Why Does a Tattoo Itch? How Long Will a New Tattoo Itch? How To Stop Itching?

You must be feeling excited that your much-awaited tattoo style is on your body. The artwork has finally taken shape, and it was worth all the pain and patience.

Now you are just waiting for your healing process to complete so that you can flaunt your fashion statement to the world.

But to your disappointment, in the middle of the healing process, your tattoo starts itching. Although itching is a very normal side effect in the healing process, it’s frustrating. The urge to scratch the area begins around day 4 or 5 of tattoo making.

The itchy stages of the tattoo are really uncomfortable and sometimes may become unbearable. Itching leads to scratching.

While doing so, we may remove the scabs and peels and also interfere with the ink placement. This may affect the way our tattoo will look. The artwork may get distorted or ruined. 

So, what are you supposed to do when your tattoo itch, and how long will the irritation last? Are there any ways that one can adopt to stop and lessen the itchy feeling?

These and many of such queries will be answered here. Read on.

How Long Will a New Tattoo Itch? 

First of all, get the fact right that every newly made will itch. It’s completely normal and part of the healing process. Itching starts in the first week and generally lasts for about a couple of weeks.

Once the skin gets healed and all the scabs fall, the itching sensation subsides. Don’t ever think that an itchy tattoo is an infected tattoo.

But there are exceptions.

Many experience itchiness with pain, redness, swelling, or even puss on the inked area during the healing process or after several months of getting inked.

In such scenarios, one may have an allergic reaction or some infection. Although the occurrence of such eruptions happens only when either the ink was contaminated (local and unapproved/uncertified ink) or you have not followed the aftercare instructions religiously.

In these circumstances, the itchiness can last for months and years.

It is always recommended to contact your health provider immediately if you experience unusual itchiness and potential infections. Remember, sometimes these sensations occur even after months of getting a tattoo.

Can You Rub the Tattoo If It Itches?

The short and crisp answer is No. It would be best if you did not rub the tattoo. Itching is normal when getting inked as a part of the restoration process, but it is crucial to note that rubbing can ruin a perfectly done tattoo.

It is evident that the itchy sensation is at its peak during the first two weeks of the healing period, and the urge to scratch and rub the tattoo is extreme. The scabby layer and dead skin are peeling off, and if anyone rubs or scratch the tattoo at that point in time, then you may experience the following consequences-

  • While rubbing, one will remove the inked layer, which might leave you with white patchy areas all over your newly made tattoo.
  • Rubbing and scratching may open the healing pores and drag germs, dust, and bacteria into the wounds. This may lead to the development of infection and thus damaging your tattoo as well as your health.
  • Also, scratching will extend the recovery period. The entire healing process becomes more painful than it needs to be.
  • Lead to permanent damage such as white patches and skin diseases. Sometimes the severity of infection leads to the removal of body parts.

Why Does a Tattoo Itch?

When you get a new artwork inked in any part of your body, you should be ready for some consequences such as itchiness. The new tattoo can drive you crazy because of itchiness.

Why?

A tattoo artist creates his artwork using a tattoo machine that comprises tiny needles that penetrate the five layers of the skin’s epidermis make the ink reach the dermis tissue.

This microneedle penetrates the skin about a thousand times in a minute, and imagine the trauma a skin is handling then.

These penetrations leave an open wound-like situation on the top layer of the skin, and hence the skin needs a natural time to recover.

The time of healing may vary from person to person and depends on the placement of the artwork.

During the healing period, there will be an occurrence of the natural phagocytosis process (forming of scabs and peeling of dead skin). This is when the symptoms of itching start, and everyone will experience this particular symptom.

If you accidentally scratch and rub the area with your nails, you are prematurely scraping the top layer. This will make the inked layer fall off, leaving a light/hazy patch on the placement area.

Your fingernails may carry dust or germs, and while scratching, they may insert those tiny allergens in the skin, causing infections.

How To Stop Tattoo Itching?

We can’t completely stop the itchy sensation on a tattooed surface as it’s a part of the recovery process, but we can lessen the effect in a more harmless way than scratching.

Now, let’s dive into the various methods to get relief from an irritating itchy tattoo.  

1. The Pat technique

The most common, safe, and recommended method. This requires your self-discipline and effort. It would help if you first washed your hand and then place a piece of soft but thick fabric over the affected area.

And gently pat your fingers on it. This will ensure that none of your fingernail’s skin damages the scabs from getting dragged off from the top layer of the skin, but the pressure will help to lessen the itchy feeling.

Pro–Tip: Avoid applying too much pressure while tapping as that will tear your skin or pull off scabs prematurely.

2. Apply a suitable lotion/moisturizer/ointment 

The skin becomes dry after tattooing. Hence it needs due hydration to maintain the area’s moisture.

Applying a good and effective lotion or moisturizing ingredients in the area (several times a day for big tattoos) can amplify the healing process and soothe the skin from irritation and itching.

The best tattoo lotion effectively moisturizes existing tattoos, works towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing, and is safe on all skin types.

Pro-tip: While buying a lotion or moisturizer, check that the product is unscented, non-Petroleum based, paraben-Free, and vegan. Also, a thin layer of lotion should be applied to the area to avoid any clog and suffocation of the skin pores.

3. Use Medically prescribed Ointments/Creams

In an allergic reaction or infection, go by the prescribed ointment and medicine listed by your healthcare provider.

An allergy can be developed due to contaminated and uncertified ink used in your tattoo. The unbearable itchiness, in that case, can be dealt with by using anti-allergy ointments and cream.

4. Hydrate yourself and cool compress

Hydrate yourself to ensure your body maintains the necessary water balance. It will help the skin from getting dry excessively, thereby reducing the chances of itchiness getting worse.

Also, you can place a damp (clean) cloth/towel over the tattoo for a few minutes or apply a cool compressed ice-pack over the area.

But remember, while doing so, don’t forget to keep a cloth between the skin and ice. Otherwise, you may experience a burn.

Pro-tip: You can even take a quick, low-temperature shower but avoid submerging the new tattoo in water. 

5. Distract yourself

Indulge in any activity and distract yourself from the itch. You can go for a walk, play video games, chat with your friends, eat something, or find something to get engaged with.

This may work for you, and it’s worth giving a try. The idea is to get the mind off of the itching by doing anything involving switching your brain away from the thoughts of itching sensation.

FAQs

Q. How Long Before I Can Scratch My Tattoo?

We have already listed the potential adverse outcomes of scratching a tattoo. So, in any case, you should not rub or scratch your tattoo until it is completely healed.

Q. Is It Possible to Keep Scabs from Forming on Tattoo?

The formation of scabs is natural. It’s a part of the healing and restoration process of the skin. You can’t stop their appearance but keep an eye that too many scabs can be a problem.

Q. Can Allergic Reaction by Tattoo Be Life Threatening?

Mild allergic reactions are normal, but in rare cases, the situation can turn severe and fatal. If the symptoms turn out to be such as tightness in your chest, difficulty in breathing, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, or hives, then it may be life-threatening. But occurrences of such severities are sporadic.

Final Comments:

Addressing an itchy tattoo problem is not very difficult. The primary thing anyone should do is keep their fingernails short to avoid any chance of it getting pierced accidentally during the urge to scratch the itchiness.

Keeping your tattoo covered is another way of preventing the potential damage done while rubbing.

The uncomfortableness experienced while itching is understandable, but one should resist scratching at any cost. Your tattoo will come out healthy, clean, and long-lasting only if you have taken due aftercare. 

Improper care can extend the healing process and also leave permanent damage to the tattoo itself. The itching will diminish after a couple of weeks, and you should be fine.

Caution: If you experience symptoms like fever, swelling, raised area, red streaking, or pus coming out, immediately seek medical attention.

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