattoo itching - don't worry.

In order to smash your way past the aftercare stages as quickly as possible, check out our tattoo healing tips to help speed things up a bit.

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 look to get the problem checked out by your doctor just to be on the safe side.


If you have an old tattoo that still itches or feels irritated, this could be down to a few reasons, but is commonly due to the area becoming dry, with the layers of flaky skin causing irritation to the surrounding area. Try to moisturize your tattoo 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 to get things checked out.

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.

An itching tattoo 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 surrounding area 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 can be problematic as localized infections can occur at the root of ingrown hairs, and the trapped hairs can also push ink out as they try to rise to the surface, resulting in patchy 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, this quite can be mild, to rather severe.

    Red is the most common ink color to cause adverse local skin reactions. This is due to the types of metal used in the ink, which are not normally included in other colors. Allergic reactions to tattoo ink can take from a couple of days to many years to show up around the affected area.

  • 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 dermatologic conditions.

    These conditions can range from mild dry skin, to eczema and psoriasis. If you're concerned about any new symptoms 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 side-effects such as itchiness during the healing process can be annoying, they are often short-lived as your body chemistry slowly gets back to normal.

    Scabbing - All tattoos scab when they're new. Some tattoos scab heavily, while some scab so lightly that you may not even be able to see it. However, if the scabs on your tattoo dry out too much, they can begin to crack open and become sore. These extremely dry scabs can become very itchy.

Can I Scratch My New Tattoo If It Itches?

Itchy Tattoo

Basically… NO! No you can't.

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

Not only this, but the dirt trapped underneath your fingernails can be transferred into the open wound, significantly increasing the risk of getting an infected tattoo.

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. This risk alone should be enough for you to resist the urge of scratching until the healing is complete.

After getting a new tattoo and 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 sitting in these areas it is much more prone to being drawn out by rubbing or picking at scabs.

If you scratch your tattoo and happen to pull a scab off in the process, ink can potentially be lost, leaving your tattoo with small areas of patchiness which may need to be sorted out in a future touch up.

That is not the only issue though. Pulling a scab off prematurely can cause a pit to form in your skin. These pits 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 willpower 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 you can do while snoring away in bed if you happen to get an itch and you subconsciously begin 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 you're able to have a beautiful scar-free tattoo for the rest of you life, it may just be worth thinking about if you’re paranoid.

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 tips and tricks below can bring you at least some relief to help you get past the most annoying parts 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 lotion off with a clean paper towel - don't rub.

    There are also many specialized tattoo healing lotions on the market to help your tattoo heal even quicker during the initial phases. These lotions contain all the ingredients required for your damaged skin to regenerate as best as possible.

My Favourite Tattoo Healing/Moisturizing Lotion

My Favourite Tattoo Healing/Moisturizing Lotion

Hustle Butter Deluxe – Tattoo Butter for Before, During, and After the Tattoo Process – Lubricates and Moisturizes – 100% Vegan Replacement for Petroleum-Based Products – 5 oz
Hustle Butter Deluxe – Tattoo Butter for Before, During, and After the Tattoo Process – Lubricates and Moisturizes – 100% Vegan Replacement for Petroleum-Based Products – 5 oz

The best tattoo lotion I've ever personally used is a (vegan) tattoo aftercare product called Hustle Butter. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process - not only to keep your tattoo really well hydrated, but it's also very good at soothing that annoying itching and irritation.

Many other users of the product have also advised that when using it from the very start of the healing process, it appears to decrease healing times and seems to significantly reduce heavy scabbing.

Read more about Hustle Butter here, and have a quick look at some of the customer reviews to see exactly why it's one of the best and most popular tattoo lotions on the market.

Here's a selection of my other favorite tattoo lotions and ointments currently available.


Lotion on tattoo

This is FAR too much lotion and some should be blotted off with a paper towell

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

  • 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 while. Once out of the shower, pat your tattoo with a clean paper towel (your bath-towel will be swarming with bacteria) until it’s completely dry, and proceed by applying a thin layer of moisturizing lotion.

    Do not spend too long in the shower as you don't want to saturate your tattooed skin with water. Baths are also out of the question for the above reason, and also due to the fact that bathwater is teeming with bacteria. 
Shower to relieve tattoo itching
  • Carefully Rub - Place a thick (clean) cloth over your tattoo and gently graze over it with your fingers. The thick 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 switching your brain 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 advise that chewing bubblegum helps them become distracted enough from the itchiness.

  • Cool the Tattooed Area – Anything cold on the area should soothe the itching sensation. The most gentle 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.

Summary

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.

Although you should now know how to make a tattoo stop itching, please remember that the irritation is only at its worst for around 7-10 days. As long as you can refrain from scratching until this time is over, you should be the proud owner of a stunning, blemish-free tattoo for the rest of your life.

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