Best.tattoo is reader-supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.
Tattoos can be a pain, literally. Tattoo itching is one of the most common complaints for those with tattoos. It’s the worst.
But, there are ways on how to stop a tattoo from itching!
In most cases, tattoo itching subsides in a day or two without requiring any treatment. However, in some cases, an itchy tattoo may become intense and make life difficult for the person experiencing it.
If you’re one of those people who have been itching for days now and can’t seem to get your hands off of your tattoo no matter what you do, then read on.
Why do tattoos itch?
There are basically two reasons why tattoos itch:
- An allergic reaction to the ink
- The tattoo healing process
Itchy tattoo from an allergic reaction to the ink
Allergic reactions to the ink are the most common cause for tattoo itchiness. As your tattoo heals, dead cells become trapped under new layers of skin. Some people may be more sensitive to this process than others and may develop an allergic reaction to the new ink particles released during this process.
The most common symptoms of this kind of allergy are red, swollen skin around the tattooed area and an itchy rash that tends to worsen at night. If you think that your itching is caused by an allergic reaction you can take antihistamines like Cortaid, Benadryl or Claritin. These usually help with the itchiness.
If you suspect an allergic reaction, it’s better to stop using any ointments until your skin heals completely. Ointments are greasy substances that can trap ink particles in your tattoo, which may cause more issues or prolong the process of healing.
Most allergic reactions are mild and will not bother you much or at all – your skin might be red or a bit bumpy, but there is no itching whatsoever. This usually happens because of the preservatives added to the ink – if you know you have a reason to avoid them (i.e. you have a history of allergic reactions), tell your artist or shop owner what you’re looking for, and they’ll be able to suggest good inks that are preservative-free or don’t contain the ingredients that could cause allergic reactions.
Another common type of allergic reaction is caused by the metals used in some colored pigments – most green and blue pigments, for instance, contain some form of copper. If you see a metallic sheen on your skin but don’t have any itching or bumps, you might just be experiencing the effects of these metals reacting with the acid in your sweat and causing oxidation.
If it doesn’t go away after a few days, it might be a good idea to see a doctor. Depending on the type of metal, your skin could react with infection-like symptoms if left untreated.
In some cases, itchy tattoos can get a bit more serious. In rare cases, people can experience anaphylactic shock.
This is a serious allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention – if you’re suffering from itchy and painful tattoos accompanied by sweating, feeling lightheaded, having trouble breathing and/or swallowing, and general discomfort, call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room.
Itchy tattoo from the healing process
Another potential answer to the question of “why is my tattoo itchy” is the healing process itself. Unlike severe allergies, there are no dangerous side effects to this kind of itchy tattoo, just a little bit of discomfort.
All new tattoos itch for longer than older ones because the skin around them is still very sensitive and has not yet fully healed. When you get your tattoo for the first time, it takes about 2-6 weeks for your skin to fully process and replace the dead cells with new ones. Until this happens, there will always be some dead skin between the tattooed area and the surrounding skin, which can cause irritation or itching.
Don’t worry, this is completely normal. While your tattoo goes through this process, it will itch constantly until the skin around it has fully healed.
However, if the itching doesn’t start going away after a few weeks, or there are bumps or scabs on top of it, you may need to see a dermatologist – if you’re getting a tattoo in an area where people have a lot of allergies (such as an ankle or wrist), you could be actually having an allergic reaction.
7 General tips on how to stop tattoo itching:
It seems counterintuitive, but scratching your itchy tattoo is not a good idea – even if the itching is extreme. Scratching will only irritate your skin further and could even lead to infection or scars on top of your tattoo.
If you’re itching a lot, it might be difficult to resist the urge to scratch or pick at your skin. Be strong and remember that picking at your tattoo can create scabs, which will damage it even further. Instead of scratching or picking, try applying cold water to the affected area for a few minutes.
Apply a bandage to stop itching
If you can’t resist the urge to scratch try covering up your itchy tattoo. Simply apply a bandage over the area and you’ll have no problems stopping the itching. If you’re going out, try covering it with clothes as well – this way you won’t accidentally scratch or pick at it in public.
Moisturize the skin
Some people find that applying an ointment or petroleum jelly on new tattoos can help with itching. Don’t use anything containing fragrances, parabens, etc. if you do this – stick to plain petroleum jelly or something else without any additional ingredients until your tattoo is fully healed.
Once the area around your tattoo has healed completely, you can start using normal creams and ointments. Until then stick with unscented creams, as some scents can irritate the tattooed area.
However, in case of an allergic reaction it is better to consult your doctor about the cream that can be applied on the tattoo without causing any further allergy.
Keep the tattoo area clean
When you start taking showers, make sure to use lukewarm water and mild soap, never scrub the tattooed area. When you apply soap, make sure to cleanse the surrounding skin as well. Never use harsh chemicals or vinegar because this will only make things worse.
Make sure to moisturize your skin with unscented lotion after every shower – this will help prevent dead skin from accumulating and itching up the tattoo.
Keep yourself hydrated
Dehydrated skin is very dry and itchy, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Just like with any other tattoo, try not to drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes – this will only irritate your new tattoo and increase the itching.
Avoid wearing tight clothes around your itchy new tattoos
This may be obvious advice to some people, but for others it isn’t. Wearing tight clothes around a new tattoo is a big mistake because it can scratch or pick at your skin and damage your tattoo. When you first get a new tattoo you should wear loose clothing for as long as possible to make sure you don’t damage it with irritating fabrics.
If you’re going somewhere where you have to cover up your tattoo, try wearing a light layer of cotton clothes instead – this will allow your skin to breathe and prevent sweat or irritation.
Don’t go swimming until it’s fully healed
It can be tempting to jump in the water with your new tattoo, but tattoos are very sensitive when they’re healing. You should avoid submerging your tattooed area in chlorine, salt water or water in public spaces until it’s fully healed – this includes swimming pools, hot tubs, and saltwater. Not only will you irritate your skin and make it itchier, but you’ll also increase the risk of developing an infection.
Well, there you have it. We hope these tips can explain how to stop a new tattoo from itching – and remember, if your skin is still itching after implementing all of these techniques, don’t be afraid to get in touch with a dermatologist for professional advice.
It might not seem like much at first glance, but even something as seemingly inconsequential as an itchy tattoo could actually signify more serious conditions such as psoriasis or eczema.
So stay vigilant about treating any visible symptoms before they get out of hand. And always make sure to follow up with your doctor if things are getting worse instead of better.
When you’re done reading this article, don’t forget to share it with your friends and family on social media. Who knows? You may just save someone from a few sleepless nights!