Scratching A New Tattoo Without Damaging It

  • Written By Dan Hunter on October 12, 2019
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

You want your tattoo to stay perfect, right? Well, take care. A perfectly well-done tattoo can be ruined with lousy aftercare practice, such as scratching.

Itchiness is to be expected during a tattoo’s restoration period, but excessive scratching halts the healing process. This, in turn, can lead to numerous health and skin issues. Hold off on the scratching to minimize any injury to the wound.

You can scratch a tattoo without causing damage:

  • From approximately three-to-four weeks
  • After the healing process has completely finished
  • When the scabs have all fallen off

Why Do Tattoos Itch? 

A needle penetrating the skin leaves an open wound — nothing as brutal for you to see open flesh and blood, but the body reacts as if it’s trauma. The tattoo machine has had to pierce the five layers of the epidermis for the ink to reach the dermis tissue. With between 50 and 3,000 skin penetrations a minute, that’s a lot for the body to deal with.

Your body will begin a natural healing process upon getting a tattoo. This process can vary depending on the placement of the tattoo and the quality of the inking. Everyone will experience several specific mild symptoms during this time, with one of the most common side effects being itching of various intensity.

Week One

During this period, you’ll typically experience mild inflammation and some stinging pain. The tattoo may excrete plasma, excess ink, and some blood.

At this time, scabs are forming, and you mustn’t scratch. Doing so would cause irritation and pass unwanted bacteria from under your fingernails into the open flesh.

The tattooing has damaged the epidermis and top dermis layers. The immune system’s phagocyte cells will attempt to engulf the foreign matter, which, in tattooing, is the ink pigment.

Week Two

As healing commences, the damaged epidermis layer begins to flake away. The area will start to feel dry, and you’ll feel an urge to itch. Don’t! Let the skin continue to heal — collagen growth will soon mend it. 

Very colorful peeling

The mild itching irritation is a positive sign of healing. Leave your body to mend itself, without the aggravation of constant touch.

Week Three 

After a couple of weeks, the ink pigment should have embedded further down in the dermis. This will mean the tattoo is healing well. Ideally, it’ll be looking healthy and fresh. Scratching is safer at this stage as the epidermis layer of skin is now healed over the ink, but you should probably still wait one more week. 

Below the surface, layers of skin are still regenerating, so do continue a thorough aftercare regime.

Ease The Irritation 


Apply a suitable ointment or lotion. The hydrating ingredients will ease dryness and maintain the area’s moisture.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.​ Click here to buy from Amazon.


Drink a healthy amount of water to maintain your water balance and hydrate your body. This will prevent skin dryness and should ease the itching irritation of the tattoo. 


Ensure that you clean the freshly-inked area consistently and provide it with suitable protection to minimize contact with bacteria. Antimicrobial and non-scented soaps are ideal.


Taking a quick, low-temperature shower can be a non-harmful way to ease itching irritation. Be sure to avoid submerging the tattoo in water. This will halt the healing process and provide too much moisture to the area.

Cause For Concern

Mild itching irritation is an expected element of the tattoo recovery period. It signals the occurrence of the natural phagocytosis process. It means that scabs have formed, and the body has naturally protected the open wound.

Excessive, prolonged itching may be a cause for concern. The American Academy of Dermatology advises that skin can react in unexpected ways, and reactions can show themselves in the forms of infection, rashes and skin disease. 

Of course, this may be a delayed reaction to the actual ink. The FDA doesn’t regulate tattoo ink, and ink has been found to contain traces of matter such as led. This makes it even more important to be rigorous with protecting your tattoo post-inking.


The key to a healthy, clean, and long-lasting tattoo comes in the form of a proper healing process. This can only occur when the tattoo is protected. Improper care of your fresh tattoo can cause a prolonged healing process and even permanent damage to the tattoo itself.

Do your best to eliminate any direct contact with the wound early on. Repetitive scratching can transfer unwanted and damaging bacteria into the tattoo, which will cause irritation, discomfort and possible infection. Scratching is one of the main things you shouldn’t do during healing.

Remember, be aware of the healing process of the tattoo. Simply allow the body to heal itself. Once a month has passed, you should be fine to give the area a scratch now and again whenever it’s required.

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