When you get a tattoo, there are a lot of things to consider. You want to make sure that you are getting a tattoo from a reputable shop and artist, that you know what kind of design you want, and that you are prepared for the pain of the procedure itself and aftercare involved. But one thing you may not have been prepared for is an itchy tattoo.
What’s the deal? Your new ink should be bitchin’ and not itchin’, right? (I know, that's terrible…)
Well, a tattoo that itches is actually pretty common. And while an itchy tattoo is nothing out of the ordinary, there are a few different reasons why a tattoo can itch.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the most common reasons your new or old tattoo might be itchy, and what you can do about it.
What can cause tattoos to itch and how long does it usually last for?
An itching and raised tattoo is a common and normal part of the healing process for a new tattoo. The itchy sensation is caused by the inflammation of the skin as it heals from the tattoo ink and the scab starts to flake off.
If a tattoo is itchy, it usually lasts for 2-4 weeks, but can persist for up to 8 weeks. Tattoo itching can be severe and may lead to secondary infections if the area is scratched too much. There are several things that can cause tattoos to itch, including the following causes:
- The healing process:
As mentioned, itching is a normal part of the healing process for a new tattoo. The inflammatory response of the dermis can cause severe itching, especially when the scab starts to flake off before the sensitive skin is completely healed. When the tattooed skin mends and forms a scar, there is an increased presence of a certain type of inflammatory cell called mast cells. These cells have the capability to discharge histamine, the same element that brings about allergies, hives, and resulting itching.
- Skin conditions:
Some people may experience mild itching due to a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis, which is exacerbated by the process of getting the tattoo.
- Allergic reactions:
In rare cases, people may develop an infection or develop an allergy to the ink or pigment used in their tattoo. An ink allergy can lead to an itchy rash or hives. If you experience an allergic reaction, you should see a doctor immediately. If the allergic reaction is severe enough, tattoo removal may be recommended.
In some instances, tattoo irritation or allergic reactions to the tattoo can occur months or even years after getting the ink done.
Even if you've had no prior allergic reaction to a tattoo, the most important thing to keep in mind if you have an itchy tattoo, is to resist the urge to scratch it. This will only make the itching worse and could lead to secondary infections.
Instead, try applying a cold compress to the area or a non steroid anti itch cream to soothe the itchy skin until the tattoo has healed. If you experience tattoo itchiness after 8 weeks, this is a really good indicator that you might have an infection. At that point, it's best to see a board-certified dermatologist.
What are some remedies that can help soothe the itching sensation?
When you get a tattoo, a professional tattoo artist will likely put a thin layer of ointment on your new ink before you leave the tattoo shop. This will help to cover the tattoo and moisturize it to let the tattoo heal and keep it from drying out. After all, the tattoo artist's work and reputation are also being protected by these best practices. However, once the ointment wears off, the tattoo may start to feel itchy and raised.
Luckily, this normal for a tattoo and is usually nothing to worry about. There are a few things you can do to soothe the skin’s itch. First, try applying a moisturizer cream or ointment that is specially formulated for tattoos. You can also try placing a cold compress on the tattoo for a few minutes at a time to get relief if the tattoo starts to itch, or if the itching persists.
For immediate and long lasting relief of tattooed skin, a specially formulated anti itch topical cream like Dermeleve is the most effective option. Dermeleve starts working in just a few minutes and can provide relief lasting up to seven hours with a single application.
Unlike creams with corticosteroids, Dermeleve can be used for long periods of time and as often as needed without therisks associated with long term use of topical steroids.
Remember, it’s important you don’t scratch your tattoo as the itching gets worse; as this can damage the skin and cause tattoo scarring.
How can you tell if your itchy tattoo is infected and what should you do about it?
While tattoos have been an old art form for almost as long as humans have been around, they became increasingly popular in the Western world in the 20th century; and even more so today. And while the science and technology of tattoo artistry has gotten very advanced and to the point where it’s become a very safe procedure, there are still risks involved.
One of the most common risks is infection. Infections can happen when the tattoo artist doesn’t follow proper sterilization procedures, or if the tattooed person doesn’t take care of their tattoo properly during the healing process.
Thankfully, there are some signs that can help you tell if you're worried you might have a tattoo that is infected. For example, if the tattooed area is hot to the touch, red and inflamed, or oozing pus, then it’s likely that you have an infection.
Symptoms of an infected tattoo include:
- Pus or fluid drainage
If you think your tattoo might have an infection, it’s important to see a doctor right away. If not treated quickly, an infection can lead to serious health complications.
To avoid getting an infected tattoo in the first place, make sure to carefully research the tattoo artist or facility you choose, and make sure they have a good reputation. Also, be sure to follow all aftercare instructions to the letter at every stage of the healing process.
If you suspect an infection, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. Your doctor will likely prescribe a course of antibiotics to clear up the infection and make sure you don't get another one. In some cases, a hospital stay may be necessary. So, if you notice any signs of infection, don’t delay in seeking medical treatment. It's possible there is a bigger problem hiding among the possible causes of the issue.
And if all else fails, at the very least you can see your doctor for a skin cancer check - always a good idea!
Is there anything you can do to prevent the cause of an itchy tattoo in the first place?
Many people experience itchiness after getting a tattoo, but there are a few things you can do to prevent it from happening in the first place:
Make sure to keep the area clean by washing it with a mild soap and lukewarm water. Washing the area twice a day is typically sufficient and is important as it will help to remove any excess ink, bacteria, and dead skin cells which could contribute to irritation and itchiness.
Apply a thin layer of a tattoo aftercare cream or ointment to the area. This will help to keep the tattoo moisturized and prevent it from drying out and becoming irritated by acting as a barrier keeping irritants out. Be sure to choose an aftercare product that is specifically designed for tattoos. These tattoo creams and lotions are often unscented and hypoallergenic, as it's important to avoid putting on fragrances and other irritants which can make your tattoo itchy.
Try to keep the tattoo out of direct sunlight as much as possible. It’s common knowledge that UV rays can be damaging to the skin, but this is especially true for skin with new tattoos. If you must be in the sun, limit your sun exposure as much as possible while making sure to cover up the tattoo with clothing or sunscreen.
Avoid wearing tight clothing over the tattoo, as this can also lead to irritation. The friction caused by tight clothing makes the skin, which has already had trauma from the tattoo needles, to become further irritated and bumpy. Instead, opt for loose-fitting clothing made from soft materials.
If you must wear something tight, try to put a layer of cotton fabric between the clothing and your skin.
Drink plenty of water and eat a healthy diet. This will help to keep your skin hydrated from the inside out, which can prevent itchiness.
By following these simple steps, you can help ensure that your tattoo stays itch-free.
In this article we’ve gone over some of the most common questions about itchy tattoos, so you should have a better understanding of how to deal with this pesky problem. Remember, if your tattoo is excessively itchy or you think it may be infected, it’s always best to consult with a doctor or tattoo artist. With proper care, your tattoo will eventually heal and the itchiness will go away.
For immediate and long lasting relief, Dermeleve® is the anti-itch solution you need.
So now, the only issue is deciding on what tattoo you want next!